I'm happy to announce that I've broken through the shackles of the internet firewall of Chinese censorship — I've arrived in India! It's 2013! And I haven't posted in a really long time. Oops.
In order to blog properly, I really need to dedicate quite a few more hours a week to this. Easier thought than done when continually on the move. I'm seeing so much every day (awesome!), it seems like it will take forever to fully process my documentations. But the amazing thing is, I really feel like I'm living. And I love that.
In cubicle land, it's easy to forget what it is to feel alive. It sounds simple, yet it's become so difficult in busy day-to-day working life. At least that's how it felt for me back home. Things always got stressful, cluttered, filled with distractions and patterns.
Now my days consist of worrying about basic survival. There's barely time to figure out where I'm going to eat, sleep, and shower next, never mind processing all the amazing newness I'm absorbing. It's sometimes hard for me to wrap my own mind around it all. But at least at the end of the day, whether I'm sleeping on a bunk bed in a crowded mosquito-filled dormitory or at the Ritz (yes, this was a succession of juxtaposed nights even I can't believe), for once in a long while, I really feel full and alive.
Of course there are stresses; I'm often not sleeping enough, I feel like I'm gambling with the fates of the sickness gods every time I eat a meal, and I never know when I'll be wearing clean clothes again. Even with these discomforts, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I needed this restart. I needed this adventure. I think we all need to find our own endlessly changing horizons.
India is so vastly different than China, it blows my mind. But before I delve into the current craziness of this subcontinent, I have a few more thoughts on China.
To start on the catch up, I didn't celebrate any sort of holiday this year. If you know me, you might remember that the end of December is one of my favorite times of year. It's a bundle of three celebrations in one: my birthday, Christmas, and New Years. But this year, the holidays were just regular passing days on the road. Except for this one quiet day in Beijing.
This was my one day of snow.
The Summer Palace is just outside Beijing and as we set out in the morning with our guide, snowflakes began to fall. There's something romantic and peaceful about snowfall.
Royalty used to visit here in the summertime to avoid the city heat. Hard to imagine when everything is as white and frosty as this.
China is wild in a different sort of way than India. It's so vast and populated and unfamiliar, I'm not sure I'm able to understand it, even after having visited a good number of cities in both the north and south. One thing I can say for certain is this: that thing about how polluted China's air is, it's absolutely true.
Every single city we went to had a thick cloud of chemical-laden haze hanging over it. I kept thinking that the next city on our list would offer clearer, perhaps even sunny skies, but that never happened. Seeing this pollution firsthand was one thing, feeling the effects was another.
Let me just say that after three weeks in China, the air in Los Angeles started looking mighty fine. By my second week in the country, I developed a dry cough. It wasn't until visiting my last stop, Shanghai, that I really began to worry. It was here that I almost saw a doctor before catching my flight to India. Breathing had become disturbingly difficult, I felt an unfamiliar pressure on my chest, and was pretty much convinced that I had asthma.
Air pollution is eery. I guess I often take for granted the very basic right to breathe. What a strange world we live in. China, a great country and culture of hearty survivors has pretty much entirely adapted to this thick pollution (the locals we met didn't seem to think anything was amiss in regards to the constantly looming haze). It is the common problem of the human race: we like to sacrifice long-term sustainability for instant gratification (read: money and economic growth). It's a mode of operation entirely negligent of the future. All the more important to stay vigilant on our part, to reform the corporate loopholes for fossil fuels and all that stuff. We know better.
At least there is one upside to the terrible air pollution in China –– the diffused lighting makes for awesome photography.
* Shortly after writing this post I found this article in the New York Times describing just how bad the air in Beijing has been lately. Depressing. To cheer you up I've added a short clip of a random Gangnam style sighting at the Summer Palace.