Monday, October 26, 2009

A Departure and Return

This is a post made on my short lived myspace.com/thegiertravelogue blog. It describes my arrival in Jiaozuo six weeks ago. But, though it describes my arrival here, it is also a return to The Gier Spot, and thus the title of this post. I will explain myself further in the next entry.

For over one whole month now, I have been living in this new country called China. I figured if I was ever going to do it, now would be the time to start this memoir of life anew. I will assume, unsafely perhaps, that the first month is the hardest when acclimating oneself to a new culture and environment, and initially, it certainly felt like this was the case.

My first 48 hours in this new place, where I didn't know the language, I didn't know a soul, and I didn't have a clue, were a bit overwhelming. I landed, got out off the plane, and was in a new world that at first didn't seem the slightest bit enticing: a state run Chinese university in the middle of a sprawling, rural province, where the freshmen dressed up in uniform and marched around all morning and night in a militia chanting slogans, and where I stuck out like a sore thumb wherever I set foot, perpetually the object of curiosity and staring. Naturally, all this can cause an individual to begin to harbor feelings of alienation and shock. But I reminded myself that this was what I had been searching for, or what I thought I wanted: to be out of place and learn to rebuild, rebuild one's attitude, one's outlook, and release all the stresses of my former life, if only for a short while.

I realize that this is clearly impossible: I can't move to a new place and expect to be a new man, without my previous anxieties, faults, and responsibilities. Not even moving halfway around the globe can free a person from that. In the end, we all live within our socially constituted minds; a change of geography alone won't do anything. But then again, I do believe a change of culture, of the relationships around a person, will do something in turn. The anxieties of my life up to this point do continue to persist; I have not mastered my past, and I never will. My past memories will always continue to drive me. As for the time being, I have the luxury of only thinking of my new environment, my new social sphere, where the problems are nothing but novel, trivial, and light.

I have settled into my routine, and have begun focusing on teaching my classes, which I really do enjoy very much. And of course, myself and the other westerners have established our pocket culture, our center of relationships and understanding that we have based on our mutual past culture and language. I hope that it’s not just the result of necessity, that we truly are friends and that we don’t spend time together for lack of other options. I believe I can optimistically say that this is not the case, that we truly are friends and would find each other in a larger pool of people.

But here I am, in a new place, doing something adventurous. I probably wouldn't be able to sleep comfortably if I weren't in such a fucked up position.

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