I went back home for three weeks recently and got a dose of Beijing. My stay was short enough not to make me feel bored, yet long enough to see a couple of friends and try some good restaurants. Weirdly this time I feel totally charged and inspired – before today it was the kind of feeling which occurred to me only after travelling.
I made some plans and failed some (such as writing diaries instead of weird sentences on this site…) and a few interesting and unexpected things also occurred. I learned that in the process of trying to broaden my horizons, it is so important to always remember who I am and where I am from. For a couple of times I felt that I had amnesia while I was away. I learned that in BJ waitresses earn £160 per month – fewer than a pair of shoes in Europe. I revisited the bookstores in BJ that made me feel alive. I discovered new things in old friends. I recalled scenes as the clamorous hospital, the subway station at rush hours, quiet galleries in the 798 district…I remembered that there are places in the world where you should be vigilant.
My stay also made me have a clearer idea about what I like and dislike about this city. Yes it’s a bit like marmite. Everything is a little bit like marmite. Despite all the obvious things a traveller could easily discover, I like the youths in BJ and other places in China who see self-betterment as a necessary thing to do. I like the shops in Sanlitun District. I like the fact that in BJ I could be a hermit whenever I want. I like the independent bookstores in BJ and the galleries which keep me alive. I like the much more convenient medical system (compared with uk…) I like the reckless summer here. I like the hard working people (almost everyone), which is in stark contrast with the situation in Europe – sometimes I feel at least a little bit sorry being a little bit workaholic (Nietzsche might comment that it is not good for the creation of genius).
Internally, I feel much happier and I believe I will be even more so after I read more Tao Te Ching. This book makes me more aware of what are really there. For a period of time I was upset about the people who misunderstood me, and even criticised me for what I am not and for the categories they assigned me to, based on their own imagination. On the other hand, there are also people who would stare at me in the eye and tell me things like how I am different from everybody else who shares similar backgrounds as me. I was always confused about which group of people I should trust, but now I think maybe it is not a valid question. In ancient China there are stories about the difficulty involved in trying to paint a bamboo – things have already changed when you try to capture them. It may be the same with human beings.
During my stay I also had commitments, so some of my days are comparable to high-school days. It was one of the reasons to make me feel better, and the path of trying to accomplish them seems to lead me to a good place. They are like the tiger in the film Life of Pie. They are part of the marrow of life.