Tianjin, coffee, and next year.

Things I have been up to/thinking in no particular order, as I do not have faith in my memory allowing me to construct such a narrative.

 

Without further ado…

 

–       Kede whisked myself, and my two co-workers, away to Tianjin for a nice summery Saturday outing. Tianjin is the largest Northern China coastal city located about 2.5 hours away from Beijing, and is the fourth biggest urban sprawled city in China overall. As we approached Tianjin, we skirted along the edges of its borders, sticking to the desolate wasteland views of grey stone gravel and grass that gave a bleak imitation of natural five o’clock shadow. With no warning (there is never any warning in China) the gravel turned into fluorescently hued plastic trees, and the tip of a sickly sweet pink spire emerged from behind a mound of dirt. We had arrived at the day’s entertainment: Binhai Aircraft Park. Our waiban Kevin procured tickets for us that showed, of all things, a Russian Kiev aircraft carrier printed on it. China is well known for slapping pictures of completely unrelated things onto any merchandisable real estate, and I saw the picture of this large ship as just another gimmicky ploy to guide you into ultimate disappointment.

Nope.

There was legitimately a de-commissioned Russian aircraft carrier floating near the back of the park. We were allowed to shimmy through the tight internal spaces and go up onto the main deck where some old Hawks, and one helicopter, were parked up, as well as missile launchers and other maritime warfare paraphernalia (the phone booths tacked onto the starboard side I feel were a somewhat more modern addition).

The only problem we encountered on that day was, after arriving to the gates at about 10.30am, Sarah and I wanted to combat the relentless heat with some hydration. Finding the only open supermarket on the main strip, we entered through its doors to be met with enough beer to satisfy Homer Simpson, but not a drop of H2O in sight. Being in an amusement park and only finding beer on the shelves was one of the most traumatically ridiculous world problems I have had to experience. We eventually bought some overpriced water at one of the park shows – an adrenaline pumping faux movie set with racy red RX8’s and stunt bikes galore.

Tianjin also has this black market where you can buy everything, and I mean everything, with almost no questions asked (the only questions you will be hounded with are in due part to the haggling nature of Chinese markets, not the legalities of purchasing said items).

 

–             I FINALLY TRIED VIETNAMESE COFFEE. And I know what you’re thinking, ‘it’s not Vietnamese coffee if you’re in China,’ oh but it certainly was Vietnamese coffee my friends, for everything the light touched had been imported from the original source. The Pho Laboratory has only been open for two weeks, but I dare say they better prepare for an onslaught of hyped up Beijing residents needing their caffeine fix. I ordered my coffee prepared as a hot drink, even though just a mere sliver of window separated me from a blazing 34 degree day, because hot is the traditional method. The black ambrosia dripped slowly into my cup, swirling the creamy condensed milk layer into a luscious Rorschach test I couldn’t wait to consume. Once the last drop had escaped its brewed confines, I sipped on this heavenly brownie-noted liquid for almost an hour (I was in denial over finishing it with every half sip I took). The owner of the Vietnamese place warned me that it was quite a strong drink, and for most of my time I laughed internally at his preposterous sentence. It wasn’t until I finished the last two tiny sips that I became fully aware of my heart racing at a relentless pace. And to think I was going to order another one …

 

–       the Beijinger have said that they will take me back next year which I am hugely excited for. The managing editor has said he will encourage me to expand out of the dining realm and into feature suggestions, which is an amazing step up in regards to learning about the foreign media processes in Beijing. I was asked to attend a Sino-French celebration of diplomatic relations at Yishu8, an art gallery, you can read about that here. Other works I have finished recently are listed here. Oh and the Beijinger held their annual Reader Bar & Club Awards with all-you-can-eat-and-drink on offer for four hours. I acquired a bright blue feather boa over the course of the afternoon, so you can figure out how my night went.

 

–       Oh yeah … I’m back in China another year.

 

–       I’m going to try something different and post photos now.

 

 

 

E.

 

Entrance to the Disney-on-heroin park

They see me rollin’

“and I’d kick her, Sir”

Swiss made CK lolololol

Because buying fake Viagra is totally fine

THE COFFEE

Judging fox is judging

Boats and planes and missiles OH MY

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Searching for meaning.

I read a quote recently that had been slapped onto some motivational garbage picture saying something along the idea of “We are too old to explore new worlds on Earth, and too young to explore new worlds beyond.”

 

It was meant to be some pity filled quote about how this wave of civilisation lucked out in the exploring race. How we’ll die too young to see anything new, and leave behind the legacy of ashes from our burnt out attempts to try and reach beyond the stars.

 

Hell no we didn’t luck out in exploring anything.

 

We could be the most important wave of people yet.

 

Though we may not have tools to explore new places afar yet; we do have tools to explore something even more unchartered.

 

Our own fucking mind.

 

We already have the Internet, a vast digital network of information sharing connecting people to people in a rapidly expanding manner. And this, though it is an impressive start, isn’t our full potential in regards to how we can share and use information from each other.

 

We don’t even understand the most basic functions of our mind to its entirety (why we sleep, the true depths of consciousness/unconsciousness, the multitude of destructive forces that occur in our final aging stages etcetcetc).

 

It’s difficult to study a ‘thing’ by using the very thing itself, but we are growing, we are learning. We are feeling the forces of powers combined.

 

And with it comes a terrifying realisation. This generation is at the forefront of sharing and connecting with each other, yet at every turn we seem to want to capitalise, conceal, corrupt, this development.

 

We are doing a damn good job at destroying the only thing we have left to explore. Censorship, TPPA, small market domination, all fuel to the end-of-the-world fire we are lighting up.

 

If we can’t work together on Earth and cultivate our understandings, we may as well just proceed straight to World War III, and end it now. We all forget Earth is a finite resource, and one day we need to get the hell of this rock, but without a combined effort in reaching this goal, we will lose everything.

 

We cannot allow ourselves to be spectators to our own destruction.

 

(This is one small line for a (wo)man, one giant writing mess for (wo)mankind)).

 

 

E.

Waving to Death (an incomplete thought).

i like the duality of humans and the cosmos. both consisting of immeasurable amounts of fragments. both capable of being seen as infinite and infinitesimal.

 

suppose all matter generates gravitational waves. an exertion of energy that ripples across space-time from the point of matter ‘being’, to the point where it ceases to be.

an infinite wave that passes through all other waves, always connected. always existing.

 

suppose the matter in question is you, person forged from the depths of dying stars. person with an immeasurable amount of atoms, a small universe in itself.

 

suppose the universe began condensed, and exploded to an infinite stretch, breaking apart in all directions. filling the nothing with everything. radiating onwards.

 

suppose we are born with a small singular point inside us.  a concentrated sense of ‘energy’ that starts to stretch out to our skin borders as we age. a wave that nears its physical manifestation through the passage of time, the shrinking of morality. the aging of you. this wave we have called ‘life’. this wave we think simply disappears when our bodies reach their boundary.

 

suppose it is death that breaks the boundary.

 

suppose it is this ceasing to exist as a singularity that instead allows this wave inside us to continue out in all directions, forever crossing over the waves of past, present, and future.

 

suppose we never really disappear, but become at once infinite and infinitesimal.

 

 

 

 

E.

Countless first times.

I don’t often pay attention to the outside world when I’m on the subway. I still love the convenience of it, and I don’t think the novelty of such a cheap yet efficient method of transport is going to wear itself thin on me quickly, but for the most part my modus operandi is headphones in and the rest of the world out when I’m on my weekly commute to my internship.

 

Today however I’ve been rocking my head cold, which makes for the general level of discomfort to be rather…discomforting. Discarding the idea of music I tried to read my borrowed ’50 Great Short Stories’ book my co-worker loaned me, but after re-reading the same page four times and still not understanding ‘Brooksmith’ I gave up on that and resigned myself to listening and noticing the other commuters – a non-contact sport that can be quite entertaining. After a few minutes of playing that I zoned out and stared at the cream white plastic interior while above the green dots turned to red dots after each subway stop.

 

But then you stepped on board my carriage.

 

I didn’t notice you enter exactly. It took a few seconds after the subway began to pull ahead to its next stop that I noticed you there. Well, the two of you. You were crouched down in a darkened navy blue coat jacket and pants, while who I can only presume is your son sat down on the floor next to you. He wore a red jacket, black pants, one glove, and a bucket with a bent-up note attached to the front.

 

You were counting notes you’d pulled from the bucket. Most of them were green which meant they were a one yuan note. Occasionally you’d tuck a purple note, a fiver, at the back of the pile. You finished counting pretty quickly and tucked the money away inside your jacket. Your son (I’m going to refer to him as son) sat and watched for a little while, then upon noticing the bucket strung around him with a wide black piece of fabric, he picked up the black fabric and let it go, watching the bucket swing back to his chest every time.

 

I imagine he’s done this act countless times, but his eyes shone like it was the first time.

 

You both leaned back against the seat behind you, taking a break from the unremitting begging that is your livelihood. I sat there for a bit, just watching. Your son never lingered his attention on anything for a length of time, I’m uncertain if he could, really.

 

You were just regaining some reserves of strength to start moving again when it happened.

 

The stench of human excrement is something with the uncanny ability to permeate the air very quickly.

 

Of course your son didn’t notice. Is it a blessing in disguise he didn’t show embarrassment? I don’t know. But everyone else noticed, including you. You checked to see if he was dressed okay to leave the carriage, pulling down his left sleeve so that it connected with his one glove and sealed in his body heat. You pulled both he and yourself to your feet, most of his bodyweight slung across your shoulders. All this time I just sat there, and watched. As you waited for the subway to stop at its next destination I dug through my bag to find my wallet. I pulled out a fiver.

 

And then I sat there, frozen by my absurd privileged thoughts about what these subway strangers would think of me abandoning my bag all of four feet, and giving up a perfectly decent seat, to hand money over to a beggar and his son.

 

My fear of giving you money, of what others would think of me, has haunted me all day.

 

At the very last second I did stand up to give you that money. Our fingertips connected as I palmed it to you. Our eyes met as you said something indecipherable. Then you turned all attention back onto your son and hauled both you and he towards the public toilet, as my subway pulled away from you.

 

What scares me is that this isn’t the first time I’ve had these thoughts, or experienced this moment. The level of poverty here is countless, and yet each time I see it it’s like the first time.

 

But I guess humans are good at forgetting the bad things. We have two world wars in our history to prove we don’t really learn from our mistakes. I know that even as I write this, I’m going to forget you, just as I have forgotten countless others.

 

But I will see you again, for the first time.

 

I just hope I act less like a human, and more like a person.

 

 

E.

Coast to comedy.

A random half-thought I’m going to leave here –

Living in land-locked Beijing I’m often reminded of the coast.

The crunch of sunflower seed shells under my feet as I walk to the supermarket.

The heckling caws of ‘dachelema?’ from the swooping blackmarket-taxi drivers

(I’m tempted to throw my yi jiao at them in mimicry of my lack of fish ‘n’ chip fries).

The whiff of that faraway smell of yonder distance, though in China that smell is often caused by the filthy wasted ends of humanity, and not the waves of the ocean.

The rocking pull of the subway cart as it swells under the weight of 5pm chaos.

Things about life so far –

On Sunday I went to a literary event run by a café/bar/library called The Bookworm. Star guests were two Australian writers Nick Earls and Jesse Brand, Jimmy Qi a Chinese turned Canadian, and the MC was a comedian who talked about ex-pat quirks called Cherry Denman. The event was a discussion by these four writers/comedians about the nature of comedy in literature, a genre they all dabble in with success.

Nick Earls was by far the most outspoken of the four and wielded his microphone like a gladiator about to do battle. Unfortunately he negated to critically answer some questions posed by Denman, and instead hid behind his battle worn shields of well-rehearsed anecdotes about the comedic instances he has experienced in his everyday life. His narcissistic displays were made comedic when he stated that it is ever so funny to attack people he knows who are narcissists in his book, as a narcissist never think it is they who are being attacked. I assume he gave this quip due to a lapse in his personality judgement/brain fart.

Jesse Brand was brash but in that way where you enjoy being rubbed the wrong way. The other two gentlemen frequently subdued him when it came time to answer questions openly. A case of minding your elders? Perhaps. But when he did have a spare moment to talk he managed to fill it with the rushed staccato voice of someone who understands the crunch time of slam poetry performances (he is the currently Australian Poetry Slam Champion).

Jimmy Qi was eccentric as anything and spoke often of his twenty two years experience (I was waiting for the exact month/week/day calendar but he refrained). He glued the discussion together by having the ability to empathise with the other speakers but also inputting some original content so as to keep himself on point.

What did I take away from this? Raise the stakes. How high can you place a character, or indeed your own writing, so that if when it falls you push it the comedic values are enhanced to their fullest potentials. I’m not really a story writer, but I enjoyed thinking about that quote in situations relating to caring for personal embarrassment or not.

I met one co-founder of Beijing’s biggest food delivery network –Jinshisong. He joined in our Rummikub card game and adapted quickly to it, this might be because he successfully used some online poker sites to make money just cause he could (software engineers, watch out for them at the table).

I have gone from days on end with nothing to do, to days on end-to-end because they are so crammed up they overflow their 24-hour boundary. The Beijinger is still an amazing internship to have in this city. I’m hoping I can approach the topic of permanent work in a few weeks. Until then it’s still that good ol’ 21st century semi-scam of great experience. If it doesn’t work out come late May I’ll most likely stay in China and hunker down with some online study for technical writing. I think it’s something I’d actually be good at and enjoy, not many people can say that about jobs these days.

I wish I could write more, but that means things worth writing about need to have happened. If I think of any more I’ll write them soon. This head-cold is clogging my mental filter. Apologies.

E.

Isolation and Newton’s Third Law.

I am probably the only white being within a 50km radius from my position of writing.

 

Scratch that.

 

I’m probably the only being within a 50km radius from this position on the couch (my couch is pretty sweet though, how I leave it every day still astounds me). Needless to say this means my own thoughts have been my companion these past few weeks (a terrifying ordeal). Usually I do okay and distract myself with various streaming movies, but some days it does suck.

 

Like the day I compiled all the Valentine’s Day dinners happening all over Beijing. Yet again I forgot to nab a partner for that chocolate-smeared, rose petal bordered, smushy smush day of the year. Oh darn. To check out things that I write you can click this word here.

 

I really am enjoying my internship though. Even the four hour round-trip commute isn’t bad enough for me to hate on it even a little. I love the subway far too much; every day there’s somebody new to judge look at. Two days ago I even made contact with one of these weird underground mole-esque folks like myself. An elderly woman, my guess is late 60’s (the age game in China is really difficult), stepped into my carriage with her husband/humanoid donkey – poor guy was laden with corn, nuts, milk, the perils of lower class China etc etc, and they soon became quite distracted reading the electronic map, I presume to figure out which stop they needed.

 

Now the thing about the Beijing Subway is it is quite good at being efficient, and really doesn’t give you much time to settle in for the ride.

 

You read that right folks, China can be efficient at some things!

 

I watched and waited for them to assume a bracing position via holding a pole or leaning against a wall, but it wasn’t happening. At this point I was observing all of this from a seat in the same carriage. A seat is worth more than gold for most subway passengers, and it can become an every-man-for-himself Gladiator situation during busy rush hours (there will be blood). With milliseconds to go before the subway lurched forward I stood up and placed myself behind the woman who had now become mesmerised by the flashing red dot (another signal that the subway is about to go). As it pulled away, with the assistance of Newton’s Third Law, the poor woman looked set to tumble right into the corn bag her husband had set down. I caught her (of course) and directed her to my now vacant seat, of which she kept refusing (I just saved your corn’s life you will damn well take that seat).

 

Good deed for the year = check.

 

In other news I laughed at the social justice being served to a blue Ferrari being towed off from Parkview Green (a mall I will soon do a write-up about) upon the dirtiest tow truck I have ever seen. Being an asshole in China is generally okay, but being an asshole with a very nice car seems to be where they draw the line.

 

 

That’s all folks, the tiger whiskey is calling me.

 

 

 

 

E.

 

 

On becoming an adult.

I always thought there was a magical moment that happened in every person’s life, something very distinct and special, which instantly transformed said person from child to adult. I pictured it similar to a bolt of lightning, something fast and bright and filled with energy, so much energy that once hit with the magical ‘it’ moment you could never go back to being the same person as before.

 

Whelp, that wasn’t what happened, instead I was dealt the bolt of sickness and snow.

 

I’m going to blame it on the street squid I had a few days prior, though you were a tasty treat Mr. Squid, buying you in a land locked city like Beijing definitely meant you were not fresh off any boat nearby. Needless to say the next few days progressively sucked. What was also becoming more and more inconvenient was the fact that I was desperately in need of fresh fruit and vegetables and, you know, actual food (sustaining on gummy lollies and yoghurt was not going to cut it). Since it is still Chinese New Year the campus shops are closed for at least the next week, increasing my supermarket time from five minutes to half an hour.

 

Now this isn’t that big of a deal, I mean I was sick but not completely incapacitated, and a half hour return walk isn’t insufferable. I told myself I can rest for a mere 24 hours, and get right onto sorting life out as soon as I wake up the next day. Easy enough.

 

Aaaaaand then the cage snow came down! Winter, you betrayed me, I thought we had it sorted this year, you weren’t suppose to come (at least not until the next Game of Thrones season). It ended up being about seven or so cm deep (hush) but from my poorly perception this meant more travel time outside and an increasing level of uncomfortable-ness of which I was already measuring an 11 out of 10.

 

My choices as they stood were

 

  1. Survive off gummy worms and yoghurt until the avalanche disappeared.
  2. Go outside, lie on the ground, be one with the snow forever.
  3. Go outside, get groceries, go home.

 

And with every step to and from the supermarket, I grew. My adultness must have grown three sizes that day. By the time I got back home I felt like I could have filed taxes, or purchased a house, or joined a political party.

 

 

 

 

And then I re-watched the movie ‘Frozen’ cause let’s be honest, ain’t nobody got time for that adult stuff. Yet.

 

 

 

E.

 

 

Salvage attempt.

I haven’t been writing much,

I know.

I could throw out excuse after excuse –

 

“Work was finishing.”

“I had Christmas to plan.”

“Life got busy.”

 

Truth is, I am not one to commit to something for the long term. Very rarely can I do something for a long time. Writing, something I still enjoy with an unbridled passion, is lingering on the cusp of becoming another fallen idea of another life I could have. One reason for my silence is that I find it very difficult to open up to anyone, and once I have I feel supremely self-conscious to the point that quitting seems to be less mental hassle.

 

This blog was is my confessional. I write very personal things that I don’t usually tell family, friends, or strangers passing in the night. Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with decisions and feelings that I took it upon myself to quit whatever process I had been using to exert my thoughts, for fear of what others would want to say to me. It’s happened once before due to a personal blog post, and I’m still not entirely sure if I’m comfortable with the resulting talk from it, but I continued to write sporadically after it, well up until my recent hiatus that is.

 

Now I guess these next words are my attempt to salvage whatever passions I had when I started this, and to see whether I can handle any responsive events from it. I figure what do I have to lose seeing as I’m alone in Beijing with no physical contact to worry about, and I started this blog with no intention other than putting thoughts to ink/pixels.

 

As a good friend of mine once said, “consequences be damned.”

 

 

 

 

 

I was in my early teens and roaming Garden Place, when near the square there was a large sign asking ‘Are YOU a Good Person?’ next to a smaller sign stating that if you took their test you would get a free Snickers bar at the end.

 

Well, who could pass that prize up?

 

After questions regarding my opinions about theft, murder, and marriage (they didn’t take too kindly to me saying I prefer girls, silly nuts) they asked the grand finale question ‘do you think you’re a good person?’

 

My answer, no.

 

Well that answer was certainly not what they expected, and they sent me on my merry way sans Snickers bar (lying is a sin, you false advertisers).

 

Truth is, I have never liked the binary suggestion of a person being either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You cannot say with certainty you are one, and deny the existence of the other. Humanity is an infinite spectrum of grey, ranging from the most undeniable pleasures, to the most unspeakable horrors. You and I have been witness and instigators to all manners of grey. It’s whether you feel comfortable in the shade you’re wearing that shows what person you are.

 

Lately however I’m beginning to question if I’m colour blind. I shared information that was not born from a direct instigation of my involvement, but one that I was privy to (and in a rather bad taste round of judgment by those who committed said act). Basically, I gossiped. A trivial action, in my opinion. But to others it seems to have left a wound. I’m still comfortable with the shade of grey I’m wearing, even if it doesn’t align with the moral compass of others. And yes, I realise that if everything known about me was public knowledge then I’d have a lot of answering to do. But I understand and accept that. Just don’t ask me to bleach my grey to something so artificial it can do nothing else but stain.

 

 

 

E.

Atlas.

Not writing for a long time is making me feel like a jigsaw puzzle missing its final piece.

 

Critique, please.

 

 

My favourite body part, shoulders.

Before I was old enough to know
what a ladder was for
I would sit atop my father’s and
gather the stars closer.

Before I laid with pillows
I would lower my head
between that space against your neck
where, in safety, I laughed, and I wept.

Before, they were only bones to hold
Now I pretend, I am Atlas
carrying the heavens
For if the weight of the heavens is a death sentence
You, are the most romantic penance.

Fired up.

An old story I remember reading about the very first gun invented goes something like this –

 

A Chinese monk, after mixing various powders and igniting their explosive properties in his bathroom turned laboratory, decided to fill a small tube with said powder, place a ball bearing near the opening, ignite, and promptly blow out a wall in his bathroom.

 

This is most definitely historically inaccurate, but a little humour is always good, no?

 

A gun is solely designed to kill. There is no other purpose for its invention. To suggest that a guns purpose is for fun (to me) sounds very absurd. Where is fun in putting little (and sometimes big) holes into inanimate objects?

 

That is not fun, that is a sense of great power. A very addictive sense of power.

 

To buy a gun you must acknowledge this unspoken agreement that, in purchasing it, you are saying yes you could kill. In practicing at target ranges (or other such areas that I hope are legal) you are tuning yourself as an adept killing machine.

 

Of course it’s not the tool that ultimately kills, but the operator. However, to own a gun and not respect its sole function is rather scary and very childish.  I would love to see on gun licence registration forms (which should be a global requirement) the question ‘do you feel you have the cognitive capacity to kill with this?’ I think the discussions about gun safety, and necessity of owning one, would increase significantly.

 

Guns are not bad. No object is bad. The properties and qualities placed upon it by us are what determine the bad from the good.

I want to fire a gun one day (I think). I want to know this sense of power. I doubt I will be okay with it, but for some possible future chance that I enjoy it, what would that say? 

 

 

 

 

E.