(Something in the Works, 2013)
Before arriving people would tell me about China, about how they knew someone that went and had changed. Some of those people even returned to live there. It is too earlier to point out what has changed in me, to acknowledge an alternative self, or if it was China that had the majority of the affect on me or if it was the experience of being with my entire family for the first time in over a decade. Witnessing how we have changed, how we have grown apart, situated in a different circumstance from each other seemed to be an analogy to what China has become. From my father's notion of the China, the China he had escaped, the Red China, the Mao China, the one that seemed too hard to speak of, the one that recalls memories of struggle and violent change. That China was gone and in the void was a man in his late-60's seeing a new country from fifty years of being away.
Eventually the things I thought were strange, different, and even this notion of madness would subside to the everyday. A child naked from the waist down is being held by his mother as he pees on to the street, the strong smell of urine in particular spots on the street, the cutest dogs ever, the massive crowds, the part of the street where cars, tuk-tuks, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycle, and people all struggle to move in each of their directions, the honking, the hawking, the spitting, the mixture of music, and the street sounds eventually fade to the opposite of white noise, a pattern from the chaos of everything happening all at once. From how people looked here, communicating, selling, and buying, how it did not seem to phase them, that understanding of their everyday made it normal to me, or at least closer to understanding it.
Arriving in Shanghai was something else, I was still in mainland and yet I felt like I was somewhere far from the past ten days. The same sense of order I knew from North America was here, walking was less challenged, the eyes need not pan and scan the surrounding in search of a steadily approaching vehicle, the sidewalks without vendors, the spitting down to a minimal, and the order of the buildings, of the overall was something I understood from the experience of living in a cosmopolitan city. I had a good feeling about this place, as if I was searching for something, that something was just about to be found. It was so close I could smell it. And then I heard it, a whisper from the wind, "Are you ready?".