Tag Archives: Asia

Community Pool: “Shutterbug”

10 Mar

In a pattern of hexagonal holes carved into marble on the west side of the Taj Mahal. This man told me that I’d get a view of the “other-side” if I took a photo. He promptly motioned with his index finger the clicking motion one would do with one’s camera.

I nodded and shoved my lens through the nearest hexagon. This is what I saw:
DSCN3029

Clenched Teeth & Baby Faces

6 Dec

English: Beijing subway system Dawanglu statio...

China. Beijing. The land of many many people. They’ve got pulses. Hearts that feel.

So do I.

There’s a soft and steady tap as I walk under the bridge near Guomao (国贸); Dawanglu specifically. My only thought is getting home. “Gotta get home. Gotta get home.”

Guomao

I can’t lie, I’m excited about the 50 kuai bottle of wine I’m carrying in my right hand. It’s from Chile, Cabernet Sauvignon, specifically La Cara. Not my favourite, it’s not the best, but it’s a red and I always enjoy hongjiu (紅酒) . Let’s be honest here, it’s a $8 CAD bottle of wine. Ha!  Definitely not the best. But I like drinking wine…what can I say?

I’m content. Happy. And things are seeming to go my way. Maybe work is not as great, maybe now there are problems and my boss isn’t the best. Maybe the fellow I like isn’t answering my texts, or whatever. Let’s be clear:

I don’t care. Meh…

I come walking at my jet speed; I learned it from my mother, and then I see them. I’m crossing the Dawanglu bridge and I see them. A tall Chinese man, very thin, chasing a shorter man around a small three-wheeled tuk-tuk so to speak.  Another man comes, he’s holding something. Staring is something I’m good at. So I do. I grit my teeth and I stare.

The third man holds a hammer and he starts hitting the shorter man with it. The tuk-tuk belongs to the shorter man. How do I know? He’s wearing knee-pads and his coat barely fits. He’s barely living. He’s surviving.

Soon there are ten short Chinese men running at him and then the short tuk-tuk driver is on the ground and they’re hitting him.  Crow-bars appear from no where, lead pipes seem to pop into their hands. They’re punching him. Kicking him. I’m still staring and they see me.

They say ” Foreigner, she doesn’t understand.” (她不明白.)

I do. I understand. But what can I do? What can I say?

Now these thoughts are floating in my head. After-all I am foreign. I am a woman. I speak Chinese but only on a basic level. Are these excuses?  What should I do? Dear Lord what should I do? I stare. I stare and I stare.

I stare as they carry this man to a van. I turn away and I hear screams. That’s all and there are a few others who are staring with me. They are native speakers. A man and I exchange a long look. But he looks down and continues to walk. There are people who can do something, but it’s not their job. “Why do something that you’re not paid for?” Why stick out your neck for someone who potentially did something wrong? Justice. It’s lacking.

So what’s worse? A land full of people who won’t take a chance? Or a person who could have stuck out her neck and didn’t? I continue to walk. Damn. DAMN. I am so angry.

Subway: Line 1 to Xidan. Subway transfer: Line 4. Renmin University (人民大學). At the Wangfujing stop a baby runs on. His smile is as big as his pudgy face. Soon he’s crying to his mom, stretching his arms up, he wants to be held. Carried.

His eyes meet mine and we begin to make faces, well I do at least. I puff out my cheeks, make a fish face.  Yeah that’s right. I went from witnessing a gang beating, to making a little child laugh.

The cuteness of the situation dissipates and that adorable baby becomes the annoying baby. Spoiled, loud, crying. I transfer to line 4 and then I see a mother and daughter. They are cold to each other. Uncommunicative. They don’t even talk. I think of my family.  I consider my father, my mother, my older sisters and my younger one. How on earth could I not talk to them?

I’m plagued with what I saw. I care. I care a ton. But it’s not enough that I simply care. It’s not enough that I’m crying on the subway home. It’s not enough. My compassion without understanding, doesn’t help at all.

I’m overwhelmed with a feeling. Shame. Shame is all I feel now. Shame then, shame now. Shame at being obsessed with my damn romantic life, with damn money and damn materialism, with my damn happiness. Happiness. I am desperate for it and that short tuk tuk man most likely…won’t know it for a while. That baby’s got boat loads of it, and that mother and daughter will have it but won’t know what to do with it.

Shocked at my nativity, astounded at how ruthless and heartless humanity can be, I won’t pass judgement. I don’t know.  My uncertainty about life is heightened and my humility has deepened. I can decide to be better, but I can’t hide the simple truth; I am humbled.

Die ahead?

Die ahead? (Photo credit: cobblucas)

Related articles

This Time

3 Oct

It's another perspective.Around this time last year, I went for a walk in the streets of Beijing. I saw fit to write about it. Express myself and share what I saw. The result was a remarkably poor blog post. Although the content was wonderful, my style was lack-luster; weighed and found wanting.

So I have taken it upon myself to re-write this post, hoping for the forgiveness of those who had read it at the time.

Here goes:

I had decided to go for a walk. Down Zhonguancun, a main street in the northeastern part of Beijing. Maybe I’ve become too sentimental, maybe I’ve always been sentimental. Either way I was in a sentimental mood.

My heart stirred; moved by many things on my short walk. But three stand out in comparison to all the other moving moments.

Scene #1 

A girl, sitting on her haunches. Black hair falls over her face either for shame or fashion. From a distance, I can tell…it’s not for fashion. She wore a tattered school uniform and holes cover her (the unfashionable kind).

A paper in front of her, flutters in the slight breeze and she holds it down with these tiny fingers.

Chinese characters spell out some plea for help, food or money.

A man stands apprehensively in front of her, reading her sign. Absent-mindedly, he dug for his wallet. He pulled out a few kuai and with care placed them at her feet. She nodded her head in acknowledgment.

No eye contact.

Scene #2

I continue to walk. Ashamed that I hadn’t stopped. Why hadn’t I stopped? Too task orientated.

Not too far down the road.

An elderly gentleman pulled out a piece of paper, placed it on the curb and sat upon it. The curb looked clean to me. But then you never can tell.

He crossed his legs, and folded his hands over his knees. Pensive. Here he had decided to sit and watch the world whirl around him. He smiled.

I smiled. Almost let out a small laugh.

Scene #3

I continued walking and came to a park. Classical folk music drifted up through the trees. A combination of the flute, the accordion, drums, the lute. Beautiful. It wasn’t not Bach, it’s not Chopin either. But it was beautiful.

I peeked through the trees and saw dancing.  Women thrice my age, moved with such agility. Men exemplified chivalry that hadn’t been used in over a decade.

I had found a dream world. A bubble in busy Beijing.

I was enlightened.

What did I learn from my walk?

  • To give more whole-heartedly.
  • Watch where I sit.
  • Observe the world now and then.
  • (Cliche bit) Dance through life.

Passage to India

3 Oct

They say in India that to have patience, mercy, and understanding means to have a good mind. How convenient that in India to travel you’ll need a huge dosage of patience and mercy.

And you’ll need to understand that different folks simply have different strokes. And you have to be okay with it. Well enough of that now. How about some photos.

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As I wrote in an earlier post, Thailand was beautiful. But I didn’t have to work hard to find that there. In India, mind you I spent most of my time in the northern part, I had to work to find it. Not convinced?

A woman and child, begged for a photo and immediately afterward wanted money, charging me for taking it.
“Photo?” they ask innocently. They even begin to smile to show me what the photo could look like.
I nod. Take a photo. I show them.
They shake their heads, they don’t care, “Money, money, money!”
I’m shaken, speechless, and I hand them ten rupees.
They run off to the next tourist in line.

A View of Thailand

1 Oct

 

In Thailand there is a proverb: 

In the spirit of making hay, I took some photos. Would you like to have a little gander? I know that you are just dying, sitting on the edge of your seat to see what it is I saw while I was there…okay okay okay. Well here they are:

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Did I convince you? Will you come? No? Take a look at some of the beach views from Koh Samui (and island down in the Southern part of Thailand) :

Breather, and now:

 

Embracing my small artistic gene:

 

Thanks for having a look. I’ma go keep making hay whilst the sun shineth.

 

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