Here, There, and Everywhere

So, it’s been some time.

I promise I haven’t been shirking my duties as a writer (well, maybe just a little in terms of journaling), but I have been away from bandwidth large enough to support WordPress for some time.

Work has kept me on an extended business trip of sorts, and that trip took me to Southern China.

I have traveled to Japan, South Korea, and Singapore in terms of Asian countries; China stands out in its own incredible way.

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If you think about it, no other place has truly withstood the test of time like China has; to put things into accurate perspective, Chinese unification took place in 221 BC under the Qin Dynasty.  Called the “Middle Kingdom,” it was believed to be the center of the world, having been given by the gods to the Son of Heaven, the Emperor.  China has essentially stood as is for 2000 years; the Roman Empire collapsed after 500.  The Chinese were aeons beyond the rest of the ancient world in terms of science, technology, trade, and exploration.  China has weathered revolts, invasions, and the rise of the Communists.  It is a remarkable place, rich with history and steeped in tradition.

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It is also a poor place.

I did not learn about China from a hotel room in Beijing or Shanghai or Hong Kong.  I learned about China walking the streets of a place in Guangdong province, where I was stared at, not only because I was white and most of the people had never seen a foreigner before, but because I represented money.

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A woman with her children smiled at me from a dark corridor in this dilapidated city;  her eyes were bright and she was pretty–perhaps no older than 27 or 28.  There was a film of water running over the ground, slimy and tinted green from the constant flow and I wondered if it was indicative of the quality of the water there.  We were told not to drink the water; these people did not have the luxury of that choice.

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There was a family in front of the building they must have lived in; none of the doors or windows had screens, only metal skeletons.  I wish the quality of this shot had been  better; but it was a really lucky one to get:

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There is  way that the candidness can not be recreated.  This was China for me.

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Vanishings

A woman looks out from a two story window as we pass through the streets of Chinatown. Aliens; this entire city is made up of aliens. An old man tells us, “Here, in Singapore, we welcome all people from all nations, races, and creeds. We only ask that you abide by our rules.” Here, in this place, one truly can dissolve into the jungle.

“Where are you going?” They ask. “Where do you come from?”

Travelers congregate in the crowded bars of Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, and I think of the time when Singapore was only a small British trading post, a settlement literally hashed into the jungle. Travelers and merchants came in, perhaps on their way up to Canton to trade Opium for Chinese silk and spices. It still has the feel of a place that men come and go, perhaps because it is still a hub for international trade, only modernized. But within that built-up, glittering world remain the seedy echoes of the under-world, lit by garish neon signs and made sensual by the enticing faces of those certain women, luring businessmen and sailors into the dimly lit, well-worn hallways of their bars and parlors.

We sit at an orange plastic table with yellow plastic chairs in Chinatown, talking with friends of ours who have been away in the Middle East 8 months on business. Funny we should all meet by chance here in Singapore. The waitress comes and brings over cold Tiger beers, along with steaming plates of noodles, spicy chicken, and duck. We talk of our experiences and we drink to the paths that our lives have taken us down. Rain pours down like millions of pearls scattering upon the brick walkways as vendors frantically hurry to cover their merchandise and welcome tourists in from the rain.

I am no one here. I am everyone here. I can disappear into the night and blend into the crowd of 5 million faces during the day. Everyone is a specter that lingers for only a second.


I am a ghost.