Back in the States

DSCN0364Three of four hundred miles north of Hawaii, my stomach dropped as the plane plummeted what must have been a good hundred feet, bringing about a brief, albeit somewhat disconcerting sensation of weightlessness. We had been flying in some of the worst turbulence I have ever experienced in my many times on planes, and had been stuck in it for nearly 4 hours. Our plane seemed to move two feet in any of the possible directions, causing drinks to fall and eliciting a variety of creaking and banging noises from the cabin. At times, it was such that I couldn’t but wonder how the wings did not snap. Sitting far to the back of the plane, I could watch all of the passengers being jolted in an almost synchronized motion, choreographed in perfect time with the unpredictable shifting of the aircraft. Two hundred and fifty bodies suspended in a cold, black nothingness, being tossed and turned 38,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Then, with the return of the sun, the bumping ceased, and with our landing in California, I had a true sense that my trip to the Middle Kingdom had come to a close.Door Knocker
Words cannot accurately describe the two weeks which I have just spent in the Peoples Republic of China. I have been home for not even a day, but already feel that I must begin the process of all that I experienced, before the sensation attached to these memories begins to fade. The trip was entirely overwhelming, but at no point was it bad. I did not have access to a computer (nor would I have found time to use one if I did), but took a large number of pictures, and kept a pretty decent running log of everything that we did, along with the endless number of thoughts that I had over the course of the trip. Over the next couple of days, I am going to try and piece everything together, and write a number of articles in a manner following the course of the trip. As I had initially expected, we were generally at the mercy of our hosts, but beyond this, nearly all of my initial beliefs about Chinese culture turned out to be slightly off. It was not that they were wrong, but rather that everything was so much larger than I could have possibly imagined. I have heard it said on multiple occasions that the more you know about China, the more you realize that you do not in fact understand what you have learned. There are elements within this thought that were truly confirmed by this trip.DSCN0244
As I sit writing, it is hard to even begin to label a single emotion that I can tie along with our journey. It seems as though I never actually left, and that the trip was nothing more than a dream, one in which everything had shifted a bit from the world which I was accustomed to. There was no point at which things were exactly the same, and for the duration of the trip it was hard for me to accept that I was actually in China. I had no doubt that it was not home, but at the same time it was unlike anything I could have possibly imagined. It is as though all of the history and culture that has ever existed is present in every moment. Unlike the culture in which I was raised, where I have always understood history to be a chronological set of events, it seems that within China the memory of history remains constant within the present. There will be a number of occasions on which I come back to this idea. How a culture can manage to have so many levels is beyond me. The levels of complexity are such that the ideas held by China’s own citizens are widely varied, and frequently do not agree with one another. Common knowledge in one region can be all but unheard of in another. Duality is a word that came up quite often in the discussion that I had with other students on the trip. For the time being, I will leave it as this. Jet lag and generally feelings of confusion are making it difficult to get solid thoughts together. Expect more daily in the weeks that follow, there is no end to the words that will be required to even begin describing the short time that I have experienced.

This entry was posted in "Discovering China" and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.