May 29th, 2009
It’s strange how illnesses develop sometimes.
Yesterday started with me waking at 5, unable to get back to sleep. Bugger it, I thought, might as well get up, check my email and the news, surf for a bit before we head up to the village.
A couple of hours later, my mood plummeted into a deep depression and all the energy drained from my body. But after maybe an hour, I managed to get up enough energy to contemplate getting my shoes on and leaving. In hindsight, it wasn’t any mood issue, I guess it was whatever infection was starting to wreak its merry havoc in my gut sucking up all the energy in my body like some mad electric vampire.
We were just approaching the gate when suddenly my mouth went dry and my stomach turned, like I was about to vomit. Felt a bit light-headed, too. So we headed back home to see if we have any medicine. Nope. And as lzh was searching the medicine cabinet, I sprinted for the toilet, and not to vomit.
I imagine I must’ve looked fairly pale and drained as I re-emerged, cos I was certainly feeling worse. And it was the kind of feeling bad that is not conducive to travel over a plain, across a mountain range, then across a basin by at least three forms of transport, especially when holiday crowds are added to the equation. Last thing anybody wants is to be stuck on a crowded bus in holiday traffic on the Badaling Expressway Carpark with no kind of privacy, let alone a toilet, in sight feeling like their gut is about to explode. The most likely prayer to arise from such a situation would perhaps be “Dear God, why did you have to choose such a messy way for me to go? And so unpleasant for my fellow passengers?”
Anyways, so the holiday turned into me crashing here trying to recover from whatever dreaded lurgy it was that laid me low, lzh heading up to the village alone. It’s been a brief reminder of both the advantages and disadvantages of bachelor life: Sure, I can do what I like, watch movies into the wee, small hours if I want, and so on, but there’s only so much fun in doing that alone, and besides, my wife is a better cook than me. As solitary as I can be, I have to admit life is better off shared.
But it seems lzh has been hit hard by the switch back to Country Time. This morning’s trip to the county town left her knocked out, so she’s staying out there one more night, heading back tomorrow morning. Country Time? Yeah, in my admittedly limited experience, Rural China functions by an entirely different clock to Urban China. Capitals because in so many respects the two are as different as America and New Zealand. Our trips out to the village result in a kind of jet-lag as we adjust to Country Time.
Not much happens around this corner of Beijing, which is why I like it down here. Strange as it may sound, the most interesting parts of a city are the boring parts. Most people don’t notice, though, because it takes so much time and patience to see how interesting such places can be. It’s a question of quiet, day-by-day observation rather than the in-your-face spectacularity most people seem to require these days (I blame Hollywood). But two things have grabbed my attention these past two days, two things that will seem completely inane to anyone reading this, because these things are small issues, not even issues, really, just two microscopically local things that for no particular reason grabbed my attention.
One is that a section of the wall around a neighbouring housing estate was torn down, and is now being rebuilt. At first I thought, hey, cool, a wall is coming down. (China seems to have a rather inordinate love of walls and fences. In fact, one of the things I loved about Changsha was the lack of walls and fences around the housing estates on the west bank of the Xiang River in the area I lived and also the open, unfenced and heavily-forested nature of the campuses of Hunan University and Hunan Normal University (the two are right next to each other at the foot of Yuelu Shan, and the lack of fences means their campuses blend together beautifully)). But they started rebuilding that section of wall as soon as they had knocked it down, and I realised today they’ve built it higher than it was. Oh well.
And then as I was sitting in the campus Muslim Restaurant- which sits on the northwest corner of the campus and looks outward, meaning if you choose your seat well, you get a good view of goings-on outside that corner of our campus- I noticed on the northeast corner of the intersection a very bored-looking young man dressed head to toe in those cheap camouflage fatigues popular among the labouring classes, black cloth shoes, and white socks and with a red armband sitting on a stool in the shad of a tree. I have no idea what he was doing. I was too far away to see what may have been written on his armband, and I didn’t see much point in getting any closer, having no business on that side of the road and lacking the energy and intestinal confidence to stray unnecessarily. At one point, somebody, just as young but dressed in more civilian clothes, did seem to talk to him for a couple of minutes, but otherwise this lad just sat there, staring westwards.
You do see red armbands appearing around this area at “sensitive” times. March’s Two Meetings (NPC and CPPCC) seem to bring them out. Last summer was the classic example. But they’re usually middle-aged or elderly people and there’s always a reason. I haven’t seen any sign of increased security in this neighbourhood, nor could I see any reason for extra security on that particular street at lunchtime today.
So here I am, alone, uninspired, trying to find something to write about. If you’ve read this far, all I can say is: I’m surprised.