Thursday, 13 August 2015

Cutting Ties With Convenience


 [Originally written:  November 28th, 2013]
Harbin, Stree Market
They say that old habits die hard. However, what they fail to mention is that new habits form quickly. Circumstance is what makes us form habits. No longer can I soak in the comfort of my old habits and routine, because my environment doesn’t allow it. The barriers of travel prevent me from waking up to eat my preferred breakfast of tea and toast (I have searched every square mile for a toaster) and relax on the sofa watching BBC News. Instead, I wake to plug in my water-heater as I prepare my instant-porridge and banana, now ripe from yesterdays market purchase. Before, I would return home and hope there is a good selection of TV programs on that evening. Now I return and hope my electricity isn’t cut-off, or my internet connection is still available. After living with high-speed fiber optic, the constant lack of online availability is a bigger challenge than one had expected.
It is difficult to hold onto our habits when we are constantly prevented from keeping them. Home comforts and familiar routine for me are not an option. Now I return to my bed-sit and spend my evenings making lesson plans, reading books or writing; the days of sitting down with a bacon-sandwich to watch the latest updates on Netflix are over. However, the challenge of losing convenience and the safety of normality goes beyond a good internet connection. Just stepping outside ones front door, a wave of abnormality, strangeness and a constant assault to the senses makes you crave the mundane. Nothing can prepare the uninitiated for the riot of noise, car horns and vendors that stain the streets of China. At times, one can feel suffocated by the chaotic lifestyle that runs through its veins. I often feel that everything, be it buying milk or doing laundry, is much more difficult now. However, I follow that thought with the suggestion that everything was perhaps too easy before. Everything was convenient; which is, after-all, what prompts one to travel in the first place.
Harbin, China, 2013
They say the grass is greener on the other-side; yet what they don’t tell you, is that it takes a lot of rain to make that grass that bit greener. China is literally Yin and Yang. There is a lot of positive attributes to this exciting world. Nothing is ever the way it should be, and battle to make it that way is often in vain. But when the internet won’t connect, or the electricity cuts off half-way through cooking your seventeenth Noodle Stir-Fry in as many days, the grass is simply being watered by the rain. And the next day, or even the next week, the grass really is greener.
It really is an emotional battle to cut ties with the convenience of home. I cannot make China into the country that I want it to be, and quite rightly, I never expected or wanted to. Yin and Yang is the Chinese concept that contrary forces are interdependent of each other. In simple terms, you cannot experience good, without experiencing bad, or you would have no concept of the good in the first place – thus good and bad are interdependent.
The more time I spend in China, the more is revealed. I have slowly become accustomed to the exciting thrill of China (Yang) and the undeniable but forgivable disappointments (Yin). As I say goodbye to the convenience of old, I realize that perhaps I can not only survive in China, but thrive… even without an internet connection.

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