Friday, November 6, 2009

Cities and Desire, 1

So I'm back from Jiangsu and I'm all set to write a series of moderately snarky posts about the trip (one of the benefits of having a blog is that I see everything through protective layers of sarcasm, irony, and self-deprecating humor without having to emotionally experience it (this may seem like a drawback to you rather than a benefit, but let's talk after you try emotionally experiencing a Chinese public restroom where someone had a case of the mamsy-poopsy-mams)), but before I embark on my journey into the past (which I hope will take less time and effort than my series of posts about Hubei) I have some relatively non-snarky comments on the trip.

The two main cities we went to, Nanjing and Suzhou, are wonderful places. Suzhou especially: it's nicknamed the "Venice of the East", and, even though I'm probably going to make a joke about that name in a later post, it's not an unreasonable description for a city filled with tree-lined canals and Italian coffee shops which happens to be in The Orient. Going to Suzhou reminded me what things I miss when I'm in Guangzhou. Those things are so irrelevant that it's hard to name them without hearing a voice inside saying, "surely you aren't complaining about that", and they aren't hardships as much as compromises that I make with myself so often that I forget that I'm making them. And usually I chalk these differences up to China, and I swallow them in the name of cultural assimilation and new experiences. But then I take a 2 hour plane ride and I feel like I could have it all if only I didn't live in Guangzhou.

I don't really feel that way now that I'm back, though. Guangzhou is harder to live in because it is more callous and more complicated, but I do actually believe that it's a good experience to live in a complicated place. Suzhou feels comfortable because it's a beautiful tourist destination. Tourists go there because they see in Suzhou a reflection of their own city, and eventually some of them move to Suzhou and try to construct an imitation of their city there, and the cycle continues until no one can quite remember what they liked about Suzhou in the first place except that it was the first place they had gone in China that felt like home.

Plus, one of the days we were there it was cold as balls outside, and no one likes that.

Amusing tales from Jiangsu still to come! What do the song "When You Believe", the movie Legally Blonde, and jade dildos have in common (other than being insert your own gay joke here)? They'll all be featured in Jiangsu wrap up posts appearing this week! For now, content yourself with this picture, which is what happens when Gus pushes the button on the camera before I'm ready.

Also, everyone had to fall back in the US last week, but the time didn't change here because we sprinkled the blood of a Tibetan lamb on our lintel. This means that my convenient 12-hour time difference from the East Coast no longer works. So, bad news for my friends on the East Coast, but good news for my friends on Prince Edward Island, which Canadians assure me is a real province and not simply a long-standing cartographic joke. (Newfoundland, as I discovered just now, is in the half time zone UTC-3.5. Now that's a joke.)