I’m sitting in my hotel room on the seventh floor. Out the window I see nothing but ice, smog and towers – I cannot see them built quite to the horizon it seems, as the pollution has blanketed this city of 11 million inhabitants.
I am in Harbin, the capital of the north. It is no surprise that I find myself with the flu, a cold or maybe some unknown Northern Chinese Virus. So I have rested a lot over the last 24 hours and tomorrow I will get back on my feet.
China is literally nuts – it’s all the world has spoken about over the last 20 years but the pace of change in China has obviously been exponential.
I have never been to China before, so admittedly I have no memory to compare modern China to. But let’s look at this place for a moment.
Harbin has 11 million people, in an environment where winter temperatures average around minus 20C. It is a harsh place and economic rise has occurred relatively quickly. In the early 20th century Harbin was nothing but a fishing village – it is now one of the larger cities in China. It all began with the Russians building a railway line to Vladivostok – but even Vladivostok pales in size to Harbin. Last night I had dinner with Chao – an English Teacher I met through Couchsurfing and two of his colleagues. It was nice to hang out with some locals and get their perspective on life.
Chinese culture amazes me – there is so much determination and conservative respect for the idea of success and wealth. It is ingrained in the Chinese that hard work is more important than travelling, than finding your dream job, than having a say in the political process. That does not mean they do not aspire to these things but first and foremost everything is measured in its material wealth.
Western culture is so postmodern now that these ideas are foreign to someone like me. I have spent my life following dreams and thanks to the system I grew up in, I have been a mediocre success – I have finished two degrees, I am paid well, I have no debt, I have travelled the world and I have friendships and family to match. I have rarely followed money to do so. Coming from a country that has maintained consistent economic success, you can see why I am able to live my dreams while meeting success.
In China my way of life is foreign. Travel the world? You must be rich beyond your wildest dreams? No – and funnily enough my time here in China is rubbing off on me. To think that I finally believe in being organised and stringent with my money, this may be of benefit to my travels.
The success in China makes me more inclined to fuse my dreams with the economic aspirations of others. Am I becoming old? To want money, love, economic stability and not just adventure?
Love is the most fleeting of all these desires, a sad fact I wish weren’t true, but it is the only one where my control is limited. It is something dependent on both I and another – and it’s safe to say that anyone I call on to be that dependent person shoots me down as I do to those who call on me to do so.
Good luck stopping love from being a mainstay thought for me though. I’m made to dream 😀
China, with all its people spitting and standing in the metro or elevator door entrances is an interesting test for humanity. Here is the biggest phase and change in power we have ever seen.
Is China up for it?