China with Polish Characteristics

April 6, 2008

Alive and kicking!

Filed under: Uncategorized — chinatalk @ 10:01 am

Ok, all right, this blog went dead for the last two months but I’m not going to let that happen again. I just made it back from Hong Kong this week and even though the trip was very short (visa!), I feel like I’m rediscovering Beijing anew, somehow falling in love with it by stages. When I stepped off the train at the West Station it was a clear, bright day. You could say the air smelled of spring, only it was slightly dry and dusty, like the aftertaste of pu’er tea, and came at you in gusts of wind, tugging defiantly. The sky above was silent, flat and pale blue, spilling endlessly across the horizon. If not for the roads and concrete buildings, the impression of Beijing would be like that of the grassland and it’s great, open spaces. This was the North country, solemn and willful; and the people I saw on the streets with their plain demeanor and dry laughter reflected this landscape. It never stops to amaze me how different the north and south of China are from each other. Because several days earlier, when I made it to Guangzhou I felt I was stepping into a different world, or at least, a different country.

This was a city shaped by its subtropical climate, and the streets and people, although quite busy, felt light and warm and happy. There were palms and lush greenery all around and the air felt like balsam, oozing gently into your mood. The language sounded softer and more melodic, changing the style of conversations, drawing them out although not as much as in Hong Kong. And nearly everyone I saw seemed to be Buddhist – on their light clothing a number of people wore green jade pedants, usually associated with the faith. It was all quite dreamy and dazzling and reminded me of Sichuan (even more laidback) and I didn’t want to go back.

One day later, the visa officials in Wanchai (Hong Kong) gave me hell, once again confirming that Polish spirit and paperwork do not go well together. But aside of bureaucracy I had great time tramping around Kowloon (massage, sir?) which feels incredibly Indian with its tiny, crowded shops and rundown architecture. It’s as if the late Empire never quite left and people are shuffling around in a wonderful, expired time capsule. Hong Kong. The ferry, the bookshops, the seafood, the incredible mix of cultures. One of my favorite places in China. But it’s good to be back home, in the North and be able to appreciate it with a fresh perspective.

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