Being There

“To the Journeyers to the East” – The Glass Bead Game


So the first month of 2017 is screeching to a halt, and the new lunar year has arrived. Cue the usual predictions of apocalyptic doom & gloom as well as the occasional, equally useful, comment such as “cock year gon’ be lit af”. An interesting thing about Chinese New Year is that it gives everyone a second chance at that ‘new year, new me’ bullshit. I spent not a single day in the gym during the year of the monkey, and there’s no reason to assume there’ll be any regime change while the chicken is pulling the reins.

I’ve not made any New Year’s resolutions. Not because I expect that the fearmongers are correct and we’ll soon be running along the beach fleeing apes on horseback, but more because (although I do currently consider myself someone who’s essentially just killing time waiting for the world to burn) I’m happy ‘just’ travelling, exploring urban sprawl and living in the moment, despite the western world doing its best to scare the living crap out of me.

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I met an American fellow back in China* who said “travelling isn’t even what I do, I just move to different countries and try to experience as much of their culture as possible before moving somewhere else!” To me, that kind of sounds like a pretty good Oxford definition of the gerund ‘travelling’, but whatever.

I was recently looking at some of my old photos, including several taken during my first trip to Beijing. Although I often looked bored as balls at the end of a Batong-sized shaft, I also looked young and happy (and handsome as a mo fo, in my opinion). That’s because I was doing my best to roll with the punches and live in the present moment.

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I’m very aware that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to travel. Current world events have proven that. I’m also aware that many who are lucky enough simply don’t have the inclination (living in Kazakhstan, it seems, is often met with the same ignorant crap as living in China. “But why?” “You must miss England really!” “I’m never visiting you know, I couldn’t be that far from civilization!” etc.)**

I’m glad that I, as someone who spent seven years in a dead-end job and fifteen in a dead-end town, had the sack to move to China (twice) and that I’ve already used Beijing as a springboard to visit somewhere else, while a lot of people I know are grumbling in the same bedsit they lived in when I left.

I don’t know what awaits us in the year of the rooster (doom, gloom or otherwise). I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing. But I’ll be there.


*(like several Americans abroad, he introduced himself with “I just want to apologize on behalf of my country”)

**People, on the whole, being unaware (a) that them not visiting is probably part of the appeal; and (b) of the irony in referring to somewhere like Northampton town centre as ‘civilization’.

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