I wrote a blog for the Macon Writer's group not too long ago and I wanted to expand a bit on my thoughts here. Over the past few days I've been thinking about attempting to fill out a poetry collection from my time in Mainland China, particularly as I start to pack up and get ready to move over to Hong Kong.
In my time in China, it's only in recent years that I've felt comfortable writing about the country. There's a lot of things to worry about, we read constantly about how we need to be careful of the things we say, where we say it, how we say it. During the first few years, I struggled to pair my American way of thinking to the Chinese way. Family is very important here, connections as well. There was also a way of speaking between younger women that suggested they were not the sons their families had actually wanted. And then there was learning that not everything western media said about Chinese people was matching my experience.
In general, Chinese people are super friendly. I had an old man once when I first moved to Chongqing that walked me to the subway line I was looking for simply because I looked lost. Neither of us were able to communicate with each other, but he still helped me out.
But there were still moments were I felt alienated for being different, and those were the moments I found myself focusing on in my writing. Outside of tier one cities like Beijing, there are not a lot of foreigners. This means you get treated in many ways like an escaped zoo animal: people take your photos without asking, try to talk to you when you are clearly busy doing something else, specifically ask questions like 'Which is better, America or China?,' talk about your ass, boobs, waist, fat, face, etc.. in Mandarin, etc..
It really wears you down over time. Some people I worked with really loved it, they felt like celebrities. I just didn't like it, I felt the behavior was rude. I even had a personal trainer at the gym quit training me because she felt like people were staring at her all the time. Then there was the taxi driver who held my hand all the way home, the other one who tried to sneakily take my picture while I was in the back seat, the women on the scooter who asked to take my photo and when I said no drove up a foot and then took it any before racing off... Just to name a few encounters and not to even begin talking about people who literally believed that people from outside of China didn't have the same blood as Chinese people so we couldn't get the same vaccinations...
I'm venting. Sorry.
What I really want to say is, I was experiencing all these events that I personally disliked and they were clouding my ability to write about the magnificent country I was in and lucky enough to experience.
I instead, like I mention in the Macon Writer's blog, chose to start watching other people interacting with each other, paying attention to the places I was in, and the cultural history. Immediately, my writing became much more positive. All around me were people helping each other, putting each other first, trying to help their family members, etc.. The places and the history behind them was also fantastic to learn. My hope is that, as writers, you all go out and experience the world, but remember that every person and place has its own story that deserves to be written about as it happens and not through whatever lens you may subconsciously (or consciously) be viewing life through. Steady writing!
It was a fun project, and we decided to share it! Each line is in English, Chinese pinyin, and Chinese characters. My poem "Placebo" recently came out as well! Check it out here!
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