Reaching out to people through the chaos that is life

Everything I do online is very… solitary, in a passive sense. I’m one of those (yes, somewhat annoying) people who go around like-ing your posts but never really commenting. Actual interaction? Oh no, oh my! But it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while: to give and become part of an online community. As it currently stands, I’m merely the occasional visitor. Perhaps I’m just so used to being outgoing and proactive in person that assuming a rather ghostly internet self is just the more comfortable path?

Many people are different in group settings than in one-on-one conversations, and even more people are more outspoken online simply because of the freedoms that exist. International organizations and media giants, presidents and CEOs, neighbours and friends, everyone and everything and influence and possibilities and, and, and!! It is simply overwhelming.

Yet, when I chart out the course towards an eventual goal, which yes, I will eventually figure out, the online world is sure to play a large part. How can anything exist nowadays without their own website – be it NGO, restaurant, or person? There are also so many fantastic, wonderful and inspirational ideas floating about this mystic digital realm and I can’t help but want to… improve because of it, be a part of it if only as an audience member, and some day, perhaps even contribute to some greater whole. I’m being driven by a search for independence and purpose. And really, can anything or anyone ever exist alone?

Perhaps the possibility of living in Hong Kong for more than a year prompted me to move. Though friends are scattered, perhaps they’re more likely to visit Hong Kong than elsewhere. Perhaps I will be a better correspondent with facebook, twitter, and wordpress apps on my phone.* Perhaps the energy of this city will make me more efficient and productive, certainly I’ll walk faster! Perhaps the opportunities are endless. Perhaps I only make use of them.

In the month and four days that I’ve been on Hong Kong, so, so many things have happened!

Got here on Cinco de Mayo – just in time for a friend’s party with Corona and lime and tortillas and everything. Since then, I’ve found an apartment after looking at countless others, been given the one month notice due to ‘cultural incompatibility’**, found another apartment (going to move next week!), gone to two interviews a week, successfully landed the part-time job as a graphic designer, received a formal offer for a full-time business development position pending a visa (which I’m terrified won’t go through), worked like a crazy person to edit over 1300 photos this past week and completely destroyed whatever biological clock I have left! Slept from 4am-12pm and only went out today to do laundry. No, not even for food, because I cooked ham, eggs, beans, and a sausage. What a day, eh? Thus, we arrive to right now – this very second.

There are two to-do lists in my sketchbook, a daily one and a weekly one. On the daily list are things like having breakfast and checking the news. The weekly list has items like ‘spend at least an hour learning Cantonese’ (ha) and ‘draw more!’. It also has ‘blog’ on there, which I’ve really never done with consistency… but if all goes according to these to-do lists, I will soon! Blogging includes splashing thoughts here and also drawing comics, so between the two, some sort of weekly update should happen? Blogging will now also include writing comments and generally communicating with other bloggers through something other than ‘like’. What a goal, what a goal!

This past week has been terrible. I would harshly judge myself based on actions from the last few days! It’s not a life that’s easily maintained, and I’m not about to give it a try. And yet, it’s so easy to fall into old patterns! Or rather, to fall back into a complete lack of any pattern at all.

“Is this something you want?” “No.” “Can you change it?” “Yes.” “Then do!”

* During the beginning of the Cinco de Mayo party, my first few hours in Hong Kong, I sat in a corner with the phone downloading apps that aren’t available in Play from Mainland China. It was a joyous occasion.

** Oh, yes, I kid you not. The conversation began with the soon to be ex-flatmate giving me $500 and saying “here, for the stuff you bought when you move out”. I thought it was a joke and it really wasn’t. When I pressed him for an actual explanation, he said I was too ‘North American’. He doesn’t much distinguish between culture and personality… It’s a topic I’d rather not think about!


Goodbye, paradise

The boat leaves paradise in an hour and a half. The ticket away means my trip is coming to an end. A temporary end, I told my friend this morning, and he seemed puzzled. Indeed, as much as I want this journey to continue, it will be a new and different adventure when I go traveling again. This portion, through northern Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, will end tomorrow with a flight from Phnom Penh. Though there is a guesthouse here by the name ‘Paradise’ (we’ve encountered three thus far), I think specifically of the 7 kilometers of pristine white beach on the southwest coast of Koh Rong, an island off the Cambodian coast. Three hours from Sihanoukville by boat, the island is in its early stages of development, meaning a cluster of guest houses where the boats arrive with peace and tranquility on the opposite side, especially after the daily visitors leave. We were among the daily visitors yesterday, having trekked an hour in the noonday heat and departed by boat after sunset. The moment we were close enough to water, we dropped all our things and ran straight in. The water was crystal clear with nothing as far as the eye could see, neither fish nor leaves nor debris. There we spent the day, swimming and napping and sunning before endless beach and ocean.

That was just yesterday. Two weeks have past since my last blog update and so much has happened and I’ve written so much in that time! But if no Internet was readily available, I would write on an iPad journal and have since realized the tone of what’s written can be very different. Though unintentional, it seems I ‘speak’ more via blog, versus the stream of consciousness that comes from writing in a journal. Not good or bad, simply observed fact.

It also seems odd to post writings after the fact. I am no longer in the shadows of Angkor Wat, barely containing awe and wonder, no longer on a bus, passing stalls of dried insects, no longer puzzled by the people praying before the Grand Palace in Phnom Penh (which later I realized is for the late King Father’s funeral) and no longer staying in a room with construction on three of the four sides. It also doesn’t make sense that I rewrite about those events, those experiences, because what was typed before is infinitely more authentic with those emotions and thoughts unaffected by time.

Although… some things take time. Thinking back on my short time in Cambodia, the day spent in S21 and the killing fields near Phnom Penh is among the heaviest memories. The genocide at the hands of Pol Pot happened only some three decades ago! On a beach in Sihanoukville two days earlier, speaking to people we’d just met, we all agreed on the feeling of distance between us and history even though it’s really not so far. Even a generation before us, our parents, perhaps older siblings, have experienced the history we can only interact with in museums and books. Visiting the sites brings us closer and even then, we’re only affected a fraction in comparison to those who’ve lived through these events. S21 prison and detention center stands in seemingly a typical neighborhood in the Cambodian capital and only the barbed wire among its walls gives it away for what it once was. At the beginning of its existence, they were school buildings – a high school and a primary school. That was one of the most haunting facts to me. The day of and immediately after, it seemed we were walking through a dream, or a nightmare, seeing the unchanged brick cells where a person can’t extend their arms and later, seeing the bits of bone rising to the surface as we walked among burial sites for countless, nameless thousands. A heavy memory like this takes time and deserves time because the impact these places have on their visitors is far beyond an immediate rush of emotion.

How lucky are we?

Windows into the Chinese internet

Again, so many interesting articles I want to share and discuss! But time is limited and I will elaborate later this evening. In the mean time, everyone can at least be entertained. Chinasmack and Offbeatchina are two of my favourite windows into the Chinese internet (in english). The stories they share are sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying, and are often accompanied by translated comments from Chinese netizens. If you know other such websites, please recommend!

From Chinasmack: Boys, Boyfriends, Young Men & Fathers

And Patriotic hairstyles in China from Offbeatchina. What great parents these children must have!

On the more serious side, the China Media Project offers a collection of articles from the Mainland, commentary, and archives deleted weibo (the Chinese hybrid of twitter and facebook) posts.

Go forth and explore the Chinese internet, my friends.