Even the most mundane of activities, out here in China, can be filled with a sense of wonder. Sometimes you just need to look for the positives, and take a moment to appreciate the environment and everything good in your life, instead of dwelling on the things you can’t change.
People that know me, know that I’m a firm advocate of the ‘Polly Anna Glad Game.’ If you’ve had a bad day, get it out of your system and offload- but for every negative thing that has happened, swing the pendulum far the other way by coming up with three positive things- ‘I’m glad that I have matching socks – I’m glad that I can still watch Casualty (even if it is a day late!) and I’m glad that I can think of an abundance of things that I’m glad about!’and beat the traffic.
I catch snippets of conversation, between the mother and daughter (a younger student in the school) in front of me, about word construction and how suffixes can subtly change the meaning of the words. This leads on to a verbal tennis match of words ending in ‘-tion’ the soft pronunciation of ‘shun’ is emphasised in every ending of every word and it gently bounces between the pair of them. A well- loved tennis ball hitting the court over and over. For me this is a song over a melody of Chinese. The local admin staff sit affront the bus and I hear their tones rise and fall – I enjoy all of it though I understand little.
The freeway takes us past silhouetted apartment blocks, some proudly outlined in dancing lights. The apartments themselves act as a digital canvas and thousands of led lights chase around the outlines and systematically cut through the imposing rectangular monoliths. In parts, the city is Minecraft on steroids. The vibrancy with which the lights chase across the evening sky is contrasted with the muted tones inside.
Inside, the bus is a dusky mixture of browns and deepening greys, and looking ahead, the lights of the traffic in front blur as the cars weave in and amongst each other.
As ever, the journey ends without mishap, just a healthy number of near misses. It pulls up on the side a a dual carriageway and we dodge traffic from each direction as we take our lives into our own hands to negotiate a safe route across. Ok – enough of the melodramatics, it really isn’t that bad -although in the first week, this scared the wits out of me! I’m hardened to it now and I’ll step out as blasé as the rest into the oncoming traffic.
The locals are also more used to our presence now. The early days must have been as unnerving for them as it was for us. For us, walking down the street en masse, we would cause everybody to literally (and I really do mean literally) stop and stare. Here, there is no sense of political correctness, or privacy, or social boundaries. Kids and adults alike would (and still do) physically and obviously point at the western people walking along. On one occasion, my daughter and I were stopped by an old lady and a girl who I presume was her granddaughter, who repeatedly pointed to our noses and laughed. How big your noses are! Look at the size of them! Massive noses! (The theatrics that accompanied the pointing led to no mistaking that was what they were saying!) Like the honking of the horns, this is all without aggression or malice. Just curiosity. A multi cultural society is most certainly in its infancy in Shenzhen. To have around 50 westerners move into one apartment block, in an area that previously had none, must have been a shock to the system.
In rural Yorkshire, and I’m sure, much of the UK, life closes at 5.30pm. We retire to our respective abodes, shut the doors, and turn on the tv. The media propagates stories about the lack of morals and invasive youth culture. The streets at night can be a place to fear and avoid.
Here, I love that I can walk along, alone, be stared at, and yet not feel any threat at all.