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Sometimes I think there are two Chinas. {There are likely many more, but I've only been here a short time, and I'm discovering different things every day.}

There's the loud China. China of blarring horns and shouting people and bright lights. China where I sometimes fight the urge to turn my music up as loud as I can to block out all of the noise. This is where I shop, where I walk most of the time, because the streets are better lit and I feel safer. I think nothing can happen to me here, because I'm out in the open, exposed. There are streets like this in Calgary, in Edmonton, in Vancouver. I can pretend, with my music turned up, that I'm not "other".

Then there's the interesting China. The China in the tiny alleys that I walk down on warm Saturday afternoons. The people in this China are much quieter, and much more interesting. They seem to smile more. They seem more real, if that's possible. The paths, since they aren't really streets, are made out of stone. The houses are, too. I walk past people repairing their roof for the coming winter. I walk past children playing in the mud, while a woman washes clothes in the river. A woman with a face wrinkled like an apple left out too long smiles at me and says something I can understand, and laughs when I smile back and say "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

I pass dogs tied up. Little tiny dogs, and large dalmations. I was surprised at the dalmations. When I think of dogs in China, dalmations are not what comes to mind. And there were three or four of them on this walk, in different places.

I pass kids playing pool on tables set up outside, and the little shops people have set up that sell pop and cigarettes and fire crackers. I have to almost walk off the path to avoid the bicycles here, because the paths are so narrow. There are no street lights. I couldn't imagine walking down here in the dark, at night. I wonder what they think of me, obviously a stranger, wandering down their streets.

On the same walk, back on the loud streets, I found a place that looked like a farmers' market from back home, except all it sold was clothes, shoes, hair ties and scarfs. The layout made me claustrophobic, but I kept poking around, trying to find something I would want to buy. I can't seem to find anything here that I want, and I don't know why.

I guess that's not entirely true. In Shanghai I found some things I wanted, but I'm not confident enough about the logical price of anything to start bargaining to buy it, and I don't really feel like being taken advantage of. Besides, some of it is stuff I can get back home. The cheap knock off swords were just funny to me, since I know I can get much better stuff in Calgary.

The problem with being Canadian and travelling with someone, though, is that you find yourself bowing to their whims more than you want to. *sigh* I love travelling with Paul, he helps my confidence and stuff, but I don't think I would have spent two days walking up and down Nanjing Dong Lu without him. I would have tried harder to find someplace else to go, some place that wasn't West Edmonton Mall transfered into Shanghai and moved outside.

It's getting close to 9:30. I've been warned not to go out at night, and I want to. I feel cooped up in here, kept locked away. I don't know where I'd go, but if I felt like this back home I would have gone for a walk down to the Mac's store, bought a milkshake in a bottle, and come home, and felt better for it. Here... *sigh* I can't do that. It's not "safe". I don't know why they say that, but they keep pushing that at me, it's not safe for me to go out at night.

On a completely unrelated note... I think I might have battered my half-cold into submission.

Immediately after typing that, I sneezed three times. *sigh*

I'm a big fan of an online journal called "perceptions". At one point, the author received an email from a woman who had fallen in love with a boy over the internet. She had been in high school at the time, and they had finally met when they were a little bit older. She talked about how meeting him was the best experience of her life.

And less than a month later he was hit by a car and died. And she spent a lot of time regretting how little actual time they had had together. What had kept them apart was distance.

"They were only miles."

Only miles.

This world is such an interesting place. The only thing holding you back is miles.


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