June 6, 2008

Farewell to China

Photo: Confucius and I

I write this as a farewell to Beijing, China and finally open up about a place that I have lived, breathed and experienced. This is more of an introduction at the tip of the iceberg; I am sure that as time progresses with my return home, more details about my life in China will surface. I've included various photos of my stay in Beijing on my blog as well to further document this experience. This entry is important because it has been here that I've found inspiration for all of my poems written–

Reflection By Charles Sapp II

My adventure while living abroad has been memorable and allowed me to grow as a conscientious being. The moment I stepped foot on a different culture’s soil, all expectations drained from my mind down to my feet and exited into the ancient land of Beijing China; this is when my soul searching began.

I imagined China as being like the movies, where old men with long beards and mustaches wearing large sleeved robes and sandals walked slowly with their hands behind their back, while music of erhus, zhengs and dizis play mystically in the background with plumes of incense fog pervading the air like spirits wandering the streets. To one’s amazement Beijing was quite modern and up on times, especially for being a communist country and just recently opening its doors to foreigners.

Living abroad as a vampire is not ideal and I do not recommend it. My fiancée and I worked late nights to mimic the American work schedule which demanded a lot of sheer willpower and sacrifice to our social life and natural biorhythms. Becoming familiar with your surroundings and getting your bearings on track, took time. My fiancée and I had to paste addresses of places in Chinese to a notebook to communicate with taxis to be able to get around. This was a painstaking task, and all throughout one must stay leery since it is known that foreigners are targets of scams and are taken advantage of frequently. We had our fair share of long detours and taken out of the way to raise the taxi fare, not to mention the cost of items in markets are astronomically inflated also.

The food is magnificent, but quite different than the common Chinese food found in the US. It proved extremely difficult to know what to order, just because it said chicken didn’t mean that it was skinless or boneless, it could’ve been the feet, head, knuckles of the chicken or strictly bone. You kind of learn to choose from the menu that had pictures and if it was good, stick with it. We found places that served American food and became the dominant source of food during our stay. There is also the obvious such as the smog, it really lets you cherish the moment when you have clear blue skies, which are extremely rare. Coming from California, it is outside of my comfort zone when making sure that restrooms are not squat toilets. I am a large man without the flexibility and having to utilize a squat toilet is out of the question! I could continue on with a long list of dislikes such as public displays of spitting, but I would like to adhere to the positive experiences.

Looking back, the profound experience that I will take with me forever was the soul searching and I found my soul mate to be 100% compatible, since we literally spent 24 hours together 7 days a week; the longest time we spent apart may have been 2 hours while she went shopping. This is a testament to our relationship and allowed us to endure and experience every side our personalities and character. Not many couples can say that they’ve done so on foreign soil, unless they were stranded on a deserted island, so cheers to us and our upcoming vows of marriage in April, 2009.