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Thursday, August 25, 2005

China Waking

You wake up in your dim three bed room, perhaps shared with others (known or unknown) or perhaps all your own. As the clingy remnants of your last dream fade and the new day begins, you hear sounds you are becoming familiar with, here in this large country on the other side of the world.

First it is the distant sounds you hear. Sounds of traffic, of a long unbroken string of honking horns, of different tones and volumes, from different quarters of the city. There is a hum beneath the sound of the horns, the bass as it were. These are the motors turning over, chugging to life, or revving and fading, many of them spewing black, toxic fumes out of broken mufflers.

The sounds become more local. You stand up and find your toothbrush and toothpaste. Through the door you hear voices, loud and indistinct. As you open the door the wails of an argument come unblocked. A man and woman, perhaps, or a man and the service woman. Perhaps something is missing and soon there is a crowd and a policeman and everybody is screaming to be heard even if they have nothing to do with this scene. If it is just a man and a woman, no one bothers to look.

The sounds become more local still. In the bathroom. There is the sound of a man farting, continuous blasts of gas echoing among the grimy tiles of the bathroom. Through the low broken door outside his squatter you see him reading a newspaper and smoking. As you urinate you hear him cough, a harsh, painful cough.

There are showers behind the sinks. You hear the shower running. Then you hear what could be a cat with an oversized hairball stuck in its throat but in reality is a Chinese man with a smoking habit. He hacks and hacks and then you hear him want to say spit but to say spit does not do this action justice. This man is not spitting. He is saying goodbye to a piece of his lung. Except that he is not the only one doing that. The hack is louder now, and it is coming from the man next to you at the sink. And now you see in the sink a thick yellow ball of something that has come from inside. The man picks his nose then and spits again. The sound of you spitting your toothpaste is lost amidst all this, as is the almost pleasant sound of the bristles running across your teeth.

Finished now, you feel ready for the day. You are awake. China is awake. A day awaits.


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