how the summer storms fucked me
singapore sunset
amw
So, you all know by now that Guangdong province was hit by three typhoons in the past few weeks, only one of which was relatively serious. They dumped a lot of rain, though. The closest i got to disaster was the glass door of the coffee shop blowing out while i was inside. I did splash through a lot of ankle-deep puddles, but for the most part everything was fine.

Meanwhile, back in North America, the midwest also got a serious rain-dumping. The basement storage units of my friend's apartment in Windsor got flooded. That is where i have been storing all of my stuff since leaving Canada ~5 years ago. Obviously it is not life-critical stuff or i would have needed it by now, but it was still stuff i deemed worth keeping at the time. It is basically my CD collection, some books/comics, gifts from family and exes, and personal notes/journals. A good chunk of that has now been junked (with my OK) during the cleanup. While it's true that i haven't really missed any of that stuff in years, it still feels like a bit of a loss to the world - especially the indie house and techno albums that are impossible to find online and may never be heard again.

But what can you do? I guess if i cared enough i would have sat down for several weeks and digitized my whole collection instead of just the handful of CDs i most enjoyed listening to in the months before i left Canada. And if i lost some personal effects, meh. People all over the world lose everything all the time. We survive. What else are you going to do? My life is what i can carry with me in my head and on my back - everything else has to be expendable.

So then yesterday i went out for a run with a group of runners who organize at the local pub. Every Saturday they pile into a bus and go out to some park or wilderness area to follow a trail of breadcrumbs. After the run they drink beer and have dinner together. It sounds like exactly the kind of thing i would enjoy, so i figured since this is my last weekend in Shekou (more on that later) i would tag along. It was both good and bad.

We all piled out at 大梅沙 (dà méi shā), which is the nearest "traditional" beach to Shenzhen city - clear water, gold sand, good view. It's the nicest swimming beach i've seen anywhere in Greater China. But we didn't get to that beach till much later. The run set off directly up an extremely steep mountain staircase. Because, you know, Chinese mountains. Jungle everywhere. Path covered with rapid-growing plants, tree trunks toppled here and there from the last typhoon. It was a hellish climb. And then the rain started. Not just a few drops. Fucking biblical thunder and lightning and a tropical downpour that left everyone completely sodden within 30 seconds. But it was a 9km trail so we pressed on. By the end of the trail there were torrents of water cascading down the mountain, and one of the streets had turned into a river. A few sections involved knee-deep wading, which by that point i didn't mind since the single pair of shoes i own was already soaked. It was tremendous fun, especially with most of the temporary markers washed away, so there was a lot of back and forth hunting around to try get back on trail. At the end i was greeted with an ice cold can of beer and it was one of the greatest beers of my life.

And then it turned into a frat party. Or what i imagine a frat party is like after seeing them on TV. Once all the runners got in they "circled up" and went through a bunch of "funny" (read: offensive) speeches and sung hideously bawdy songs and engaged in over an hour of ritual humiliation. I fucking hate binge drinking "culture". I am a relatively heavy drinker - certainly a very regular drinker - but i like a quiet bar where i can get drunk in peace, and occasionally rant to the guy next to me about social injustice. I do not like the sort of shit that i had to be a part of yesterday evening. It was truly awful. The standing in a circle "criticizing" peers - even though it might have just been in jest - i found in extremely poor taste given the horrifically destructive acts of humiliation that occurred here during the Cultural Revolution (or the "10 difficult years" as one Chinese girl explained it to me). I really felt sick about the whole thing and could not wait to get home. Unfortunately i still had to sit through dinner, and a raucous bus ride back to the city.

But this post isn't about how much i continue to be disappointed by expats, it is about how i got fucked by storms. So. I had read the weather report. I knew it was going to rain. I wrapped up my passports, vaccination card and health insurance in a plastic bag inside my drawstring bag before i left. But this rain was merciless. Last night i was too disgusted to do anything except fall into bed. This morning i unwrapped everything and it is all soaked. I think my passports are salvageable, but i am going to have to print out a new health insurance page and i think my vaccination card is a write-off. One thing i did learn from the expats yesterday was that they leave their passports at home and just show the cops photos of their ID on their phone in case they get stopped. Although i know that - despite being illegal - showing a copy probably works, i still feel more comfortable knowing that the only things that are absolutely critical to me are actually on my body at all times. The hotel could burn down and i would still be fine.

I think if anything this journey and these losses have made me even more resolute to never own anything. Yeah, i am currently wearing a sleeping T-shirt out in public because all of my other clothes are either in the wash or still dripping, but imagine if i had even more shit to worry about? I look at the pics of people battening down their places and burning even more fucking fossil fuels trying to haul mountains of useless shit away from the storm whose strength was built on their burning of fossil fuels and buying useless shit in the first place and shake my head. I can't contribute to this. I already know that by taking a few planes every year my carbon footprint is shamefully oversized. I can't add to that by profligately eating meat or driving a car or buying a shit-ton of stuff that i really, really don't need.

So, tomorrow i am packing up my backpack and moving house. I have found some hotels that are a bit cheaper than this one, and i feel like it is time to move anyway. I like that i have developed a little comradery in this neighborhood - the bartenders know me, the coffeeshop attendants know my order ahead of time, i see the 凉皮 lady every single day... But i am getting too much into the habit of talking to laowai at the bar, which is blowing my chance to practice my Chinese for realzies. And besides, i think after living for 6 weeks in a concrete box with no window, i really need a place where i can see a crack of sky. Being in this isolation tank of a room is badly messing with my sleeping patterns - i can't tell when it is day or night. Plus, you know, new place, new people to meet, new adventures. Since everything i own fits in a bag, why not, right?

I am still considering looking for work down here, though. This city is full of young migrant workers and people who are really hungry to get ahead - both for themselves and for their families. It's an exciting place to be, and i think hanging out with expat retirees and shit-kickers is obscuring some of the depth of experience there is to be had here. I had dinner with F again this week. We wandered through a flower market, released some fish back into the lake and pottered around talking about life. Perhaps not representative of all the youth of Shenzhen, but it's one slice of life here i can get down with.

First step, pack up my stuff for the move tomorrow. I have amassed three textbooks, a T-shirt and a refillable tea/water bottle since living here. I wonder if there is anything i can cut back on? When i am all packed up, i am off to the pub for a goodbye drink. The bartenders are already sad to see me go. I will undoubtedly pop back here now and again, since the part of town i am looking at doesn't have any Western-style bars, but it might become more of a special excursion than part of my daily ritual. That's probably a good thing.

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