an image of me meeting a local woman and child, taken by a good friend on an adventure in Yangshuo, China, a few years back.
How gratifying it is to explore the spinning sphere we call home. Each time I plan a new trip, I feel a bubbling of excitement at the unknown that would undoubtedly meet, the amazing people who cross my path and the images my camera would capture. It is as soul nourishing journey when I am far from my routine, away from the usual comforts of home and when I get the chance to push the limits of what I know. It makes me think of how knowledge was collected prior to the industrial revolution and the schooling systems that created machines for the industry; before that time knowledge was sought through experience, apprenticeship and exploration. What an incredibly esoteric experience.
It has been said that the chains that bind us are mostly self-manufactured by our own self-esteem and pride. Personal development is an uncomfortable journey upward and into the unknown, if only we dare.
Day 54 of 365~
Image taken in the entrance to the old tea house in Kashgar, Xinjiang
Some days it feels as though it is just impossible to catch up with all what we task ourselves to do. It seems as though time is standing there as a slave driver and a grim reaper screaming: “it’s later than you think”. On days like that I take a deep breath and remember that the sun also rises tomorrow.
Do our lives seem to be moving faster and at a more hectic pace or are we cycling on the shallow edge of life? Our news and information arrives in short blips and headlines, we have less and less time to read a good book and we find ourselves running from task to menial task without taking a breath to reflect on anything deeper than surface level.
I was speaking to my daughter about an upcoming school trip she has where for one week she must leave her phone behind. She was absolutely baffled for a moment about the absurdity of the concept and how life as she knows it will not be the same. We all need a holiday like that from time to time. Life is waiting.
Life is slow in Yunnan. People walk with no rush; the fields can wait. The clouds change form in slow motion; the lush mountains are great company. Even the birds chirp melodically and without strain; it’s just the way it is. In a place like that, a bicycle fits so well for exploring at the speed of the land. I came upon a child and his grandfather walking with their shadows along the rice fields and enjoying the caressing rays of the gentle sun. I got off my bicycle and began photographing them after getting their clear unspoken agreement. Then I saw alarm in their eyes as they gestured towards me; I turned around and watched my bicycle tumble with my second camera and my bag into the rice field. This man with grace, ease and a smile, put his grandson down, helped me lift my now damaged mode of transportation, with its dislocated wheel. He gestured to me and we communicated with my limited Mandarin as he helped carry my bicycle back the other way towards his home, his little grandson following us shyly. The man asked me to wait as he brought out his toolbox and slowly and methodically fixed the wheel and tested it. He smiled and his granddaughter joined them as they posed for a last photograph before I took off feeling lighter, happier, and grateful for the good people who give without counting the cost, who help because it is human to do so.
Anonymia, Greek for nameless, the state of us urban dwellers to each other. This suggests that our names define us and and who we have become in so many different ways. Being a stranger in the big city can be so comforting to those of us who opt for this lifestyle. We can be who we want to be if we choose to; those that don’t know us cannot fix us with their preconceptions, and this gives us room to grow and to change if we are so inclined.
Big cities have this way of resembling beehives, busy, constantly moving. Most of these urban centers are jarring, fast, harsh, noisy, and unforgiving to all that is slow. Not Shanghai. Shanghai has a gentle flow about it, where people just glide by on their bicycles, slow enough to examine life around them and nod with recognition at friends in their neighborhood. A bicycle and tricycle culture, so much is moved around on wheels. As long as tradition lasts, this will be (at least to me) the greatest charm of Shanghai.
Sometimes the world has this strange way of sliding by as thought we are sailing smoothly on a still lake. It allows us to watch time pass in slow motion and a great stillness embraces us. Those are the photographic moments I treasure and wish for every day in the big fast city.
Shanghai’s migrant workers leave home, province and family to come to the big expanding city, to join the working force and help build China into the giant it wishes itself to be. They are the simplest of people in the city, the ones that have a smile ready on their faces to give to any who looks their way, the hardest workers and those whose lives are the most difficult.
This is a tribute to them, these wonderful people.