A Travellerspoint blog

USA

Passing Time

sunny

Everyone in the hospital has a story. A sick parent, dying of cancer. Returning home for months to take care of an ill child. An aunt, a friend, a lover. Maybe it is the thing we can most relate to at the time. Pain and fear are in every room, and on everyone’s mind. It’s easy to see how they would find those stories so close to the surface, that there may be some comfort in them.

The difference is, those stories are finished. Recovery, death, or treatment have been completed and the story has an end. Some are joyful, with a miracle or a hard-fought battle. Some end in sorrow, with death or permanent disability at the end. But they are over. When you are in the hospital, you are in the story, and there is no way to know how it ends.

These are not tales with morals or lessons to be taught. They are not something that exists to make life better or worse. They are just life, in all it’s absurdity and horror. Some people walk in, and they wheel out. Others are carried. The lucky ones are healed rather than just stabilized. So many leave before the story is completed. Treatment is ongoing, or they are waiting for the end to the story.

It’s so easy to fear the end. That all that we have made of ourselves comes crashing down. That our story will be forgotten, that our lives have no meaning. And many are. People have memorials to try and remember, tombstones to mark the earth with a name and a few words, and endless ceremonies to commemorate those who are gone. Tomb Sweeping Day, burning money and leaving offerings to the dead. Dia de los Muertos, with pictures on the ofrenda, food on the altar, mourning and celebration in the air. We try so hard to keep the stories alive.

That is something of what I do here. Maybe these words will survive after I am gone. Maybe my story will have meaning. Maybe I will be more than simply another forgotten soul. But it doesn’t really matter to me. I affect the people around me, and I try to be sure it is for the better. I try to make the world a better place, open to questions and curiosity. Sometimes I even feel like I might have succeeded.

But life is never predictable. It is never stable. And at any moment all that I believed to be true can be gone. I remember that, every day. That every illness could change my life forever. That the next person I meet could change my world. I don’t want stability. I want to live on the ocean of life, fighting the storms and enjoying the calm, watching the horizon for islands and ships, knowing that one day I will sink below the waves and become part of the water again.

I think the only question I will have when it ends is, “did I do enough?” I hope I get to see my life and judge it, to know all my failures and glories. Even for a moment, to have an answer. “Was it enough?”

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Posted by Porticaeli 12:12 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises travel california photography Comments (0)

What We Become

Everything has stopped here. Travel, work, life. There really isn’t much to do, and no way to plan for the future. China was in my sights, but the virus stopped everything for a while, and our government makes it worse. Communication isn’t good between the two countries these days, and every time someone high up targets the Chinese on anything it makes them less likely to open Visas for Americans again any time soon. It’s really hard to know what will happen at this point.

I had a plan, and now it is done. And there is nothing to do but wait. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, all this change. There are other places I want to go, and China was always going to be temporary. The world is open to me again, and I want to see what is out there. It’s only when you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Or so I keep telling myself.

But being stuck here is the issue. The unknowns. How long will it be? How bad will it get? What will the world become afterwards? I’m seeing this as a sociologist in so many ways, and the potential is staggering. Just seeing how much of what we do is a social construct that can be sacrificed in an emergency is amazing. The changes in personal space, the fear of what others might have, that any surface you touch can infect you, that the assumption that we will be healthy, or that the health care system can take us in is amazing.

That is one thing I noticed. There is no profit in preparing for this kind of event, this spike in services at hospitals. It would be a waste of money to have all those extra beds and space, money that could be kept as profit, or used to open a new hospital and expand the market. A government run system could prepare for this without worry about profit, but with all the inefficiencies that government breeds. So many people now are without health care also, and who knows how high this spike will go. How much will we have to suffer to collectively decide that the system must change? How close does the disease have to get before people get angry?

An event like this is morbidly fascinating. All the stories I have read that begin this way, that the world changes beyond return, and that it really shouldn’t go back to the way it was. The pandemic exposes our flaws, so we can break or we can endure. We can become stronger since we have seen our weakness and can fix it. Or we can deny it, our undeserved faith in how life should be, and that it should never change. Everyone chooses on an individual level, but as a society we will have a flow, like an ocean in a storm. What will we fix? What weaknesses will we find? What idols of what was will we cling to, memories of the time before?

Even more so is the time that we are in, the level of technology that allows a quarantine without completely stopping the world. I am still talking to my friends in Mexico, helping edit papers for my old coworkers in China, and in touch with family spread across the US, and we’re starting up our DND game again. People can work from home, order anything they need, and endure at a level unimaginable at the turn of the millennium. It also shows the weakness of a service-based economy, with most people in the US whose jobs are simply to help other people get things finding themselves without work. It was something to do, but we always thought that computers taking those jobs would be a slow process. What happens now that they are a barrier to disease? What happens when people don’t want to have that contact with people, with cash, with all the things that could make them sick?

People are such unique creatures, seemingly so easy to predict, but almost always coming up with so many unexpected ideas and solutions. And with such spectacular failures. I doubt this will make the world collapse, it has yet to really happen in our time, but I could easily be wrong. What happens to the active warzones in the time of plague? Continue fights that cannot be won or begin spending the money at home where the economy is going into a recession and the people are all getting sick? What happens with all the trade that was relied on?

America produces enough to survive without help, but almost all the medicine is made in China, and so many other things come from outside now. On an individual level I am sure this will push solar panels and survival skills on some people, building storage and finding ways to survive when the world around them fails. Looking back at all those doomsday preppers and seeing that they might have a point could become more common than we like. How many people will try to begin the separation from a society they have lost faith in?

And what of all the anxieties and mental illnesses? Part of the reason I am able to cope with my insecurities as well as I do is because of a time where a combination of illness and bad meds put me at rock bottom. After that there was sadness, but having that emptiness as a reference point makes everything in my life so much easier to endure. What happens to others when the virus touches their lives? When they are at deaths door and survive, or someone close to them does not? Does it consume them or strengthen them?

That is my real question, what will we become when this passes? As individuals, groups, and a society as a whole, where will we be after? Will we choose what to be or will we let the world decide for us? And what comes next, considering this is relatively minor compared to some of the plagues of history? Where do we go, from here?

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Posted by Porticaeli 14:11 Archived in USA Tagged sanfrancisco english photography american sociology Comments (0)

Waiting in San Francisco

sunny 10 °C

I’ve been in San Francisco for a month. I planned to be gone by now, but it hasn’t worked out. Getting the documents is taking far longer than I would like, and it’s far too easy to make mistakes that stretch out the time. It’s not a bad place to be, I’m just ready to get back to work, or at least to be somewhere else.

San Francisco has always been a bit off for me. I like the place, but I would rather be in LA or San Diego, where the Mexican food doesn’t always come out weird. Lettuce in burritos, things fried that should not be, beans and rice in everything, no heat to the salsa, there is always something that is not what I am looking for. The weather is a bit too cold, the air a bit too wet, the ocean far too cold, but maybe that’s just that I’m used to the winter in the desert.

It was stressful being here at first, problems kept coming up with the visa paperwork, delaying my trip out, and even now I can’t plan to leave until I have the visa since in San Francisco the Chinese Consulate sometimes requires you to go in for fingerprinting to get the final visa. I was planning a trip south, but I’ll be lucky to make it to San Diego, much less to Mexico this time. I’ll have to plan better next time.

I never thought the process would really take this long, but China has a few extra steps, and it’s easy to miss. Not that I blame them. With all the problems I’ve seen teaching abroad, I’m sure most of these steps were created because of people cheating the system, bypassing rules to get the jobs that pay better, or hiding from something back home. I just hope it’s not always this difficult. I don’t want to waste so much time next time I change countries.

Having this much time off is frustrating. I am too far out of shape and away from Wing Chun to go practice with the people I know here, but I’m hoping to find something, somewhere to go for a while. I have a small gym I can use, but I always had a problem with being consistent when I was without the group. Buddha, Dharma, and Sanga. In Buddhism you need all three to achieve enlightenment, the teacher, the teachings, and people to study with. I just haven’t found that here yet.

Not that I’m looking. I should, but I always feel weird going in the States. In other countries I show up and it goes well enough, especially since I usually can’t speak the language well so I can be off to the side and quiet until I really want to join in. Here, there is no language barrier to hold me back. There is something oddly comforting about not being able to communicate except through fighting. It’s something I understand, something that comes easy to me now.

But that sets my plans, for now anyway. Find a place to fight, find something to fill my days, and keep working on the visa. And maybe look up some other countries and see how hard it is to get to them. It’s nice to dream of what will be.

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Posted by Porticaeli 13:52 Archived in USA Tagged travel san francisco english photography american Comments (0)

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