I’ve basically not been in the mood to blog for the majority of July. It’s hot, our air conditioner broke, I’ve been busy at work and a myriad of other bullshit that’s just made me want to do nothing with my free time but disengage my brain and recharge.
The busy-ness of work is drawing to a close and our air conditioner is being fixed as I write this, so I’m putting my sorry self back into brain-engagement mode so I can get something written down.
I’m afraid that this week’s blog post is not going to be about unicorns and rainbows though. The closest you can get here is donkey burgers and that multi-coloured sheen you get when petrol leaks onto the top of a puddle.
In the month of July six of my friends are leaving/will leave Beijing. Six. I know that when you make friends with people who are not nationals of the country you are staying in then it’s almost inevitable people are going to leave. Hell, I’m thinking about going myself some time early next year. But still… six in one month is enough to make you stop and think about things.
This entire country is an ever-changing beast, construction never stops. If it’s not metal scaffolding and the sound of drills it’s a Hutong with the unmistakable 拆 (The character that implies an imminent knocking down) painted white, like bleached bones, onto its ancient wall.
I used to have this favourite joint for 肉夹馍 (stewed pork sandwiches with bell pepper & coriander). I’d go there when I was in a hurry and didn’t have time for dinner. The last time I went must have been around two weeks ago, and the next time I went it wasn’t there. No rubble, no nothing. Just a simple case of “now you see it, now it’s gone”. I can’t think of any reason it would have been torn down, it did good business and the building wasn’t dangerous. Now it just means Beijing is short of one more lively little stall, probably to be replaced with a chain convenience store.
What I don’t get is why this constant destruction and reconstruction goes on. If I want to go to a soulless hyper mall, listen to Kenny G songs and watch rich locals eye up garish jewellery then I’m really not short of places to go.
It’s like when bio-diverse forests are destroyed and replaced with one type of crop; the richness and diversity of a particular place is something that takes years and years to build up, and replacing it with a bland monoculture is unhealthy, unwise and just sad. Give me a grimy little restaurant run by a rough-as-boots old lady over a pristine Starbucks with a bored attendant any day of the week.
The term globalisation implies that we gain something, that the world is becoming more global. What it truly means is the culture that makes each country, city, and street unique and special to that part of the world is dying to make way for a handful of rich conglomerates. We don’t gain anything.
I wonder, when I leave Beijing who will replace me?