Why pick the land in the middle.

I jumped into China during my last study year. Beijing was another planet, huge, bustling, brutal but quickly endearing all the same. If you ever have the chance to go you shall see, hear, smell and feel what I mean.

I was lucky enough to wander around the country, alone and accompanied, experiencing twenty seven hour train rides and twelve-hour bus rides, absorbing the patient expression of hundreds of humble passengers without a smartphone (I didn’t have one either back then) and the landscapes of mostly sand, rocks, hills with rows of planted trees, dry and flooded rivers, pure blue, red, grey, infinite and Flash Gordon-apocalypse skies, tropical and snowy mountains and all types of unexplained delays.

Most of it was awe inspiring. The challenges the country had to face, nonetheless, also came up, abruptly and everywhere. Plastic bottles, yoghurt pots, wrappers, bags, shoes, aluminium cans, light bulbs, construction waste (probably the worst), electronic chips, polystyrene containers, glass, clothes, they all washed up on the shores of beaches, lakes, forest paths, and even on the bloomin’ Tibetan plateau, at an altitude of 2500 meters (8200 feet). I will not dwell on air, soil and water pollution, which famously stand among the worst in the world.

[Yup, China is big so you can reach highly elongated sentences for anything that touches to it.]

It serves no real purpose to check an app every hour to see how the AQI (air quality index) is fluctuating, although it’s part of the integration process, of figuring out and realizing that you are here out of your own will. Then you learn to deal with and accept the inconveniences and thrills of living in a chaotic, rapidly transforming country. Actually, there are days when you embrace the difficulties and find ways to participate in those transformations for the better.

This is how, progressively, I’ve set myself the goals of reducing my waste drastically, quitting animal products (an complex issue I’ve dwelt on for years), and communicating on the reasons for undertaking these challenges with pretty much everyone I meet, without sounding judgemental, ignorant, over-privileged or pedantic. The latter is probably the hardest part.

That’s a big pack of resolutions all at once, but they stick more easily as days float by. It’s a very imperfect job, but the path matters as much as the results, as they say.

加油 (add oil = carry on the effort) !

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