Since I was a kid I have always had a pretty active interest in both the world around me and the world inside me. I would consider myself somewhat well-educated, somewhat well-read, and somewhat well-intuned with my spirituality. I’m by no means claiming to have mastered any of these to any remarkable level… just somewhat.Lately I’ve been reflecting on my time in China and how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned since I got here. The speed-bump on my path to greater self-realization is that I can’t sort out if what’s developed in me in the last year and a half is the result of being in China, or just the result of being a year and a half. Had I stayed at home, or gone another route, would the things I’ve learned still have been learned?
I obviously don’t mean the Sino-centric stuff like language, Chinese culture, etc. But more the better (if only slightly) understanding/perspective I now have of current events, nation-relations, history in context, etc. Tack on to that the hobbies I’ve developed while here: web design, video editing, digital photography/graphic design… would these have happened elsewhere?
It’s impossible to know, of course. But, as with most “impossible to know things”, it never stops me from wasting time thinking about it.
The media part is the part I keep tossing around. China has indirectly given me far too much time to sit and read online. I’ve mentioned before that quite a lot of my free time is spent reading blogs, news, Wikipedia articles, forums, etc. In a given week I digest more information now than I ever did before I came to this country. The first reason for this should be obvious. I work like 15 hours a week. That’s a helluva lot of free time to kill. The second, and in my opinion more interesting, reason is that in China foreigners have to switch from a push-media system to a pull-media system. At home media (news, radio, newspapers, magazines, commercials, sitcoms, etc.) are pushed on us in almost every corner of our lives. Here, however, if I want something I have to go find it because what is being pushed on me isn’t in a language I can understand.
I never hear about the latest blockbuster releases in a commercial – I have to go find them online (I pathetically download trailers regularly). All the news I get comes from a collection of RSS feeds set in Bloglines, and is rarely told to me second hand or via any print sources. Even something that I hated back home, commercials, are a little too absent from life here. With no cable TV, I don’t watch Chinese commercials anymore either.
In three weeks I’ll be returning home for nearly a month’s worth of reminders of what I’ve been missing. I am a little concerned that I’ll be inundated with this push media. When I returned from five months of backpacking several years ago I felt that way… I remember sitting at the Boston airport waiting for my connecting flight, having flown back from Thailand via London, and the lounge was covered in CNN spouting off the latest death tolls in Iraq. It was unnerving and made me feel ill. True, this time I’ve not been sitting on a secluded beach for a month forgetting the world has an agenda other than relaxation and new experiences … but still, this time I’ve been gone much longer, giving time for my mind to forget how to tune the masses of media out.
Oh, check out this video, The Diamond Life, curtesy of Guerrilla News Network (GNN).
GNNâ€™s first news video, THE DIAMOND LIFE, puts the spotlight on the brutal atrocities committed by the Sierra Leone rebel forces (Revolutionary United Front) and the international diamond cartels, who have been willing to pay almost any price to maintain the artificial value of their gems.
Produced in association with Witness and cut to the haunting music of Peter Gabriel, THE DIAMOND LIFE features interviews with UN officials, top political commentators and Sierra Leone television journalist-in-exile Aroun Rashid Deen.