Two Sides of the Road: Zhuhai, China

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How does the self fit into a new city? Does it lose itself among the different and surreal culture or does it shape the culture around the familiar and the self?

On one side of the road there is a huge American style mall with bright lights and colourful Chinese symbols flashing at me.  There is a Macdonalds only it sells green tea soya icecream instead of McFlurry’s and there is a Starbucks only I can’t make sense of the menu. There are beautiful Chinese girls dressed in the latest style and there are men on bicycles and they stare at us like they have never seen someone from England before. Perhaps they haven’t. It feels like the West only it’s not and I can’t read a word of anything.

Am I an explorer or just another cliche?

On the other side of the road we take a left into what appears to be a Chinese market which spreads itself along a narrow, dirty road. There are no bright lights and it is dark and I don’t feel comfortable and now it feels like China. Smelly meats and bright pink and orange fruits spill out of carts along the sidewalk. Bikes ring their bells and scoot suddenly around us. It is loud and quiet at the same time – people stare. I exist in a different language. A child wonders alone even though it is late and there is a cage stuffed full of chickens and a stall nearby cooking chicken’s feet. The humidity mixes all the smells and sounds together into a hot, vivid blur. I am pulled along not by curiosity or the crowd. As the road unwinds the Macdonalds on the other side of the road feels further and further away and I become lost in the heat of the East.

Am I an explorer or an intruder?

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