How many is too many?

Yesterday we went to the Summer Palace in Beijing.  Our visit coincided with the ongoing national holiday in China (October 1 to 9).  A lot of Chinese tourists flooded the famous landmarks in and around the capital, they came from all over the vast country to visit places of national significance like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the Summer Palace.  It was a mass of humanity moving slowly between corridors, squares to eventually end up on the shores of the lake surrounding the palace where the Empresses of the past centuries walked with their entourage to escape the heat of the forbidden city.  The mass of fellow sightseers made the summer palace experience akin to that of a severely magnified Time Square claustrophobic push and shove tide of humans during rush hour.  Too many people in one physical confine can make one feel trapped, itching to get out into an open space and be alone, to restore one’s perspective and significance.  Maybe if we didn’t take the Beijing-Shanghai overnight train -at my suggestion-the oppressive memory of being part of the masses with their sounds and smells and worries and smiles would have quickly subsided, instead it was intensified by the time spent waiting to board our compartment on the night train, pushed along by a throng of Chinese travelers interspersed with a sprinkling of wide-eyed young tourists nudged forward by a multitude of bags and packages of every color, shape and size, the sounds of loud voices-probably swearing at those damn tourists that won’t move-crying babies and loudspeakers blaring incomprehensible directions in Mandarin.  I have shortness of breath remembering how it felt being in the midst of thousands of people moving in different directions, pushing me where I didn’t want to go.  I longed for my home in the  Swiss countryside for a fleeting moment.  I really do enjoy traveling in Asia, yet being stuck in the middle of the masses is not one of its highlights.  Now I am back in the high rise apartment in Shanghai, looking at the beautiful city’s skyline featuring my bottle opener building that I like so.  A feeling of excitement is building about the rest of the trip, water town on the weekend, the pearl market, all that lie in store in the next few days before I go back home on Monday.  Having lived in big cities, and now living in the wonderful Swiss area of La Cote on the shore

A summer palace corridor

A summer palace corridor

of Lac Leman, I have come to value the peace and quiet and the emptiness of the vineyards and forests, the crisp clean air of the Alps.  I’m not exactly home sick, I am just saying that I prefer not to be a speck on such a monstrous chunk of humanity that is China.

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7 Responses to How many is too many?

  1. MunteanUK says:

    Indeed, the first word that comes to my mind when people ask me how I found the Chinese is ‘many’ 🙂

    They are overwhelmingly numerous – out of these ‘many’, there are more chances of finding some bright individuals, yet equally more chances of coming across bad characters.

  2. krikorian says:

    You have one interesting blog 😀 I like it pretty much.

  3. krikorian says:

    You have one interesting blog 😀 I like it pretty much.

    • Brigitte says:

      Thanks a lot. I have been neglecting it a lot. I have a few posts that have yet to be published but my workload is getting too much for any creative writing space. My next post will I think be moving as I keep crying as I write it, owing to the strength of the clip that started it in my head. This weekend I will post and I do hope you will comment on it. Have a great weekend.

  4. AspiringArtists says:

    My dearest Brigitte-

    As I am reading this, I am having a warm cup of tea (vanilla with some hints of grenadine to be precise) and I have a big pile of magazines to skim through for work (everything ranging from ‘Time’, to ‘Economist’, to ‘National Review’, to ‘Washingtonian’). I have just finished reading your yesterday’s post and I cannot help but wonder of your parallel, of the lose of one’s significance in a crowd. It’s true that all colors lose their sparkle when surrounded by antithetic or even similar ones, but a red shall forever be a red, and a yellow in combination with green, shall forever produce blue. Where am I getting with all of this? That a shiny star will surely spread its light, even in a dark crowd. For the quality of its light, and the magnitude of it, shines are the more vividly exactly because of the darkness that is trying to suppress it.

    Good morning to you, from an evening Washington.


    • brigittekm1 says:

      Interesting choice of tea. Learnt quite a bit about the various kinds of tea and their significance in a tea ceremony in Beijing – quite elaborate and symbolic. I hear what you’re saying about the magnitude and shine of one in a crowd, yet the sentiment that engulfs you in the middle of such a throng of people is that of a miniaturization of self as part of the whole. You suddenly see your existence in perspective and you extrapolate to that same existence in the context of the universe we live in and the speck of you on only one of its suspended rocks for such a short glimpse of time. The effect was dwarfing. Didn’t get that same feeling in any other place on this earth in the many countries I have been in so far. I guess when you compare that to the experiences you describe with your grandfather, it hits home, the difference in perspective when people and relationships are taken individually, with the beauty of their stories showing, rather than looking at humanity as a pulsating blob-which again you touched on when you describe the coldness of international development and humanitarian aid-dealing with the mass of those whom the international community has to help, not putting human faces on the agonies and dignities one deals with when decisions are made in cool offices about those others out there.
      Had a very late night in Shanghai yesterday, experienced the night club culture that is a fusion between the Western expatriate bubble, the daring Chinese who step out of their boundaries and the ABCs (American Born Chinese). The best part about that was the dancing – love to dance. Now I prepare to go out and see yet another face of the city.

    • mimo says:

      sorry christopher, I can’t help it, but yellow with blue is what makes green. does not really work the other way 🙂
      yellow with green can only make a shade of yellow or green

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