Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Silence makes you ponder

One thing I realized the other day (in the sauna actually) is how much time I actually spend thinking about things over here. Not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, especially not after just having turned one year older (and for all of you who wonder, I just turned 27).

In China most days are sort of “go, go go!” and there’s very little time to actually think about what’s going on.

But over here there’s plenty of time.

Just take the bus ride in the morning. 20 minutes of complete silence. Then the 5 minutes walk to the office. Not a single honking car to disturb that vivid mind of mine.

Then, office. After polite greeting phrases (“good morning/ how are we today/ what did you bring for lunch/ did you get up to something special last night”) we all settle in front of our computers. For a good 2 hours my mind is focussed on work. Then I get bored with looking at the screen, which results in a wandering mind. Work, think, work, think. So silent. So easy to get carried with my thoughts.

Lunch hour comes as a wake-up-from-thinking-call. However, we only have 30 minutes so there’s not really time to escape to somewhere nice to eat. If it’s sunny we go to the park with out brought-from-home-lunch-boxes and enjoy the best, most social work moment of the day.

30 minutes later we are back in front of our computers. Typing endlessly. Mind wanders.

It’s actually not the dullness/repetitiveness of work that makes me ponder. Rather, I think it’s the silence combined with the quiet, and sophisticated environment I’m in. After work, I often walk to the city centre, however, my mind is still far away. Despite the fact that I just left the office and is now surrounded by life and people.

When I am walking somewhere in China I am constantly conscious of everything around me. I have no time thinking about how many babies I’d like to have or how to score my dream job, I am far too busy looking out for cars that might hit me, avoiding street hawkers, and not looking tall. When catching a bus I never sit down and let my mind wander, rather, I hold on tightly and hope that I won’t fall when the bus does one of those rather violent and speedy turns. In China it’s hard to find a silent place, and therefore (I guess) also hard to find that moment for yourself to think about things. I feel I’ve done enough thinking during the last week (my significant other went back to China some time ago so I am not “alone” in Finland) than I’ve done during the last year in China. It’s almost a bit scary. I guess it’s also a bit of a wake up call.

Everybody I’ve met this summer have been asking: “so, what’s your plan?/ when are you coming home?/ where will you settle down?/ What are you going to do with your Chinese?” and I’ve addressed their inquiries by nodding/shrugging my shoulders, smiling and saying “we’ll see!”

All this thinking-time I’ve experienced lately have made me realize though, that we won’t just “see.” Rather, I must know. Or, well, at least I must know so that I know what to answer next time someone ask. That’s how things are over here. You should know where your life is going. With all that time spent thinking, you definitely should have a mental plan in place.

People talk about different things here and there. I’ve noticed that I find people over here more self-centred than people in China. Not saying everybody are like that (noooooo, I hate to generalize, I am just saying that I’ve noticed that a lot of people talk about themselves a lot. Much more –and in another way- than my Chinese friends do) and now I actually understand why. With so much time to think about yourself, no wonder you get caught up in your own life.


Book Bird Dog said...

Interesting comments! I think something inbetween the hustle and bustle and the absolute quiet would be the ideal. Now where could that place be??

Unknown said...

This summer, all my friends either moved or stopped being my friends, so I work, exersize and...thats it lol. I've had a lot of time to think and I can't wait til I start going to college again! Too much thinking!

Anonymous said...

I get those questions a lot, too. "We'll see" is also my answer. It feels like back home people need to know where they're going. Since I'm going back home soon, my mind is racing, trying to figure out what I should do...

Kosmo @ The Casual Obsever said...

I spent about an hour and a half in the car alone every day. Sometimes I'll listen to music, sports radio, or an audio book (finishing up Jimmy Buffet's novel A Salty Piece of Land, which is pretty good).

Sometimes, though, I'll just turn off the radio and think.

This happens more frequently since I have started writing fiction for my blog. I compose a lot of my stories on the way to and from work.

Carl said...

No doubt some planning can be good, with goals to be attained. But even the best laid plans can go awry. I think maybe more general goals are good ones to have. You seem happy with where your life has taken you, Jonna, and I think that is important. Best wishes on all of your future endeavors.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Book Bird Dog -yeah of course it would! I would say Perth in Australia. It's my ideal place when it comes to most things! :)

AixelA -I hear you, and I agree. I am ready to get back to normal and be surrounded by some more people (and life) again.

Kanmuri -seems like we have a lot in common. It really is like that that over here most people have their "plan" in order.. I notice it when I speak to my friends.. they know exactly where they are going, meanwhile I am a little bit more lost. Funny coz before I wasn't.. I don't really know how it happened but as it is now I really have no idea where everything is going. And that's not really a good thing I sps.

I can tell, especially from the hints I get from my family, that they think it is time for me to settle down and get a 'real' job, rather than just moving around all the time.

Kosmo -great that u make the best use of your time. When I go for my (ehum) power walks I also make stories in my head but writing them down is a whole different thing..

Carl -thanks! I don't know about anything at this moment. I don't need it all figured out but I suppose a bit of a plan doesn't hurt.

Kosmo # The Casual Observer said...

Give it a shot and write down a few stories. The first ones might be rough, but they will improve with practice. I have gotten to the point where I can sometimes write a 700ish word story in about a half hour.

Speaking of which ... I should begin work on my story for Friday :)

Dr. Heckle said...

The best ideas come from silence.

Jess said...

I think this is one of the biggest differences between China and other countries, you simply don't have a lot of "space" for yourself when you're running around in China. I don't know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing either, because everyone everyone reacts differently. Sometimes I feel like a sardine in a can when walking the streets in China but when I am home, it's not unusual to find yourself on a quiet street without a single car or person in sight.

Pete In Syracuse said...

The problem with people is they worry about the future & dwell in the past to much. People are never content with the path they are on. You have to enjoy this day and live it to the best because we don't know what tomorrow will bring. As for the self centered part of life that's a given, even in China. Humans always search for that thing that gives them an internal peace that stops that "I can't put my finger on why I'm not satisfied/somethings missing syndrome" When you try to find happiness in the things of the world you will always have that missing component, we all long for. A place where I'm the happiest, a marriage, a job, a thing doesn't satisfy us until we honor the one who created us. We the creation tend to forget the one who created us. Not(Mom & Dad) although they're important I speak of the Lord Jesus. You say you like to read Try reading the book of John in the bible and see what his life was all about. Quiet times are great they help us sort our thoughts. My Mom just died 2 weeks ago & I've had many a quiet time since & I treasure every moment I have now & I'm content.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Jonna :)

You know once you reach 27, your mind will wander more! :p


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are becoming quite reflective in your peaceful environment. Just a couple of quick observations.

Going back to my story when I hiked the Appalachian trail and was in the wilderness for 6 months. One of the most amazing things for me was all the thinking I was doing. Seems I revisited all the good and bad times in my life and started to focus on the importance and goals of my future. I started to realize it wasn't just a walk in the woods, but a meditative retreat. Use your current frame of mind to your advantage.

Also, about people being self centered. I have a feeling it may be a perception issue as well as a cultural one. I would guess the culture from what I have read is a little more "inward", but I also think your perception may have been askewed and I am sure it is something you are aware of but may not always consider. In Finland your, well, normal. A good looking blonde I imagine is not a rare find in Scandanavia (yes I know not everyone will agree with Finland being part of Scandinavia). In China (especially with your ability to converse), I imagine your a bit of a rock star.

Well anyways, as a reader I really admire your honesty about your feelings and hope you take advantage of the serenity you have now.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Dr Heckle -I don't know... I sometimes get more creative when I am in a lively environment.

Jess -yeah u r def right about that! China is over-the-top-crowded meanwhile this place is sometimes disturbingly empty... In the long run, however, I guess empty is a bit better. Constantly feeling like a sardine gets to you. I remember feeling the same way on the London metro (when I lived in London for a short period of time in 2001) every morning... But in China it's not only on the metro or on the buses, but at quite a lot of places.

Pete -well I think life is a long search for satisfaction. We wanna feel satisfied about our life, partner, work, body etc etc... unfortunately most people (including me) never get satisfied. Rather. We just continue to struggle and aim for more. I try to think about it but it's hard to keep in mind and so hard no to slip onto that ”dwelling” road.

Adrian – Not sure it has anything to do with age. Although the pressure gets a bit more intense once u start approaching your 30ies, that's for sure.

Hopfrog -like always, u leave a really good comment. When I travelled to Yunnan in 2006 and visited the really poor mountain villages I was thinking the exact same thoughts as u were during your hike... the only problem is that i would need to go back there once every 6 months to remind myself of those thoughts... It's so easy to forget once u are back in your normal, comfortable life.

As for not being exotic in Scando/ a rockstar in China... I actually don't enjoy the attention I get in China... at all! I don't like being looked at the way people look at me over there and the starring def don't make me feel like a rockstar. Rather, I feel big and out of place. I much rather blend in with the blondes here in Scando. When I lived in Australia I felt a little big more exotic (coming alllllll the way from Sweden... and what a reputation Sweden has over there?) and then it was quite odd to return to Scando and just blend into the masses, but that was such a long time ago now that I've gotten used to it.

Anonymous said...

Oh I know you don't enjoy the staring and attention in China, but I was thinking that it was all that attention which makes it seem China is not as self-centered. But then, I gotta consider the example you gave about nobody at the office making an effort to get to know the Chinese guys and thats a pretty good counter point to back up the idea that in fact Scandinavia probably is a little more inward thinking.

Sounds like your Yunnan trip was very similar to what I went through. I thought it would be a once in a lifetime thing for me, but when I was done it had affected me so profoundly I knew I had to revisit the experience again someday. Like you said though, it has been very easy to forget as I get wrapped up in daily life.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Hopfrog -I could not agree with you more. Scandinavia is an extremely 'inward' place. It's really hard to get to know people here and people are so anti-social it's almost scary.. only when u take scandos out of Scandinavia they lighten up a bit... really strange and quite stupid. A blog post about this might come.. it has bothered me for 8 years now!