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09:56 pm: i hate the pressure of coming up with a title for every post
i walked out of my friend astrid's house today after dinner, wine, and long conversations. urumqi winter hit me in the face.

it's at least a month late; i smelled that scent of coal combined with the bite in the air that means it's close to freezing. it's something you smell only once or twice, then it sinks down into you and becomes so normal that you don't smell it again until the next year, when it happens for the first time. it should have been snowing for at least a month already, but we haven't had the first storm yet this year.

i made the short walk home, thinking all the while (as i have been constantly these days) that i am glad to be making another visit to the states this year, and especially glad to be leaving this neighborhood soon, very soon. every time i walk down these winding lightless filthy roads to my solitary home where i hear my neighbors occasionally switching on a light and drunk men on the streets below fighting with each other, i think how few times i have to do this again.

astrid (who is also living alone) and i were talking today about the unnaturalness of our solitary lifestyles, of occupying a space with just one body. my kitchen usually produces food just for one person; i read under these lights and no one else; this coal-powered radiator keeps only me from freezing to death.

this is particularly poignant in a place where it is the given to constantly be surrounded by people. if not family, friends. if not friends, classmates or workmates. if not them, strangers. the constant press of people becomes so natural that many locals don't seem to enjoy time by themselves.

the contrast, the clash, of being americans in a place that is so focused on community reminds me of the need for balance. i appreciate our independence, our opportunities for aloneness, and the privilege of going into a room and shut the door, knowing no one will open it without at least knocking first. however, i recognize the naturalness of community, family, and sharing space and time with other human beings.

as i learned from hitchhiking with lots of truck drivers several years back, sitting around by yourself all the time makes you crazy. out of all the truckers we hitched with, only one was passably sane: he had a dog.

i've lived alone for the better part of two years now. while i have a rich social life here in urumqi (sometimes overwhelmingly so) i find that my introvert ways are being overridden by the desire to share the occasional morning cup of coffee, to come home and discover someone hanging out in the living room, to have the opportunity to appreciate an empty house.


[User Picture]
Date:November 16th, 2006 10:05 pm (UTC)
nice post. (good to see you posting again.) i've always preferred living alone, but have had to live with (many) housemates in the last 2 years or so, so i often think about the differences between living alone and with others... i've developed some degree of liking for living with (good, unobtrusive) housemates. it /is/ rather nice to come home and find someone (you like) hanging out in the living room, isn't it?
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