During my three week and a half journey through China,I was not able to connect with most of the internet sites which are a familiar part of my day.
ABC news, Facebook and Google were unavailable. I thought I was prepared for this possibility as I had bought a SIM card in Australia which would make these sites accessible. However, there was a glitch
Strangely, my phone, which is an older version, allowed me to access my gmail account but not any other form of Google.
I’m directionally challenged and Google dependent so this created an extra challenge for me, in addition to my lack of Mandarin.
So I could often be found standing on street corners, hotel map in one hand, balancing my umbrella to protect from the sun in the other, trying to figure out where I was and how to get to where I wanted to be.
Remember the tv show “Lttle Britain” that fabulous comedy in which one of the characters regularly declared he was “the only gay in the village”? Well, in Xi’an,Chengdu and Nanjing I often felt that I was the only westerner in China ! Nonetheless, I became more and more emboldened showing my map with the name of my destination in Mandarin, to those people from whom, my intuition told me, I had the best chance of receiving help. The use an excess of body language on my part also proved successful.
Were it not for this disconnection I would never have learnt just how warm, kind and helpful Chinese people from all walks of life can be.
Another upside of the net disconnect was the extra time and attention I had at my disposal. It’s so easy to forget that we are free to choose what we devote our attention to. In modern society, disruption and diversion are constantly nipping at our will to decide how we spend our time and what we devote our energy to.
After a hard day tourist-ing, in the evening I read more, listened to more music, meditated more deeply, slept better.
And what exactly did I miss out on? When I returned to Australia all the unwanted news stories and unnecessary traumatic facts came flooding towards me.
There is a big advantage to disconnecting from time to time.