Posts Tagged ‘travel’

When I was younger I liked to write a lot of poetry. I don’t find the time to do this anymore. I am just about to graduate from university and I have decided that one of my options is to move back to China for a couple more years and teach. I’ve been looking through old journals that I wrote when I was living there almost a decade ago. I’ve been trying to remember what it was like to live in a foreign land. The memories flush over me as I sift through the pages of journals full of travel poetry and random ideas that I had almost all but forgotten. This one poem jumped out at me and I would like to share it with you in this blog posting. It is partially a concrete poem; meant to be symbolic of the winding railroad tracks; and the slopes of tea out the window; and the inside of the train car. It is a glimpse into a third class seat aboard a train crossing China. I took the cheap seats to see what it would be like. It took me almost three days to get from northwest China to southwest China. Here is a .pdf copy of what I wrote in my journal:

China Train Car

I also found a video that reminds me of what it is like riding third class on a train in China. Check it out:


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Birds sound the same as them. The way the notes travel up and down like teeter-totters and dip and twist like ballerinas dancing around each other; tongues–rolling like children down hills in the grass in the summer time. I understand some of what they say but only because I’ve been here with them for a while now. Languages are fascinating. The mind is fascinating because it can make sense of it all; at least enough sense that stories emerge and memories form, and ideas of what once were transform into ideas that are new and larger. The world is a puzzle with each piece a puzzle of its own. A language tells a story. The story becomes a piece of your thoughts. Your thoughts become who you are. I remember now what it was like before I spoke my first word. English no longer works the same as at home; it has become the baby babble that I once spoke before my native tongue. Instead, I am forced to re-learn how to speak. I am re-learning how to tell someone I’m hungry and what I want to nourish myself: I realize what I want is not always available to me. I am re-learning how to ask for a bathroom, to tell someone where home is. Home- I’m not quite sure I really understand that word anymore. What is home? Is it the place where I sleep at night? Is it where family is? Is it where I come from? Where I was born? Where I am now? I no longer know who I am because a piece of me is constantly changing. I am not the same and never will be. Only some distant memories allow me to realize that my past is the only constant and, therefore, I must have grown from what stays the same. Babble, I have become babble. I can no longer express my thoughts because I, too, do not understand myself. My thoughts have become babble for my ability to have thoughts has somehow surpassed my ability to comprehend them. What is home? Is it the language which I speak that defines home for me? Is home a place or is it a concept? Is home a feeling or a word? Did the concept of “home” become a word that became a feeling, or was it that the feeling became a concept that became a word? What is it that I am? Am I, too, like a home? Did the concept of “I” come, and then the word that became a feeling- or was “I” a feeling that became a concept that has now become a word? What therefore is a word? And what meaning does it have? I can understand the word for “home” in many different languages but what is so special about that word that makes me question my existence so? What is it about this different place that makes me wonder so tiresomely over words and meanings?

~Justin Allen Philcox

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