Viktor Frankl was a neurologist who wrote about his experience being a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he describes the momentary feeling of safety he and his fellow prisoners had when standing in line for food, because typically, the guards did not beat people during these moments. But when the guards would, occasionally do so, this was worse than any other form of torture, because it was a surprise.
Am I comparing my time in China to being in a Nazi concentration camp? Hell no. I had a choice to be there and made the choice to leave. Nobody ever beat me, I wasn’t starving and I wasn’t being tortured.
However, I still joke that I have cockroach PTSD when I see a leaf moving on the ground and scream out loud.
And I did experience extreme bouts of vertigo, depression, headaches, mysterious skin and eye problems and various other odd health-related issues.
It was difficult to escape the chaos. And chaos is, by definition, unpredictable. This for me, was a key component in the high levels of stress I experienced there. The element of surprise.
My neighborhood in China was industrial to the max. I should preface my experience by mentioning that different areas of China likely feel very different. But walking out of my apartment each day? That was an assault on my senses.
First, you’re hit with the scooters. They’re coming at you from all directions and honking their super-loud, high-pitched, often broken horns. The horns are used not only to let you know they’re coming at you and you’d better get the hell out of the way, but also, to offer you a friendly ride. They are like constant little jabs to your nervous system and I never stopped being upset by them.
Now, add in some super-bass, 18-wheeler horns blaring unexpectedly. And don’t forget the erratic car horns, and people vigorously hacking up phlegm-balls with full force and spewing them inches away from your feet.
A kid pissing on the sidewalk.
The smell of rotten garbage oozing out of the bin and into the sewer.
Hundreds of dead cockroaches on gassing day.
Construction. All of the construction.
That’s when I decided to take a seven-minute taxi to work each day.
At least transportation was affordable.
And I have a renewed appreciation for silence.
Originally published at https://thisisalexrizzi.com on June 21, 2019.