Friday, November 22, 2013

Ruminations on Vivid

"South America holds a minimum of charm for this buckeroo." 
"I suppose. The death squads, the poverty, the corruption, the destruction of nature." 
"Hmm, well, yes, there's that." ... "And then there's the fact that it's just too goddamn vivid."

                                      Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates

As I was going through my pictures of Central America, this kept coming back to me. It's so vivid, all too goddamn vivid. After having been there I understood it now. Inside of it I could see myself living there as easily as I live in South Korea. There was something about it that was just familiar. 

But the familiar is being an expat. That is what makes it work for me. It has nothing to do with what it is, or how it is, it's that when I am there I exist on the fringe, just outside of the inside and that is a space where I am very comfortable existing. Maybe that is something that happens when you expat too long. It's not going native, as i have nothing in common with the natives, I haven't embraced the language and I'm not so immersed in the culture that I can't imagine life without. No, I've gone American abroad. I am more Chicago when I am away from it, more present in who I am. There is a definition that comes with being in another place that one doesn't get when the place is never left. 

Vivid though. There was something about the lushness of everything in Guatemala that made the place so much more real, and because it was so real, so much more overwhelming. On the second night there I edged into a nervous breakdown, staved off only by too much wine and a late night free call to home to steady my nerves. My nerves have been on edge for a while. The call helped, but not enough to make things any less pressingly real. And that was what bothered me about it: it was all so pressingly real. 

There was an almost hallucinogenic reality near the equator. Maybe it was the location on the globe, maybe the heat, or maybe the fact that no matter what you did you could not escape that life was just piling on and happening at you. I only glimpsed the outside surface of the expat scene there, but I suspected it held similarities and differences with the ones I had ventured into in other far lands. 

The lush was so lush, the green so green, the birds so bright and vibrant, it all still spins my head around. Just how REAL everything was. Germany didn't feel this bright and edgey, either. Maybe it was the lack of seasons, being always between 18 and 30 must have that kind of effect on a place. To be so warm all the time, to be so full of energy, capable of springing and growing and being bright. 

Goddamn vivid. 

I'm glad I went. I didn't know I was ready for life to be so goddamn vivid for a few moments. But there it was. It was vivid, sensory-pounding vivid. The kind of vivid I didn't expect to see for awhile, but then at the same time, I knew how goddamn vivid the Midwest could be in the winter. And I knew how goddamn vivid Korea could be on a steamy post-monsoon rainy night. Perhaps it was just the moment that was vivid. Or we brought our vivid with us, making it that much more real. 

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