Something strange is happening to me. I sit now over a warm, sweet mug of coffee in Guangzhou, and I should be happy; after all escaping the milling pedestrian traffic on the metro is one of the most cathartic experiences in my life these days.
Instead I find myself in a grumbling, misanthropic mood. Just as I sat into my comfortable chair, and just before my coffee arrived, a mother and child sat next to me. The child could not be older than four, and, as is the way with small children in China, he is given the freedom to stand and wander throughout the cafe, screaming at the top of his lungs if he wants, touching my table, passing through my eye-line, his very existence reminding me of my day job and the frustrations that go along with that.
I read an article the other day which explained in short some basic differences between extroverts and introverts. The article struck and I began to think about my own attitudes to life and whether I show signs of growing introversion.
My reaction to the presence of the small kid was to stand and move seats away from his vicinity, so it goes when similar things happen outside the coffee shop and in the world.
When I board the metro I try to find a quiet corner away from the prying eyes of curious adolescents and even more curious, and somewhat bemused, elderly folk. It’s quite uncomfortable to hear people discuss your nationality, your outsiderness, and to have eyes on you. To have eyes blazing a hole through the side of your face can be, on certain days, unbearable.
The same is true for the constant throng of pedestrians that seem to fill every corner of this city. Go to a park and you are swarmed by people, go for a swim and you’re bumping heads because you cannot find an empty lane.
By the end of the day I return home thoroughly exhausted by the attention, by the mass of people, and by the general erratic mess of the streets in Guangzhou.
And so, it all makes me wonder, am I, by exposure to this crazy, foreign culture, becoming more and more of an introvert by the day?