economy travels

I am back from Shanghai, adjusting to the jetlag that sneaks up on me like a ninja at the most inopportune times – like right before dinner.

This is a post I was writing on the plane ride to Shanghai, but thanks to the tyranny of censorship (wordpress, like blogspot, tumblr, twitter, facebok, is blocked in China), publication is delayed until now.

I have just spent 15 hours confined to a space I couldn’t and wouldn’t tolerate for more than 20 minutes under quotidian circumstances, but alas, the constraints of travel and modern accommodation. More than 2,000 miles later, I have arrived in Shanghai[1].

If our identities change along with our contexts, it is no wonder that travel writing has become its own genre – rumination on the implications of the temporary displacement and perhaps transient identity crisis being a natural byproduct of travel and human perception.

I won’t contemplate those issues.

Between my last final and my departure, there was a flurry of visits with friends whom I’ve had the displeasure of the typical compulsory estrangement during a law school semester. These rendez-vous were punctuated with a “so, what are you bringing me from China?”, facetiously delivered – something between a “a bientôt” and a “bon voyage”.[2]

The real testament to gratuitous capitalist consumer culture is not the speed of fast fashion, or ostentatious label touting goods of a higher caliber, it is souvenirs with its artificial manufacture of a larger experience which eludes capture. I don’t reject the sentiment behind this kind of gifting that despite the distance and extraordinary time difference, here is an object that reminded me or invoked in me some essence of a faraway you. To this romantic manifestation in a material object, I have a profound affinity

But we all know that most souvenir shopping is not done this way. More likely, it is done in a frantic manner. I don’t object to souvenir shopping if I really did find some kind of token of remembrance that’s meaningful, but inevitably, and especially at a place like Shanghai, that’s nearly impossible.

What is the difference between symbolism and commodification?

If you can’t have the real thing, why bother?

which is to say, i didn’t get any souvenirs for ya’ll.


[1] To be honest, I am an hour away from destination – all of this being prospectively written on the plane to wile away the last hour of transit

[2] This is not meant to be a critique of these friends, though they did give rise to the reflection on the more general concept of travel, especially I do not except myself from the characterization I will set forth infra.

(are footnotes in a blog post entirely pretentious? If so, how would you characterize comments referencing footnotes – a sort of a footnote to a footnote? Does it speak to the trainings of my trade that they are becoming more and more instinctual and less an exercise in appeasing academic norms?)

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