shu and joe


Published on February 9, 2006

My eyesight is very poor. My most recent visit to the optometrist pegged me at -6 diopters in each eye, which means that I can see about 12 inches in front of my face before everything in my plane of vision drops off into haze. I used to like to leave my contacts and glasses at home and walk around the streets of New York at night so that I could experience my surroundings in an entirely different way. Signs and symbols give way to broad fields of color. Headlights on cars become flowing rivers of light, the life-blood of the city. The specificity of this person or this building or this garbage can is rendered insignificant – everything is amalgamated into motion, velocity, the city as organism. Certain awarenesses become heightened – you have to keep looking for clues, shifts in tone and volume, that define the space around you. Wandering in a haze can be inspiring, but it’s also a taxing process and I’m always glad to return home to my corrective lenses.

Life in China gives me a similar hazy feeling. So much of the visual information surrounding me is inscrutable. Sights and sounds take on strange forms that are difficult to focus on, so I have to search for clues to complete the most mundane tasks. For example, I’ve learned to recognize the basic characters for meat – pork, chicken, beef – but pointing to a string of characters with “chicken” in the middle can have wildly varying results. Everyday events like eating or riding in a cab or buying what you think is milk become a roll of the dice. There is so much around me that I can’t see or understand, and it’s going to take more than a trip to the eye doctor to improve my vision.

Filed under: Beijing, China


  1. katie decker says:

    aw joe-i like this alot

  2. Joanie Magliaro says:

    It’s been over a month since this entry was written, and from our conversations, it seems as if your “vision has improved.”
    You and Shu are very courageous. xo

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