A Sense Of Place

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Chengdu, China

A Sense Of Place Chengdu Reviews

WarrenRodwell WarrenRo…
50 reviews
Nov 02, 2007
Coming to Chengdu can be best described as an adventure for Carl Parker.It allows him to combine his love of long-distance motorcycling with a passion for photography. A convenient way to express this unique and fascinating creative medium is “motography”. It simply combines adventure motorcycling with photography and video. Initially, a small camera was held in the left hand while the rider was also steering a motorcycle down some pretty rough roads at times. The search for interesting photographic subjects often leads the artistic venturer down the strangest trails to the most unimaginable of places, where he is able to meet absolutely amazing local people.

For a long time, Carl had felt an affinity with his partial Chinese heritage. Several generations ago, his mother’s family migrated from Fujian Province to a small fishing village in the south East Asian country of Malaysia. During later attendance at university in Malaysia, she met and fell in love with an American lecturer of political science. They subsequently married, and in due course, their son Carl was born in Kuala Lumpur. Within a year, the family moved to the USA. Father’s field of study played an important role in influencing his offspring’s ability to analyze situations, and consider what could be important to him and to others in an overall sense.

Growing up in an affluent neighbourhood of an upper middle to upper class hometown, there were a lot of great family members and friends around. However, Carl’s inter-ethnic facial appearance has been confusing people around the globe, since day one. Racial stereotyping is certainly difficult if an observer is unable to ascertain your geographical origin. This befuddlement has amused and pleased Carl. On one side of the planet, it has been assumed that he is a Native American Red Indian. Here in southwest China, facial hair suggests that he could be from northwest Xinjiang Province, which is known for its presence of Europeans.

Philosopher Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, wrote “Tao Te Ching" ("The Book of the Way") between 600 BC - 531 BC. He asserted that nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet, when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. Carl Parker in similar vein quips, “Pure water has no fish. Water needs all kinds of junk.” Versatility and mobility are also regarded as being essential components of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which dictates that any endangered species has a limited number of options – adapt, migrate or die.

Carl Parker first heard something mentioned about Chengdu, when he attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia – 50 kilometres from the very cosmopolitan American national capital of Washington DC. After graduating, Parker wanted to go somewhere and do something different. Two more of his great fervours are maps and mountains, so he carefully looked at Sichuan on a map. To his delight, he noticed the mountainous regions in the west, close to Tibet. With half his cultural ancestry being Chinese, it seemed logical to make Chengdu his base for at least the next few years.

Having always had a feeling of being in contact with his surrounding environment did not assist in the exclusive identification of himself as any one specific race. Something that was definite was an absolute awareness of also being Chinese in a western country. This conflicted with his occidental side, but not in a bad way. With a positive attitude, Carl came to grips with both aspects as part of an ongoing process of personal enlightenment. He never actually felt displaced from his cultural heritage, but perhaps living in Chengdu has effectively enhanced the sure discovery of his true self, through immersion in activities that bring enjoyment and satisfaction.

Motorcycling exercises the body, mind, and heart. The amazing economy of travel it affords, the sheer feeling of freedom of choosing when and where to go, as well as learning in the saddle more about self and the terrain of his maternal forebears, has made it a centre point of Carl Parker’s life these days. The art of photography is a dream, which frames and captures split seconds of solitude to later share with others. The greatest benefit of a good life with a bad memory is having the pleasure of remembering something again for the first time. To this end, motography is a wellspring of good times and eternal moments relived ad infinitum.

In and around Chengdu are many beautiful parks, places and roads. However, this particular motographer prefers utterly desolate places, further inland and hundreds of kilometres away. Out in the middle of nowhere, a useful piece of affordable modern electronic equipment is the Global Positioning System (GPS) - a worldwide radio-navigation system formed from a constellation of 24 satellites and their ground stations. GPS uses these "man-made stars" as reference points to calculate positions accurate to a matter of metres. GPS helps determine exactly where you are, but sometimes it is important to know how to get elsewhere.

The north eastern portion of Chengdu is not as developed as the southern or western sections of the city. Food is marginally cheaper and every morning, there is a rooster just behind Carl’s apartment that wakes him up right at the crack of dawn. “I think that’s pretty cool. You wouldn’t get that back in [Washington] DC. I guarantee it!” Chengdu is like a big village, which is more comfortable and relaxed. This is a place where you have to accept things as they are. For this reason, he enjoys hanging out with local working class people that possess “less complicated” views and sentiments. The American working class environment is so much different.

Ever since arriving four years ago, this well-seasoned world citizen has not for one second thought of leaving. If he really wants to do himself a favour, then now is the perfect point in time, to develop new skills and cultivate special relationships. He should be able to shoot some motography of a few places, a bit quieter and more remote than those on the usual tourist routes. This may inspire others to blend their own dreams with their waking states, even though they may not always live or think like that.


Expatriate writer Warren Rodwell has been in China since 2002, and teaches university postgraduates in Chengdu. Many of his feature stories, reviews & photographs have been published online or in hardcopy media form. Warren also narrates documentaries and administers various websites as part of his efforts to promote Chengdu & Sichuan culture(s) more globally.



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CrazyLisa says:
Wow that is an amazing write up. How interesting to her of Carl's life and influences.
Posted on: Nov 02, 2007
WarrenRodwell says:
Copy & paste this link to also read ...
Posted on: Nov 02, 2007
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