The wind rushes under the door in warm puffs pushing the dry air conditioned air out through the cracks in the wall. I keep my eyes shut, trying to lay still and let the contrasting smells and air caress my nose. The laundry drips around me, and the rank smell of sweat comes up from my multiple shoes below. Even after brushing my teeth three times my mouth still tastes of fish and and some numbingly hot pepper.
Downstairs I can hear the children playing and their mother scolding their every move. Outside my window skyscrapers rise above the jungle and red dirt river beds carving their way out of the wild in random clusters. Everywhere there are cameras. The moment I step outside of my room there are cameras keeping watch of me.
The sunlight strokes the recently rain soaked plants of the common area. Little electric bikes with brightly coloured umbrellas wiz past on the brick walk ways, then rattling their way over the little wooden bridges. All along the side are little shops, usually with red signs and bold white or black Chinese writing. Little tents are set up randomly amidst the sidewalk with anything from fruit to whole pigs being sold underneath. The block is gated in, and there guards sit a little hut and let people through to the next block, or on the north side into the streets beyond.
Everywhere people walk with their slow methodical steps, chatting or texting. Inside they sit around small tables reaching in front of one another to grab a bite of some entree with chopsticks, or to pour someone a small cup of tea in peaceful show of respect.
Outside the gates of community is a mad rush. Four lane roads are over taken by small motorcycles and tricycles going the wrong way through traffic in a haphazard fashion, daring death to dart between cars and weave to narrowly miss buses. The cameras above the streets flash constantly. Pedestrians walk through traffic as calmly as some circus show. Children play on the side of the road, darting through cars and motorcycles to retrieve a ball. Somehow the relaxed communal living melds seamlessly with the hectic death-wish reality outside. It appears to be a paradox, a terrifying contrast. The same way the skyscrapers look both at home and as strangers rising like strict overgrown brothers of the jungle around them, always attempting to grow as tall as the mountains the loom overhead but instead look like nothing but naked and artless spines amidst nature.
I assume that is how I stand out here. A tall, white stranger who walks too fast, or walks too slow, never understanding, and always attempting a dumb smile in response to questions. A awkward tower among the masses, standing stiffly, eyes glazed over, frantically waving his arms while gibberish comes out of his mouth. But I guess if a skyscraper can survive among the jungles and mountains, and even make them look better, then I can learn to fit in here too.