I guess I don’t really have any significant observations for this blog entry. Instead, I think I’m going to list out things I’ve decided I like, and do not like about China and my experience here.
Like: Reminders of family back home.
Last week, Wednesday I think, a few of us had to stay late and work in the office. As repayment my supervisor took us out to eat afterwards. We met her brother there, Western name Allen, whom I had met one time before. I liked him instantly and was happy he had joined us. At one point in the course of the meal, Sumei and Allen got into an argument about what the five longest rivers in China were. They had been making an effort to all speak in English for my benefit but they slipped into Chinese without thinking. They argued good naturedly, neither was really mad and you could tell they really liked each other. One of my coworkers, a longtime friend of both Allen and Sumei, leaned over and said apologetically that they always do this. I could tell she was embarrassed. She shouldn’t have been, it reminded me of home, and my own brother who I have always been really close to and I was happy in that moment. This, though, leads me to my first dislike.
Dislike: China’s 1 child policy
While I understand the government’s thinking behind this, I really find the plan sad. It’s not really great for the country either. Labor prices are rising and by 2020 China will become 2nd to India in the world’s largest workforce, these two things coupled together mean unhappy economic times ahead as companies look elsewhere for a comparative advantage China had lost. On the purely mushy side, no one here has siblings, it’s extremely rare and, I suspect, lonely. It also means, since the social security net is negligible, that an incredible amount of pressure is put on the single children to succeed in everything and make lots of money. Many kids here can’t really be “kids”.
Like: People from Rural China
From the rural Chinese I have met so far they are some of the kindest and most generous people I have met. They work extremely hard but deep inside they just seem happier. I’m not talking about the migrant laborers, something about the city and their terrible working conditions tends to crush the joy out of them. Little things too, I know I mentioned the elderly lady who invited Alisha and I into her home, and the other day, I stopped to buy an apple from a fruit stand and they elected to just give it to me instead. Little things yes, but these little things you don’t see in the city.
Dislike: City people
Something about the cities here seems to turn people into self serving and absorbed individuals. I know I’ve commented on it before, but the economic machine that is Chinese city is desperate to drive consumerism and will squeeze it out wherever they can find it. Note to all of the guys out there – if a pretty girl approaches you and says she’s an art student, or asks to have a drink with you, they do not have your best interests at heart. In fact, anyone who approaches you and speaks great English you really shouldn’t trust them. This isn’t to say the cities are all bad. There is plenty of charm to Beijing if you know where to look, and many people from the country who have legally moved to the city still keep their same manner they grew up with.
Like: Taking a bus outside of town
You get to see the real China this way. You’re on a packed, loud, cramped bus trundling through the farmland and towns that lay outside Beijing proper. It’s the real China I think, crowded, kinda hot, loud, and not always clean. At the same time, though, you can see the ancient traditions peaking through and see how the vast majority of the people in this country live.
Dislike: Taking a bus outside of town
Like I said, it’s kinda hot, it’s loud, and it’s very crowded. I’m a tall guy and the busses were not built for my size. They’re slow too, it took about 3 hours to go 30 miles.
Like: Old and disused hiking trails
So I took the bus I mentioned above out to Shidu. From what I heard it’s like Guilin but not so far away. Since I really wasn’t going to take a 22 hour train ride to Guilin but wanted to see karst mountains, I compromised and headed out there. Shidu means “10 ferries” and is a river valley through some of the mountains surrounding Beijing. Because of all the switchbacks on the river, it required 10 ferries in order to traverse the region (The Chinese: not the most creative namers out there). I got off at the 7th ford I think and discovered an old and disused hiking trail. It was a beautiful walk, hiked it to the next ford, descended, made my way across some farm land and back towards civilization. Totally worth the long bus ride.
Dislike: Some Chinese tourists.
So there are these trolleys that run people between the fords, one full of people armed with water guns drove by and attacked me. Funny yes, but not so funny when it’s happening… Also, at lunch, a group of Chinese tourists were at the table next to me. One of the little boys took his shirt off, and it was revealed that his parents had tied his shoulders back with long strips of cloth so he would stand up straight and not slouch. While this would likely go into the “like” category of certain family members always trying to get my to sit up when I was younger, but I found it a bit sad.
Like: All my coworkers
Everyone has been incredibly friendly at my internship. They are all really great people doing a really great thing. They take me to lunch and talk with me in English when they don’t have to, and seem genuinely worried for me when I’m out in the city by myself (maybe I should be insulted by their lack of trust in my navigation and communication abilities but I like to think of it as caring).
Dislike: How quiet the office is
This seems to be the case with most of the other people’s internships too so I’m making a blanket statement based on that. Offices in China are deathly quiet. People do not talk and socialize during work time, and it gets to me sometimes. I like a little noise in my day. It also makes things a touch boring when there aren’t conversations to participate in. Even if it’s work things, we use IMs and email even if we’re in the same room.
Like: Dog freedom
When I had gone out to eat with my coworkers, the owners of the restaurant, I noticed, had their dog inside with them. No doubt this will disgust some people, but I loved it. I commented on the fact that it was illegal in America to which Allen replied “Ah ha! China does have more freedom than the U.S., at least for dogs.” We all laughed. Apparently the dog sang, but had a bit of stage fright that night.
Dislike but still kinda funny: Brutal treatment of fish
The Chinese love fresh fish, as in alive and swimming the day it ended up on your plate. Well the preferred method of killing the fish is by beating it with sticks. Invariably they miss and the fish flops away down the street and they have to chase after it. To see a bunch of men chasing a fish madly flopping to freedom is both amusing, and sad when he doesn’t make it.
On that strange note, I’m off to trivia night at bookworm, an expat place.