Hey there, Readers B-)
This post is kind of an anomaly.
I realize that although my blog is a much-needed creative outlet, it’s also a space mainly used to vent my frustrations and disappointments about China. However, this kind of gives a skewed perspective doesn’t it?
Because when I am enjoying my time here, when China is fun and exciting, I don’t write the experiences down. You could say I’ve been too busy living it, which is fair. However, with only six weeks left until I head back to the States, I want to change this.
There’s a thought I had the other day…it was the afternoon and I was on my way to buy some fruit. The weather was pretty nice and people were moving in swarms around me, busy in their own routines. I felt very comfortable, very grounded in where I was.
This is what gave me pause.
I realize for all the problems I have with China and the struggles I’ve had here, I don’t hate China at all. In fact, China, you’re a nut, but I actually kinda like you.
You’ve gotten under my skin, and while some days I want to strangle you, other days you make me laugh and appreciate even the smallest parts of my life. It’s because of you that I have grown so much as a person, and for that you’ll always hold a special place in my heart.
Here’s some things that make you pretty cool:
Expression – it’s all in the nuances
In Chinese, a little can express a lot. One of my favorite sayings is 息息相关, which means as closely related as one breath to the next. The first breath always influences the second, therefore not only can they never be analyzed separately but also on a foundational level, are inextricably tied together. 息息相关 is only four characters and yet holds such depth. English easily uses one to two paragraphs to explain something Chinese can explain in sometimes as little as two characters.
息息相关 is more commonly used in written form. However, in terms of everyday language, Chinese is still just as expressive. For instance, my personal favorite is 可以 (keyi). The basic meaning of 可以 is “can” but it’s used in so many different ways. When someone asks how you feel, you can say “还可以”, which in English translates to “I’m okay” but the literal meaning is “I’m still able”. In other words, everything else is kinda crappy, but I’m still able to take it. I’m still able to be here. Another use for 可以 is when someone asks you permission to do something, you can simply reply “可以”, if the answer is yes.
But more so than the amount of meaning you can put behind such little words, I love how much emphasis is placed on the tones of words. Particularly, the third tone. When a person is being sarcastic, teasing, angry, or passionate, hard enunciation is placed on the third tone. For example, when something is really annoying, a lot of people simply say “讨厌”(taoyan – to dislike), and a lot of emphasis is placed on the tao, which is third tone. The English equivalent to this emphasis would be: “Man, I can’t stand this s%@*”
Concept of 照顾 zhaogu
照顾 means to take care of, to look after. However, this concept of looking after someone isn’t only used for parents and children. In China, you 照顾 your family, friends, pets, juniors, students, girlfriends/boyfriends or just anyone of importance to you. Something as simple as showing an underclassmen around, or bringing hot congee to your sick friend’s room counts as 照顾.
While in America we harp on having independence and being self-sufficient, I don’t think the concept of 照顾 denies this cherished western ideal. 照顾 is more about giving someone support. It’s about having someone look after you, even if it’s for the smallest moment or in the smallest way. It’s a reminder you’re not alone. It’s a reminder you are cared for. It’s an acknowledgment that sometimes you can’t do everything on your own.
I love how instead of saying “how are you” when you encounter an acquaintance, you’ll instead say “have you eaten?”
In other words, have you taken care of yourself? Have you taken care of your body today?
Southern Chinese cities are a blend of nature, traditional architecture and modern design. It’s a beautiful mix. While Nanjing and Hangzhou are my favorites, Guilin, Xiamen, Guangzhou and Yangshuo have their own uniqueness that isn’t to be overlooked.
What’s even more incredible is that going to different cities in China, is sometimes like going to other countries. The local culture, vibe of the people, spiciness of the food – it all varies from city to city. Nanjing reminds me of Taiwan, which it’s laidback atmosphere, easygoing yet fashionably creative people and modern city look. While Guangzhou, in it’s grunginess and dark buildings, reminds me more of Pittsburgh in America.
Full of Spontaneity
There’s never a dull moment in China. Even the routine parts of your day could have a mini adventure…or just a moment of WTF. For instance, when I went with a friend to the gym and we used the side room to do ab work. It’s used as a dance studio during the evenings, but during the day it’s open freely and has yoga mats. All of a sudden, a woman came in, plugged her iPhone into the speakers, blared Moroccan music and started dancing in a tutu.
Or, one time when I was standing on a crowded bus, two old women thought it would be a good time to discuss the size of my butt. Then there was the time I was coming home from a cafe, and a man jumped out of a tree. He had on exercise clothing, and I think he climbed up there as part of his workout. Still, it was a sight to behold.
Despite the cultural pressure to fit in, abide by parents’ wishes or be mindful of others’ opinions about you, a lot of people in China are unapologetically themselves. A perfect example of this would be that woman at the gym in a tutu. She was on a mission, and she didn’t care at all if people stared at her. Maybe she even wanted the attention.
If you have an interest in something, go ahead and stare at it. Go ahead and find out what’s going on. If someone is arguing, you better believe at least ten people in China will slow down to watch. If there’s a foreigner, or person who looks out of the norm, the same applies. It’s curiosity, and as much as we shame being nosy in American culture, why are reality TV shows so popular?
Then there are the unabashed display of bodily functions. They are a natural part of being human, so why feel ashamed? Got something in your throat? Cough that crap out! Need to sneeze, just do ahead and sneeze. Or if you’re a girl on your period, why waste all that tissue to wrap up a used pad before discarding it? Just throw it in the bin with the rest of the dirty tissue. Women have seen it before, they have periods themselves!
While a lot of this may be baffling to us, I think it’s kind of cool. It makes you feel less awkward and embarrassed about things that are a part of life. Though I still haven’t adjusted to the spitting, nor will I ever.
Then there are the small things I’ve come to like about living here…
Sharing meals, drinking black sesame seed Dou Jiang, exchanging smiles with workers at places I frequent, long late nights talks with my roommate, the plethora of fruit available, night markets and if you haven’t already guessed…China is the best place ever for people-watching.
Until next time,