Finding Nemo

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Final Thoughts: China

I always wondered where Powerty came from

At the end of my post Chinese First Impressions, I asked China to please prove me wrong.  I will say it did a pretty good job.  So China, I’m sorry.  You’re not so bad, you’re just misunderstood.  What people take as rudeness is really just a huge cultural gap, worsened by the generations of insular xenophobic oppression and getting your insides ripped apart during the Cultural Revolution by your own government.

Chinese people are loud and the language is not the prettiest to the ear.  Old women do enjoy spitting up loogies near your shoes.  It is true that it is virtually impossible to walk around any major city without a brick falling on your head from all the construction.  The toilets are indeed direct conduits to hell.  But, as in India, these surface differences between Chinese and the West are just that.  They are surface differences.

Doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, a good time is a good time
Under all the pushing and shoving in the queues lies the same heart as anyone.  I think my view really began to change that night out in Lijiang.  It was the first time I had seen the Chinese out partying.  The men we ran into were generous beyond belief, refusing to let us pay a kuai for anything.  They heaped food on our plates and fed us more beers than a Yeti should drink.  They honestly just wanted to show us a good time and make sure we were having fun and enjoying their country.

And in Kunming, it was such a pleasure to stroll through some of the parks and watch men playing chess, drinking their tea, old women chatting over games of Mahjong, and little groups playing songs on their exotic Chinese instruments.  They were just making music for the pure joy of it.  A middle-aged woman gracefully moving through the moves of Tai Chai with her plastic sword, alone in a temple.  A man carrying his huge carved bong, 2 feet tall, through the cobblestone streets, smiling happily as he showed it off.  And in Beijing, watching young kids breakdance, and older couples line-dancing in the square at 10pm.

Dancing in the streets... c'mon everybody...

All these little moments break though the Great Wall until it becomes clear that you are recognizing something very familiar.  The Chinese are just people.  They are the same as anyone in the West or anywhere in the world, really.  The only difference is that you have to work a little harder, push a little deeper, and have a lot more patience.  Especially if you are standing in a line!

One American girl I ran into made a funny comment that stuck with me.  She had been living in Beijing for a while.  And she said China is more like America than it’s different.  I laughed incredulously.  Shirley you can’t be serious, I said.  But then she explained.

China is very insular and a bit xenophobic.  America is very insular and a bit xenophobic.  China thinks it’s the most important and most central country in the world.  America thinks it’s the most important and most central in the world…

(just replace China with America in these next few statements)
  • China likes to throw its weight around with its smaller neighbors, and its foreign policy is often resented for that reason
  • Chinese people are very loud and can be considered abrasive when traveling abroad
  • Chinese have a very distorted understanding of the world outside their country

I stood there and had nothing to say.  She was dead right.  So China, on behalf of an American, I say screw everyone else, we are pretty bad-ass countries.  If we work together we can rule the world!!!  <evil laugh> bwah hahahaha!!!!!

Goodbye Tibetan pil-grums
I will miss the colorful Tibetan pilgrims wandering around their haunted beautiful temples.  I will miss the gorgeous canyons and mountains and lakes and ancient cities of Yunnan.  I will miss the Tai Chai and line-dancing in the parks, the strong tea, and the even stronger and somewhat deadly bijou.  I will miss the playground of Yangshuo and nightlife of Hong Kong and Beijing.  I will miss how safe it feels everywhere I go, even in an alley of Beijing at night.  And I will definitely miss the spicy and greasy food!

But most of all, as in every place, I will miss hanging out with a friendly and generous people just when I started to feel I was getting to know them a little bit.

Zaijian, Zhongguo.  I will spit up a loogie in your honor tonight.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting comparison between US & China. Living in Europe, one thing I appreciate more about America than I used to is that America is a pretty tolerant place. Say what you will about political correctness, but all in all, it beats the alternative. I can't speak for China, but Europe often feels at times somewhat tribal in comparison to the US and xenophobia worse. It never fails to surprise me leaving Schiphol and arriving in a major US airport, how it looks like a rainbow of diversity in comparison to the Netherlands. All I'm saying is don't sell the US too short on its diversity.