Friday, June 12, 2009

And Then Again?....

Shoes being hung up to dry after being scrubbed

So as our time in China gets shorter and shorter the days seem to just drag on. I really feel like I’m ready to leave China now and July 18th can’t come soon enough. A lot of the annoying parts of Chinese culture and just normal day to day life I used to just be able to shrug off or even find humor in. But lately, these things have been driving me INSANE. For example, it’s a common misconception (I know this happens in the US too) that if you meet someone who doesn’t speak your language, or understand it, that he/she perhaps isn’t as smart as you. I know that we have all done it at some point where we’ve met someone and because they couldn’t speak English we in some way discounted what they had to say. But in the US we’re used to having foreigners, and we don’t stare at Mexicans when they ride their bike down the street. I think it’s safe to say that foreigners in the US are a part of the culture. But in Fuyang (small town China) foreigners are a brand new out of the box concepts, and everywhere I go I’m the silly foreign girl (I say girl because being a foreign girl in China is a lot different than being a guy, but that’s another annoyance entirely).

I’m tired of going to the store and having to ask someone to help me find something and suddenly becoming the center of the circus. Then there’s a group of people following me around the market and pointing and laughing at either my Chinese or whatever it is that I’m buying. It’s funny at first, and then it’s exhausting, and now I just feel like it’s rude. Could you imagine if this happened at a market in the US? I know people are curious, and I hope they continue to be curious because that is the only thing that will help foreigners in Fuyang and Fuyang people understand each other better. But I’m tired of being the dancing monkey, and I’m really looking forward to returning to a place where I blend in a bit more. I love China and always will, but I know I could never live here.

So in all fairness, here it is, the top ten things I WON’T miss about China:

10) Riding the dirty bus at least 2 times a week from Fuyang to Hangzhou. (Later in the list you’ll see why it’s so dirty.)

9) Not being able to take a deep breath while riding my bike through the streets of Fuyang.

8) Stinky Tofu: This is a common street food in China and from probably a mile away you can smell it, and it smells HORRIBLE! Think about something dying and then baking in the sun for a couple of days, and then you still don’t even know what Stinky Tofu smells like because it’s 10 times worst than that. Sometimes our neighbors downstairs cook it and it fills our whole apartment with its horrible aroma. I’ve never been able to get close enough to it to taste it, but Chinese people love it.

7) Being followed around the super market. (See above)

6) People yelling “Hello!”, “Heeeelllllooooo!”, “Heeerrrrooooo!” everywhere we go. For a lot of people it’s the only English word they know so when they see us, they automatically associate being white with saying “Hello!” Could you imagine if I went back to the US and every Asian person I saw I yelled “Ni HAO!”

5) People assuming you don’t understand what they’re saying. The other day I was at the supermarket buying some veggies and I got in the checkout line and there was a young couple in front of me. As they always do they started inspecting what it was the crazy foreigner was buying. They were snickering and laughing to themselves because I was buying big spicy peppers. They didn’t say anything to me but then a couple of guys got in line behind me and also started pointing at my merchandise and talking about how I was buying some really spicy peppers. They really thought I didn’t know I was buying spicy peppers. Then I heard the words “Ta ting bu dong” meaning “she doesn’t understand what we’re saying.” At which point I responded in Chinese “I do understand, yes I’m buying hot peppers, I like hot peppers and I’m using them to cook.” Satisfying? Absolutely. Still annoying? Double absolutely.

4) The hocking and spitting all the time. Even little ladies hock and spit anywhere and everywhere. In the streets, in the factory Eliot works in, on the bus! It’s so gross and I find myself washing my shoes a lot when I get home after walking around on the streets all day. I know that streets everywhere are dirty, but there’s something really unpleasant about thinking about someone’s spit and mouth on the bottom of your shoe.

3) Squatting toilets. Don’t get me wrong here, I actually like the concept of squatting toilets, and I think they are a much more natural way and sometimes cleaner. But so much of the time they aren’t used properly and you end up walking into a toilet with pee all over the floor. Sometimes the squatters have little shields in front of them so the pee doesn’t spray everywhere, but most the time they don’t and it’s horrible. The worst are the ones in the pubs because you get drunken people going in to use it and they’re lucky if they even make it in the bowl.

2) Seeing kids going to the bathroom everywhere (streets, parents holding them over garbage cans in the
supermarket, the bus (again!)) Most kids don’t wear diapers but wear pants with a big slit in the bottom so it’s convenient to squat and go anywhere anytime the urge strikes. The worst was seeing a kid do a #2 on the floor of the bus, on a single tissue his mother laid down for him (cause that makes it clean?!?!?!).

1) In a country that holds 1/5th of the world’s population it seems that it’s really easy to forget about compassion for others. I’ve been in taxis that have either hit a someone or been hit and the first thing that happens is they just get out of the car and start arguing over whose fault it is. No one even bothers to make sure everyone is alright. A couple of weeks ago Eliot fell off his motorbike trying to miss hitting an E-bike that crossed the road out of turn. While he was lying in the middle of the road trying to pick himself up, not one person stopped to make sure he was okay. A lot of cars just drove around him, and the E-bike that got away unharmed didn’t even look back. I worry about him on his motorbike all the time, but what’s even more worrisome is that if he had really been badly hurt nobody would have even stopped to call an ambulance.

So that’s my rant, and it feels really good to write it out. I now feel like I can face the next 5 weeks.

P.S. I really do love China!

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