China Fun Fun

Sorry we haven’t posted in awhile. The past week and a half have been pretty busy! Two days after coming back from Hangzhou, Elle and I headed off to Shanghai for a couple of days to meet up with Uncle David (my Uncle who isn’t related to me but Uncle nonetheless). As a pilot for United Airlines he often comes to China for a fews days and we were lucky enough to be able to meet up with him for a wonderful two days excursion! I can’t explain to you how amazing it was to be treated to amazing meals and learn from all of his traveling experience. He showed us all of the good places to shop and get the “United price”. We felt very special learning the ropes from the pilots and the flight attendants. One of the most relaxing part of the trip was being able to use the Pullman Skyway Hotel’s pool and spa. Elle and I took full advantage of pampering ourselves with the pool, sauna, steam room and locker room. We had not felt that clean since leaving the US! (I’ll admit we also took quite a few travel shampoos and conditioners from the locker room… We couldn’t help ourselves 🙂 )

I started my first week of teaching this week and have really enjoyed my students. They are so young and cute and are fascinated by the fact that I have two sisters and even more fascinated by the fact that my mom is white and my dad is Chinese. One class even clapped when I told them I was half-Chinese.

I will post more about teaching the weekend when both Elle and I have a chance to breathe before our big trip to Vietnam!! (Preparing for this trip will have to be another post in itself… China Fail after China Fail)

During my four week vacation before I started teaching I read a book, China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford. Gifford is a National Public Radio China correspondent and took a six week journey on China’s Mother Road, Route 312, beginning in Shanghai 3,000 miles to a small town known as Turkestan. The book provides accounts of people he met along the way and covers topics from the growing economy, government corruption, and the young vs. old generation’s mentality towards their country.

I found this book interesting and a good opening into the country I am exploring. He does an incredible job of laying out facts about this country while incorporating his sense of humor towards China. Here are some facts and quotes that struck me while reading.

-“The United Nations has warned that there could be 10 million cases [of Aids] in China by 2010.”

-There are more than 90 million people in China whose family name is Li/Lee (李):)

-To understand China today, the best compariosn by far is Roman Europe two thousand years ago: lots of people with different languages and dialects, different customs, different artistic styles, even different cuisines, all with a shared heritage but ultimatley held together by force.

-It makes no more sense to say you’re going out for a Chinese meal than to say you are going out for a European one.

-[Speaking of poor rural areas] In poor regions, few of the sons of farmers can find a wife. Many women aborted female fetuses in the early 1980s, when the one-child policy was introduced, because if they could have only one child, they wanted it to be a son. Now that generation of men has come to marrying age, and there are too few women available. Again, the problem is the same all over China. The government says China will be short 30 million brides by the year 2020.

-[Speaking of a typical Chinese city] “There is a certain pleasane grittiness about it, if you like grittiness (which I do). As long as the lining of your bronchial tubes is not required to interact with the so-called air of the city for too long.”

-“China does that to you. You go back to the United States or Europe, and people wonder why you’re not jumping up and down with annoyance at some minor noise or irritation, and you look at them and think, What is your problem? We have such low thresholds of annoyance in our cozy Western world. (The danger is, though, that you also forget to fit back into Western ways of, say, road safety or table manners on returning to your homeland.)

-There are 56 different ethnic minority groups within the borders of the People’s Republic that are officially recognized and some four hundred that are not.

-“One of the great things about living here, quite apart from the opportunity to fill up the Q, X, and Z sections of your address book, is just going with the flow, walking out in the morning with only a very vague plan and seeing where the day takes you.”

-“Ren shou”, he says, spitting the words out between his teeth. “Endure. That is all we can do. Ren Shou. We can and must endure. That is all we have ever been able to do.” I stare at him and slowly shake my head. He has just summed up thousands of years of Chinese history.

-Did you know that Xinjiang produces 31% of the world’s ketchup?

-[Speaking of what he will miss after leaving China] I will miss the energy and the dilemmas of life and death, and hope and tragedy, in which everything matters a great deal. And I will also miss the hopefulness, the yearning for a better future. In the West, our better future is supposedly already here, so life is no longer as much of a journey. We have (so we think) reached our destination, so we’ve sat down, put our feet up, and poured ourselves a large drink. In France, workers are restricted by law to a 35 hour workweek. Many Chinese people work that in two days.

-The problem is that the world has become so reliant on the booming Chinese economy that we can’t afford for China not to keep on consuming the way it has, even those it is play havoc with the environment. And so here is one final contradiction to add to the pile: We need the Chinese economy to slow down at the same time that we need it to keep booming.

-It’s your perspective that makes all the difference. For me, the mere possibility of government intrusion in my life us unacceptable. For him, the fact that those possibilites have receded, even if they are still there in the background, means modern China is paradise.

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