China: A Love/Hate Relationship, Part 1

by Sharon -- April 5, 2010

We are extremely proud to present our first Guest Blogger!  Please read this interesting and very comical illustration of China through the eyes of a fellow American traveler who has been a Chinese resident for almost a year. We now present Kenna…

Let me introduce myself; my name is Kenna, but for this blog’s sake you can call me MuLan. I am proudly the first and hopefully the most entertaining guest blogger on Jason and Sharon’s site. I met J and S in Sanya, China with my boyfriend Matthew whom I am traveling China with. We then met up months later to walk the Great Wall in Beijing and get in fights with Swedish boys at night clubs. Matthew and I started off as students of the intense language called Mandarin Chinese and part-time teachers of English for ages 4-17 years old in Guangdong province. Together we have visited well over 15 cities, 6 provinces throughout the country, met hundreds of friends, and met thousands of Chinese people including a handful of minority groups like Bai, Naxi and Tibetan all in about 8 months time. Before you read this, keep in mind, I really do LOVE China.

Top 10 things I HATE about China

1. Traffic- At any time of the day you can stand still and listen to the parade of non-stop horn honking.  They want you to know they’re Chinese, that they have a car, and that they know how to run you over. Also, there’s nothing like having a death wish by walking on the SIDEWALK as cars drive next to you… on the sidewalk!  Here’s a smooth transition into running people over: I watched a man lay partially dead (unsure if he was alive) in the middle of the street with his motorcycle on top of him while his 7 year old granddaughter was crying over his body. The best part?  The people on the street gawked and did nothing. The bus I was on drove around his body and kept going.

2. Self serving- Other than doing nothing to help a dying stranger, the Chinese can be some of the sweetest, caring people you have ever met. For strangers, however, common courtesy does not exist. When you have been holding your pee for 2 hours, you make a snap decision and choose a bathroom stall. You claim your stall when you realize you have picked the one with the girl puking who will not exit for the next half hour. You can’t move because if the door swings open some old Chinese lady will plow in. This ends with you storming out to find another bathroom.

3. Bathrooms- Speaking of the W.C., have you ever tried the Chinese squat toilet? It is a perfected technique that I will never master: both feet flat on the floor, knees bent while keeping yourself propped upright to avoid butt slapping the nasty toilet mop in the corner.  (Toilet paper, soap, or paper towels are not included in Chinese bathrooms, by the way). I may have been flexible enough to do this at age 10, but for now I will stick with my one toe pointed, one foot flat squat. These, however, are better than the country stalls where its trough style. Hungry yet? I’m sure you will be after the water flows under you and you can observe your neighbor’s mid-afternoon snack float down stream, while hitting your knees against the urine stained “stall” with no door. I could write a long novel on Chinese toilets, but I won’t.

4. Garbage/Pollution/Smoking, Smoking, and more Smoking- Whether you’re breathing in burning garbage while you sleep, looking at garbage in piles along the road, next to restaurants, behind houses, or watching children dump their wrappers on the streets, garbage is everywhere! Also, EVERYONE smokes. I heard that cigarettes here have toxicity levels much higher than Western cigarettes and it sure feels like it. I have cut at least year off my life with second hand smoke in China. I rode a bus on a 10 hour trip, 6 men chain smoking in front of me, windows up. I speak in broken Chinese and point out the “No Smoking” sign and he laughs and puts his cigarette out in understanding. That lasted about 5 minutes before he lit up his next one. I never win.

5. Human/Animal Rights- Walking along the streets of LiJiang looking at billboards of dogs, I smile thinking I miss my lab. The next day I watch a video at a hostel and a man shows me dead dogs sitting on top of cages of live dogs, while a man in the background is blow torching a dog for dinner. My happy billboards are of restaurants. I play with a little girl along a boardwalk and lean over to see the river, but instead I see a bloated dead dog. It must have been too old for cooking. Animals here are used for a utilitarian purpose only. But you have to have human rights before you can have animal rights, which leads to my next topic.

6. Government- Let me tell you a story about the day we TRIED to buy tickets for J and S, and ourselves to go to Beijing. Spring Festival is the Christmas of China. As you may have guessed with over 1 billion people in this country, traveling can be hard!  After a failed attempt on Day 1 (after getting in line at 5:50am), Day 2 had us waking up at 4am. There are others sleeping on cardboard in line, so we are confident as we stand in the cold. Right before 6am, people push and try to cut in line because they “know the workers”, but not today. Today I stand my ground!  When 6am arrives, 10 people walk right up to the front to buy their tickets (keep in mind you can only buy the tickets 10 days in advance, and all stations sell them at 6am including over the phone). Five minutes later they yell out “No more tickets for Beijing for the 11th!” At this point I am ready to scream, and I did. Maybe because it was 6am and it was the second day in a row I had been up early, maybe it was because our friends were depending on us, or maybe I just had it with China and its corruption. I screamed in my broken Chinese and the man calling the shots looked at me in total shock. Not only do they ever see white people in this smaller city, but a girl, who is blonde, who is speaking Chinese, and who is loosing face in front of hundreds of people. I got 2 tickets to Beijing. Hmph!

7. Being White- Being white in China is a rarity. You are stared at everywhere you go. It can be both wonderful and annoying. A downside to being white is that you must have money. Anything you want to buy is doubled in price when you are white. Bartering helps if you speak the language, but if you tell them you’re a broke student they just laugh. Silly white girl, you are rich! If you go to China, the only sentence you need to learn is “TaiGuiLe” which means “too expensive!!!!”

8. Being Vegetarian- One of the first things I learned in Chinese was to say “I don’t eat meat”. The Chinese don’t understand this because to them, meat is a sign of wealth (see being white) so as you can guess it is a major confusion with the Chinese. We order eggplant, and we get eggplant with beef instead of pork.  EVERYTHING has meat in it. We have only gotten sick off of tofu but have watched many friends experience days of agony off of eating meat. They don’t refrigerate meat, it hangs in warm markets for days, and there are no regulations on meat of any kind. Join the veggie club.

9. Inconvenience- A quote I decided to coin when I first arrived in China was “China, not for your convenience”.  A foreign business woman who had to delay her pizza shop from opening by 3 months coined “TIC” which means This Is China. In other words ‘things like this always happen in China, what the hell do you expect?’ I waited in line at the bank for 4 hours only for them to tell me my name is too long and I can’t open an account. The next day I went to a different bank and waited for 2 hours for them to tell me they ran out of banking cards… Ran out of banking cards!?!?!

10. Naivety- This part is more or less exclusive to the students on the campus Matthew and I were living on. They have no respect for any religion. They were raised after the cultural revolution and they find religion silly. They also find make-believe to be pointless. Children don’t believe in fantasy or dreams, just reality.  They also believe that money is everything. They can only grasp that happiness is associated with being rich and nothing else. They are also paranoid. They have been brainwashed into thinking that traveling is bad (you can thank their government for that) because everywhere is so dangerous. I was told by several students that they would never travel to America in fear that they would be shot and killed. I am told on a daily basis don’t go here it’s dangerous, don’t stay out past dark it’s dangerous, don’t cross the street it’s dangerous (this one I am gonna have to agree with…) but I want to see and do things. I feel sorry for the Chinese students who deprive themselves of experience due to fear.

All in all I actually can come up with quite a few more then 10 things I hate about China, but check back soon for the top 10 things I LOVE about China.

Be awesome and help us share:

3 Responses to “China: A Love/Hate Relationship, Part 1”

  1. Facinating! Guess somethings will never change, like smoking and toilets. As for the last point, I think it has more to do with the youngsters being the “only child” generation. But then again, we always thought America is all about murders and shooting, cause that’s all on the news and movies!

  2. This was a very good post!!! I was (emphasis on “WAS”) eating an orange while reading until I got to reason number #3…. then it suddenly tasted terrible. haha I like the guest blogger idea too! :)

  3. Some of the things mentioned in this post shocked me a lot as I read it. I’m a Chinese, and I admit that most of what Kenna said is true. The way Kenna described the bathrooms in China made me a little sad, but that’s the way it is here in China. But as to the 10th one, I don’t feel like the same. Students in China may not be so adventurous as those in western countries, but it doesn’t necessarily means that they’re timid and incapable. Kenna said students she met were too much concerned with money, but I have to say that’s not the case with most students here, some of whom I think are very ambitious and passionate.
    Sure, “this is China” at this point; but we’re willing to change and improve.

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