For another perspective on our trip to China, try here!
Grrr… I sent out about 40-50 postcards from China in 2 separate sets. The first set was about 40, the second set was 8. The first set was sent over a month ago. When I brought them to the post office, they took my money and put them in a drawer. I am starting to think that none of them got sent, especially now that one of the second set has arrived. If you get a post card from me, please make me happy and tell me!!!
Never thought I’d miss it quite so much. It just feels rather strange to be back in Canada, able to sit on my bed with my laptop and update this instead of walking 15 minutes down a dusty street, risk my life crossing the street, and pay 5 yuen to sit in a hot, smoky net bar for as long as I want. Do I really miss it that much? Not sure. I miss the food for sure! I think I am Chinese at heart. Or at stomach at least. I think I miss the simplicity of life when I was in China. I’ve been back for almost 3 days and its kind of crazy already. Too many decisions. Hmmmm.
When I was first in Xining, I wrote in my journal things that I noticed right off. I mentioned it in an email I sent out, but never elabourated.
Here were my initial thoughts:
July 11, 2006I have been noticing things which we take for granted. Like sitting toilets… while things in our dorm are not the trough with half walls we were told to expect, squat toilets they are nevertheless. Like sinks with hot water instead of lining up for hot water twice a day with a thermos. Like showers that are free and regular (ie whenever I want to go except during 2 hours Tuesday and Friday nights). Like tidy, well-kept university campuses instead of buildings falling down, broken windows, or dorm rooms falling apart and no one seems to care. Like pedestrian cross walks where cars actually stop and try NOT to hit you! Like being able to drink tap water.
Either we have it way too soft in North America or they do it tough here. Part of me wonders if it is a remenant of Communist rule – not having to care because there is no incentive? Take our room for example. It was easier (for them anyway) for them to ask us to move all of our belongings to a new room at the other end of the floor above us than for them to put up a curtain in our room that only requires a blue sheet be attached by clips. Okay. Like the building outside of our (new) window… holes, broken glass, waste of space. No one seems to even noticed. It is a whole new mindset for me. I have realised, even these last 2 days in Xining, how much I take for granted in standard of living.
They are still things which bother me about where we were. On the other hand, I might ‘understand’ them a bit more now? I don’t know if I ever will completely. When I was there, I learned that the Han Chinese are one of, if not the only ethnic group in the world who do not have a religion to call their own. They have nothing. I wonder if this is one of the reasons they were able to embrace Communism so much more readily? Either way, this combined with over 50 years of some form of Communism has been a lethal combination for the people here. There is such a pervasive feeling of learned helplessness and hopelessness here. People really do have nothing to live for.
Well, I did not mean for this to be such a depressing post. I’m just feeling rather contemplative tonight.
The Great Wall at Mutianyu. You can just make out some abandoned watchtowers (not restored yet) on the second hill on the right side.
I’m back on solid ground in Vancouver, have been for about a day now. Yesterday I was pretty much too tired to do anything. So today I got busy and I’ve uploaded a few photos (about 60) on to Photobucket here or Flickr here or down the page right side, and 3 videos onto YouTube here. I’ll make a pretty post with pictures on it and a bit more details soon, but this will have to suffice until then. Happy viewing!
Well, hear I am, at the end of week 3 in Xining!
This has been an interesting week because most of our partners have had final exams all week, so we haven’t seen them much. As a result, we’ve spent more time hanging out as a team or exploring Xining.
Things are still going well between me and my partner. She is still the queen of random questions… at the end of each culture lesson we, as Canadians give a Journal Question intended to stimulate discussion between us and our partners. Most are quite deep and require lots of discussion. While they have all been very interesting and good questions, Jenny usually doesn’t respond to them and asks me random questions like “What do you think about people who have sex change operations?” “Do you think gay people should get married?” or “What do you think about what Japan did to China during WWII, why should I forgive them?” Needless to say, it is keeping me on my toes!
Yesterday (saturday) we went to visit the large mosque in town. There is a significant Muslim population in Qinghai province (2 different nationalities here are muslim – Hui and Salar people) and the mosque here is the largest in China. It was quite large!
The other night, a bunch of us brought a guitar out into the big square in the centre of the university and just hung out singing songs. As much as it pained me to sing them, the “classics” like Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and Bryan Adam’s “Everything I Do” worked well to draw a crowd of Chinese students and we had them involved in our singing and added in some of our worship songs as well. They love to sing here! A few of us ended up having a discussion with some Tibetan students studying at the other university in town but who were visiting our university.
Friday night, we blasted Tibetan music in the square and learned how to Tibetan dance. After about 5 minutes of doing it, about 20 students joined in and were helping to teach us and about 50 more were watching around the edges (probably wondering who this crazy group of white people were dancing rather badly).
Last night, we had ‘Guys Night’ in the guys dorm and ‘Girls Night’ in the girls night. Yesterday most of the students in the buildings had to move out, so it is only those of us on our program still in the dorms. It is kind of eerily quite, but much cleaner! I’m not sure what the guys did (although i heard it involved a marathon game of p0ker and lots of food), but the girls had spa night. Who knew that makeup was such a novelty here! It doesn’t seem expensive to me, but I guess to the average student it is (It is a little cheaper than it would be at home when I convert from yuen to $, but not much). I wish I had brought more makeup! In any case, 2 of us ended up doing makeup on most of the Chinese girls and we all participated in having our hair done. I think that my short hair is a bit of a novelty and way too much fun for some people to play with. I had about 5 different hair styles over the course of the evening, culminating in one which saw all of my hair stiking out in different directions.
And a note on photos – I had intended to try again today, but this net bar is kind of dodgy, so i don’t want to risk a virus on my camera.
For those of you in PG, I will be up there the weekend after I get home (along with Anna and Jeff Van Tol) and will be at Lakewood Sunday morning, hopefully we’ll be able to share a bit about our trip with you. I’m not sure the exact dates we’ll be there (Anna’s sister is looking after getting our plane tickets for us), but the weekend is the 19th/20th of August. I’d love to see as many of you as I can!
For those of you in Victoria, I’ll be there the following weekend for sure (probably a little longer as well as there’s some other stuff I need to do in Victoria) – so that’s the 26th/27th. I’ll be at VPRAC Sunday morning and will share about the trip then.
Easterners and Lethbridgians – I haven’t forgotten about you, but it will likely have to wait until December.
I’ve successfully sent out some postcards (although I think I forgot postal codes on some, so let me know if you get it!)… or I think I have. I paid the guy at the post office but all he did is stick my postcards in a drawer. I hope that drawer was the “Out” drawer… Let me know if it arrives!
In other news there really isn’t.
I’d appreciate thoughts for the team though. Lots of people have been getting sick lately. One or 2 of them might be food poisoning and the others are mostly sinus things. I’ve been fine so far, so that is good. I have my vit. C and echinaeca that I take every day so I think thats been working…