Tuesday, 9 October 2012

It'll Take You by Surprise!

I was asked yesterday if I had any culture shock in coming to Beijing. At first nothing came to mind, since I feel like I have adjusted fairly fast, but on pondering there are a few things I still have trouble wrapping my head around.

The biggest difference I have to get used to is that children here are allowed to go to the bathroom absolutely anywhere. These little toddlers walk around with holes in the back of their pants specifically for this purpose. At first you think its cute seeming them waddle around half exposed (a similar feeling I imagine young mothers have towards their toddlers that urges them to takes photos that will perpetually be a source of embarrassment to that child).   

But it doesn't matter how adorable the child is, once they stop walking and start squatting you better watch out. It isn't that far of a stretch, in my mind, to recommend signs that read “please pick up after your small children”.  

Of course one of the first things you must get used to living in China is the spitting, most common in the older generation. I don’t exactly want to go into detail, but it is very alarming at first. There is always a fear that you will be spit upon so you must take the utmost precaution. As soon as you hear the tell-tale signs of someone getting ready to spit you must be on guard. Swerving sharply is a good idea, but not onto on coming traffic, since that would be much worse. You may think that would be uncommon, but when cars and mopeds use pedestrian sidewalks as their own private roads, no one is safe.

Lastly, you have not been in Beijing unless you have taken the subway at rush hour or during the National Holiday. When I say the subways are packed I mean there is barely breathing space. You are pressed right up against complete strangers and have to pretend that it’s nothing out of the ordinary. When the subway jolts side to side, everyone sways as if they were one body, and there is nothing to brace yourself against but more bodies. The good news, as always is, if you’re on the subway and you start getting sleepy have no fear, you can’t fall over! It is virtually an impossible thing to do, so the best thing you can do is rest your head on your backpack (which should be carried on your front in such extreme circumstances as this) or the next closest one. You will know when it’s your stop by the mass rush towards the doors. This is when you fight, with all your might to not get stuck between the doors, and tumble onto the platform. If you can survive that, then you are well on your way to becoming a bona-fide Beijinger.       

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Dragon

Being the protagonist of my own story, I’ve had the misfortune of meeting my antithesis. At first I had no idea and greeted them much like I do others. After being in their presence for a time, I realized how morose and cynical they intended to be, and I didn’t feel like staying very long. Now though, after a series of forced acquaintance, I’ve realized I will never be completely rid of them.

This has made me look to the bright side of our association which is the irony within our conversations.

By constantly being negative, they in turn throw me into a positive light.  I feel like a subtle jealousy of gender is being played out on which I never agreed to be part of. The majority of people I spend my time with are guys and this might have something to do with it, but I do have friends that are girls. Even still, this doesn’t seem enough of a shield to protect me from the glare.

Their temperament is to be callously direct in conversation, which first caught me off guard, but now I see as being one of their many defenses. In fact by looking at their perspective I could see, though not quite condone, why they act the way they do; sometimes goals not yet attained leave a bitter taste in the mouth. As well being older can change your perspective and make you feel like time is running out. For the sake of my story though they must be thrown into the harshest light possible. If there is no opponent then how can I be a champion? 

I have not yet conquered, but I have kept my holding. I reply in kindness or avoidance, the latter is my preferred option. I have gotten a couple of shots back, which I am a little proud of, but try mostly to avoid unnecessary conversation. I was even able to make a new friend while they were vainly trying to separate us. If they could have it their way, most likely, I would be locked away in solitary confinement.

I know not all people you meet you’ll get along with, but in my case I feel that they lean towards the extreme. I hope that if nothing else this will help me take precautions to purposefully avoid their situation and never mould into an unbreakable shell.