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hello, bamboo! hello, money! hello, taxi!

surviving in china

many touts and hawkers will approach you with the little english they know: "hello" and then whatever they're trying to sell you. so in yangshuo, it is "hello, bamboo!" and all over i am, "hello, money!" when it is time to pay and in the cities it's "hello, taxi!" i have so many new names in china. but really, you can just call me ashley.

being in china for about 3.5 weeks now, i've learned the best response to surviving in china.

exhibit a:

when you ask the hostel reception if there is a spoon available to eat your grapefruit and they respond: "no, no spoon." and then you ask, "is there somewhere i can get a spoon?" and they say, "no," (with a smile no less as they turn their attention back to their movie watching)...

when you see a man peeing in a hutong (alley) in the morning...

when you see a mom helping her toddler pooh in a little patch of dirt on the sidewalk outside tiannanmen square through the kid's special crotchless pants, with no effort to clean it up...

when you frequently see passengers in a yelling or even physical fight on a bus...

when you wait 2 hours on a bus in a parking lot to go to a place that is another 2 hours away simply to wait for the bus to fill up...

when you book a tour to see the longji terraced rice fields, a mere 3 hour bus trip away, no one bothers to warn you that the weather might be too foggy to see anything at all making the trip a rather futile one, and they make you switch to a "local bus" asking for an additional
charge, and have you eat lunch at a pre-arranged restaurant without including lunch in your fee...

when you receive your meal on a plane and it consists of a dry roll, accompanied by a packet of pickled cabbage and a tiny orange...

when you see a picture of a donkey on a restaurant menu and you see a donkey standing outside the restaurant (hey, at lest you know it's fresh!)...

when your taxi driver hocks loogies outside the car no less than 6 times in a 35 minute journey...

when you narrowly miss being hit by a car because pedestrians do NOT have the right of way here...

when you narrowly miss being hit by someone's snot rocket they decide to shoot off on the sidewalk within a couple feet of you...

when you are boarding the subway/plane/train/bus and you get pushed into the people in front of you by the people behind you...

when you are standing in line in the bathroom or anywhere really, and everyone cuts in front of you...

when you are walking to your hostel, and someone slashes the cinching cord on your backpack from behind (so not cool, man, now i just have a broken cord on my backpack)...

when the general level of speaking is at least 7 decibels higher than anyone back home...

...you just have to shrug your shoulders and say, "ohhh, china..."

but, aside from the negatives (many of which are commonly forewarned to you by previous travelers to china) which often do exist, there are still many good things that make china a worthwhile experience, i promise.

there's the people who come up to you because they want to practice their english which is fun cause they are so excited to practice it. the people that want to take photos with you (you're like a celebrity). the food is completely, utterly, and totally different than chinese food back home...and much better actually:) the people are actually really friendly, especially if you learn some chinese words and try to speak in chinese to order things. the girls that giggle when you agree to join them at their university's english corner one night. the people that see you struggling with a map or trying to communicate at a restaurant and step in to translate for you or even walk you a block or two to your destination. the teachers who after only knowing you for a day, invite you to play badminton with them and find you a chinese boyfriend (ha). for the most part, chinese people have been extremely accommodating, welcoming and really reach out to help you as a foreigner. it really puts things into perspective for me, because back home in d.c. we get plenty of tourists, and rarely do i or many of us locals really step in to help them out when we see them struggling with a map, or simply just start up a conversation with them.

also, in talking to a chinese guy in yangshuo, he told me that he saved up 2 months salary just to fly to yangshuo and stay for 3 days from a neighboring province. he works at the bank of china, which is a decent job i imagine. he said for him to come to the u.s. he'd have to save for years:( it's true that most chinese people don't really even get to travel much within their own country due to insufficient wages/funds, let alone abroad. so that was very humbling. in a place where all you hear about is the booming economy and the rising middle class, which is true, there is still a huge proportion of people (and that is a huge proportion in a country of 1.4 billion) who are still just poor and even very poor. it makes the annoying touts and hawkers seem less annoying cause really they are just trying to make some money, which for me may be pennies or a couple bucks, but for them is like a day's wages:(

Posted by shlee 05:31 Archived in China

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