Thursday, January 15, 2009

Staring party: China

Now that we are far from China, my memories start dispersing into a overall picture that is not exactly what China really is. Like so many other people, we were not appreciative of the spitting, nose picking, and staring; however, China is way more than a dirty and polluted country. Nevertheless, as usual, I have an urge to express my complaints. To begin with, let me start off with the staring issue: If I happened to find a magic lamp with a genius and had 3 wishes, one of them would be “I wish Asians to stop staring”. The truth is that even though they mean nothing bad by it, it can create some of the most awkward and uncomfortable situations ever. They stare while you are talking, while you are sitting, standing, lifting your backpack, walking, eating, sleeping, reading, they just won’t stop. A lot of westerners like to read as a pastime, Asians instead of reading stare! They talk about you while doing it, they laugh, and even take close up pictures without even asking.

One afternoon while we were visiting the Tianamen Square in Beijing, a woman pushed her terrified kid towards us, she didn’t intend to make any sort of request, she just shove her kid in our arms and started taking pictures of the screaming child while laughing out loud. It is until you visit this country when you realize that you are part of a minority in the world. They don’t mind being close to each other, looking over your shoulder to analyze your laptop, ipod, book, notebook, or anything personal that you could be holding on your hands. They push their way everywhere, at the beginning it seemed quite difficult to understand their chaos, until one day I decided to act like them. I started by pushing my way around without no one being bothered; in one occasion, and old woman tried to push her way ahead of me between David and I, but I was in no position to loose my husband in such a crowd so I pushed her away, in great confusion the woman stopped and looked at me with one of the most confused looks I’ve ever seen. The subway is the worse, one day an old man ran into the car throwing himself against my backpack and pushing me around, in response I opposed some resistance and again I received that puzzling look not only from the old man, but from all the people in the subway car. Passing to more positive aspects of their culture, I must say that they are mostly very nice people willing to help and amazingly curious.

I can’t even recount how many times a Chinese person who spoke English approached us while
we were having trouble communicating. Young people seem to be forgetting the importance of their culture, but at the same time appear to be more appreciative of values that the western world would consider essential; I don’t exactly view this as something positive, nevertheless is good to see that they are not so eager to exploit natural resources as much as their elders. Most tourist towns have a great charm, the same charm that gets a bit obstructed by the innumerable amount of souvenir shops and travel agencies. Several walled cities still preserve their original walls and architecture. In fact, we were told that hundreds of years ago, Beijing was a walled city just like many of the enchanting small towns we visited such as Pingyao and X’ian. It was almost impossible for us to get out of the beaten track in order to find more traditional Chinese environments, cities with multiple story buildings grow amongst the rice fields, new brick walls extend along the train rails, every single living being is tasted to feed their millions, eyes look forward to explore any opportunity for businesses.

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