I liked China, but I like every place, so not sure if that says much!! I feel like I’ve never had much of a “pull” to come to the Far East, but China was worth visiting, albeit briefly. There were things I liked, and things I didn’t, and in some ways, I feel like I’m leaving with the same sentiments as I did when I left Korea. That’s interesting because I had hoped my visit there wasn’t jaded by certain events that took place, so maybe not. If it were easy, I’d have no problem visiting China again, maybe do something different, and with different company. Or- it would be awesome to visit Xie in the south, maybe go hiking, eat food, and see some pandas!
China is the most populated country on earth. There are people everywhere and they don’t have the same sense of personal space that I’m accustomed to being from the states. I don’t get it though, being in a one child only country- you’d think people would be used of having some personal space…? People crowd and push and shove, even where there is no more space to cram into or reason to, for that matter. I was in line the other day to get on a boat in an underground cave. Only so many people could get onto one boat at one time, and we were all going to the same spot. People were crammed into the line like sardines. For a moment, one man was touching my body at three points- I felt like I was in a cattle car, but there was no reason for it- this isn’t basic training all over again. Sometimes, I keep a wide stance, or my feet spaced far enough apart so as to create a mini barrier of space, but it doesn’t always work.
China is dirty, and people are dirty. Not all, but you see it, you smell it. It’s such a consumer society with no apparent regard for the environment, there are piles of trash and plastic bottles EVERYWHERE. I know I’m now contributing, but being a foreigner, I’m afraid to drink the tap water like I do at home. I always have my water bottle with me. I do my best to minimize waste, but here, you can buy any and everything. Everything is made in China, right? You can buy every kind of food individually wrapped. Turkey necks, pickled eggs, chicken feet, pieces of tofu, different kinds of sweets and jellies, the list goes on. And while not as common as its portrayed to us in the states, the Chinese eat some foods that we definitely don’t… I saw scorpions on a stick, starfish, sea horses, locusts, pigeon, there was a restaurant that specialized in dog meat, you can buy Peking style duck in a bag, all kinds of eggs, and when I was in Zhangjiajie, I even saw a place that sold giant salamander to eat. The smell of “stinky tofu” makes my skin crawl, and the questionable meat in sausage shaped wrappings doesn’t look at all appealing.
People definitely have a different way here… They throw their trash wherever, drop stuff and don’t pick it up. People in the train threw their trash on the floor, peanut shells and sunflower seeds everywhere… They don’t seem to wash their hands and they cough, blow their noses, and spit everywhere. They pop each other’s pimples-in public! ? Also, people smoke everywhere. It’s stifling, especially in the heat. I’ve grown so unaccustomed to the smell of smoke (thankfully), I forgot how awful it is to be around.
It’s tough being in a country where life is so different and you don’t speak the language, but many people were friendly and helpful, even when I didn’t need it. There’s a rich history and culture, paired with language, it would take a lifetime to learn and understand. Some of the food is really good and I for one, appreciate the variety of fruits and vegetables used in cooking. There’s so much to do and see. I was in awe at some of the beauty I saw and I was only here for 13 days, and 5, ultimately, were travel days.
I mentioned I was reading a book about a Female Nomad. She’s an anthropologist and sometimes comments that when living amongst others, in order to be like them, you accept their ways of life, leaving out your own set of values. I think about this often as I’m about to live my life with others, in their homes and environments. I’m sure some days I won’t be a good anthropologist. I won’t eat certain foods, I won’t try to cough up a lung and spit it onto the sidewalk, but I’ll do my best to fit in, because it’s there, amongst the locals, that true learning and understanding takes place. I know I’m so set in my ways, but I’ve been mentally preparing for some aspects of this journey for a long time. I’m curious to see how I adapt. I already miss my dog, my ice cold water in my Wonder Woman water bottle, flavored with my Grape Pureline BCAAs, and I lament the day I run out of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest Bars. I have two left. I’m saving them for my 16 hour + bus rides in Mongolia. It’s been a good experience, but part of me can’t wait to leave! ✈️?