Zǎo Adventurers! (Morning)
So last time I wrote about the things that I didn’t quite understand about China. So I thought that it would only be fair if this time I write about the things that I like about China! So here are the things that, so far, I like about China. China and I haven’t gotten to that point in our relationship where I can say the ‘L’ word. Although we did just hit our 3 month anniversary! Happy Anniversary China! This is definitely not an all-inclusive list, but it contains the things that factor most prominently into why I like China.
1.) The fruit
I know this sounds kinda weird, but I have discovered my two new favorite fruits OF ALL TIME here in China. The first is a type of kiwifruit. Let me break this down for you because this is “very important”. I have previously enjoyed green kiwi, the kind that you can usually find everywhere and is quite delicious. However, this kind of kiwifruit always leaves a really obnoxious taste on the back of my tongue that is almost impossible to get out. I hope i’m not the only one who has this problem because that would be awkward. But here I have found a different type of kiwifruit called gold kiwi. I’m pretty sure it is the love child of a regular kiwifruit and a scientist’s lab, but it is so good that I could not care less. It is sweeter, juicier and leaves no bad taste. They are less common, but my dream is that some day they will be as common as the green kiwifruit. One can only hope.
Even less common around the world, to my knowledge at least, is the pomelo. This surly, older cousin in the citrus family packs a huge amount of Vitamin C (which, I forgot to mention, so does the kiwifruit. In fact they are super good for you). It is about three times the size of a big orange and has a much tougher, oblong exterior. Peeling and eating them is a pain and a half, but I still seem to find myself buying one every time I see them. They are so damn good. The fruit on the inside is almost hard to the touch, but when you bite into it it is like pure juice. I’ve gone a few days without one… i’m going through pomelo withdraw. It also helps my obsession that one pomelo here is anywhere from RNB5 to RNB13 which is about $.80 to $2.13!
2.) The Clothes
I definitely think that China can throw some chips into the fashion world poker game. I am no expert on high fashion, like what color is the new black or what the newest weird craze is. I’m still reeling about the shuttered sunglasses craze (Damn you Kanye) and those furry boots that look like you killed a small bear. But I think I can say without a doubt that you can find some very fashionable people in China. Especially in the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. In fact, Shanghai is supposed to be where the most fashionable woman in China are. That being said, the reason I love the clothes in China (other than the fact that they have super cute dresses and I want to buy them all) is because even with lots of cute things and the high fashion stores etc. you can wear whatever the hell you want. I suppose this is true for any place in the world, but more so here. You can honestly wear anything here, even if it doesn’t match, you can wear it and no one thinks anything of it. Do you know what the best part is? Most of the time everyone looks pretty good while doing it!
This is especially true for moms. Last week at my school was parents week, so in all of my classes I had parents observing in the back. I noticed that most of the moms wore heels. That in itself isn’t surprising, it seems to me like Chinese women always wear heels. Even when it is completely nonsensical to wear them, like when they are going to a park or when they are going on a walking tour. I have no idea why anyone would want to walk around all day in heels on uneven ground. Even to me, and I love, love, love high heels, doing that is just asking for a broken ankle. So these moms came into my classes to observe and they all look great. Wearing high heeled boots, or leather pants or cute dresses and scarves. I think, at least in the States, that if a mom strolled into a parent teacher conference wearing leather pants they might get looked at strangely. Maybe I am hung up on the past, but I’m just thinking back to when I was in school and I can’t ever imagine a mom walking in with heels or leather. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the world, but here the moms wear things like that and they look fabulous doing it! I love that!
3.) Men with Purses
This sorta goes along with#2, but I decided to give it it’s own number because I love it so much. When I say men with purses, I don’t mean an Indiana Jones satchel. I mean a purse. A Louis Vuitton purse being carryed around by an older gentlemen in a business suit. Now the idea of men with purses might make some people balk, especially westerners. This is probably due to our semi-strict gender roles. I may be opening a can of worms with this one, but even with all the progress we have made in LGBTQ rights and with gender stereotypes, at least in America, there are still very deep set stigmas and expectations. If you think that a full-grown man with a purse wouldn’t get a few weird looks in America then you have more belief in how far we have come than I have. Not that I don’t wish that that wasn’t the case. I truly wish with all my heart that you could do whatever you wanted, wear whatever you wanted, and be whoever you wanted without any kind of prejudice, but that simply isn’t that case. Not yet at least. I’m also not saying that China is a better place for the LGBTQ community. In fact I think the opposite is true. From my understanding, you can be gay here and be open about it, but you do not tell your families. That is a big no-no. The reason ‘men with purses’ made my list is because even with the none complete acceptance for the LGBTQ community, being a man and carrying a purse is totally OK here. No one gives you weird looks, no one thinks twice about it. There might be some acceptance in the States, but I know for a fact that a large portion of people would not accept that as normal. I know people who would instantly dismiss a man with a purse as ‘so gay’. Even people who don’t have a problem with LGBTQ people, might still think that a man with a purse is ‘gay’ because that goes against what the ‘norm’ is. That makes me terribly sad, and I wish it weren’t so. Just because you carry a purse and you are a man does not mean you are gay. So that is something I like about China. Men can use a purse if they want. It is such a contradiction. Less acceptance for LGBTQ etc. and yet more acceptance for non-traditional gender roles. That being said…
4.) The Contradictions
Speaking of contradictions, I think China is full of them. I like this because I happen to believe that I myself am full of contradictions. I hate scary movies, but I love haunted houses. I love the sunrise, but I hate mornings. I love chocolate, but…OK, no scratch that one, I just love chocolate. Some people might not see this as a good thing, but I think it makes a place, or a person, more interesting! China is so full of contradictions I don’t know where to begin! How about the previous mentioned gender roles? It is pretty common here to see a boyfriend carrying their girlfriends purse (not to be mistaken for the men who have their own purses) and bags while shopping. To the untrained eye this might seem like the ladies wear the pants, however, there are still more oppressive traditional gender roles for woman that are still engrained into the society. Despite there having been made fairly large strides in the recent past. According to my Chinese culture and society source, (my Chinese friends) good Chinese girls aren’t supposed to go out to bars and clubs, etc. Every once and a while might be OK, but definitely not every night. (Good lord, what must they think of me?!) I do know several Chinese girls who don’t care about this stigma and go out anyway. Kinda like a ‘I do what I want’ kinda thing. Which is why I love them and love going out with them. Contradiction.
Probably the biggest contradiction that I can think of are the rules. It seems like there are so many laws and rules here. If you move into a new place you have to do all sorts of things like register with the police etc. Lots of paperwork everywhere you turn. When you buy something big at a store, you have to get a written voucher, go to a separate area to pay, they give you about a hundred receipts that have been stamped ten times and then you go back to the store and pay. What? I don’t know. However, at the same time it seems like there are no rules at all! The most prominent being the traffic laws (aka none that I can discernibly see) but I already mentioned that in my last post so I won’t go into it again. There is also no drinking age here. Well OK, there is technically. A drinking age of 18 was introduced in 2006, but it isn’t very strictly enforced. Also, counterfeiting seems like a part of normal life. It isn’t uncommon to go to a bar and order, for example, a shot of the ‘house tequila’ (for the record, I never do this because tequila is my ultimate nemesis. Like Shredder to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.) If you order that shot of ‘house tequila’ (ugh) and you see the bartender pour a shot of Jose Cuervo, you might think “Oh cool, Jose is good!” While I vehemently disagree with you, you are also sadly mistaken. Most likely that “Jose Cuervo” is probably a much cheaper tequila or a very watered down Jose. It isn’t usually even the bars fault either. The counterfeit liquor market is booming here in China, despite the attempts to control it. Contradiction.
One more? Yes. China can be a very conservative country at times. On the other hand though, it is not uncommon to hear someone loudly burping in class, or tell a friend that they are fat, or something else that most westerners would consider impolite. But here, they are commonplace, and not considered rude. Contradiction.
5.) Pale Skin
This one is mostly my own vanity talking. I briefly mentioned this in my last post, but I love it so much that I have to mention it again. I love that here pale skin is beautiful and is something that people strive for. You can call me vain or conceded if you want, but I love it when a random person tells me (or rather tells my friend who then translates to me) that my skin is so pale and beautiful. You can’t blame me for liking that! That would make anyone smile! Especially when back home I usually get, “Sssss, you should get out into the sun more.” Living in the states is a pain because the ‘cool’ and ‘beautiful’ thing is to have the tannest skin possible. That is why in any given town there are probably at least three tanning salons, if not more. It is seen as more attractive to have dark, tanned skin, and I simply do not tan well. I have accepted that fact and moved on. I will wear my paleness like a blinding white badge of honor!
Boy, do I love markets. All kinds of markets, food markets, clothes markets, knickknack markets, all of them. There are a few in Hangzhou which I unfortunately haven’t been to yet, but they just pop up everywhere! It is one of my favorite things to do, to go strolling through a night market, stopping every now and then to get some food from a vender and admire all the things that are being sold. There are fortunately more markets springing up in the States now, like farmers markets!
I would just like to take this moment and profess my intense love of farmers markets. Then i’ll get back to what i’m supposed to be talking about and stop babbling. I love farmers markets. Especially on a brisk, fall morning with a cup of coffee in one hand and a hand to hold in the other. You can just stroll and buy fresh honey butter and vegetables to use for dinner that night. So lovely. But I’ll digress from my memories.
I would love to find a brilliantly lit night market in the states like they have here. One that springs up in a half an hour on the sidewalk and where you can buy everything you can possibly think of. Come on, catch up America! It is like having the vender stalls at a festival on your block every night!
7.) Mario Kart
You know in Mario Kart when you are about to start the race and there is a stop light that counts down while going from red to eventually green? Then you madly push the buttons on the controller to get ahead even though you accidentally chose Bowser and he is slower than molasses in winter? Right. Well, I feel like i’m in a game of Mario Kart every time I’m in a car in Hangzhou. I’m not sure this is the case in every city in China, but here there is a countdown on the red light before it turns green. I have to fight the urge to yell at the cab driver to “hit ‘A’ because I won’t lose to Princess Peach again!”
8.) Noodle shopsI just ate and i’m sitting here munching on a roll, and yet if I knew the noodle shop down the street would be open, and I didn’t have the little amount of self control that I do posses, I would be there right now buying some. I don’t know what it is about a good beef and noodle bowl, but I cannot stop eating them. Every time my neighbor suggests going out to get noodles, my heart (and stomach) do a little happy dance, and there is nothing I can do to say no. I like to get them takeaway, even though the owner (who knows me by sight now, although I don’t exactly blend in here) always tells me, through a translator, that the noodles are better eaten in the shop. I still like to get them takeaway so that I can eat them alone in my room and not be embarrassed that i’m eating the entire bowl in one sitting. I should be embarrassed because it is a huge bowl, but I really don’t care. I need to stop talking about them now because i’m about to hulk out and go find some. You won’t like me when i’m hungry!!
Lame Hulk joke aside, there are definitely more things that I like about China, but these are the first things that come to mind. I also know that there are things that I will miss about China when I leave. Like the noodles bowls and the compliments, for example. When I go home to Ohio I will inevitably have to go back through that reverse culture shock phase. Hopefully it shouldn’t take too long because i’m already acclimated to the culture of home. Of course, this is unless I decide to end up somewhere different after China instead of going home. Hey you never know! The journey is just beginning!
Thanks for reading about the things I like about China. I know that some of these things sound like things I shouldn’t like, the contradictions for example. But, as I mentioned in the previous post, flaws are what make a place what it is!
Until next time don’t forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring!