“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
This post could also be titled “homesickness/fondness arising when being informed about comrade_1 accidentally(?) dropping bio-waste in front of comrade_2’s (and my) door 7500 km away right now” or “spending Labour Day inspecting the Giant Buddha’s nostrils” or even a quote “Normal people keep finding themselves in Venice and New York, while you keep finding yourselves in some Jalalahbad and Ouagadougou”. Ouagadougou is fascinating, but I wonder if the person saying this is aware of the political situation in Jalalahbad. The closest I’ll get to Jalalahbad is either Kyrgyzstan or just hanging around in Xinjiang. I also wonder if it’s normal to have bio-waste dropping as a psychological trigger for homesickness. I suppose I have to ask Tabo the Zambian to drop some discreetly in front of my door later as a psychological experiment to get some relief for this symptom.
I’ve learned things again:
- Chinese guys in general are very, very shy, to the point of it being annoying. But when they get past the shyness, they make wonderful friends. When I first spoke to some of them, I asked something like “where’s the rubbish bin?” and the uniform reaction was something like “HHHHH” while nervously looking around. There are other foreigners here, Africans, Indians, Russians and three French people so it can’t be related to that, since they’re used to them. It can’t be related to language either, because they could understand my Mandarin. However, once they were sure that I wasn’t going to do some horrible experiments on them, they’ve been almost overly nice ever since. (Finnish chocolate works as a good instrument of bribe!) One of them brought one kilogram, yes 1 kg, of locally baked pastries for me from his hometown — Tianjin — which is about 1200 km away, south of Beijing. I was physically bouncing around of joy for the rest of the day (which I later strongly started to suspect was what he wanted to see) and accidentally tripped into one of the principal’s offices with the cakes (which I strongly suspect he didn’t expect to see). Seriously, how can I return the favour?
- Chinese people pour fluids such as cold coffee into regular rubbish bins.
- Cross-generational friendships are necessary to get good and valuable viewpoints on different things in life. With Wen now included, I estimate about 1/3 of my close friends to be over 45 years old. I strongly advise everyone to make friends with older or younger people than yourself to get a different perspective (or several). Bonus points if you speak a different language with each one.
Last weekend there was an event at the Wuhan City Library, where volunteering artists read beautiful Chinese poems in traditional dresses, qipaos. Qipaos are not typical for Han people, however. There was a minority in power a long time ago, which resulted in the Han people’s traditional dresses getting less space in the spotlight. There was an art installation as well, and there you could see some Han people depicted. Also, there were pictures of Tibetan monks arguing, dressed in typical red robes. The arguing is done not only by words, but also gestures and movements. It is a tradition and takes place every Friday afternoon at the most prominent monastery or lamastery in Lhasa. The art is made using a finger-painting technique.
Me and Wen’s “can’t hear or see anything else” looks nailed by a vigilant photographer. (Edit: I think we’re prescription pals as well. Not for a long time anymore, though, since after passively or actively destroying seven pairs of glasses I have finally realised there is an urgent need for a laser operation. With -7.5 in both eyes, it probably is enough. :D)
During the show, when the hosts spotted me, they organised an extra programme “in gratitude to the brave foreigner”. There was a girl who read a beautiful spring poem both in Chinese and English. When the event was over, we decided to have a small exploration trip in the library itself. I was really happy to see both children and parents reading together. The parents make time to read to their children, and the children here actually know how to behave and they are interested in the books. The kids are actually reading books, not looking at their iPhones! 😀 We almost lost ourselves as well, because there were too many interesting books to discover. I especially liked the ones depicting ancient Chinese people doing everyday things.
A final note: apparently it is a status symbol to own and use (read: show off) a nice car. Almost half of my classmates have their own car, sometimes even a Porsche or Ferrari, which they use to drive ridiculously short distances. We’ve driven from our school building to the lunch restaurants every time, and you can see the restaurants down the road from our classroom window. The distance is about 200 metres. 😀