Once again I have to give praise to my friends, who show affection in their own wonderfully peculiar ways. I actually ended up finding a small plastic bag full of orange peel in front of my door! I also got a several minute long voice message in WhatsApp, where my friend is reading marginal local area news in a silly “serious” voice. I told her that I will listen to her news anchor-impostor recording as a bedtime story, when I miss my Finnish home at night. Relationship Advice 1.1: Anyone can give you flowers, cards, chocolate or trinkets. But if you get malaria medicine as a present, a personalised bio-waste bag behind your door to promote your emotional well-being, or a questionable recording to cure homesickness, you know the love is genuine.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this touched by a bag of bio-waste in a corridor. ❤
A travel tip for you as well: you can get a five-star hotel room for 30 euros — or 300 euros, if you look like you don’t know enough about Chinese society. The price drops to 10% if you say “zhè shì laowài de jiagé!” (“This is the outsiders’ (foreigners’) price!”) with a knowing look. 😀 we have been having a fun time planning our journey with my friend. My neighbours either have very efficient earplugs or a lot of patience, with excess laughing going on — seemingly by myself — at 2.30 in the night. I’m at my most productive during the night, so it’s no problem for me to arrange Skype sessions at this time which is when most people are finally at home in Finland. It can very difficult to grasp distances and economic realities here, which both vary a lot in China, if you have no subjective experience of the systems. There can be a mansion situated on the plot next to something which resembles an old storage building, where people live. Something which looks like it’s one hour away on the map can take 12 hours to reach by train.
We’ve had interesting discussions about culture with my Chinese friends. One of them told us that when she was growing up, she was so fed up with the Chinese education system that she wanted to become Minister of Education in China. She realised that is very difficult in a country of this size, so she tried to become a lawyer instead. She had one point missing from her score to gain admittance into Peking University. One would think that this kind of situation would cause her to tear her hair out. Instead, she said that it was a blessing for her not to go there: she had later realised that if she’d gotten into PU, her life would have been wasted away by performing. PU is one of the most prestigious universities in China. She would have been at the top, but she wouldn’t have been fulfilled or happy, and she didn’t want to sacrifice that for all the prestige in the world. What kind of telepathy is this, did she read my last post? 😀 Another girl was thinking about the unfamiliar concept of privacy. She told us that earlier that day, her friend had posted a bloody picture of her open mouth, having her tooth pulled out at the dentist’s office in her WeChat moments feed. The girl in question happened to look at the picture while she was having dinner with her family. “Why post that? Now I start to see why privacy is important.” African greeting gestures were also discussed.”in gangsta accent Yo whadaap man/bro/mama, this is how they greet! I am not a mama. But I later learned that it means pretty or hot girl.” 😀
There was a lecture by a professor from an Australian university on life writing. Life writing refers to biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and testimonies, in other words non-fiction where the author usually is both the narrator and the main character. We were discussing the Chinese-Australian diaspora and multinational identities. There is a significant Chinese minority in Australia (Mandarin is the second most spoken language in Australia!) which started in the 1850s with the gold rush. After this, there was a period when basically all but whites were discriminated against, and the Chinese immigrants did their best not to pass on any cultural traditions to their children. The White Australia policy was dismantled only in the 1970’s. This has resulted in second- or third-generation Chinese migrants having a diasporic identity. There is a good quote by Nam Le, who states that “people still expect people to come from where it looks like they come from”. Another quote by an Australian writer of Chinese descent is that “if I am inescapably Chinese by descent, I am only sometimes Chinese by consent. When and how is a matter of politics”. Some Chinese immigrants have had an easier time coming out as gay than coming out as Chinese, even though it is clear from their appearance that they are of Chinese descent. They use the analogy of bananas and coconuts: your inner ethnicity is different than your outer one. Bananas are the Chinese migrants (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) and the coconuts refer to African-American slave descendants. I feel that people from Western countries need to get experience in what it is like to be a migrant, to be in a minority. It teaches you to be able to experience things from a migrant’s point of view. Africa and Asia are valuable places for this.
The universe works her will in funny ways. I thought the professor’s accent sounded familiar. After the lecture I asked her where she was from. Turns out she is of Norwegian origin! I was thrilled! She was astounded that there would be a Swedish-speaking Finn in Wuhan of all places! Just as I felt the first pang of homesickness, a person appeared with whom I could speak in my native language, and she certainly was very happy to use her own as well! I’ve already gotten used to speaking two foreign languages daily a long time ago, but this encounter, where I could switch my speaking gear back into default mode, was like a small breeze from the comfort of my Nordic home. I’m sure she felt the same way. She has been living in Australia for five years now. We chatted for a long time and felt an instant companionship. At one point I noticed that several Chinese students had surrounded us, listening and commenting to each other on the two strange, rolling languages which didn’t sound anything like English or Chinese. They were amazed that we could understand each other, even though we spoke different languages, and they tried to imitate us. “So this is what you speak in the north! It sounds so difficult! RRRRR How do you make this sound RRRRR RRRRR” 😀
When me and my friends are fed up with the canteen food, we go here. There is a street kitchen behind the cart selling home-made noodle, vegetable and fungi soup. One bowl costs about 8-10 yuan, and keeps you full the whole day. The fruit market is out of this world. Where in Europe can you get a dragon fruit for 20 cents? Or half a kilogram of strawberries for 50?
At least they’re being honest about their intentions from the start. 😀