Saturday, November 1, 2008


First, yes, it's been a long time since an update. I love updating ya'll, but my schedule over the last two weeks hasn't allowed the time to do so. Plus...I mean, I don't just pull posts like these off of a magical blog-posting tree. It takes hard work! But I really like hearing positive responses from people, so as long as you're reading, I'm happy.

Speaking of, I couldn't be happier in China. Every day is still loaded with challenges, but I enjoy living here very much. I remember people warning me about culture shock. "Psh!" That's what I'd say. Well it's been a month and a half, and I can honestly tell you that I was totally correct in ignoring that concern. There's an article in the textbook I'm teaching about the 5 stages of culture shock... whatever. I came here understanding that whatever routines or conditions I was used to needed to adjust based on the surroundings. For once, I can say that apathy was a positive trait to have. There's only a few things here that I demand, all of which are easily accessible and most of which are just trivial. Like pizza. Need it.

Granted, I guess I was a little worried about a few personality traits that I have. If you need an example of this, one of the more obvious ones would be that I prefer a certain cleanliness that no one really understands. I don't eat off of other people's plates; that's kindof normal I think. But then there's weird stuff, like the fact that I get grossed out by hard plastic containers or utensils. No real reason for that. It's a severe preference, but if it's necessary to adjust, then I adjust. So there were some concerns about meshing with China, but I was never concerned about feeling overly uncomfortable here. Are there some things that bother me? At first, no -- everything that would normally have seemed bothersome was cute or funny to me. Now, however, there are a couple of things about the culture that are starting to get old.

Things that are getting old:

People staring at me -- About 4 years ago, I went on a "rafting" trip in Ohiopyle along the Youghogheny River. Basically, I sat in a raft with my family for 5 hours, encountering brief and harmless rapids once every half hour and getting stuck on a rock for every new set of rapids because I was the only one paddling and our raft barely displaced water. It sucked; I will never go rafting again. But one thing I remember was, at the very beginning of the trip, watching a family of four flying by us on their raft. As they passed by, one of the little kids stared at me. After the first 5 seconds of staring I was pissed. "What the hell is he doing?" Then I became interested in how long he could keep it going. I stared back. 20 seconds passed. Their boat was now about 100 feet ahead of us, but he went out of his way to hold the stare, turning his head and body in my direction. Finally after about 45 seconds, I won the battle as he broke eye contact. "In your face, little kid."

That's kindof the feeling I get anytime I'm walking outside on the street. Surprisingly though, it's not young people who stare the most, but old people! I still get looks from everyone, but old people hold their stares the longest out of anyone. I often return the favor in spades just to stick it to 'em.

Sometimes it can be funny, though. People really like looking at me and will try hilarious things to be as covert and subtle about it as possible, even though they're being real obvious. Like yesterday, I noticed a business man's slowly peeking eyes behind my friend's head. Or the other day, I was shopping in a convenience store and someone noticed me. Once I gave him the "stop looking at me" glance, he went behind the shelf and looked at some noodle bowls, peeking between them to continue his stare.

The food -- Every day, my friend Han Jie asks me "what would you like today?" Uhhh, how do I answer that question... "rice?" Don't get me wrong, the food here is absolutely delicious, but China's snackhole is filled by rice and noodles exclusively, and noodles are made of rice. In fact, the Chinese word for "lunch" translates literally to "noon rice" (with "breakfast" translating to "morning rice," and "dinner" translating to "night rice.") Really though, I mean, how hard is it to make a hot dog? I feel like someone could make some serious cash opening up a hot dog stand on campus. Too much rice.

The language -- it's seriously fucking impossible. I like it, but learning it becomes more daunting the further I get into it.

Basketball -- I've never liked basketball before, but everyone loves it here.

Why do they like it? I've come up with several guesses... First, it's cheap to play; all you need is a ball and a court, both of which are very accessible. Second, nobody here is good at sports, so there's never a court that you can't play on. However, the most obvious reason is that their biggest international sports star is, without a doubt, Yao Ming. As a result, basketball has become the most interesting sport to them because they can actually root for someone who is their own and who competes at the highest level -- the very same cause of my obsessions with Penguins hockey and Steelers football. They can't do that for any other major sport in the US or Europe... soccer, baseball, hockey, football, etc. If any one of these sports had an exceptional chinese player in it, the ratings for them would no doubt double or triple. Additionally, they have their own pro sports leagues here, but they're hardly world class. Leagues like the EPL, the Bundesliga, and the NBA generate much higher ratings. So I imagine that before Yao, there was a major hole to be filled in the demand for watching sports. Fortunately for China, the NBA gives great opportunities to freak athletes from anywhere, so Yao's freakish athleticism was able to ignite the people's interest in the game of basketball.

In the wake of Yao-mania, people watch other NBA stars like Dirk Nowitzky, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash, and have consequently deified them. At lunch time here, the west coast of the US is in primetime, so the TVs in the cafeteria I go to have recently been swarming with viewers watching the goings on of the NBA, now that the season has started. It's a pretty big deal. So anyway the point is, because I'm tall and from America, everyone assumes I must have played before and therefore wants to talk to me about it a lot. Ugh.

My computer being in Chinese -- To the right is a screenshot of my computer. This used to be funny, but now it's just annoying. I can't watch anything because of a problem with WMP that is unsolvable because it's written in an alien language. So, all of the bootlegged dvd stands that are so plentiful here are completely useless to me until I get a dvd player, which I have no choice but to do.

And I guess some things that I miss:

  • steelers football
  • talking about the steelers
  • penguins hockey
  • talking about the penguins
  • golf
  • hotdogs
  • cheese
  • kettle cooked chips
  • Taco Bell
  • Yuengling
  • speaking English at a normal pace
  • TV I can understand

And surprisingly, i also miss:

  • doing math problems
  • playing frisbee
  • going to bars
  • crazy pittsburgh weather

I think the next post will likely be a description of what my street and my school are like. Also, since I'm not telling a story I've dropped the roman numerals in the titles. Hopefully I can continue the theme of naming titles that I've started..try to guess what it is!


emelelia said...

hey, your posts make me laugh. i'm right there with you on a lot of things, sometimes with slightly different versions. people stare at us a lot when we're speaking in english on the subway, but from the older people sometimes its a pretty hateful kind of stare. they also like to shove you. that gets old. elders here have the most respect, and i think it goes to their heads sometimes. they have very pointy elbows and no qualms about using them against you. i would say that overall the people here are warm and friendly, but i've learned that it's easy to tick elders off if they're irritable and english assaults their ears.

and when i get back to the u.s. i'm probably going to gain 15 pounds just going around and eating everything i've missed. when are you going back to the states? we could do a tour de force hitting up everything we've gone without. then maybe i won't be the only one come back from asia whose gained 15 pounds.

Evan said...

haha, deal. First stop: TB

emelelia said...

you could come here for that (a bit closer than the u.s. at the moment). allegedly we have one at the military base, but i haven't been yet