Same, Same on Planet China

The weather here is starting to get steamy.  It gets ridiculously hot and humid here and on top of it, sometimes it rains.  I might have mentioned this before, but a funny thing happens in the streets of Shekou during this time.  Because of the sticky weather, the men pull up their shirts halfway and walk around like this.  Now, look, I am not one to judge – okay, even I had to laugh at that one – but as far as different cultures, I usually just try to go with it.  It’s a when in Rome type thing.  However, these men don’t have Beckham’s abs and I am being generous with that one.  Last night, I was walking in Old Shekou on my way to a lovely dinner, and I saw at least five different men sitting at real restaurants with their shirts off.  In a restaurant, at night, public and all.  And there is no Christiano Ronaldo in sight.  Sigh.  I am just going to go on record and say; it’s never that hot.  Seriously.

What I have heard from several people is when the cultural revolution happened here in China, anything middle class, including manners, was considered bourgeoisie so it was done away with.  When I think of it political terms, I completely understand.  And to be very honest, I have met some of the nicest people in China and I am excited to be learning about this culture through the language.  There is one waitress who only speaks to me in Chinese and goes out of her way to help me learn the language – it’s really sweet. But for someone who grew up with using please, thank you, and excuse me… it’s an adjustment because from what I am learning, these types of formalities are not built into the language or culture.  In fact to use them is considered rude as it is a way of distancing yourself from that person. Additionally, there just doesn’t seem to be any consideration of other people in some ways.  For instance, lines.  People here will literally cut in front of you and begin ordering when you know they saw you.  Another one is luggage.  When you go through customs, you put your luggage to be x-rayed and people will just push in front of you to get their stuff, even though their luggage is behind yours. Or when you are walking on the sidewalk, a scooter will come up behind you and start honking at you to move out of the way, even though it is a sidewalk and you clearly have the right of way (I’ve just begun to slow down when they do that). It’s aggressive, but it’s not intentional.  I have to remember it’s not personal, but it’s really difficult to process that as you are getting pushed or bumped or cut off.

So as I try to make sense of what I call Planet China (it is that big) and not get frustrated when someone will see me but still continue to walk right in front of me while spitting, I happened upon this book yesterday called Dreaming in Chinese.  I literally could not put it down and read about a third of it just sitting there in the mall.  It was the book I wish I had written.

Now, I don’t know if it’s one of those things that you have to know or experience to enjoy reading about.  For instance, soccer.  I LOVE soccer and love watching soccer.  But I played soccer for about 25 years of my life, so I understand soccer.  I mean; I used to practice my throw-ins, trapping, and passing for hours by myself in the backyard.  Well, I am the only person in my immediate family who feels that way about the world’s greatest sport (shout out to Berto and Stephen – go soccer) so I understand that they probably don’t want to watch the World Cup with me.  It might be the same with this book.  You might have to live it to get it.  However, I will bring my copy home this summer; so if you want to borrow it, just let me know!

Okay, so yesterday in Hong Kong I did a bit of shopping before my hair appointment, and I bought the cutest dress. It can be worn in any season and it looks great on me (bonus!).  So, I am going next week to buy some material so I can get it ‘same, same’.  That just means the tailor copies it for literally, half the cost.  Go Planet China!

Below are some random photos that I thought you might enjoy!

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  1. Julie

    Planet China – sounds exoctic (not so much)! Can’t wait to have you home (bring your new book – and cute, new dress)… Sending hugs from San Diego.

  2. Hi Claire,
    I’m glad you happened upon Dreaming in Chinese, and I’m delighted that you liked it.
    Deb Fallows

  3. Susan Wachowiak

    Love the blog, Claire. Sometimes I feel as if I am right there with you. Can’t wait for your vacation.

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