Yesterday I was a little philosophical about how I've realized just how much I have in common with the Chinese and how much our students have in common etc. But one of the things that has made this trip so awesome so far is all of the differences that I've run into. Here are some of the ones that stand out the most:
*The food. My food blog post is coming soon, I promise, but it really is different. Meat comes with bones in it, and sometimes with skin, eyes, tails, shells, etc. You know, the way meat naturally comes, and has been eaten for thousands of years? The food has flavor, but not a ton of salt or pepper like we're used to. Things taste a little more..."natural" I guess you'd say? Most meals are served family style, with big dishes in the middle of the table for everyone to share. Usually no serving utensils either - everyone serves themselves with the same thing they use to eat it with (chopsticks.)
*The traffic. I know that I grew up in a suburb, and currently live in a suburb, so I'm not terribly used to city traffic. But I've been to big cities, including New York, Paris, and London, and I've never seen anything like what I've seen here. And it's not just how much traffic there is - although that's part of it, these Chinese cities have millions and millions of people! But it's HOW they drive that is crazy. It's like everyone is in a rush to get to their destination and they are oblivious to the fact that there are other people on the roads. Cars weave in and out of traffic, crossing over double-yellow lines into oncoming cars frequently. They honk when they come close to hitting someone, but they don't slow down, they just veer to one side or the other. And there are tons of people in general on the streets, which means not only cars and buses, but mopeds, bicycles, and pedestrians galore. All of those groups of people behave in exactly the same way: like, if you're riding a bike, and there's a space literally big enogh to squeeze a bike through, you will go for it. The whole thing reminds me of a grand theft auto video game where there are essentially no rules on the road. Although, to their credit, our bus drivers have navigated those vehicles into streets and places where American drivers wouldn't even consider as an option, and I've yet to see even one accident on the roads. Pretty unbelievable!
*The manners. It's a different culture and what we consider polite or rude has pretty much no correlation to what I've seen here. People pick their nose, burp out loud, loudly spit onto the sidewalk, and talk with their mouths full of food, barely stopping their sentence when they pick the bones out of their mouth with their fingers and spit them back onto their plate. And I'm talking about adults here. And no one says anything or makes a weird face or even seems to notice. Out on the street, I've already mentioned how parents and children alike will stare at us Americans as if we are animals in a zoo. But also, if their small child needs to go to the bathroom, rather than go to a public bathroom (which are all over the place) they just drop their pants and go. Even "number two."
*The hand-holding. Little girls walk down the halls holding hands with each other. Almost always. Little boys will occasionally do the same thing, or they'll sometimes hold or touch each other's wrists even sitting in class. But never a boy and a girl, always 2 boys or 2 girls. One day, we even saw two grown men walking down the street holding hands. Our Chinese guide told us that it was perfectly normal in their culture and it didn't "mean anything."
*The temperature. It's hot here. But I guess the weather we've been getting isn't too much hotter or more humid than I've experienced at times in Charlotte. But the big difference is the temperature of everything else. Back home, every building, room, school, restaurant, etc. is air conditioned. Every drink has ice in it or is at least served cold. Maybe I'm just a spoiled American who is used to a level of luxury that doesn't exist in very many places in the world... but I can't help it! When it's hot, I like a little ice in my drink and a little cold air in my face!
*The KFC's. They are EVERYWHERE! It's the #1 fast food chain here. By a long shot. We were driving in downtown nanjing today and there were about three of them in a mile stretch of road. I don't get KFC very often at home because they're just not all that big there. But they''re HUGE in china!
There are obviously tons of other differences, including their insatiable appetite for rice at every meal, and for Michael Jackson songs at every opportunity! But as strange as some of those things have been, they've also been awesome. I'm fascinated by their culture and by how things work over here.
I know this was another blog lost where I didn't really chronicle what happened today... don't I understand what a blog is supposed to be?! Today was actually our one "day off" which actually meant that we went on a 13 hour tour of nanjing. The biggest highlight from that is when we went to the Nanjing Massacre museum. My American education never taught me about that event from Chinese history (which happened in WWII.) But it was unbelieveable to walk through this place - a very similar feeling to walking through a Holocaust museum. Look into this topic in Google if you're interested in learning more about it. It's obviously kind of gruesome, but it's something that will definitely stick with you. Well, I've been slowly going through my pictures and adding more to the (now 4) pages of pictures on this blog. I'm planning on continuing to add to those pages in the coming week - it's just tough since each day I take another 50-75 pictures that I have to go through! So keep on checking but bear with me if everything looks the same for a few days. Thanks!