china – a slight retrospect

It’s been forty-four days since I arrived, so let’s take a look through my camera’s memory card and some notebook entries, because what better way to describe this immense and absurd time in my life?

May 2nd 2017 –
Gua gua gua. Frogs outside my window. An unidentified bang. The pipes and the water heater. Cats fighting in the dark.
Sounds I am not used to. Smells and tastes that are becoming familiar but not natural. So many eyes on me. Honking. Yelling. Singing. Music. Noise pollution and air pollution. The constant sounds feel worse than the smog. Yesterday we walked past a skinned goat, hanging by its head on the sidewalk. Cars driving in all directions, getting stuck, backing up. More yelling and more staring. Staring back makes no difference, it only makes it more uncomfortable for me. But they keep staring.

May 4th 2017-
I don’t know if I love or hate the fact that Chinese spend their evenings at the mall. While I am generally frusrated when I realize how much life centers around consumerism, it is also a more social culture than I am used to. There are people of all ages here, it is not a bar-centered culture. But they buy, I guess.
People keep emerging from taxis, all dressed up to go to the mall. But do they really socialize? Or are they just buying things with the same people they arrived with?

I hate admitting that I am searching for other Westerners, but I really would appreciate sharing my experiences with someone in the same situation as me. Or even just to spend time with someone I can communicate with and who might even own a similar sense of humor.

List of things I miss
-My car
-Strict traffic rules
-Regular working hours

May 11th 2017

Drinks we have had so far:
-banana milk
-soy “juice”
-black soy drink
-espresso & coconut water
-local rice wine
-Japanese whiskey
-pineapple lemonade with QQ jelly
-milk tea with ovaltine (which I was recommended by my boss, who later admitted she had never tried it before, tried mine and didn’t like it)
-flower & goji berry tea

May 16th 2017
The most terrifying taxi ride coming home from the art supply store yesterday. Both of us clutching the little handles that they have above the windows in cars, trying to find out how to position our legs in the safest way in the even of a (what felt like a likely) crash.
Putting our own lives in someone else’s hands like that is one of the weirdest and scariest things, but I would still never want to drive anywhere here myself.

May 18th 2017
The people here are so different than what I’m used to. Sure, my cultures value “busy” as well, but not business calls at midnight busy. Not this kind of pride in working all hours. Or maybe I just haven’t been around to see it. In my eyes, it just looks like inefficiency. It looks like a group of people that get so caught up in mixing jokes and work, who conduct business over chatrooms, gifs and virtual stickers included. Having work to do at this hour looks like the inability to prioritize or focus on a task until it is done well. Like 12-4 siesta sessions and pit stops for snacks and tea in the middle of the day. It is meetings that start 30-40 minutes late because no one values being on time, and it is people disappearing from said meetings to take unrelated phone calls. It is cell phones out at all times, more texts and jokes and missing what was just said.

May 25th 2017
soft and rusty.
We desperately need groceries. Instead, we buy some noodles and sweet buns filled with butter at a stand in the mall. We try to check out a newly discovered shop, but they are hanging padlocks on the door as we approach. It is 21:04, their sign says they close at 21:30. We walk behind, accidentally trailing a couple of Australian boys who reek of cigarettes and Abercrombie & Fitch. We change our course, walk the other way around the block to avoid their pretentiousness.
We buy fruit from a guy on the side of the street. The back of his truck is filled with melons and there is a basket of peaches on the ground. April negotiates the price, trying to find out whether we are being cheated or not. The melon seller asks where I’m from, then repeats the answer several times. Meiguo.
Meiguo. I ask for two peaches through April, who doesn’t like them. We say our ‘bai-bai’s and head across the street, home, in the dark. We eat our watermelon that night. Cut in half, spoon in hand.

Yangzhou Yangzhou





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