For my first blog entry, I thought I would kind of address the “have we felt any culture shock?” question in a sort of indirect way; I could talk about the randomness, confusion, and madness of China. The feeling I have gotten in the past two weeks living in China is that you should never know what to expect. For example things that you might assume will work out smoothly; like taking a cab to a large bus station, turn out to be ordeals. And you could wait at some place you may think is a legitimate bus stop but that bus may never come. Or you may think you are going to visit a touristy town with cute little shops and canals running all through it, but you get there and it is appears to be more of an abandoned ghost town than a tourist attraction. Other times China can just leave you confused to the point of speechlessness, like when a Chinese person walks by with a random jumble of English words printed on her shirt that make no sense whatsoever, or when you are relaxing at an outdoor restaurant and “have yourself a merry little Christmas” starts playing over the loudspeakers… on the last day of May. But since we are all in this together, we must make do with the materials at hand in order to succeed in our China journey, for example using the combs from the hotel to scoop peanut butter, or blow drying your socks that you washed in the sink last night and assumed would be dry in the morning. I am sure China will continue to throw things at us and surprise us everyday, and we will never be bored. –Paige Madison
I can attest to Paige’s sentiment. As we got on the bus today on our way to the water town of Wuzhen, I found myself climbing in a seat far from the rest of my group. The Chinese guy that I had just stumbled over said something to me that sounded vaguely like coherent English, something I had long given up for as a possibility. I apologized and asked him to repeat the phrase.
“I said, did your friends abandon you?” He was young and as most of the younger generation learns at least a bit of English, it is not uncommon for some of them to enthusiastically practice their conversational powers. I complimented him on his English, as is the polite thing to do, whereupon he informed me that he studied in the U.K. for four years. He asked if I was just visiting China, and I told him that I was here to study dinosaur eggs. He replied with a hearty laugh and a, “Bloody hell! That’s the sort of thing you just can’t make up!” Neither was our conversation for the rest of the hour and half ride.
We shared experiences at the Expo and what sort of impact it did or did not have in the bigger scheme of things. We talked about Alabama, a state that we had both visited. We discussed the possibility of Jurassic Park becoming a reality and the fishing documentary that he had just shot in Hong Kong for the BBC. After being isolated from the Chinese people over mostly the language barrier, I was elated to have a conversation with someone. And not just about what kind of food I wanted. After experiencing what had become an unfamiliar experience, I stepped off the bus into what had also become unfamiliar; silence.
The scenic part of Wuzhen was reached after a brief walk through the less than scenic parts of the real Wuzhen, but the recreated city proved to be worth the trip. It was unnerving at first, to walk around and not bump into people or here the squeal of bicycle brakes. Monday’s are apparently slow for tourism, but the uneasiness soon wore off and we enjoyed ourselves in the quaint but beautiful water streets of Wuzhen.- Nate