Wednesday, October 29, 2008


A few random things I haven't bothered to share yet...

Restaurants When you go to an American restaurant, be it a nice French place or Denny's, there is a certain protocol that is followed. Someone shows you to a seat. You get a menu. Drink are brought. Order is taken. And food is delivered. There's also a certain ambience, from romantic to goofy shit all over the wall.

Not so in most Chinese restaurants. Unless you go to a fancy schmancy place (or one run by foreigners), you'd better lower your expectations. Chinese restaurants are typically brightly lit establishments, their walls barren, save for the ocassionaly beer poster. The kitchen is often right in the dining area, perhaps right by the door, so passersby can see what's being served up. Usually the menu's on the wall. Or there's no menu, so if you can't speak Chinese, you just take a look at their ingredients and tell the cook what you want. Dishes are served when they're ready. Tables almost always have three things on them: A container of chopsticks (if they're reusable, just hope they've been cleaned); a variety of condiments (soy sauce, vineagar, chilies, salt); and toilet roll or tissues (there's no napkins). Throw dirty napkins, fatty meat and bones on the floor. Hell spit on the floor or do a snot rocket if you like.

It's a very different experience.

Babies Chinese love babies and young children. One train ride sums it up pretty well. A boy, no more than 1 1/2 or so, was sitting near me. Everyone who passed touched him in some way: rubbed his cheeks, smacked his butt or held him. Complete strangers.

And babies in China do without quite a lot. 1--There are virtually no strollers/prams. Kids are carried on their parents' backs usually or even the littlest children walk. 2--I haven't seen a single pacifier yet. And lastly: 3--Diapers. The littlest babies might have them. We're talking less than six months (though usually quite younger). Little kids just have big holes in the crotch/butt of their pants. Potty training starts really early in China. Parents get their kids to go to the bathroom at certain times--often just on the street. You see little kids copping a squat on the sidewalk all the time. I have not seen one person get peed on from a diaper-less kid yet.

Annoyances Despite their kindness and great sense of hospitality, the Chinese can be horribly annoying. I give you the following reasons:

--Spitting. We're talking huge, throat-clearing loogies. They don't swallow saliva. They spit all over the street, out bus windows, on bus floors, in restaurants, internet cafes, etc. And they also blow their nose on their fingers, then wipe it off and make snot rockets. Yum. And they women are just as guilty--no lie.

--Noise. Christ. Sometimes I want to yell. But it would have to be quite loudly. They talk on their cell phones like they're trying to yell at the person sans phone. They use their cell phones as ghetto blasters in every sort of public space. They play TVs and radios way too loudly. And they make all sorts of godawful noise while they're eating. China's a noisy place.

--Smoking. Everywhere. The dude at the computer next to me is smoking now. On buses, in restaurants, on trains. But they do often offer me a cigarette, so I guess that's half a point back to them

Despite these irritations, as I've said before, the Chinese people are incredibly generous and good-natured people. And therefor I give you...

Chinese hospitality In no particular order, a list of things Chinese people have done for me during my stay:

-A police officer pulled over a cab for me when I was having trouble hailing one in Qingdao

-A woman paid for my bus ticket just the other day

-When I stayed at the Tibetan village, I paid $15 for a stay that could easily have been worth three times that

-Countless offerings of food and cigarettes (again, only half a point)

-A young Chinese guy on a train, who spoke very little English, declared us friends and gave me a kite

-Sim gave me a free ride and a few free meals

-Workers shared their yak-butter tea with me during their break

-Walking back to town from a village today (about 5 was downhill and great weather), several people stopped to offer me a ride, including a government car of some sort

That's it for now. As you can see, there's a lot more to my trip than pretty pictures and scary bus rides.


bkwriter2007 said...

I really enjoy reading your comments and experiences. If more people did what you're doing, I think we'd live in a much better world.

Anonymous said...

the spitting i knew about. (thanks pre-olympics coverage!) but snot rockets? snot rockets?! eww!