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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Life goes on . . .



It's been a long time between posts . . .

I've been in semi-hibernation as I learn my place in China and learn more about the place. There's so much to see and write about here but I'm wary of making quick assumptions that rely more on preconceptions and misinterpretations than any real analysis or personal experience. It's such a vast, vast country, with 55 recognized ethnic minority groups in addition to the Han majority so stereotypes are of as little use here as most places.

A friend from the United States keeps reminding me there's no such thing as a typical American - the same can be said of Chinese.

As always, when I travel, I watch what the government does but judge the country on how the people act - to each other, to me, to family, strangers and visitors. On that scale, I find China, or its people anyway, to be warm, welcoming, friendly and basically happy. I recall the dire warnings I was given by many people before coming here and I see the attitudes of folks in my social networks but, listen up guys, people are people, and these people often put a smile on my face.

It's the little things that matter, especially when you don't have the language skills to communicate verbally:

The janitor who at first seemed kinda glum but now has a huge smile and a "Ni hao" for me whenever we see each other . . .

The young woman at the staff canteen who has noticed I never eat there but stop by each day to get the piece of fruit and yogurt that follows each meal, except I take two pieces of fruit instead. She now has two of the best pieces of whatever is on offer that day waiting for me . . .

The people at the local market I go to, a few hundred stallholders who now recognize me and always say hello, even those who have worked out I shop at another vendor for what they also sell . . .

The guards who man the entrances to my workplace, and often open the gate for me to save me the bother of swiping my ID card (don't tell anyone about that one) . . .

The grandparents who look after the children while the children's parents work, and who are always happy to have a stranger admire their little emperors and empresses and laugh when the kids find a round-eyes frightening . . .

The produce boys at the small supermarket near me, who pick out the best of whatever it is I am buying and practice their sparse English on me as I do the same with my meager Chinese . . .

The total strangers on the buses who direct me to an empty seat, because obviously I'm incapable of finding one myself (that's actually pretty sweet, you know) . . .

The feeling that, despite everything against them, I'm in a place where people believe that hard work results in earned rewards . . .

It's far from paradise, of course, but most of this crazy, messed-up, wonderful world is far from paradise. I like that the locals here try to make the best of what they have.

And yes, there are plenty of negatives, such as the pea soup impersonating air outside my window as I type. But, you know, it's life, and I'm content living it here for now . . .

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