Final thoughts: A (Train Ride)

Well, today is the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing China. I am on the train right now going to Beijing. Tomorrow I’ll fly out of Beijing on a plane headed home. I love China, I really don’t want to go, but I miss my family, and I miss America, I want to be back in my home country. No matter where I go, what I do, how long I live abroad, I really think America will always be my home, and nowhere else can ever have the same place next to my heart. Anyway, I’m going home now, and I’m excited. I’m also lugging around with me two large, heavy suitcases (one of them very unwieldy and falling apart, bought in China), as well as a fat backpack, and a blue sports bag that must weigh almost 50 pounds! I stuffed a bunch of books and heavy things that were originally in my suitcases into this bag so that my suitcases wouldn’t be so heavy that they would fine me at the airport. They still might be too heavy, I am taking back soooooo many presents, it is ridiculous. But oh well, I like giving things to people.

My Jian Shu sword is wrapped in my socks and stuffed in the suitcase I bought in China. The suitcase is falling apart partly because it is cheap and and partly because of my sword, which is putting stress on the seams. I hope and pray it will get through the airport OK, through the changing flights OK, not fall apart, and arrive safely in Louisville. If it falls apart on a connecting flight, I might never know. There are some presents in there too, and some clothes. I don’t think I put anything really really important in there though, I hope I didn’t anyway.

I have met some interesting people on the train so far. Sitting next to me is a Chinese man, a father with a little 6 year old girl. He is taking his daughter to Beijing to see the Olympics. Because his daughter doesn’t have a train ticket, she has to sit on his lap. For a while I would just sit in other empty seats around us so he and his daughter could sit together, but now there are no empty seats and she is perched on his lap while he reads a children’s book to her (attempting to get her to help him read the book, but she is more interested in playing with his hands).

Across the aisle there were three army men (they’ve left now, got off at Weifang, if you remember it is a city I visited, its the Kite capital of China). I wasn’t really clear why they were going there, they told me I’m sure, but I didn’t really understand it. They were stationed in Qingdao to help with preparing for the Olympics, but now they are moving again. We talked about America and China, and a little about Chinese and American politics. They were reading a newspaper and on the front page was a picture of Bush. No doubt the article was about Bush’s recent poking of China for its human rights abuses and censoring of the internet after they promised they wouldn’t for the duration of the Olympic games. I’ve read a bit about it in American news and apparently the Chinese government wants America to stop bringing all this distressing stuff up and just let the Games happen so they won’t have any “incidents” or “difficulties” during the Olympics.

I believe that though China is economically and logistically ready to host the olympics, and actually the people themselves are ready and have been for a long time, the government is not ready. As much as they try to play it down, China is still a very communist state that believes it is its right and duty to control its people. The media is not free and open, religion is not free, they are not free to express their opinion, there are many basic rights that are denied by corrupt government officials in order to enrich themselves. I am not saying this to bash China or put them down. Please believe me when I say that I love China, it is a wonderful country and I really love living here. Its people are people, just like us in America, and they are often more generous and helpful than I’ve found many American’s to be. They are certainly harder working. But, China has problems, just as America has problems, and having grown up in a country which fiercely protects the freedom of its people, it obviously rubs my fur the wrong way to see first hand that other human beings, again just like all the rest of us in that regard, are denied the basic rights and freedoms that I enjoy, love, and would die for.

Back to the Olympics, I believe that many people were hoping that the Olympics would help to loosen China up and help pressure the government to change their policies somewhat regarding these issues of individual freedom. However I am not at all surprise that instead, the government has tried to use the Olympics, not as a way to show the world that they do indeed value human rights, but as a way to show how “great” China is and how now they are a “big kid” on the playground that deserves respect. I am not saying the desire to have respect and status among other nations is a bad desire, but I believe that China would gain much more respect by actually expressing a a genuine interest in changing its policies than by “putting on a good face” for all the world to see when they come to watch the Olympics. I have read in the news that instead of opening up, the government is cracking down on protesters, human rights activists, and anyone who would “disturb the harmony of the olympics”. It could be said that the government is using the Olympics as an excuse to squelch organizations and people who they have long wanted to get rid of under the guise of keeping the peace and ensuring the smooth running of the Olympics. This is just a speculation, but it is certainly something to think on. Also, though they are reducing pollution for the Olympics, the manner in which they are doing it is such that as soon as everyone leaves, it will go back to how it was before. I hope that the Chinese people (that includes the Chinese people in the government) will be inspired by the Olympics to make good changes for the better that will benefit their country and improve the lives of their people.

I am sorry if you don’t like it when I talk about politics and world matters, but I believe the responsible person is aware of what is happening in the world and also has a set of beliefs and opinions that guides they way they conduct themselves (if you stand for nothing you will fall for anything). You should always be ready to modify your opinions in the light of new information and discovery of error, but I feel that just sitting back and ignoring what goes on around you if it’s in any way controversial or political is not the way to make our world better. Please feel free to comment on my comments and present your own opinions, I would love to learn from you.

Back to the train ride. Anyway,the jun ren (Chinese for men in the army) and I also talked a bit about politics. They favor Obama because they believe he is friendly toward China. I don’t know of either candidate’s stance toward China, but I would not be surprised if this was the case. I also met two Philippine men who are English teachers in China on their way to Beijing: Ray and Arial. I have learned that in the Philippines, people grow up speaking English as often as their native language, and actually they commonly speak a mixture of the two (for instance when they count they use English). They both speak English very well, they could pass as Americans if they wanted to. We talked for a while about their time in China and my studies. I almost dissolved into fits of laughter when Arial asked if I had a boyfriend (he asked this because Ray was carrying a bouquet of flowers which were for his girlfriend in Beijing, so my comment on the flowers kind of lead up to Arial’s question). He was very confused and I explained to him that when American women go abroad, mostly if they travel alone or just with another women, foreign men often try to “pick them up” because one of the easiest ways to get into America if you are foreign is to marry an American. I’ve had Mexican’s ask me to marry them, and my older sister Sarah had a couple of German guys try to “pick” her and her friend up in Berlin when she was there a few years ago. So I thought his question was very funny and he was very embarrassed that I “thought” he was trying to pick me up, but I was really laughing because Ray smiled and kind of looked down when Arial asked the question. No, I don’t really think he was trying to pick me up, but it was very funny all the same

So, last weekend. Last weekend we had a party with our fudou laoshi men (our tutors). It was planned as a Karaoke party, but it was more like a “people who want to give a performance do so” party and “everyone else who feels like getting up in front of others to have fun dancing and singing along to American and Chinese songs” party. Me and my fudou laoshi (remember Wang Chen?) sang a Chinese song together called Tian Mi Mi, which could be translated as “Sweet as Honey”. It was a rather silly, girly song, and I suffered through it tolerably well. Ok, I lie, I honestly enjoyed it somewhat, mostly because Wang Chen wanted me to be happy and I didn’t want to make her unhappy by being a bad sport about it. But believe me I was beet red embarrassed. Wang Chen also convinced me to wear my skirt and put on makeup, which I promise you I would never have done on my own. I only did it because she wanted me to. She’s helped me out so much over the summer, the least I could do was humor her.

There were many American and Chinese songs played. Most of the American songs were popular pop songs, which I mostly don’t know because I prefer classical music and movie soundtracks. There was also some dancing that went on, but it wasn’t person with person dancing, it was group dancing. There was this one song that I’m sure anyone my age would recognize if they heard it, that “called” out the steps, but it wasn’t square dancing or country music, far from it, it was definitely rock/pop music. The party was a lot of fun, and it was the nice kind of party with no alcohol and it ended at 9pm.

Sunday I went to Church for the last time in China. I went with one of my friends to the house church I had been to several times before. I understood the sermon better this time, and several people recognized me and I talked with them.

All last weekend I had been working on my final report. My report is titled “The One Child Policy in China and How it Has Affected Relationships Between Chinese People.” My basic premiss is that the One Child Policy, because it creates the phenomenon of many one child households, has some adverse as well as advantageous affects on relationships between Chinese people. If you are interested in reading it let me know and I can send you my english copy. However, it is written in English while I was thinking in Chinese, so it might be an interesting read. If anyone wants to read my report in Chinese, I will be very impressed and even more eager to send it to you ( ;)> any takers?).

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were long, tiring, and trying, but wonderful just the same. I am confident that I did a decent job on my tests, but I can not say if my grade will be just average, or if I will get an A. It was certainly not easy. I was very excited when I was done, and I am looking forward to the first real break I will get from school since last Christmas. I am also very sad, because I love learning Chinese and I don’t want to stop taking classes, even for vacation. I will, of course, try and keep studying at home. I have a lot of friends here in China that I need to write to, and I bought the first three Harry Potter books in Chinese. I’ve already started the first, though it is very slow reading. I also bought a couple Chinese movies and CDs, so hopefully I won’t regress too much before I start classes again in the fall.

However, my main concern is my Arabic. Much to my disappointment in myself, I have only opened my Arabic textbook only about four times this past summer. I am going to have to impose a strict studying regime when I get home in order to get my Arabic back up to speed. So, did I mention a break from school? I was actually lying. What I really mean is a break from going to school, not doing school. I also hope very much to get some work in as well, since I have not earned real money in more than a year. That is something to pray for, that I could earn some money while I’m home.

So, overall thought of China? You’ll have to wait till later, since my battery is about to run out.

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