Thoughts of China: B (Plane Ride)

So, where were we? Ah, overall thoughts of China. Hmm……..China is an amazing place, but that can be said of any country. That does not, however, make the saying mean anything less. Its people have been extremely nice to me, helpful, and I have made wonderful friends. However, as a friend pointed out to me, the reason so many strangers were so nice to me could very well be because I am a white, American female. Nonetheless, it is still something, since they could decide to hate white Americans females, and being gawked and stared at is better than being glared and spit at. Some of the food here is absolutely amazing, some of it is out of this world, some of it is absolutely disgusting, but that can be said of any food anywhere, and your opinion of a food is usually based on what you are used to. The weather, in Qingdao at any rate, was almost exactly the same as at home, but I think we had a little more breeze in Qingdao since it’s on the seaside. The plants and insects are mostly the same. I was actually surprised at how many plants and insects I saw that were exactly the same ones I see on my farm. The architecture is pretty similar, either big, modern buildings (the same all over the world) or small shacks that you can see in any developing country. The biggest difference is the apartments. In China every medium to big city I’ve been to, even sometimes the smaller ones, have bunches of high rise apartment buildings. They are the most common building you see, there are sooooo many of them. In America you see acres and acres of suburban housing, in China you see forests of towering apartment buildings.

Funnily enough, in Chinese the world fangzi, which translates to “house” in English, does not actually mean our idea of “house” as in a separate building all your own. The Chinese idea of “house” is actually our “apartment” and the freestanding, traditional Chinese houses with courtyards are called something different (you know the ones with buildings on three sides of a courtyard, one story high, with a big gate, the kind of “house” you see in all the traditional movies about China). The Chinese also don’t have a word for “yard” as in the American dream lawn of emerald green grass. There are no yards in China (except perhaps for some filthy rich people who feel like copying the western housing style). The closest word we can use to mean “yard” is da yuanzi, which more or less means big garden.

But of course, I am talking about the things on the surface. On the surface things aren’t that different, except for the obvious fact that everyone here has black hair instead of just some people. I think part of the reason I feel so at home in China, and why I feel it really isn’t that different, is that we have all of the world in America. Anyway, the culture is definitely different. But unfortunately, it was sometimes hard to see the true culture of China because it is being so hidden and changed by “modern western society” that seems to crowd it out. I seriously think McDonalds and KFC have corrupted China ;)> But you know, you can’t really deny the Chinese people modern western society. It is so full of comfort and luxury that the Chinese people as a whole have never been able to experience, who are we to say “no, we like your quaint peasant ways, you don’t get to have youtube, iphones, super star tv, or fashion clothing stores”. Now they are getting a taste of western society (changed and taking on a life of its own in Chinese culture), they like it, and if that is what they want so be it. But I hope that they fight just as hard to preserve their culture as they are fighting to modernize and advance their society.

The biggest, overall, overreaching, most prominent thing in my mind is the pollution. And by pollution I don’t just mean things like smog and oil, I also mean plain old trash and junk. In places there is just trash everywhere. In the eastern part of Qingdao over where the industrial plants are, the water doesn’t even look like water and I would be afraid to even touch it for fear of dropping dead on the spot. In Beijing, as I said, when I got there the air was pretty bad. Qingdao air, however, wasn’t a problem at all in my opinion. Then there was the algae in Qingdao, which I was told was a result of pollution. There was tons and tons of it everywhere, washed up on the beaches in a layer a foot deep, and so much in the water that it stopped boats and it was nasty trying to swim. Oh they cleaned it all up after a couple weeks, but let me tell you the government was panicing for a while since no sail boat could do anything with all that algae in the water (think Olympics Sailboat competition+Qingdao+algae=embarrassing disaster on a catastrophic scale). But I think it is fine now.

Now that I have said my piece about pollution, let me bring your attention to two important points. The first is, China seems to be making an effort to clean up. Going back through Beijing yesterday I was very impressed. Everything looked much cleaner than it had before and the air was wonderful compared to when I arrived, it didn’t bother my eyes at all. For another thing, you see all these old people everywhere on the streets sweeping and picking up trash. This is really good. The funny things is, though, that you only see them on large, prominent streets that have a lot of people, but I’ve seldom seen them on smaller streets or in the places where all the trash actually is. There is this one man who’s job was to sweep the stretch of road outside the north gate of Qingdao University. I saw him there sweeping every morning. He mostly swept up a light spattering of leaves from the trees that lined the streets. My thought was, why are they wasting resources having someone sweep up silly leaves instead of having him clean up the trash where it really needs it. In Beijing as well as Qingdao, in order to hide the ugly parts, the construction, the hovels and piles of trash, they often put up huge signs in long stretches which have olympic pictures and the slogan seen on every street corner “One World One Dream.” I have read in the news that in order to clean up the air in Beijing, the have 1) put restrictions on many plants who were creating the smog (and shut some down too, though I don’t know how many) and 2) put restrictions on how many people can drive, each day license plates ending in a certain number have their turn to drive (I wonder if this applies to taxies?).

All of this leaves me with the overall impression that China (meaning, at the moment, the government since they are in charge of all this) is only concerned with the surface impression and in fact has little or no desire to permanently change their laws and culture so that their country can be a cleaner place. This impression could be completely wrong, and I am positive there are many Chinese people and some Chinese officials who really do want to do the right thing and reduce pollution. However, it seems that for the Olympic games China is most concerned with making sure that all visitors able to see is the nice, clean friendly China. There is nothing wrong with wanting to leave a good impression, but I somehow suspect that once all the foreigners leave, everything will go back to the way it was. Again, I could be completely wrong, that is just the impression I got from my surroundings and from reading the news.

My other major point is that for all I know, America could be just as bad as China. We certainly have our share of trash. I do not know how the two countries compare, thought feel free to look it up on the internet, it should take about 10sec. From all that I’ve heard and read though, China is much worse than America). I haven’t seen pollution in American on the scale that I saw in China, but that is just it. Just because I haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I have heard that there are huge pollution problems around military bases because their first priority is do whatever you need to in order to preserve the country’s national defense, and I think being environmentally friendly is very low on their list of things to do. This has two sides, we won’t have much of a country to protect if it is destroyed by pollution, but then again we won’t have much of a clean country to enjoy if it is blown up by our enemies.

So, I love China. Absolutely Love it. I feel very at home here, and wouldn’t mind working here or living here. I am very sorry to leave, and I am sure I would stay longer if 1) I had more money and 2) if my older sister wasn’t getting married next weekend.

My time here has been amazing, I have learned so much, made great friends, gained important experience, and of course have gained an extra 70 lbs of stuff that I am bringing back (I promise, 90% is things for other people).

And now I want to trumpet this to the world, I have done it all WITHOUT any kind of portable music player!! No MP3 player, no ipod, no discman, no iphone, nada. I promise you it is possible to live life without an ipod and without headphones stuck on or into your ears 70% of your waking life. Leaving my small, 50 song MP3 player at home was the best decision I ever made when I came to China. I’m not saying listening to music is bad or anything, but when you listen to it constantly there is so much you miss, so much life you never live, people you never meet, things you never learn because you are absorbed in your own little world of music.

I look forward to seeing you all. There might possibly be a movie posted (probably on youtube, not my blogsite) of pictures and stuff that sums up my journey to China. But then again there might not be, it depends on how much I have to do and how gungho I feel about it. I also have to ask my dad how you make one of those. So long, remember I would love to hear from all of you, and I would especially like to hear what you think of my opinions and thoughts towards China, either to criticizes or to praise.

Lastly, because it is the most important, Praise the Lord God in Heaven for protecting me this whole summer and giving me such a profitable time in the Great Land of China. Thank you everyone who prayed for me, God could hear you and he answered your prayers.

Signing out

Lydia

2 Responses to “Thoughts of China: B (Plane Ride)”

  1. Susan says:

    Lydia,

    I met someone who lived in Qingdao (Tsingdao in 1948) on a plane last month. She’s now a US citizen (who will be 81 this month). I was trying to Google her childhood address with no luck. It’s No. 12 Wu Sheng Kuan Road. Any chance you could find it and take a photo while you’re there? If it’s still standing it should be a grand old house. It’s supposed to be in the area near the racetrack. Just a lark. Thought I’d give it shot! Thanks.

    S.

  2. Dad says:

    Bravo! A great summary of all that you observed and what impressed you; it gives me a better feel for the country. Your comments about 1 ft. thick algae are amazing; I’m having trouble visualizing it. Pictures? I’ve seen moss that thick, but not algae.

    Yes, the Lord has been good and kept you safe and productive in a foreign land– 12 hours away, in fact.

    Love, Da

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