We’ve been home a week, and not a day goes by where I haven’t read a huge article in the paper about China—the economy (bad), their stock market (very bad), building problems, transportation problems, some medical information, etc. I feel that we got an overview of the country, saw some incredible and wonderful sights, and also got the flavor of the politics, the effect of Communism in a somewhat capitalist society, and the unique way the Chinese people people deal with that conundrum.
Speaking of the people, there are many cultural differences that I, for one, found somewhat difficult to deal with. Because there are millions upon millions of people, they push and shove, have no concept of "queuing", and will grab food, a bathroom stall, a place in "line", or any other object that they wish, ahead of whomever is patiently waiting their turn (i.e. westerners). While this is a gross generalization, and it’s not all black and white, it’s also easy to join this mentality and start pushing your way (or more like pushing them out of the way) in order to get what you wish. We saw this time and time again. However, we did see a few mothers pull their children back (especially in the bathroom), or in other lines to try to maintain some decorum.
The children, like all the children around the world, are adorable. But, for the most part, they are not well behaved. Perhaps this is because of the "one child" policy so the children are spoiled, perhaps it is just the culture. The difference was immediately apparent when we were in Hong Kong, especially at the airport, and again in the Tokyo airport. While a few hours of time is not enough to make a full anthropological observation, the children there were not running around (they were in the Beijing and Shanghai airports), their parents were close by and supervising. They also, (again a generalization) were not particularly loud. I finally understand why, on the boat trip down the Yangtze river, we were put in a different dining area. Having watched in a few of the hotel dining rooms, how the children run around unsupervised, the loudness factor, and the people just pushing their way to the food, I guess it is more expedient to segregate the Westerners because the cultural difference might be off-putting.
That all being said, the Chinese people love to live! I loved the way they embrace life, take time to see their country (all of the big "tourist" areas were mostly Chinese tourists, some from other countries like Japan, Philippines and Taiwan, but mostly locals). They take selfies constantly "(I was here!!"), and the selfie sticks were actually dangerous, especially on the Wall, and in the gardens. But they love nature, and show their respect to the land more than we do. There are garbage containers everywhere, each has a recycling as well as trash side, and most of the areas we visited were spotless. They also have people constantly sweeping and cleaning up (that is their job, apparently).
I seem to be harping on a few negative aspects, but please understand, the overall trip was more than wonderful. A chance to get a somewhat insider’s view into a country and it’s people, as well as experience 3000 years of history is incomparable. We loved almost every minute, learned an immense wealth of knowledge and insight into one of the largest countries in the world, and came to appreciate how small our place is in it.
Some final bits and pieces:
*the day we were finishing packing for home, Jim found a camera battery stuck deep into the pockets of his travel vest—I guess the airport machine was right although, I never would have found it!!
*I appreciate clean western toilets much more now, especially waiting on an ordinary line-when it’s my turn, it’s my turn!!
*I am going to try to drink tea in a more contemplative and appreciative manner.
**I am also going to dig out my Chinese cookbooks from years back and try to make more authentic dishes during the year.
* I am going to read a few of the books that Hubert recommended, watch a couple of movies (The Last Emperor is first on the list) and YouTube videos, and keep learning about this great land of China.
Now we can start thinking about where to go to next (a constant topic of conversation at the meals we shared with our fellow travelers)!