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Moving to China

Vox Populi


Category: Vox Populi

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truthliesandchina

We constantly hear people talking about China - a remote and alien land to many, intriguing to others, but essentially a big mystery to all. All doubts assail us when we think about China if it is true that it has already overtaken the United States as the first world power, and if so, what´s this new layout going to be like? I don´t know if anyone will never be able to do as bad a job as the United States has done but it's an idea that haunts many people. There are many unresolved questions, almost mythical in the western world. Some create repulsion, like the gastronomic question, "...is it true that they eat cats and dogs?" Other uncertainties like "...are there really so many people?" "...Is it true the phrase 'work as a Chinese' makes a clear statement referring to the situation in which workers live?", and many other questions that assail us when we think of the great Asian. I've not been here long enough to be completely unbiased and clear, but I´m getting a shallow idea of how things work around here. So, I'll try my best to describe my feelings, impressions and experiences here in the 'Chun.

LIE: EVERY LIVING CREATURE IS LIKELY TO BE EATEN

Nor everything that moves is eaten nor people eat dogs in the street, snake eyes, or cow's heart while still alive, nor any such nonsense. It's true dog meat is part of traditional Chinese food, and is usually seen in markets, but these are dogs that have been bred for consumption and have certain characteristics. That is, not everyone eats dog and certainly many people have dogs as pets, which they love and pamper as anyone would do with their pet anywhere in the world. This is simply a cultural issue. I do not say that I like or agree with dog and cat consumption but we must not forget that in France horses are eaten as a delicacy, insects are common in Malaysia, in South Africa they eat porcupines, and some people almost vomited when I told them that in the Canary Islands we eat rabbit! Nothing is black or white. Yellow perhaps.

TRUTH: INTERNET IS LIMITED BY THE GOVERNMENT.

Google exists, but slow and many of the pages to which you are used to search and navigate suddenly "do not exist". YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other pages are quite simply - inaccessible. To write this blog (http://walkaboutseb.blogspot.com.au/) or have any contact with my family and friends I have to "climb over the wall", a term used here to define the use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network), a channeller network which allows you to look into all of these webpages that you are not supposed to. Bless the VPNs.

It seems that all this control led by the Chinese government softened with the Olympic Games in Beijing, but still endures, and does not look like it will change any time soon.

TRUTH: "THEY WORK AS CHINESE"

This is a Spanish expression referring to someone that works hard and long hours.

Children go to school at six thirty in the morning and leave at five in the afternoon, afterwards they head straight to extra-school lessons, go back home, do their homework, and lie flat in bed. During the weekend, they spend the day in educational centers such as the one I work to reinforce things like English, math or language. The day for one of these kids never ends, so as adults is not surprising to see them working from sunrise to sunset. And despite the amount of hours as an average a Chinese person would make about 2000 yuan, while a western teacher makes four times more. True said, the energy input by a Chinese is generally not great, but still doesn´t make me feel good at all.

Long working hours, low wages, but everyone has a job. Communism.

I know that all this is pretty arguable, and I´d love to get some feedback because I know many people would have much to say in this matter. I´m just trying to describe what I'm living.

LIE: THE CHINESE DO NOT RELATE AND MISTRUST WESTERNERS.

I think is quite the opposite. We as westerners know so little about China, its culture and its people that we are afraid even try to make an approach since we don´t know what to talk about. In the short time I've been here, I've found people make a tremendous effort to try to communicate with me, and they apologize for not knowing how to speak English - when it´s me, the whitey from across the pond, the one who should be apologizing. The honesty of these people is overwhelming. Nobody would accept tips in bar and restaurant because it´s dishonest, and I've never felt so safe walking around a city as I have been here in Changchun.

However, it´s true that even if you spent here the rest of your life, Chinese will always consider you a "laowai", you would never be one of them. But that is not distrust, it´s simply the way it is, we are undeniably different, in appearance and way of thinking. So what?

So far, and generally speaking I've had a great time here. Yes we do look different and people stare at you everywhere you go. But that´s part of the beauty of this place, a white person is still unusual. It was really curious to see how many of the children who I teach had never seen a westerner before. Hiding behind the skirts of mothers, looking at me like a being from another galaxy, with fascination and curiosity, without prejudice.

TRUTH: YOU´RE UNDER SURVAILLANCE AT ALL TIMES.

In fact, do not know when I'll be able to publish this post and even if I should.

In order to get a job as a teacher you need to get a title that anyone can get anytime. But to keep this job, you have to smile a lot, not talk about politics or religion with anyone, never question the norm, and never forget the cameras recording you all the time. It may be paranoia, but I know that there have been cases of teachers who tried to interfere in matters "which did not concern them" and have been kindly invited to leave the country and never return. How did they found out that this teacher was talking about stuff he shouldn't have? I'd rather not find out.

LIE: COMMUNISM IS A SOLIDIFIED SYSTEM THAT WILL ENDURE

(This is a very sticky subject and I´d like to stress here that I'm just expressing my ignorant opinion of what I see and hear).

Most Chinese are well aware of their political and economical situation, not necessarily supporting it fully, but the fact is that since 1990 China has only gone in one direction and one direction only, up. There is work for everyone, and that makes people happy. There is still much "Shhhh, someone will hear you!" when criticizing the political system, but the mass seem to be clear: as long as the system continues to develop and grow, everyone has a job and we all got to eat, you can call it Communism, Capitalism, Confucianism or Easter Bunny, we will support.

On the other hand, I wonder: if China has a population of more than 1.3 billion people and, as they say in Europe, the system is horrible, the government has installed a dictatorship blahblahblah, why hasn't there been an uprising? I know Chinese people have always been subjugated either by reigns or systems that don´t resemble somewhat democracy, but still, nobody does anything despite been perfectly aware of what´s outside and how they could "do better"? Could it be the system actually works and it´s in fact good and in the West we do not want to admit it? We have always seemed to know the answers for everything, but, on this one, we stand speechless.

TRUTH: MANNERS ARE NOT THEIR STRENGTH

It's not unusual to see people spitting in the street and to do so make the loudest possible noise, and there is no stereotype of those who do it, everyone´s likely to do it, including beautiful attractive young women, old countrymen and suit and tie gentlemen. It does seem though that the young generation don't, or at least not so much. Apparently the government is launching major campaigns to help stop this custom, its effectiveness it´s still to be proven. Nor is there much courtesy when making a queue. It is the law of the jungle, the first to gets on the bus makes sure everyone stays behind, while the rest try to sneak in by pushing and shoving, even though the bus is empty and there´s plenty of room for everyone. The issue of driving deserves a whole different chapter, maybe even a book. Cars coming and going from all directions, horns and whistles, insults, stares that would kill... and in that great chaos that arises every day, a pattern also emerges, and after a while everything dissolves, everyone finds his destination and no one owes nothing to anyone or develops into physical confrontations. It reminds me of the documentaries I watched as a kid of the gorillas beating their chests to impress and intimidate, and then, a minute later they are all eating leaves with the "enemy" indifferently.

TRUTH: CHINA IS OVERPOPULATED.

Vastly overpopulated, China has been facing several problems due to this overpopulation for many years due to its unstoppable growth. Firstly, many mouths to feed. This is a widely debated topic in which I will not get into but I would like to point out that the "one child policy" seems to make a lot of sense when you're here. Changchun, the city where I currently live, is considered a small city compared to others, and still has 7 million souls! It is a tricky issue and I'm not the most suitable person to judge it but, as they say, you have to experience it to understand it. The second huge problem that China has now is pollution. The use of masks is more than advisable to citizens, but the unstoppable economic growth is sufficient excuse for not accepting laws that detriment this growth. Laws so obvious and essential to the Western world like recycling or stabilizing the CO2 emissions in the atmosphere are totally left in the background.

For now it seems that everything I was told, heard or read about China was a half-truth or a total lie, due to the ignorance and maybe fear from the western media. I'm obviously looking at this from a limited spectrum, without sufficient knowledge to be a fair judge. And I haven´t been long enough here either, but that´s why I have this blog, to write and describe what I see, to make mistakes and assumptions and be corrected, and, ultimately, to never stop learning from this world and everything that still has to offer.

This article was originally published in Spanish Language by Sebi McLean (yes! his spanish is perfect) in his personal blog http://walkaboutseb.blogspot.com.au

Sebi is a very prolific blogger and Photographer who enjoys travelling, reading and egg tarts!.

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