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June 06, 2005

China, or Boy there sure are a lot of Chinese people here!

That's one of the first things Jason and I thought when we went to Hong Kong, but it holds true for China.

My first impressions are: ain't as bad as I thought it would be! China is actually turning out to be a real adventure. Lots of cultural experiences.

We've been in China for almost a week. We spent the first three days in Guangzhou (more famously known as Canton) and we've been in Guilin for three days. We've been slowly getting used to Chinese ways of living for the past month, so it's not been a complete surprise, but many things are different from other places we have been.

So, I present a topical list of things Jason and I have been thinking about China...

* Where is the internet? It's difficult to find internet cafes here. You mostly have to make do with the hotel's expensive internet access. Many sites are blocked and access is slow. Whatever proxy we're being sent through is slow, overburdened and seems to just drop connections. We cannot get to Yahoo! news, Yahoo!'s main page and I often have trouble signing out of my Yahoo email account.

* People are sweatin' again: In SE Asia it was devilishly hot. Strangely enough, no one seemed to sweat but the white face. And we sweated a lot and got red in the face. Finally, we have found a like-sweating (?) people -- Chinese people get hot. One funny thing men do here is lift up their shirt to cool their belly. Jason does not have the confidence to carry off this look. Women and old men here carry fans around with them and use them often. Men use the "cooling the belly" method mostly.

* The reappearance of shoes: Starting from India, we rarely saw the average Joe in shoes. Most wore cheap flip-flops: did construction work in flip-flops, climbed mountains in flimsy flip-flops, constantly took flip-flops off in stores and hotels and temples. Jason and I bought some and never wore shoes, except when walking around some nasty areas in India. In fact, I got rid of my hiking shoes. Starting from Singapore and Chinese-influenced Malaysia, the shoe has made a comeback. I once saw someone in Hong Kong wearing Teva-like sandals -- finally, a casual fellow! Then I noticed the last three toes on his foot were injured. Chinese men favor black leather dress shoes with dark socks, even with shorts. Women wear ballet shoes or dressy heels.

* Are Chinese friendly or unfriendly? Generally, I'd say friendly. They are not shy at all. Folks are about as bold as Egyptians, that way. It's nice. Folks add up my bill for me, tell me how to eat food, pantomime other helpful cultural tips. Jason and I are the life of the restaurant! Folks point and chuckle at us when we're eating. We are watched like zoo animals. Right now we think this is pretty funny.

* Bigger is better: Things in China are BIG. Big restaurants, big hotels. The hotels and restaurants are shabby, but they are big. It seems like the goal of every restauranteur (?) to seat one thousand people, ever hotelier to house three thousand tourists. Restaurants are doing a good job of filling in the empty tables. Hotels are generally empty. Chinese restaurants have no atmosphere and are not a place to have a quiet, romantic dinner. I've never seen such huge fast food joints, either. Busy, busy places. McDonald's enforces queueing. At KFC, it's every man for himself. I rather enjoy elbowing past adults and children. Gimme my chicken!!

* Practicing "Putonghwa", or Mandarin: Hardly anyone speaks English here, so I get many chances to use the phrasebook. Today I said my first full phrase in Mandarin, "Bring the bill, please". I was very pleased when the waitress understood me the first time I said that. Mandarin is a tonal language and has some strange sounds (besides tones) that are hard for English speakers to make.

* Food is pretty good. I used to really hate Chinese food. I'd go sometimes, but only for lunch since the food was generally bad in the area around my work. MSG, grease, gross meat, yuk, yuk. BUT, Chinese food is better in China. Still not my favorite, but 2 meals is do-able. Decent-looking Western restaurants outside of McDonald's and KFC just don't exist. Tonight Jason and I ate Korean food. heh, heh. For the past week, we've been eating dim sum. 'Course, no one knows what that word is here -- "yum cha" is the phrase for that kind of eating.

Posted by Cathy on June 6, 2005 04:27 AM

Sounds like fun in the "Land of People". Just one question....How was that Korean food and do you know what it was? Korean's love dog for dinner you know. Really, it's not bad if you don't think about it to hard. Have fun! woof...woof...

Posted by: Kraston & Alice on June 6, 2005 10:41 AM


Posted by: Cousin Holly on June 6, 2005 02:51 PM

heh. We had bi-bim-bap at the Korean restaurant. Your post reminds me of a funny story about horse meat. See my next entry.

Posted by: Cathy on June 7, 2005 07:05 AM
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