The first 5 days of the walkabout have been quite busy. Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Great Wall of China, Chinese bathrooms (if you can call them that), roulette walk/flirt with death while crossing Chinese streets, “Yi ge latte. Da. Yao re” = “1 latte. big. want hot” from Starbucks, a woman yelling yoga poses at me in Chinese, Kung Fu show, and of course “fog”…. a.k.a pollution.
To begin with, no one under the age of 30 here really knows what happened in Tiananmen Square. It’s as if the government has washed it from history and the fear of punishment is so great, no one over the age of 30 speaks of it. Unfortunately I’m still in China and unless I want to end up in some Chinese jail until I’m 50, I’ll just say Wikipedia it. The Chinese web-blocking won’t let me do it for you. The Forbidden City was just that, forbidden to anyone but higher-ups and of course the Emperor and changed hands numerous times throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Beautiful to see, however my favorite part was where they “celebrate Communism, paid for my Capitalism” but then try to cover it up. Look closely in the picture I attached and you’ll notice something they’ve tried to hide. All of the information plaques inside the Forbidden City say “Made possible by American Express Company”, but at the bottom the city has painted over them. Hmm.
I don’t even know where to begin on Chinese bathrooms. As per the picture, “4-Star Toilet”… which basically means, no toilet paper (they don’t even offer it), 1/2 stalls so that you can carry on a conversation with the person next to you while looking in their eyes (very kind of them to think of that) and no doors. Did I mention most of the people here have no concept of personal space? A woman literally hovered over me…talk about stage fright. As much as I know you want to hear me talk about toilets, I simply offer these words of wisdom. Dehydration is your friend.
I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed some parts of Chinese culture however. The food is amazing, lots of spices and delicious noodles. Although, we’re about to head on the road so I’m sure I may be singing a different tune once we get into the smaller towns. I’ll have to get back to you on that one. I also enjoy the sense of “living on the edge” the Chinese embrace daily. Like every time you cross the street and take your own life in your hands. No rules, traffic lights don’t matter, people, bikes, rickshaws, tuk tuks (a covered rickshaw on a bike with a scooter engine attached), cars and of course crazy taxi drivers in every direction. Oh, that road says one-way, that’s just a suggestion. So if you like adrenaline, this is the place for you.
As of tomorrow I’m hitting the road and heading south towards Nanjing. “Bei” is North, “Nan” is South, so Beijing means Northern Capital, and Nanjing means Southern Capital. How clever.
I know I’ve mentioned a lot of funny, slightly negative aspects of China, but I must say, I’m in awe every time I venture out. It’s simply a different world. It’s so strange to see the many similarities between our cultures, and then all the sudden, you’re blown away by the simplest yet completely opposite way that they view the world here. If you get a chance, Beijing is only a 18 hour plane ride away, and at least you know how to order a latte now.
Zai Jian! (meet again)