The past few days have been really difficult, in part because I’ve been dealing with more computer problems, and in part because I’m beginning to feel a little lost in this culture.  There are plenty of Chinese students here who are dieing to help me with any thing I need, but so far the relationships are only skin deep. This has to do with the language barrier, the cultural barrier, and not to mention the fact that I’m the new kid on campus.  It’s tough to be the newbie anywhere, but it makes it twice (thrice?) as hard when there’s a language barrier and an ocean between our cultures.  It’s more or less the same story with the Korean students living in my building.  While they are very friendly, especially my roommate Fang, they speak little English, and all of them went to school together back in Korea so they already have their own network of friends and little reason, other than compassion I suppose, to include me.  I find myself jealous of their camaraderie, thinking a lot about my own friends back in the states.  I spent the weekends there in perpetual party mode, going out for dinner, seeing bands in town, taking the weekend to go fishing.  I fear that my weekends here will largely be spent alone, at least until I can meet more people and develop more meaningful relationships.

Fear not for my mental health though Otherside readers.  I’ve taken to going on long bike rides around the city and found that the exercise and the shear spectacle of it all do me a good deal of good.  This culture truly is fascinating to me, and even the smallest things still amaze me.  For instance, it is common to see Chinese people squatting in the catcher’s position on the sidewalk while they have a quick smoke or while waiting for a light to change.  The inquisitive part of me wants to ask, why do they do that? But like so many things in this culture, I doubt that I will ever have a fully satisfactory answer, and I will most likely have to go by my own conjectures.  I suppose that it’s a way of resting one’s legs and at the same time avoiding dirtying one’s clothes.  China is a very dusty country.  It seems like no matter where you go, indoors or out, any hard surface left by the wayside for any amount of time collects dust like flies on tar paper.  The streets are also very dirty, as Chinese people tend to use the ground as a universal trash can, ashtray, and sometimes even a toilette.  Little children are free to relieve themselves on the sidewalk.  People also like to spit a lot here, beginning each day with a good long hard nasal tug and hocking out a large lump of snot.  At the dinner table, scraps of food and bits of used napkins are simply tossed on the floor and swept up at the end of the meal, which is the main reason why Chinese homes rarely have wood floors. The ground is the dirtiest place in China, especially in the bathrooms, and that’s why Chinese people have a pile of slippers waiting by the entrance of each home.  God knows what’s on the souls of your shoes after a day of walking in the streets, but you certainly don’t want to be tracking it into your home.

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