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September 9th, 2010

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10:51 pm - Contemplations from my trip to Beijing
 So it's been awhile since I've posted anything substantial, thought I'd give an update on things are going.

Recently I took a trip to Beijing (over 2 weeks ago now...wow time flies) and I never got around to making some notes about the trip or post any photos.  I didn't take too many pictures, it was hot and muggy over there leaving little desire to goof around in front of the camera, but I managed to snap a few anyway;

At Fukuoka Airport with my suitcase.  I left the Canada tag on because...well I'm Canadian after all :D

At the Olympic Stadium (Bird's Nest) and Water Cube.  There were sooooooo many people and it was all concrete >__<  Whoever designed the area didn't really think things through...and honestly...the first time I saw the Bird's Nest I though it was still under construction because...well just look at it!  Of all the beautiful building designs from China's vast history, who in the world came up with this one for the realization of a century old dream -__-;;

Eating Peking Duck with my 2 cousins.  Skin and bones they are OTL  I feel so chubby next to them  >__<  It's funny but even in Japan where the ratio of the skinny vs. the overweight are significantly different than that of Canada I don't feel that pressured to lose weight (though sometimes clothes shopping does), but in China I was there for just a week and I felt...like weight was such a huge issue.

And now for my analysis...

The last time I went to China was in summer 2005 for 2 months.  On that trip I went to Beijing, Shanghai,  Baotou (in Inner Mongolia), Nanjing, Suzhou and Hangzhou.  On this trip, I was insanely excited to finally be going back again.  In 2005 I went back to see family and as a graduation trip before I headed to university, but this time, after the 2008 Olympics, the fiasco that surrounded that, the Wenchuan earthquake and a slew of other things my feelings for the country had swelled quite a bit.  Unfortunately, what I experienced in Beijing left me...shall with say with more food for thought than I would have preferred.

The trip didn't start off too well.  The flight was delayed for 5 hours due to a heavy thunderstorm in Dalian where we had to make a layover and so I arrived at midnight instead of in the evening as initially planned.  My first impression upon landing in Beijing was "wtf is up with this...fog?".  Usually when a plane is around 20 minutes from landing you can see the lights, especially if it's a big city.  I was expecting that from Beijing but instead I didn't see any lights until we were minutes from touching ground.  I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what was the cause but pushed it to the back of my mind since I didn't want to believe what all those critics of China's development was saying was true.  My first impression upon exiting the airport was "holy hell, it is hot here".  Even though temperature wise Fukuoka and Nagasaki were both hotter than Beijing, the big city felt about twice as hot and much more suffocating.  Once again I noticed the heavy fog and I think it was the first time in my life my jaw almost literally dropped at how heavy it was.  You hear of smog in big cities sure, but usually once you're there you can't actually see the difference, but Beijing was quite different.  The smog was so thick that it actually impeded my sight and I couldn't see buildings or lights that were further away.  The second thing I noticed was the honking of the car horns which you almost never hear in Japan (or in Canada for that matter, though I guess big cities might be different).  They were honking almost non-stop.

For much of my trip I couldn't shake my disappointment at how much the city's environment had deteriorated even given the short time between my last trip there and this time.  Some days it was a little better visibility wise and my father told me that even though smog was a factor, that season didn't help, but then I don't understand why Fukuoka and Nagasaki both had weathers so similar to Beijing and yet the smog was absent.  To me, it seemed like the city was unsuitable for residential purposes at all.  I felt icky just leaving the house because you're basically walking through this layer of pollution. 

Another thing I noticed was the vast difference between the attitude of the Chinese and Japanese.  Granted it's hard to say if one's better than another, but I have to admit the Japanese seem a lot more polite in my opinion (though maybe the fact I can't speak Japanese and so the novelty of me being a foreigner here may help with that).  But it's not just in how they treat other people though.  Common courtesy and public etiquette still needs a lot more developing in China it seems.  Tossing garbage on the floor, speaking loudly in public places, taking pictures with flash in museums when the sign asks one to refrain from doing so, heck there was even a guy that had the nerve to answer his cell phone in the movie theatre when I went to catch a show with my cousins.  I had never witnessed such a blatant display of disregard of others in Canada or in Japan.  Here in Japan people almost never eat or drink as they walk because it's considered rude and I used to think it was excessive as even I like to grab a bite on the go when I'm in a hurry.  In the case of China though, I think that habit may be a beneficial one to adopt.  I noticed Chinese people seem to like bringing food with them everywhere.  To the zoo, to the museums, on the subway, everywhere, and for some reason they seem to like bringing fruits.  Great for the body, bad for leaving a clean environment when kids rub icky hands on walls and leave fruit pits lying around.  

I love China.  It's my homeland, and I am proud of its history, culture and traditions.  For those that know me well you know I am the first to cheer on China's development and come to her defense when she gets attacked by those who either misunderstand her or simply dislike her.  This trip, however, broke a lot of my over-romanticized views regarding her development.  I knew large cities faced increasingly urgent problems regarding pollution, I knew the issue of the rich-poor gap loomed over the country becoming ever more dire, but I didn't realize how bad these problems were or of the many other issues that face the country's development outside of wealthy alone.  It pains me to say this but I wouldn't want to live in Beijing, not because of a lack of material goods, I can get almost anything I want in Beijing as I can in Japan or in Canada, but having to live with drivers that don't stop for pedestrians, shop clerks that treat you as if they're doing you a favour, pushing and shoving in public places, yelling and screaming with the shop clerks to try and get a lowest price on a dress when you just wanted to go on an enjoyable shopping trip, all these little things that usually I take for granted but when suddenly they're all gone I realize how important they are to make one go through a day with a smile on one's face instead of constantly glaring and snipping leaving your fuse short and your temper burning.

I don't know how China can overcome those problems, if it can at all.  I honestly think at this point a lot of it has to do with culture which can't be forcibly changed or done so in a short period of time.  It seems like giving the people material goods isn't so difficult, but creating a truly harmonious society requires so much more.  I do want to visit again, maybe in Spring next time to escape the heat, but the fuss everyone in my family kicks up when I go back makes me feel almost bad for visiting because it seems like they put everything else on hold to come accompany me to the parks or whatnot (even though I tell them I didn't really want to sightsee anyway and just wanted to see everyone in the family).  It also irks me they never let me use my own money  OTL My dad told me I can use his money and even though I was hesitant I ok'ed it since, heck, he's my dad and I guess given all the money my mom's poured on me over the years it's kind of his turn.  But then when I go out with my aunts or uncles of cousins they don't even let me use my dad's money, instead insisting on paying for me.  For someone who's usually quite a stickler about paying for herself that's really...discomforting and it makes me feel hesitant to open my mouth and express my like for something in stores because I don't want them to have to keep buying stuff for me (especially considering I make considerably more than them given the exchange rate).  Maybe I'm just not used to this whole "family" thing...I mean for most of my life the only family that I've been in consistent, regular and close contact with is my mom, so I know her personality, her character and she knows mine, but then all the rest of them I see when I visit in Beijing I know so little about them.  They want to be nice to me, I want to be nice to them, but family aren't always so nice, they bicker, they yell, they laugh, they cry, they're the people you can show all sides to and yet with them I tell less to than most of my friends.  It was interesting though how with the one cousin who I could speak in English to I opened up a lot more.  I guess I operate much more comfortably in English than in Chinese though I can communicate in Chinese with little problem.  It helped that she is about my age so we can talk about things we have in common.

Anyway, after all that griping, I look forward to visiting again, and I hope with each of my visits I see the city improve more and more so that China can one day truly become a developed country in the sense of both material wealth and spirituality for her people (though not in the sense of Americanized developed since that would destroy the Earth...because if China were to follow that path I believe the calculation was we need 5 Earths for every Chinese to obtain a living standard similar to that of Americans?)

On another note, Takarazuka's Hanagumi is COMING TO NAGASAKI!!!  In December :DDDDDDDD  You have no idea how HAPPY I am!!!!   I believe I'm going with one of my students since she's also a fan.  OMGOMGOMGOMG...I'm going to see Takarazuka LIVE IN ACTION!!!!

P.S.  I dropped my 1TB external harddrive and now it's making funky noises whenever I try to start it up...uh oh...there goes almost 800GB of shows I had downloaded TAT

P.P.S.  I really need to move my a** along on my fanfic that I haven't updated in...months.  I really want to finish this one since it's special to me but dammit....I don't know how to write the next chapter >__<;;

P.P.P.S. (does that exist?)  A plane ticket for New Years from Fukuoka to Toronto is almost $2000 O___O;;  Holy hell....I guess I better decide if I'm going back for New Years vacation or not and get that ticket booked before the price jacks up higher (why is a ticket from Toronto to Fukuoka only $1400 or even $1100 for the lowest one I found?  It's the same freaking distance, just the different direction D: )

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:September 9th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
I want to finish the fanfic sooooooooo badly ;O; But like...I'm super stuck. I'm contemplating skipping ahead a couple hundred years and just diving into contemporary history where I'm on more familiar footing and then later going back to fill in the time gap if needed...RAWR...
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:September 9th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)

Re: -calls forth rochu icon-

This fic's been like...a year long XDD I distinctly remember writing it in September last year and now a year later I'm still at it OTL
Date:September 12th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
I know how you feel, the last time I went to china was ? 8 years ago, and just going again recently was such a culture shock. Especially in beijing, where I pretty much threw up every meal I ate (although they were damn delicious going down), and the pollution was so tangible it stuck to your skin and clothes. I said this to another friend, but no matter how much I can ignore the downs and appreciate the ups, I find personal interaction much too repulsive to ever live there.
Date:September 20th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
I haven't been to Beijing in a long time, so I can't say much for that. But I go to Shanghai every year, and for that city, I can pretty confidently say that I didn't think the pollution levels there were any worse than LA's (Although the 70% humidity is killer). I think it's because it rains a lot in Shanghai though.

Derp. Also, I remember that the department stores in Shanghai were pretty much like those in America, only there were more people helping you find things? Street vendors and such are loud, and the haggling is loud too, but it honestly seems like when the two haggle, they get all buddy-buddy with each other, though it seems to be a little exclusive to when two people can speak the Shanghai dialect together. I mean when I see my parents haggle, they start to laugh and smile, as do the vendors themselves.

The garbage on the streets seems to be ubiquitous though.
[User Picture]
Date:September 20th, 2010 05:57 am (UTC)
I've never been to LA and the biggest city in Canada I got to regularly is Toronto, but Toronto, as bad as it can get in the summer, is nowhere near as smoggy as Beijing was.

The store in Beijing are very similar to the stores in other cities in Canada or here in Japan, the attitude of the sales clerks, however, varies greatly. Whereas in Beijing a lot of the sales clerks frown and have this attitude where you're bothering them by shopping in their store, most of the clerks in Canada and Japan I find are friendly and greet you with a smile. That's not to say no clerks in Beijing are friendly, some are very pleasant but the chances of meeting one that makes your shopping a pain is quite high.

As for the haggling, while it may be fun and entertaining for locals, I personally dislike it quite a bit. To me, on my shopping trips, I don't want to waste time having to haggle, there's a reason why it's called haggling and I dislike it. Even though I was on vacation, I don't want to waste 20 minutes in a store bickering back and forth about the price of a shirt which, in my head once I do the currency exchange, isn't that expensive to begin with. Worse still is that I'm usually the one standing around twiddling her thumb while the relatives haggle, leaving me feeling even worse for using my relatives money. I'm not looking to become friends with a sales clerk, I want to go, get what I want or need and leave, simple, easy, fast, not budget my monthly spendings depending on how well my haggling skills are.

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