Saturday, May 24, 2008


tear them at the seams,
when a river becomes a thousand streams

It's unusual to meet a young Chinese person who doesn't dream of travelling abroad. Many of them have very vivid ideas of where they want to go. Last night, I went to my colleagues house to join her family for a meal (my first taste of homecooking here in Longchuan, and so far the only meal I've finished). The young members of the family all knew which country they wanted to go to, and I had to break the news to them that the world outside of China has more than one language (I subsequently taught bonjour, ola and Guten Tag).

On the way home, I stopped in an Internet Bar. I quickly get bored of polite company, and find that cretins shouting "hello" and kids watching you type as if its a spectator sport is a small price to pay for the authenticity of Internet Bars. I simultaneously held several conversations on the Chinese-language equivalent of MSN: QQ.

In one of the conversations, I faced the eventuality of telling a 20 year-old Student that I couldn't become her boyfriend, and although it was very brave of her to ask, it would be a bad idea from her point of view.

The contrast between people who yell across the street at foreigners, or treat us as objects with which to impress their friends, and those who have the courage and dignity to interact with us is always unmistakeable.

I asked her why she was so enamoured with somebody she barely knew just because I'm foreign. She said (implied) that her dream was to travel abroad, and unable to actively use English to interact, she could never make that come true unless she found a foreigner to do it for her.

I teach at two Middle-Schools, where most of the Students are between 16 and 20 and the Schools are on either side of the proverbial tracks. The girl in question is fro the wrong side. It seems to be a Universal problem, convincing people that go to lesser institutions that they're not stupid, and they- fuelled by the kind of self-reliance and self-belief that they don't teach at school - can contribute as much of value to the world as anybody else.

Last week, I spent a horrible four days in Hong Kong whilst trying to renew my Visa. During the day, the only helpful strangers I met were the Indian guys who sell things on the Street. They stand there, from early in the morning, until late at night, regardless of the weather, never letting their standard of courtesy slip.

The human touch can often be missing when interacting with people in China, and it can be found where you least expect it.

This post doesn't really have a point. It's just that I'm building up a hearty admiration for one type of person - those who take their ambitions into their own hands and don't let reasons become excuses. And a distaste for another - those cold and timid souls who can only greet strangers from across the street.

That might be a very trite way to conclude, but if it's true then it's only half a cliche

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