Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Tomorrow I have a xingqikaoshi. What does that mean? It means slap-you-in-the-face midterm. Which makes me bitter about Chinese. Which makes the following post, a compilation of things that frustrate me about good ol' Zhongguo, seem appropriate. Perhaps on a more jolly day when I dont have a massive kaoshi or a bu hao bing, I'll post the list of happy, interesting observations. Hopefully you'll be able to see the humor as well as the rage in most of these. So, in no particular order, here we go:
(P.S. requests for pictures of any of these things could most likely be provided)

Trench toilets
-The squatting toilets I can deal with. They’re in my dorms; I’ve learned to deal. It’s the wall less trenches where the scary Chinese lady squatting next to you stares at the white person the whole time that freaks me out. Damn my bladder. I now rate bathrooms on a star scale, and get really exciting about a 5 star (meaning, a western toilet with toilet paper, soap AND running water) and no longer fear the 5 black stars (black means negative; also usually means trench with no walls or water running through it).

-Seriously? Sometimes I just don’t have the bag space for a roll of TP.

Syrupy honey
-Honey is runny. That rhymes. It also means that it’s difficult and quite messy to spread on toast.

No ethnic food
-Unless you count KFC, it’s pretty much Chinese or nothing. A little Korean, but good luck finding anything outside of the East Asian area. How I miss you, Greek, Mexican and Ethiopian!

No tap water usage
-To many chemicals. Avoid it for all but the briefest usage, unless you’re into mutation.

Going bald
-I’m also attributing the chemicals in the tap water with making me go bald. Showers seem to be unavoidable.

75 words a night
-It’s really just a lot of words to learn. Good think every Chinese person I meet thinks flashcards are incredibly amazing and that I have invented the most creative thing since sliced bread.

Hand washing
-People in China hand wash their clothes every night after they wear them. They never have more than one outfit hanging on the line. When I hang up my load of laundry every two weeks (i.e. everything I own) my roommate lets out this horrific sigh and goes “ahhhhh hen duo yi fu!” as though she’s judging me for my American excessiveness, when really, she has more clothes than I do, she just doesn’t put them on display.

No socks
-There is no such thing as normal athletic socks in China. You have a lovely choice between dress socks of all colors, knee-highs, or super expensive above the ankle numbers, often made by Pepsi.

No reeses cups
-Really. Not anywhere. I’m dying here.

Sporadic hot water
-Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. If you’re lucky enough to have it, expect it to fluctuate between scalding and freezing, with a few blissful seconds in-between.

-’Nough said. I have the black lung.

Language partners
-Since I’m white, I literally can’t even walk down the street without people asking me to be their language partner. Everyone is desperate to learn English. If you make the mistake of giving away your contact info, expect hourly texts accompanied by the following: :) , : D, ;) etc.

The subway card refill machine
-HOW THE HELL DOES THIS MACHINE WORK!? All I want is to put money on my card. I try and I try and it will not work. The fuyuan will not help. Please, God, someone show me what buttons to push!

The post office stamp debacle
-Walk into the post office. See 3 counters. None are labeled stamps. Ask attendant “where can I buy stamps.” Sigh of anger. “I guess you can do it here” (I have never managed to pick the correct counter – apparently). “Give me $X and your letters.” I have never seen the stamps. They do it for me every time. And I think they’re overcharging. I just want some damn stamps.

-All among the sites that the Chairman doesn’t want me to see. I guess they might corrupt my thinking. Yes, this includes this blog (I hope it’s pretty!)

-Big tests. Friday mornings – 8am

-Medium tests. Every morning – 8am

White people tax
-I’m white, therefore I must not speak Chinese (this assumption is even made when I’m speaking it), and thus I ought to pay more.

-Hocking a lugie is perfectly acceptable behavior, be you man or woman, old or young, inside or outside.

Juvenile behavior
-Sideline off the last point and segway into the next: everyone in china is perpetually stuck in junior high. I literally would not be surprised if someone pulled my hair and made a fart joke on the bus.

Anti-queue/line up day (the 11th)
-On the 11th of every month China has instituted a wonderful holiday called “paidui” – line up day (get it? the 11 looks like people lined up – the communists are so clever). Anyways, they have this lovely holiday because China doesn’t know what it means to line up. Queuing simply does not exist. There are mobs everywhere: at checkouts, at banks, to get on the bus, at intersections (in their cars) etc etc. In the subways they’ve painted lines to illustrate where you should line up and where you should wait for people to get off, but no one follows them. No one even lines up on line up day. This means that you can’t get off the subway when you want to, and you WILL get cut in line when you’re paying for something. Be aggressive.

Padded tiny bras
-There are no bras in china above a B cup or without excessive padding. None. I suppose this makes sense, but it’s unfair to the foreigners. Also a good oxymoron: the Hooters over in chaoyang.

Pantless children peeing in the streets
-Children in china either don’t wear pants, or their pants don’t have crotches. This is because when they have to pee, they just squat where they are, be it a back alley or the middle of Tiananmen square. Public street peeing in incredibly unhygienic, incredibly prevalent and incredibly acceptable.

No heat, yet windows open
-For reasons I have yet to figure out, many buildings here have no heat, yet perpetually leave the windows open – even when the thermometer says 7 degrees on it. I attribute this practice of my roommates to the deathly illness I currently have.

400000 incomprehensible busses
-There are bazillions of busses here. The routes do not make sense. You must be fluent to read the signs. There IS NO WAY to determine which bus you ought to take. You simply must know it. All the Beijingers do. (Luckily, they are quite giving with this information).

Buying something in a dept. store (receipts)
-This is an extreme production that I think I talked about earlier. At the counter where you select something you are handed a receipt. You then walk over to another counter to pay where you are handed another receipt. You then go to a third counter where you pay the remainder of your item’s balance. You are handed another receipt. Some places have yet another counter, but at most you are now allowed to return to the original counter where your receipt is scrupulously examined and you are finally given your item.

Posted signs: Chinese :: cockney: English
-It’s another language. Words mean drastically different things. It could be a cockney like rhyming scheme. I think it’s more of a sounds sorta kinda like that and starts with the same letter scheme. Regardless, reading signs is hopeless.

-All dorms have them. They lock the doors (with bike locks) at 11 on the weekends and 12 on the weekends (although I’m told that my dorm is open later than most because they know foreigners who like to stay out late live there). This is a pretty much citywide observed rule though. The only people out past midnight are usually not Asian. If they are, they’re in KTV (karaoke) where they’ve reserved a room for the night and do not plan to return to their dorms till they reopen at 6.

Counterfeit money
-It’s everywhere, and it’s a cruel cruel thing indeed.

No personal space
-If you come to china, expect to give up any love you may have for your bubble. People will stand uncomfortable close to you at all times – even if the crowd doesn’t require it. You will cuddle penguin style on busses. Chinese people will sit in your lap and laugh at your character writing. These same people might also force feed you fruit and ask to be a language partner.

Missing address numbers
-Address numbers don’t exist. I may have the correct address, but I will not find it, because who knows if I’m at the #5 end or the #2780 end of the block? Good luck to you, intrepid person with a plan.

Clothing: bedazzled and petite
-I cannot shop here because finding something in my size and/or finding something that is not bedazzled/sparkly/bright pink/covered in feathers/cutesy/or any other number of tacky adjectives is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Chinese class starts at 10
-All full time Chinese college students start their classes no earlier than 10. I have 8 ams every day. Chinese students also start their college careers by taking a test that determines their school and major; the school then chooses their schedules. They do nothing but go with the flow.

Coffee is a myth
-It’s true. Instant coffee exists, but is expensive. Real coffee is supremely steep and must be purchased at a place such at Starbucks. The coffee shop is an elusive mirage that I will never find and never study in.

This list could so easily be continued, but then I'd be failing tomorrow's midterm. Hope everyone else is surviving midterm season rage free.


P.S. Tomorrow evening I go to Shaolin with my Kung Fu instructor for the weekend. I'm gonna beat up some monks.

1 comment:

  1. THIS POST MAKES MY LIFE. And I can relate to every single one of those...minus the being white. Though who am I kidding...I grew up in Sudbury.

    I LOVE YOU and miss you.