Friday, February 02, 2007

Change of Plans

I have decided to make an emergency run home during my one month winter break. I need to meet with the professors at next year's school options, get out of the country, and see my people. I need a hug and, most importantly, a burrito!

I hope the following isn't misunderstood, and doesn't offend. Much of it is generalizations that should perhaps be more carefully qualified. I have a corresponding list in progress of things I like about living in China, but I'm pretty sure I will have an easier time thinking of those things when I'm in California. (The grass is always greener.) You can expect to see that list in a month or so. What is more relevant at the moment is my list of things I don't like about living in China:

  • I have no peer group. I have only weak social groups. I have no roommates. I miss human contact.
  • I have had very little time to practice Chinese. Relatively little context to speak, and for much of the semester I was too busy to study.
  • I also managed to not do any other things I had hoped to explore here, like classical painting, martial arts, ancient Buddhism or Daoism.
  • There are very few natural areas to visit. The roads are paved, the fields are plowed under (though mostly by hand), the lakes are artificial, and the rivers are polluted.
  • The historical sites are reconstructions, with almost nothing remaining more than 20 years old.
  • The assumption that dating Chinese women is a high priority for me, even a major reason for coming here. I can understand why this stereotype exists, since there are a lot of single men who come here as teachers or on business, and many of them do have Chinese girlfriends. And some of them, even one I know, have dislikable attitudes towards Chinese women. The effect is that I, as a representative white male American, am assumed to have similar intentions. The combination of that and being an exotic species makes me the object of some somewhat annoying attention, and some dislike.
  • The media control is real, with pretty limited variety on TV. The news seems to be even less trustworthy than Fox or BBC Science. (And much less sensational/interesting).
  • The nationalism and patriotism turn up in surprising places. It's sometimes just quaint, but other times like fingernails on a chalkboard. As far as I can tell, there is no stigma against nationalism. (Contrast this to Mexico City, where the relevant question being discussed was "Is nationalism ever a good thing?" if I remember correctly.)
  • People assume that I like Bush and his policies, and that I'm nationalistic too.
  • The Great Firewall blocks a lot of content: wikipedia, many blog and website hosts, many news sources, and many random pages. And it dramatically slows down international traffic too. It makes it harder to connect with friends and family in the States, read different perspectives on the news, and read academic articles. The internet connection is pretty poor when school is in session, and really bad in the evening.
I'm hoping I will be able to make some changes on some of these points next semester, and getting out of the country will help refresh my memory of what I do like about being here.


Anonymous said...

thinking that it will be more proper for me to hold my tongue right now