Saturday, May 31, 2008

The New Normal

There are ten American college students on campus studying Chinese for six weeks. (I'm not the only Caucasian face on campus anymore. I was sorta liking my honor of distinction!) I was speaking to two of the young men last week and they were telling me of something they found absolutely incredulous of the Chinese/China. I just shrugged and said "That's China". It reminded me of just how far we have come since we arrived ten months ago. I read somewhere this advice regarding living in a new place: take a picture of the extraordinary before it becomes the ordinary. Here's a sampling of our "ordinary". It's not that we like or agree on everything, but that it's not a shock to the system any more.

  • people and more people everywhere
  • not thinking twice to walk in front of a moving bus to cross the street
  • drivers never yield to pedestrians - just sound the horn!
  • cars, scooters, bikes parked anywhere - on sidewalks, blocking entrances, for example
  • being stared at and kids yelling "helllooo"
  • scooters, bicycles and carts loaded up high with anything imaginable - dozens of boxes of shoes, appliances, furniture, crates of live chickens, etc.
  • sharing a bus ride with said chickens and ducks (dead or alive) and rabbits, pigeons, etc.
  • squat potties and BYOT - bring your own tissue and hold thy nose
  • the kids playing "bus" with a shoe box. They discuss bus routes ("Let's take 98! No, number 111 will get us there faster!") and their "friends" embark and disembark at various stops along the route. Can you imagine this happening in Michigan?!
  • turning on the hot water in the kitchen first, if we want hot water in the bathroom
  • cooking on a two burner stove and only having one pot and one pan
  • being able to read very little and understanding spoken Chinese even less
  • the increased frequency of C. & E. speaking Chinese among themselves
  • eating every meal with chopsticks (Last week we had to reteach E. how to use a fork.)
  • the itsy-bitsy teeny tiny sizes of packaged goods, counter/table heights and the majority of the population
And many, many more! In about three weeks, we will be adjusting to the "new old normal". I think we'll be in constant awe for a bit.

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