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Published: March 9th 2006
Twilight near Guilin
hour by hour, the sun provides new perspectives
There is a difference in visiting China as a member of a pre-planed tour-group, in a luxurious Mercedes Bus, while enjoying the comfort of Western-style hotels, and visiting China independently, contracted to teach for a year. The challenges are beginning to give me some thought. Having observed the extreme differences between Western life and Western customs from that of China, some observations and questions might be in order:
Knowing only a few words of Chinese will envelop a whole host of challenges, especially in a smaller city like Taizhou. Unlike Shanghai or Hong Kong, only Chinese-characters and sounds provide information outside these large cities. From searching out transportation to the selection of daily meals, everyday chores should provide a host of new journal material. Unfortunately, it also conveys limitations, and it challenges personal independence. No doubt, this obstacle will be formidable. I wonder, how I will perceive this hurdle over time.
As in my last visit, I look forward to loosing some pounds. The variety of culinary choices have limitations in a smaller city, though they are often more exotic. Though I did not have to deal with the "exotic meats" of the south, except for
The sun has set
Lights begin to bath the city of Guilin
some horse meat, I found vegetables in sufficient quantities and flavors to satisfy me. It will be a long time before I forget the "huge" turtle, displacing the liquid in its broth, or the "oversized" snails in a deep- black sauce. A typical Chinese breakfast consists of a noodle-soup or porrage and I will miss my eggs-over-easy with home-fries and bacon. I can see the pounds melt-away already.
A Western toilet has little in common with a toilet of the average Chinese. Outside the large city, most public places offer "perhaps" a cabin, with a place to squat, and only the hope of toilet-paper. I have learned, that carrying your own paper is as important as carrying your keys. I suggest to all travellers, not to take this allert lightly. It may well save you some very anxious moments, moments I prefer to forget. My apartment at the College has a wonderful bathroom, and being able to "sit" in comfort will never be taken for granted again.
Managing the streets, filled with every mode of transportation imaginable, and a throng of humans of all ages making their way to somewhere, will provide challenges for any Westener.
The River Li
Make sure to participate in a night-time river cruise on the River Li.
Though the streets are wide and divided into pedestrian walks, bus lanes, bike/moped lanes and car/motor-cycle lanes, the progress and movement of traffic takes place in all of them by all, and often in no pre-determined direction. But everyone seems to get to where they want to go, and not once did I see a car-accident or injury. More importantly and despite this confusion, everyone was calm and friendly. Though I will miss my car greatly, any attempt for a Westener to drive in China should be "strongly" discouraged.
Over the next few entries, I'll consider more of these potential challenges. But it is exactly these experiences and adventures that makes it a "journey" of life
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