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Asia » China » Shanxi » Pingyao
April 19th 2013
Published: August 30th 2017
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Geo: 37.21, 112.17

I knew that this trip to China would be an interesting one. After all they have a culture that has developed independent of the west and can be easily traced back over 5000 years.
So I expected to come across a few things that could never be imagined.
Take the language for instance, I speak no Mandarin and most Chinese speak no English, there are 1.35 billion people here it was inevitable that some one was going to attempt to talk to us or we to them. I expected it to be incredibly difficult, we bought our picture book (that was given to us by a Korean man Mr Wo while we were in India) that allows us to have basic conversations or ask questions when words fail you.
We have hardly needed to use it,
I'm not sure how but we have all managed to communicate with each other by speaking our own language with a few facial expressions added and the occasional wild gesture a bit like international charades.
When it comes to Aadi everybody asks the same questions( wether it's here or back home), " how old is she?" " is it a boy or a girl" " can I hold here". Now we didn't know that's what people where asking so we would take a guess and nearly always got it right. And as we are usually just asking for directions and when your holding a map and looking confused its kind of obvious what you want and people are willing tohelp if they can.
I expected the Chinese to be quite abrupt with us, almost rude, this was based on a lot of hearsay that I was exposed to before leaving home, almost rude. They seem to have the same reputation as the French for being intolerant of those that don't speak there language or are not willing to conform to their societal rules. And like the French I have found they are not like that at all.
The people here have been overwhelmingly courteous and friendly. They offer help , they are interested in where we are from, how long we will spend in there country and what places we will visit. On several occasions when we have been out eating a waiter or somebody else close by has come and taken Aadi out of our arms so that we can eat in peace, it's such a lovely gesture and one we are thankful for and Aadi seems to enjoy.
I expected that Aadi would attract some attention but I didn't expect to have crowds of people standing around us making clicking noises. It seems this is the way that the usual interaction with a child here begins, throw your head back a little and make a clicking sound with your tongue, everybody does it. It's obviously quite uncommon for anybody anywhere to be travelling with a 9 month old child but as you can imagine a 9 month old blond white child in China stands out like the proverbial dogs balls. So everybody wants a photo of her, people in the street, waiters, the policeman on the train and the conductor, random strangers just about everybody she must be the most photographed child in China. We had people crossing the street to take photos, when we were at tourist attractions like the Terracotta Warriors people forgot that they were at one of the worlds most incredible archeological discoveries and would flock around us to get photos of Aadi. The unusual thing was that it was mainly youngish men and older men and women who payed her the most attention the younger women would smile but that was about it. Often it was a bit strange because people wouldn't even acknowledge either Jana or I and would just address Aadi, and I can't tell you how many people touched Aadi's hands on a daily basis, much to Jana and mine horror, mainly because people's hands are filthy ( not just here but everywhere ) and god knows what anybody has been touching just before they decide that they can't resists holding her little hand, of course Aadi being a small child , sucks her thumb and likes to put her hands to her mouth, it's little wonder she got a bit of a cold while we were here ,but her immune system should be booming because of it. But all the attention was good natured , the Chinese genuinely love children and its little wonder they want to interact with someone so young because most people get very limited opportunities too, considering there is on average only 12 children to every 1000 people and they have even less chance to connect with a white kid of her age.
I was warned about the spitting and truly expected the worse, I guess in my mind I had compared it to what the Indians do with their noses when without warning they just block one nostril and blow hard releasing whatever might be up there anywhere any time. There was a bit of spitting and sometimes quite inconsiderately done but not on the scale I had prepared myself for. What did come as a surprise was the coughing and sneezing. No attempt is made to cover the nose or mouth when letting loose in fact your pretty lucky if the person turns their face away from yours, it's quite confronting on many levels and hard not to react to , it's normal here but that doesn't make it ok.
Men like to pull up their pants here. They just undo their belt, open up their pants, reach in, do a bit of adjustment to the tackle, pull their undies way up high, tuck their shirt in and then do the pants up making sure the belt is tight enough to creat a clear distinction between upper an lower body.
It's hard to know where to look when it's done right in front of you.
We expected cold weather, well a little bit of cold weather what we didn't expect was snow. It snowed in the same place where 2 days earlier we were commenting to each other on how warm it was and that we should have bought some lighter clothes. It snowed all day, we reckon about 2inches fell. It was lovely but quite bewildering.
I did expect to see some bird life if not wild life. I think I saw 6 birds flying free but I saw hundreds of birds in cages. I don't understand the appeal of putting an animal designed to fly in a cage, it seems cruel and unnecessary. But the Chinese love it, and they perplex me even further by then taking these caged birds to a park and hang them in rows next to each other as if to say to the birds " see what your missing out on". I didn't see any wild animals in fact I didn't see too many domestic animals in Pingyao there where quite a few stray digs an one very scruffy cat and we also saw one guy playing cards with his mates who had bought his goldfish in a bowl with him.
When we went into a department store to have a bit of a squiz I was surprised to see the size of woman's underwear. I guess I'm used to the skimpy little frilly numbers or G-strings that are so common back home but not here, the undies here would make grandma's apple catchers look risqué, no frills, no nonsense , possibly communist issue, their big and they're worn up high, something that crosses the gender divide.
On communism, I didn't see a lot of the suppressed masses, I actually saw an emerging consumerist society. Nice clothes, new cars, TV's absolutely everywhere, spanking hair cuts and shiny shoes and everybody has a wizz bang smart phone. In general the people I saw are doing pretty well, this may not be the case in the more rural areas but the people in the cities don't look like what I would expect of those governed by a fairly intolerant regime that is completely opposed to the western way of life. I spoke to young Chinese guy about this and he explained it to me like this. " imagine if you take an egg and break it into the Indian Ocean and then call it egg soup", in other words it's like their society have a socialist government by name only, over ruling a consumerist society and then for their own purposes call it communism, it may be that, but its a very diluted version".


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20th April 2013

Not sure how I'd react to people coughing and sneezing all over me but hey, when in Rome....you have missed your calling in life, you should be writing for travel mags....
21st April 2013

Am still laughing my head off about the men pulling their pants down and then up adjusting themselves... hilarious.Maybe in the near future we will see little Aadi up on billboards... she is adorable and I am not surprised people love her o
r want to hold her hand. (Make sure you have lots of baby wipes or antibacterial lotion handy)... and Andrew is right.. you missed your calling but never to late to start and you could do anything yu put your mind to xx

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