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Published: December 21st 2005
It's cold! I have to wear a big coat and three pairs of socks. I'm sure it's cold in the states too right now, but by now I am really not used to it. I arrived in Kunming the day before yesterday and have been enjoying spending some time with friends here. I am making plans to travel to some of the more mountainous areas in Yunnan, but am trying to adjust to the temperature and altitude before I moved to colder areas at higher elevations. China is still a bit of a shocker even though it's my third time here. Last night I made a phone call from something like a public phone booth where they sell cigarettes and snacks and also have a phone you can use. It's meant to be extremely cheap, maybe 2 jao or about 2.5 cents. The man at the booth tried to charge me 1 yuan, about 12.5 cents. This may seem very silly because it's a difference only of 10 cents and does not really mean much, but for here it's a big difference and I knew he was really trying to cheat me. I speak only a little Chinese and asked him why, told him it was not possible, and that it was too expensive. I tried to give him 5 jao, which is still too much. He picked up the 5 jao and threw it back at the table and started yelling at me. He even got his friend the street sweeper to yell at me too. I just shook my head and gave him the 1 yuan and walked away. This is quite surprising coming from Thailand when people would never yell in public. It is considered extremely immature to do so and brings shame to all parties involved. I know that my disposition has become much calmer from living with Thai people. I could not even muster the anger to argue with the angry phone booth man. I just thought he seemed extremely silly. For China, this is not abnormal behavior. People yell a lot. They like to push each other and try to bully and cheat each other, especially foreigners. I realize this is something I will have to get used to a little travelling around China. I don't want to give the wrong idea about Chinese people. The night that I arrived, a Chinese man who I have never met before, a friend of a friend, took me and my friend out to dinner with his family. He said that it is a tradition to have dinner with friend the day of arrival and departure from travelling. Many people are very kind, but business is business, and Chinese people are very well known in this region for being business people. I am trying to study my Chinese, and learn to look a little meaner again. I am honestly used to smiling at most people I see. In Thailand they almost always smile back. It's a good habit here too. People really stare a lot. They are not used to seeing someone that looks like me and are usually just interested. I try to be understanding about all the eyes following me, as I said living in Thailand has made me a lot less prone to anger anyway. Sometimes it makes me laugh, and sometimes I can make them laugh too.
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