Maybe we've been in China for only a week, but it seems loads longer considering how much Selena and I've done. We've wanted to blog about it sooner, but we didn't know that communist China would block all blogs from public servers, so I'm sorting writing this post in a backwards way.
Getting on that boat to China was my pot of gold at the end of rainbow. When the post office in Japan was giving me hell about what I could and couldn't send home, I'd close my eyes and think about the boat. When my Japanese friends tried to make me feel guilty about leaving after, "only one year."....the boat...When I rode my bike to school in torrential rain, dropped my farewell gifts (cakes) to the teachers in school in a puddle of dirty water, and no one offered to help me...the boat...When my supervisor didn't want to help me with important Japanese government papers...the boat...
28 hours later, Selena and I arrived in Qingdao, China, a medium-sized port town in between Beijing and Shanghai. The Germans colonized it way back in the day, but the buildings and streets still feel surprisingly European. There's not much in the way of sightseeing, just nice beaches and China's arguably most famous beer, Tsingtao beer.
Luckily for us, one of my Japanese friend's brother lives in Qingdao and in good Japanese form, gave us all his contact info to meet. His name is Kenji and we had absolutely no idea that the would lead us to one of the best adventures we could've ever wished for in this otherwise unremarkable town. One phone call later, he comes to our hostel and had his personal driver pick us up and take us to this nice Chinese restaurant . His Chinese translator/friend joins us and she just happened to be our age and a socialite. From that night on, Kenji and his translator, Catherine, were like our own personal tour guides/chauffeurs/translators for the rest of our trip.
Our whole stay in Qingdao was the best introduction to China we could've ever asked for!
The most striking thing about China is that there's life spilling all over the streets. Sure the streets smell like piss and rotten garbage, but the people play card games on plastic tables and mini chairs. Sure people don't form lines and push if they need to, but they laugh loudly, smile freely, and walk hand in hand with their friends and boyfriends/girlfriends. Sure, the air is dirty and your tissue are dark green after blowing your nose, but people like foreigners and aren't shy to approach them, even if they don't know any English. Life is everywhere here and anything goes. Eating on the sidewalk. Sleeping on concrete ledges. "Potty training" kids without diapers, only pants with slits in the back.
It's really hard for me not to compare the Japanese to the Chinese, although it hardly seems fair b/c they really are complete opposites. I may not be much of an authority on Chinese culture, but the way the Chinese hold themselves in public says a lot. In general, they aren't afraid to be loud, have many friends of the opposite sex, and are really outgoing, especially to foreigners, while Japanese are quite reserved , shy to speak to foreigners and people of the opposite sex, serious about work, and mechanical with all the polite mannerisms. This is obviously a stereotype and not true of all people, but it just seems like Chinese people are more genuine and sincere.
We took a 28 hour train ride to Beijing and have been doing lots of sightseeing and shopping. Everyone in China is a friggin' businessman (I keep forgetting that it's a communist country). I've bought $1 DVD's (the new Superman!!) from a guy's apartment; fake Puma's for $10; a "Max Mara" trenchcoat for $20... Everything is fake and cheap. As far as sightseeing goes, we've done markets, the Forbidden Palace, the Temple of Heaven, Tianmanen Square, and we're going to see an acrobat show tonight and climb the Great Wall tomorrow. The hostel we're staying at rocks the casbah and they're are tons of backpackers from all over the world. It's been good ammo for interviewing for my new blog. I'll try to upload pics in the next couple of weeks.