What is China about?
The moment I put my feet out on Beijing massive airport, surrounded by hundreds of Chinese faces I realized I know nothing about this place. It was grey, cloudy, it felt faraway, but from the first glimpse I felt quite confused. It was a long, busy night flight, and I didn’t know whether the way that my exhausted brain interprets this first impression made any sense, or not really. My first impression was “It could be Eastern Europe”. It felt so ridiculous, but the nature looks so similar, the buildings remind me of square communist architecture we have back in Poland. Even the cars seem the same. And it’s grey.
Why is it grey in China, while the weather forecast was saying “sunny, no clouds”? Because it’s dirty. It’s polluted. It’s busy.
You can see small plants of the trees everywhere around, this is how China tries to get some air to breath. But these little trees, they don’t seem very happy.
China is happy. People know how to smile and they smile a lot. They smile because of things that make me laugh: cup of noodles, glass of hot water (I still haven’t figured out what is this “hot water” cult about. I suppose it’s because it’s clean, the heat kills all the bacterias, and this is probably what you want to drink in the country with pollution that China has).
I went out with another girl and a pilot who is quite crazy about China and knows a lot about its history. We passed the street food market where you can buy scorpions on a stick, or bull’s testicles (yes, COW’S BALLS. yummy) and other things like this. And those who sell it, they r e a l l y sell it, trying to make you buy all these weird things. Or at least try. (Well, I didn’t try any. I’m not brave enough).
China is a strong communist country. You’re not going to check your facebook messages there: it’s blocked. People carry their small red books with the wisedom of Mao Zedong, the guy who is responsible for bringing the communism to the country. It’s quite a controversial topic, but he’s also responsible for massive famine, for death of around 40 millions of people and other things too. But this is probably not what you’re supposed to talk about once you’re in China.
We had a dinner in Beijing Hotel: that was a funny thing, we were wandering around and looking for the hotel once we got hungry. We went out from the place we ate, but from different doors, and that was it: we were eating inside famous Beijing hotel, and we didn’t even knew. It’s interesting, because in the past it was the only place where the foreigners were allowed to stay in Beijing, so the government could control and decide who is in the country. So it was a bit worse than no facebook back these days. The hotel is nothing amazing: it’s big, square and grey. What a surprise.
Chinese people don’t speak English. They just don’t speak English at all. No conversations with taxi drivers, no chats with ladies in the shops. Back at the hotel you’ll get a small card with all the places you may want to go written in English and in Chinese right next to you. What you do, you find the place you want to see in English ad you show the Chinese version t the driver, this is how you move around the city. The thing is that while the language barrier is almost complete, Chinese people, they are very willing to communicate. They will talk to you, shout to you and smile at you, wave at you with what they try to sell you too, even though you can’t understand a single word.
We ended up after midnight trying to get a taxi, which seemed impossible and founding out that metro is closed too. It was a bit stressful, but not for long, the group of tuc-tuc taxi drivers have spotted us and came to us shouting something enthusiastically in Mandarin and literally putting us inside tuc-tucs. Our tuc-tuc driver, a lady was pedaling her electric bicycle, and it seemed ages, and once I was starting to feel quite bad about her and thinking about jumping on that bicycle myself, she asked us in Mandarin whether we are sure that we want to go home, because she can take us to the party too. It made me laugh.
I was feeling like a zombie on the next day morning trip to the Great Wall. I’m not going to write about the Great Wall though. It’s an amazing place and it feels very special, but it’s a G r e a t W a l l, and I’m pretty sure that everything that can be said about it have already been said.
What I’m trying to say, is that China shocked me. It’s not what you expect to see. It feels so so far away, you expect some crazy people eating scorpions and cats and singing songs that sound crazy to you and do crazy dances, and it’s that too, but what it is first of all, is a communist country of beautiful cheerful people who struggled a lot. And who still struggle, even though their faces are so smiley. We don’t know much about a real China, and it’s because we are not supposed to know some things. It’s not an incidence that you can’t use facebook, twitter etc there. It’s no an incidence that you can’t communicate in English neither.
I think I’m feeling in love with this place. It’s so different, and we laugh at this differences sometimes. It’s nobody’s fault: differences like this makes us laugh. Sitting in a cabin with 270 people eating noodles will probably make you smile, and there’s nothing wrong with that, we all have our funny ways of living the life. But this place seem both fun, and taught. It seems exotic, you feel strong Asian atmosphere there, smiley faces, beautiful tradition. But you also see the system that ruined many things and killed many people. It doesn’t suit this place very well, but I suppose it’s what makes it too.