Some interesting cultural aspects I never realized before

(Cover photo is of this super friendly but lazy cat we met at a friend’s house. They had huge gourds, green pepper, eggplants, and not yet ripe tangerines in their courtyard)
 The past few days drifted by productively in the morning in terms of studying but towards the afternoon, when the lazy, sleep bug bite everybody… Therefore, I have not much to cover on the places we have been except to the old , white bridge that was next to my grandparents’ the old house. The house had been demolished and is now replaced with wooden and metal supports and in the process of being rebuilt rebuilt. The evening we walked there, the distant sky was lemonade pink so the mountains were illuminated. It was such a sight! Anyways, we cannot keep pets at the house my grandparents live in right now because there’s no spare old room, and because the house is brand new. Nevertheless, I keep trying to find an old farmer lady/man with a straw basket on his or her back because shops don’t sell farm animals. I realized how lucky we were in 2008 to chance upon our pet ducks from a wondering old lady. So far, it’s been hopeless… 
   
   
(Where I am studying right now, in bed. Ahhh…)
Last night, our cousins finally came. Um, they, along with my moms’ friends and their daughters, were all a head shorter than Sharon and I. Everyone is pretty short here compared to people in Nanjing who we met…

Anyways, something embarrassing happened this morning. Normally, our breakfast in Tongren consists of rice noodles seasoned with sautéed, minced meat, some sauce, and a boiled egg. My grandparents’ housekeeper made excess meat and kept it in the fridge so the oil will harden and the meat will look weird. My dear grandpa speaks in a Tongren dialect that makes words have different tones, if you know what I mean. I was unsure what the hardened meat and oil in the bowl was on the counter and thought it was breakfast–there was so much of it!–so I started scooping it into my bowl. Grandpa came over and told me to use the “sao2zi” (or so I thought) which meant to use a bigger spoon. I replied that using the small spoon was alright and thought he just wanted me to get more food. I loaded up my bowl completely and felt sick having to eat the unappetizing thing. Mom came and got mad at me for not seeing what I was really putting into my bowl, which is called “sao4zi” (that was frozen) in mandarin. When I told her what I had thought grandpa meant over breakfast, we had a good laugh. This incident brings me to share some of the cultural aspects I did not know before visiting China.

So far in all the cities I’ve been to, girls who are friends (little to teenage) always hold each other’s hands when walking along the streets. Strangers are always polite yet not overly courteous, specially in the bus. Men put the bottom of their shirts on top of their belly to get rid of heat. People value pale skin (since ancient times, pale skin = higher class and tan skin = peasants who work in the fields all day), so much so that my grandma in Nanjing wondered how Sharon and I will ever find a partner and that we should rub facial cream in our faces. Even though I have no intention of becoming paler, I do find this concept pretty amusing. Tan skin comes to an advantage sometimes because I have never gotten sun burned. In addition to pale skin, girls (and guys) are very skinny here. I think it is because of walking great distances everyday to run errands. Our average steps taken per day here is around 15,000. Problem is, I don’t see myself getting slimmer. 

The landscape in China is also very different from what I had imagined. From news I saw on TV or articles I read in Seattle, I had imagined the large cities like Beijing and Nanjing to be wastelands full of toxin where everyone wear face masks. However, what I have experienced dispelled all those thoughts. True, there is smog hanging overhead and you can’t see blue skies (except in Tongren), people bustle about their own lives just like people do elsewhere in the world. Plenty of trees are planted along the streets, in the middle of streets, in courtyards, in parks, everywhere. In Nanjing, willow trees and this funky palm-shaped tree were seen the most. Most buildings are very modern and high-quality. For example, high-speed railway center in Nanjing reminded me of the Grand Central station in America in its magnitude and futuristic design. In the small city of Tongren, however, the streets are often old and dirty. The buildings that were built last year looked like they were occupied for at least 10 years. Street vendors sell delicious fruits like watermelon but questionable fried stuff…

Despite all the similarities and differences to America, I love China so much! 

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