Six months ago we bought multiple entry visa’s for China. Four months ago I left China, cursing the craziness and swearing that I would never be back. This week we walked across the bridge from Vietnam back into China.
What a shock!
Six months ago we were comparing China to the places we’ve visited: to Europe, South Africa and Latin America. Today we’re comparing China to other countries in Asia. And with that small shift in expectations, our perspective on China has radically changed.
There are three lane highways and skyscrapers! The traffic that I once ranted about seems orderly and controlled, rather than chaotic. The restaurants and shopping centres are indoors, rather than strewn on the sidewalk. China suddenly appears clean, functional and tremendously modern.
And the screaming, the smoking and the spitting that once drove me insane? Somehow in the last few months all of those things have become understandable. Suddenly the tonal Chinese language doesn’t sound like someone cursing at you to “eat shit and die, motherfucker.” Now the same sentence sounds more like, “Ahh, hi there! Welcome back, have you eaten yet?”
We’ve come to understand that in China some people believe that spitting rids your body of it’s impurities. It’s still utterly foul to watch an old woman clear her throat, whip out a plastic bag and into it hawk a huge, flemmy loggie. But now at least we can accept why it happens and move on. (In typical Chinese fashion the government has gotten involved, punishing people for anti-social behavior like spitting, throwing trash out the window and drying laundry on fences.)
And the smoking? It’s totally normal. Asia is like New York City in 1956 before people started dying of emphysema and suing the tobacco companies.
It’s exciting to be back and to realize that China hasn’t changed at all – but we have. The past six months have given us a new understand of the world and our place in it. Surprisingly we’re pretty sure that Asia is going to play a key role in our life moving forward. We love the people, we love the food, and we even love the loud, smoggy, dense urban landscape.
In fact, the only thing that remains utterly crap about China is the internet. All US websites are throttled, the wireless connection never works and you’re forced to use internet cafes – all of which run IE6.
There is a special place in internet hell reserved for the Chinese government and the developers of IE6.