Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Random Observations From China

  • Wear a sweater. The office building isn't heated, only individual rooms in use are heated. Each room has it's own thermostat, usually turned down when now one is in the room. Meeting rooms start out cold. I experienced the same thing at a restaurant we ate at today; we had our own room but the heater wasn't turned on until we sat down.

  • Likewise, my hotel room requires the room key (card) to turn on the lights. Assuming I take the key with me, it's impossible for me to leave the lights on.

  • After cleaning, the sink and bathtub drains are closed. This is true both at the hotel and at the office. I have no idea why as the drain doesn't work too well that way.

  • Meat and fish have bones in them. I've yet to have a meal that didn't require removing something inedible from my mouth before swallowing. Everyone else has to as well, so it isn't just me. Here it is normal.

  • They really do use chopsticks. I've been told that Chinese students in America don't use chopsticks even to eat Chinese food, so shouldn't bother either. (I've always liked using chopsticks when eating Asian food.) The implication was Chinese don't really use chopsticks anymore, it's just an old tradition. Not true. I'm in perhaps the most modern portion of China (PuDong, Shanghai) and I have yet to see a fork anywhere. They don't use them. (Well, maybe in a American or European restaurant, but I've been avoiding those.)

  • There are no napkins to be found. I'll try the pidgin soup, the fungus (not a mushroom), the lotus root, the they-don't-know-how-to- translate-it-but-I'm-fairly-sure-it-is-plant-matter-of-some-kind, the skinny fish on a stick where you actually eat the bones (but I drew a line at the head), and other new foods, but I really miss my napkins. Sometimes it's easier to try new things than to give up what you are already used to.

  • The subway trains have flatscreen TV's showing commercials in them. Outside the elevator at the office is a flatscreen TV showing commercials. The subway station shows commercials. Huge electric billboards dominate the view across the river, advertising various corporations. I'm in a communist country but it looks like capitalism gone wild or a scene from Brazil.

  • When talking to people about what's happening here it is all "the government is planning this", "the local government is doing that". In the world of us and them, the government is "them". It's like the government is just another corporation.

  • At the museum today someone mentioned Chinese history is all about Dynasties, each intended to last forever. None of them lasted. The lesson seemed obvious... They know.

  • Please, learn a lesson from Disney; always leave the gift shop open for longer than whatever it is the shop is associated with.

  • While eating across from a school, I asked if it was public or private. I was told it was a school for workers at some factory, but he thought others could attend, only it would be more expensive. I asked more about education and learned, very much to my surprise, that there is no public education here. I'm still thinking I must of misunderstood, but I'm fairly certain I'm right; everyone pays for their children education one way or another.

  • The people I've met have completely embraced Modernity and are looking forward to better and brighter days and they are willing to work hard to get it. China will be a major source of competition in the coming years and decades.

  • I already knew this, but it's good to be reminded. All of us humans are basically the same. Yes, we have differences, but they are nothing, nothing compared to the similarities. There is only the human race, the rest is just details.