Prejudice

I looked it up.  Here are 3 definitions:

1.      an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.

2.      any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.

3.      unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding a racial, religious, or national group.

I’ve been wrestling with this for a while now.  I’m perplexed and puzzled, as most reasonable people never want to think of themselves as prejudiced.  In fact, many who are prejudiced will deny it.

Prejudice can take many forms from aggression to ignoring injustices heaped upon others.  If I look at these 3 definitions I find that I don’t fall under number one as the group I’m referring to is a group I am becoming quite familiar with.  I don’t fall under number 2 since none of my feelings were “preconceived”.  It’s number 3 that is troubling me.

I’m of course talking about the Chinese.  Are my feelings unreasonable?  Some would say yes.  You live in China so you must adapt to EVERYTHING about the culture regardless of how you feel about it.  I can’t really buy that argument because wrong is wrong.  To take an extreme example, in Nazi Germany it was the “culture” to persecute” and kill Jews.  That’s wrong.  Forget culture.

Are my feelings unreasonable?  Of course I don’t think so because we rarely see ourselves as unreasonable.  I see myself looking at these people with different (non-Asian) eyes.  I see myself trying to distinguish between culture and “right and wrong”.  It’s a struggle.

If you were to ask me the question “do you like the Chinese people in China” and I had to give a yes or no blanket answer, I’d say “no”, I don’t like them.  But this is the weird part.  If you were to ask me if I like the Chinese people I’ve met in China I would say without hesitation, “yes”.  That goes for over 90% of them.

Can I like people but dislike a race?  Does the group mentality override the individual?  These are tough questions and I admit they have started to trouble me in the last week.  I like most of the people I’ve met.  I find them kind and thoughtful and friendly.  It’s when I get out in a crowd of Chinese that I get my back up.  Put me in a crowd (if I must be), and I’m Gordie Howe.  I elbow people, push people, and do things to protect my space.  There is no such thing as an organized line here.  People will crowd you or push in front and I push back.  I try to stay at the back to avoid these things, but sometimes I’m at the front or near there.  Don’t push me.  I think it shocks them when they get a hip check from me.  I’m getting quite good at these things.  And they don’t say boo to me because either they know I’m right, or they don’t want to mess with a crazy white guy with orange hair.

I find the Chinese (as a group) to be loud, rude, ignorant, pushy, thoughtless, totally lacking in manners and common courtesy, and other things.  And yet I don’t feel this way about the people I know.  Maybe when they get in the “group” they take on these traits.  I don’t know.  I just find it strange to dislike a race but like the people.

There are no smoking signs in a lot of places.  I don’t know why.  Most men smoke and very few women.  The men have no respect and will light up anywhere at any time.  I see a man smoking and I think that I want nothing to do with that person because I think they are a thoughtless ignoramus.  That might not be true, but it’s my initial reaction.  And I used to smoke.

I understood the crowding in Korea.  It’s a small country with not a lot of space.  I know there are 1.3 billion Chinese but this is a big place.  There must be room for everyone.  I dread going out in public.  Everything is a hassle.  We got a refund for some DVD’s I bought online.  The song and dance that Shujie had to go through to get the money back into our account was ridiculous.  I can’t do it since I don’t read Chinese.  But it’s not simple.

I’m sure the reason that most people only get 4 days off a month and work 12 hour days is that they are so inefficient at what they do, that they must.  What a Canadian can do in a 40-hour week, a Chinese needs at least twice that to come close.  Everything is harder here.  There is bureaucracy here.  There are stupid rules just to have rules.

It seems to me that most people don’t care about anyone else in the general public.  I’m sure they care about their families but I think they’d step on anyone just to get an extra dollar.  The workers for the most part appear to be lazy and useless.  I’m not going to see this country be a “super power” in my lifetime.  They might be big but they are inefficient and incompetent.

As I said, I wrestle with these things.  It’s tough.  My friend Wen Ya who is the daughter of Wang Jing’s former boss and is here for the holidays phoned before we left for Hainan.  She was telling us that her father was offering to drive us to the airport.  How kind of him.  And he smokes but if you tell him not to, he won’t smoke.  These people really throw off my thought patterns.  We didn’t accept his offer as we didn’t want to inconvenience him but his thoughtfulness will be remembered.

We left on Monday for Hainan (the Hawaii of China) and I’ve never been to Hawaii but I’m sure it’s not the same.  However, it is quite nice and the weather was usually around 25C (around 77F) so it was comfortable.  It was wonderful to not be cold.  Our guide was helpful, organized, and efficient.  She couldn’t speak any English, which was fine, but it was obvious she knew her stuff.

She’s been a guide in Hainan for 10 years.  She’s married with children in high school.  She sees her family one time a year for about a month.  They don’t live in Hainan.   Does she know her family?  I doubt it.  Do I understand this?  No, I don’t.  There are many families who are separated due to jobs and I wonder about them.  Why have a family if you can’t be together?  Weird place.

We gave her a tip, which is quite unusual.  Chinese don’t tip.  Shujie was happy to do it, which meant she really liked her.  Shujie is cheap.  We didn’t give a lot (by Western standards) but it was more than anyone else.  It kind of embarrassed her as I’m sure she doesn’t see tips and she tried to not take it.  Shujie insisted.  I know thank you is important but sometimes you want to tip just to let them know that you appreciate their efforts.

The food was uneatable as expected.  They give us the breakdown of where our money goes and about $2.50 a day goes for 3 meals.  Total.  So you can imagine.  I would have some fruit I had bought the night before for breakfast so I was okay.  Sometimes I’d order a special (like rice) for lunch.  What a rip-off.  The rice cost more than a day’s food.  When we were in Sanya (look it up), we spent 3 nights there and we lucked into a restaurant our first night there.  It was an American sports bar in a Russian neighborhood.  Go figure.  The first time I tried a Chicken Fajita salad and it was good.  So we went back and I got a cheeseburger.  It was great.  The 3rd time I went all out and had a steak and it was pretty good.  And they had Bloody Mary’s!  Sometimes you get lucky here.

Here’s a picture and in the background you can see hockey flags.  I was just so happy to have Western food when I expected none.

Our group was a younger set and seemed to be nice people.  We fished (there was no way we were going to catch any fish where they took us) and here is Shujie not catching a fish.  We went to some beaches.  Shujie got to try scuba diving, which was great for her, as everyone should try it.  I wanted to go but I can’t because of my moustache.  It doesn’t let the mask sit flush against my face so the water seeps in and goes up my nose.  She gave me to this other couple to “babysit” as the woman (girl) spoke some English.  She was very nice.  We went swimming and the water was cold.  Although the temperature was great, it was too cold for swimming.

We went to botanical gardens (which grew some interesting things), we went to a tropical rainforest (boring), we saw some Buddha’s (oh joy), we saw tigers (okay, they were babies), we went to a monkey island (they were everywhere), and we went to an island that belongs to the island of Hainan.  We were on the go from about 7AM each morning.

The tour bus was small (but big enough) and our suitcases went to the back of the bus and not underneath.  When we would come to the hotel at the end of the day everyone jumps up to rush to the back to get their suitcase.  It’s chaos.  These people have no manners.

When the plane lands and you’re not supposed to get up until the plane has come to a complete and final stop, the Chinese are up and opening the overhead bins while the plane is still rolling.  The airplane staff is yelling at them to sit down.  Pigs.  I wish they’d take their names down and put them on a “no-fly” list.

If they enforced the “no smoking” laws, then less people would smoke.  That’s what happened in the West.  They made it a pain to be a smoker.  They should do the same here.  But no one gives a damn about anyone else.  How can I like these people?  It’s quite strange.

The hotels were not as advertised.  They told us they were 5 star hotels but since it was Hainan we should only expect 4-star quality.  I think 2-star would have been closer.  I don’t know why the Chinese have to lie.  Tell me what it is and I don’t get disappointed.  Tell me it’s better than it is and I get annoyed.  But the Chinese are used to his so they don’t complain.  They need to complain.  If no one complains, nothing gets better.

No one wants to hurt your feelings so they lie to you.  But it’s a “white lie” so it’s okay.  A lie is a lie is a lie.  But they don’t get it.  Or I don’t get it.  Tell the truth.  It doesn’t hurt.  We all lie at some time or another.  But they lie about stupid things here.  And everyone knows that everyone else is lying, so why bother.  I can’t figure it out.

Hell, I can’t figure much out.  The weather was lovely.  I figured that out.  It was freaking cold when we returned and the apartment was frigid.  It’s not bad today but I miss Hainan.  On Friday we go to Baoding (which is colder) for the New Year.  They call this time of year the “Spring Festival”.  I have no idea what it has to do with spring, and neither does anyone else.  We’ll be staying in a hotel as Qi Ji’s (Shujie’s son) apartment doesn’t have heat.  He paid for heat last winter and it was useless so he decided to not pay for it again.  He has a heater in his room so he stays there but the rest of the apartment is not habitable.  So we are hotel shopping.

There is a new hotel near her mother but we can’t stay there since I’m a foreigner and they don’t have their license to have foreign guests yet.  Don’t even try to understand it.  It’s just another reason why I believe this is one screwed-up place.

There are 2 hotels that she’ll call and try to negotiate a better price.  I’m sure she will.  After all, everything (pretty much) is negotiable here.

On January 30th we leave for 10 days in Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.  It will be hot but it will be better than this.  I’d rather not freeze.  I’ll be glad when winter is over.  I hope the spring is nice here and not too hot.  I still have another 4 weeks of vacation.  The “shao kao” (bbq) place is closed due to the school holiday.  A lot of their customers have gone home.  That’s too bad but then again I don’t feel like eating outside.  Last night Shujie made me “black pepper steak” with these green peppers that are actually hot (for me) peppers.  So I’m shivering with the cold and sweating from the food.  Weird.

Yes, I think I’m staying next year.  I will start looking for work after the holiday as I’m sure the better schools will want to plan in advance although the Chinese don’t really like to do anything in advance.  I have to give my resume to Shujie’s friend in Baoding so she can take it to the university.  Shujie would prefer to live in Baoding since she thinks she can work with her friend there, and she needs a job.  She doesn’t complain, but she needs the activity and the mind exercise.  So although Baoding isn’t in my top ten, if there is a University that pays my minimum, and it’s for teaching English majors, then Baoding works for me.  I’d be happy to live close to her family and for her to be working.  Of course, I’d rather work in Hainan.  There are 3 universities there.  We shall see.

This is a strange place.  I keep saying that.  Do I like it?  Depends when you ask me?  Do I like the people?  As individuals, it’s an unqualified yes.  The place just makes me nuts.

Here are some pictures and some video from our trip.

Shujie reeling in nothing

The water comes in

A look at the sea

Shujie and I at the sea

Shujie escaping the "wave"

Looking pensive

Beware of tigers

Fellow travellers

At the sea

Big Mrs. Buddha (or another effing Buddha)

Waving the flag

Davy Jones and Peter Tork

Dragon ball

4 Whales

And now for some video pleasure:

Goat on a highwire

Monkey on the highwire

Monkey gymnastics

Watch the monkey’s jump

See monkeys on stilts

Watch monkeys perform.  Be amazed at their timing.  And just so you know, in China if a woman cheats on her husband, he’s said to wear the green hat.

And from a visit to an ethnic village some traditional something

 

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