Friday, September 20, 2013

We are in Chengdu finally after Beijing and Xi'an, which included a lot of the routine sight-seeing trips to key places + the train journey- which was almost like traveling in Europe, except the crowd and noise at the train stations. Beijing, being the capital is more developed than other cities. Unbelievable development everywhere!! In just three years, China has moved on!
We are slowly settling down to the rhythm of life here. Our apartment is on a busy road, close to Sichuan University and comfortable.  We are on the 8th floor with two elevators… sort of a modern apartment.  For about 8 days we experienced break down of water supply as the water tank broke and we had to ferry water from the first floor. Water supply was resumed today and a hot shower felt really comfortable! The security guard and folks in the building were very helpful and if they saw me lifting a bucket, they would rush to help!
Believe it or not, there is a Wal-Mart on the first floor of our building (they call it Trust Mart!!). You can buy anything under the sun. Long lines at the checkout are an indication of how successful there are! I did some of my initial setting up stuff and groceries a few times at the Trust mart, much against my wish. Since it is in the same building and that you have to walk everywhere (which we love) makes it convenient to carry stuff. We also shopped in some local groceries for milk, vegetables, fruits etc. and a French chain for butter/cheese and plain yogurt (which are not available in Trust Mart!!). Unfortunately it is not walking distance for us or accessible by metro or bus easily- at least we have not discovered a straight route. Maybe changing from bus to metro to bus is possible. Cabs are cheap and in plenty. It cost us $2 by cab. Metro and bus are also very cheap- only 30 cents to anywhere. Once we settle down, we should be able shop in the local stores.
Trust Mart, I understand was a Taiwanese chain supermarket which was bought out fully or partially by Wal-Mart. All of the employees wear a Red shirt with Trust-Mart on it. But I also saw one or two supervisors/managers who were wearing a blue "Wal-Mart" shirt. They have Wal-Mart shopping carts. The store has only 2 floors and very cramped. If you shop on both floors, you have to carry your baskets up and down the stairs-a pain!! Unless you plan well and buy the light stuff first, you have to lift heavy loads up and down. No elevator or escalator inside the shop. The store is forever busy!
Well, there are so many observations on cultural aspects. First, the people are very friendly. It is very hard to find an individual who speaks English. If you are fortunate enough to find one, they will help you get to your destination, help you find items in the supermarket and won’t leave till they find all the help we need. They are ready to put their work on hold to help you!
The place is extremely crowded, but there is some orderliness to the chaos. The buses are neat and clean, the streets are broad and clean, although you do find a few spitting on the streets! No one throws anything on the ground! It seems like everyone eats out. They eat an overwhelming amount of meat (hum.. biased? maybe as I am a vegetarian!). The crowd and noise pollution to environment pollution is just unbelievable.  The US Consulate publishes the air quality index everyday to show the toxins in the air, as the local gov. here may not be so open about sharing! It is really bad.

The university has four gates: north, south, east and west gates and we live close to the West Gate.  Around the South and North gates there are lots of restaurants and clothing shops. Unbelievably busy area, particularly during lunch and dinner times! My favorite is the baked hot sweet potatoes. There shops and street vendors sell them! Cute little shops sell odd items like plastic pails, hanger and other items for household use. Around each gate there are also faculty and staff housing which look kind of old and I understand they are also very small. Maybe that explains why people spend most of their time outside/outdoors. The parks are beautiful and well maintained- very well used. People use the parks to do Tai Chi, line and ballroom dancing, singing lessons and an endless list of activities- old and young alike participating in all of these activities. You can see the communities coming together.
It is hard to spot children on the streets. But if you go to parks (in plenty here), you do see some children. So far I have seen three or four pregnant women and a few twins! In the evenings, you can find some grandparents out with their grand kids. My first visit to a kindergarten school is scheduled for Wed afternoon. It is very hard to get permission to visit a primary school, so I have to satisfy myself visiting a kindergarten program which is not part of the primary school. They are usually with childcare. I will be teaching them some nursery rhymes……… I am really looking forward to it.
I had my first Multicultural Education class on Monday, but my class is scheduled for Thursday. Just this week I was asked offer it on Monday as this Thursday is a holiday. Today is Moon Festival and it is a big event, almost like Thanksgiving. I had about 50 students. But the coordinator whispered to me that most of them would drop as many do not understand or speak English. We expect about 15 to 20. The classrooms have a teaching station-basically computers and LCD etc. They are locked in a chest that retracts and the instructors have keys. Most buildings at the university have four floors and there are no elevators or escalators. You have to climb! My class is on the 3rd floor! I hope I shed some lbs! You walk everywhere!   
This morning when we rode the metro to see the biggest mall in the world, Miles and I were standing. The security police was walk past our car, she tapped on two young men and asked them to get up so we could sit! Made us feel very, very old, the gesture said a lot about the culture.. that people listen to authorities, respect for age or maybe foreigners (I would like to believe that)!
When people talk, they freely comment on each other without any reservation! The concept of being politically correct is absent perhaps or people just speak their mind at times! Maybe they are uncorrupted by the outside world! When I introduce Miles to university professionals, they immediately make fun of him as "so you are the servant" or “you are the house husband who cleans and cooks." I am not sure if anyone can read in to it as "women are the servants in the family." There are plenty of women in the work force!
The other observation is- I was talking with a French national in one of the meetings who had  hairy arms (he was wearing a short/half sleeve shirt), when the 20 year office assistant stopped and pulled his hair and said in English- "the Chinese call this monkey." Maybe "monkey" does not have the same negative connotation and neither did he say in a derogatory manner. Both the foreigner and the young man laughed out loud! There is some innocence in their comments! I like their openness and one cannot get offended. If you made fun of them in the same way, they probably may not take offense to it.
As a young friend who has spent several years in China explained, the waves of immigrants have heightened our sensitivity in the West. On the contrary, Chinese have lived here for generations and their contact with foreigners or outside world probably is limited. Their comments certainly do not mean any insult!
Food has been the only problem for us. Because we are vegetarians, unless we go to Buddhist restaurants (excellent food there though), you see an overwhelming amount of meat in everything. We have now started to cook at home!!

No comments:

Post a Comment