Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finding the 心Heart Where the 家 Home Is

I’ve been in China for two weeks now, and I’m finally starting to feel settled. Although I’m not completely oriented, I can tell a cab driver where my house is…and in a country as big as China, that’s a good start.

I’ve mentioned before that I live far from the school – about 30 minutes from my house to my class. To be honest, I was initially disappointed that I am the only student this far from school (the other 10 home stay students live in apartments right outside the campus gates). Meeting my language tutor, attending club activities, or even just meeting my friends for the day takes significantly more planning and time. This is my apartment building. It has lights that outline the building that turn on at night--way to conserve energy, China.

But I’ve come to appreciate my walk to school. Every day, I get a cultural experience – seeing people bike and talk on their cell phones, seeing little kids stand in between dad’s legs as he drives the motor bike, holding my nose as I pass the sketchy outdoor market, chatting with the banana lady as I get my .15 cent snack, smiling at the street vendors (street food = off limits…at least until I give in), passing an array of stores (including an “adult” store if you catch my drift…I guess the government doesn’t control everything here, eh?), and watching several about-to-be accidents (did I mention I’m thinking of joining this biking culture? Bike to be purchased next week. Just wait for THOSE stories…). I wouldn’t trade in any of it to live closer to campus. This is the grand banana store, and below are some street vendors.

The key to adjusting is to feel like you can do/see everything in a new city that you would usually do/see at home. Shanghai is the most modern city in China, so I've had some luck:

...My bedroom has exactly enough room to do yoga (if you’re doing Bikram, or hot yoga, this is about the amount of space you have before the next person’s mat)…I've found my very own D.C. reflection pool (ehh, close enough.)...They sell ORGANIC food - whoaaa...You can find western influenced statues

…And today, I found a park. As some of you may know, I’ve just recently started running for the first time in four years, so finding a place where I can practice running is important. What better place than these little oases? (P.S. I have yet to see anyone else running around here so me running plus being American probably makes for a funny sight)

For those learners out there: the Chinese Garden developed as a synthesis of two concepts linked in Daoist philosophy: scenery and serenity – the contemplation of nature in isolated meditation leads to enlightenment. Therefore, the educated and wealthy built natural-looking retreats for themselves with an urban environment, and the tradition has continued.

And for any of you interested, this is the rest of my house...

Fun Fact: The Chinese don't believe in central air -- that means neither heat nor air conditioning -- they believe it's bad for your "Ch'i" or "Qi" Luckily, my bedroom has both, but my host dad will often blame the air conditioner if I have a headache or feel dizzy and often comes in and advises me to turn it down.

If you've been dying to meet my family, you'll meet them soon. I've already told them we're going to have a photo shoot tomorrow.

Until next time,

"Really, China?"
China is growing at an annual rate of 8% - Shanghai is growing at 10%...and yes, this is how they cut grass

1 comment:

  1. LOL (grass cutting).

    do other people run too?

    i love the western statue it seems so out of place.

    your house gigs aren't bad! not what i expected.

    good night!!