Ever since getting back from Inner Mongolia, I’ve been dealing nearly incessantly with a host of problems – everything from visas and residence registration (here) to taxes and the FAFSA (there). Thus I have been, and may continue to be, a little bit irregular about my blog posts, and perhaps a bit light on content as well. In that vein, here are two short lists for your enjoyment:
I. Cutest things about the Chinese:
1. The precision of their eating and sleeping habits. If I walk down the street just north of my apartment in the afternoon, cars will be whizzing by in either direction; walking down the same area at about 10:30, you can see lights going out as people get ready for bed; at 1 AM, nary a soul (in a vehicle or on foot) is in sight. If I want to eat at my favorite nearby restaurant and arrive 6:15, I will get one of the last tables or maybe not be seated; if I come at 5:30, I can nab a booth on the side all to myself and expect my order to arrive within two minutes.
2. Little Chinese kids. Admittedly, little kids all over the world are cute, but there’s something special about the round-cheeked, red-faced, over-bundled Chinese toddler. I also absolutely love it when little kids call me “uncle,” an appellation commonly used to address a significantly older semi-stranger.
II. Things I have done that the Chinese find most difficult to understand and accept:
1. Gotten my stamp carved wrong. I thought (and still think) that it’s super cool to have a traditional-looking name stamp with my Chinese name in both simplified and traditional characters. Unfortunately, the few times it’s been viewed by the Chinese, it has only elicited head-shaking and criticism: Your name printed twice, on the same stamp?! “That’s not how it’s done!” I’ve stopped showing it to anyone on this side of the world.
2. Prepared instant noodles in a bowl without a lid. This one really blew their minds. Thinking to save money and more importantly some space in my pack, on the train to Xinjiang I brought instant noodles in bag packaging (instead of the more convenient bowl-and-fork product) and poured them my own metal bowl before adding hot water. I hadn’t brought anything to cover it with (doing so seems to be meant to keep the flavor and also allow the whole thing to cook better by keeping the steam inside), and a few of the admonishments I got contained a strange mixture of confusion and panic. As I walked back the aisle back to my seat, I pictured the muttering silently to themselves, “Forgive him, Father, he knows not what he does. He is, after all, a foreigner.”