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Squat toilets and other strange things

June 18, 2010

So, I will eventually write about class. And for the record, HBA is absolutely wonderful. I’ve improved so much in just a week, it’s amazing (了不起!liaobuqi – learned that this week). The key thing to know is that the language pledge (to speak only Chinese unless I’m calling  family or friends from home) is working. Also, the teachers are SO great and SO nice, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to meet them. And they all really like me.

However, the far more interesting things to blog about are my encounters with Chinese society. And trust me, I’ve only encountered a teeny, tiny part of it so far. I’ve hardly left the Beiyu campus yet.

It amazes me that China is developing at such an incredible rate–almost everyone has a cell phone and internet access, especially in the cities–but some things have not developed at the same rate. Like the restrooms.

The restroom in my room is just like one you’d find in an American hotel, except, as I’ve mentioned, there is no partition between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. Nor does the shower slope down. So, every time I shower, I literally flood the bathroom floor. And I can’t drink the tap water. But otherwise, it’s up to American standards.

But the restroom in the classroom building that we use for HBA? At a very good university in Beijing? Squat toilets!!! It is a porcelain bowl lodged in the floor. And they do not provide toilet paper. Apparently, most public restrooms in China (and likely many private ones) are just like this, and women often carry toilet paper around with them.

Everyone has a cell phone (and they all have really nice ones at that), but still with the squat toilets? I don’t get it. I mean, is it that much more expensive to make a toilet bowl? Is it?

Then there is the traffic situation. The traffic law, officially, is that pedestrians yield to bikes, which yield to mopeds, which yield to cars, which yield to busses and trucks. The bigger you are, the less you have to look.

I have almost died at least five times. Well, perhaps an exaggeration, but I’ve certainly almost been painfully clipped at least five times. It’s scary being a pedestrian in China! And no wonder China has one of the highest traffic accident death rates in the world, and it’s only increasing as more cars appear on the road.  (I’ll be careful, mom, I promise.)

Also, I’ve taken to watching some Chinese television, which is … something else. Right now, I’m watching some creepy children’s show with a kid dressed up in costume strongly resembling Tinky Winky, singing a song about eating cartoon watermelons–to the tune of “I come to Alabama with a banjo on my knee”–with a real life man. Now they’ve just broken it down without the music, so the kids can learn the tones.

Actually, this kids’ show is the least weird thing I’ve seen on Chinese TV. Between the weird food commercials, constant presence of Beijing opera, over-the-top reality shows (think like Japanese ones), the hilarious Korean (and Chinese) music videos, and the completely ridiculous excuse for acting that I usually encounter in the too-many dramas, I think Tinky Winky’s doing  a pretty good job.

Oh – know they’res singing about how much they love each other. this is a lot like Barney, actually. Awww, Chinese kids are adorable. A rainbow is shooting out of their pumpkin-house. Cute.

Then there are the weird restaurant customs. They don’t give you napkins. You have to ask for them, and sometimes they charge you. For napkins! Then, no matter how bit your party is, they only give you one menu. One! This must be because all food is served family style, so they assume you’ll decide together. But boy, it sure is inefficient.

Speaking of restaurants, I ate some Sichuan food today, known for its spiciness and “numbing” (麻 ma) qualities. I’d had Sichuan food before, but I’d never had numbing food. I had some today. It was awesome! It was sort of a combination between feeling like my mouth had fallen asleep, and feeling like I had just eaten a very strong (and hot) mint. So cool! But everyone at the table told me my cheeks were turning red.

Well, that’s all I can think of for the moment. Tomorrow I visit the Great Wall of China! I’ll be sure to tell you all about it. For now, it’s back to children’s TV. Man, these kids are terrible actors.

再见 (zaijian – goodbye)!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    June 23, 2010 1:33 am

    Haha oh the first encounter with squat toilets! I had mine in France when I was 14. I went into the bathroom and came right back out because I didn’t know what to do. Apparently the look on my face was priceless. I guess they’re considered more sanitary and better for your excretion process. Wikipedia makes the point that in Western cultures, the squatting position itself is little used, which makes using this kind of toilet difficult. But if you think about it, Eastern cultures do tend to squat a lot more often during various cultural activities. Kind of interesting.

  2. Mom permalink
    June 27, 2010 10:10 pm

    Less “Chuck,” more postings, please!

  3. Cbuck permalink
    July 21, 2010 1:47 pm

    “And they all really like me”

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