Sunday, October 22, 2006


Feel free to disregard the following text and just look at the pictures. The two are unrelated. Brief captions for each of the photos are at the end of this post.

As autumnal weather settles on Beijing, I am confronted with a new sight with which I am until now unacquainted: lots of Chinese people wearing coats. With my 13 weeks of China experience (6+7=13) all in the summer months, I’ve seen oodlesof Chinese in t-shirts, bathing suits, and even business wear. These days, however, it’s not uncommon to see whole gaggles of Chinese all walking around wearing coats. It’s new.

Ahem, I’ve been thinking recently that China is beginning to lose a bit of its lustre. Arriving in a totally wacky, different place, comes with a sort of giddy excitement affecting even the most everyday activities. Ordering food is an adventure, crossing the street is an expedition, and taking a bus across town is a veritable odyssey. After a while, for better or worse, things start to get more normal.

Then, I think, one can objectively answer the question ‘do I like this place?’—once a trip stops being a carnival and starts being—life. My main objective in coming to China last summer was to answer that question, and I didn’t come up with a satisfactory response. With all the traveling about that I did, I hardly ever got past the “honeymoon stage” of culture shock, as it’s known among the pros. Only now, really, am I getting a taste of life in China.

There are parts of living here that I like, and parts I can do without. I suppose it’s the same no matter where one lives. Ultimately, however, this place isn’t home. I think with significantly better language abilities, I could get to a point where I was comfortable in China, but it’s hard to imagine choosing to move here on any sort of permanent basis. The question that naturally follows is a tough one: if one doesn’t plan to live in China, than really, what is the point of learning Chinese? There doesn’t seem to be much reason to put in all the effort.

This is not my resignation letter—I’m still planning to continue with the language through my final three semesters at Tufts—but it is some of the reasoning behind my decision to return to Tufts for the spring, which, at last, is my final decision. I think I stand to gain a lot from an extra semester in academia, and if I decide that I do want to spend some post-graduation time working in China, well, I can put in the time and learn the language then. I’ve got a good start.

The photos: I went today down to the Panjiayuan antique market, way the heck on the other side of Beijing. It was fun, and thanks to a spot of rain yesterday, the sky was clear enough for some sun to shine through the city air. Photography ensued. The most fun spot was outside the market, where they were storing all the outsized Chinese statues. Photo 1: Buddhist goddesses, roped to the truck by their necks. 2: A dude with one of the aforementioned goddesses. 3: Some monks, securely fastened. 4: Some guys play chinese chess while another goddess gets funky. 5: A smorgasbord of Buddhist deities.


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