Here comes the vent…as a semi-expat living here once again there comes a time, usually close to the time you know that you’ll be heading back to your “native soil” where you have to vent your pent up feelings about all the things that irk you. I think it happens for all peoples in foreign climes. We are used to our our societal norms and so being confronted with those things that are either unfamiliar, or seem vulgar, or the hegemony that one is confronted with all just start to get on the last nerve you have left. You still enjoy where you are, but a breaking-point comes. If you are not in a place for long you might not even come to this point, and if you are going to stay long – you make your peace with these things are figure out a way to live around it all.
There are things that I will not be sorry to leave behind.
1) I will not be sorry to leave behind the sound that people make when they are about to spit on the street. The sound that seems to reach down into a person’s toes and come up and out makes me cringe every time I hear it. It’s a sound I cannot seem to get used to or get over. *shudder*
2) I will not be sorry to leave people blowing their noses out onto the pavement. It’s something that hasn’t been completely eradicated here and may never. I can only hope that should I find myself back in China again that it will be a thing that happens few and far between than it has been this time. I have hope, it was less of an occurrence this time than it was when I lived here in 1999/2000. *shudder*
3) I will not be sorry to leave small children and infants peeing out into the street, or onto the sidewalk or in the grass. There has been a big push for disposable diapers, but you still see lots of babies and toddlers wearing the split trousers for easy elimination of bodily fluids and solids. I am grateful that there are more modern sensibilities present, but I look forward to the rest following. There are culturally historical socially acceptable things worth keeping. This one, in my very opinionated personal opinion, is not. Not least of all due to hygiene and the spread of infectious disease.
4) I will not be sorry to leave behind the public toilets/WC (water closet), or the Loo (apologies to the gents named Louis who have to deal with teasing). It is not because they are more disgusting than western public toilets. Some are quite clean and tidy, even down right pristine. They are great for upper thigh strength and glute work, but I am tired of not being able to flush the toilet paper down the drain, but most of all I am tired of the trough where the person behind me’s bowel movement is getting flushed past me to the main sewage drain, or not being flushed but slowly washed away until the water can move it the rest of it away. I know, I know. The western world has sanitised much of our bodily functions to such a degree that we don’t talk of such things in polite, let alone impolite company. However, it’s not that I feel the need to gloss over the experience or be more “delicate” about such things. It is simply that I am tired of seeing everyone else’s business that came before me.
5) I will not be sorry to leave the “rock hard” mattress behind in the flat. I don’t know what the rationale is behind sleeping on the equivalent of a raised floor. I’m sure there is some deep seeded ancient tradition of health and wellbeing, but I am longing for my mattress. I long to sleep on my back once again without waking up feeling like every joint needs a good cracking.
6) I will not be sorry to leave the pollution or the cigarette smoke that comes with living here. I will say that there are better smoking rules in place, but the pollution is worse and my lungs can tell. Home may be polluted, too, but I’ll take it over this.
Whew! Thanks. I needed that. Now I can continue with the accounts of the last of our adventures here and speak of all the wonderful things that I will miss when it’s time to leave.
Thinking over this post and having done the venting that I needed to do, I want to add that I do think, in many respects, the Chinese do things right. In terms of thinking about bodily functions there’s no glossing over, or creating euphemistic names for things. A penis doesn’t become a “willy”. If you need to use the toilet, you simply ask, “where’s the toilet”? You don’t shyly, with an embarrassed tittering voice, ask for the W.C. or the Ladies. Everybody has to use the toilet. Fact. So there’s no embarrassment, no feigned embarrassment about things. A little child wears split pants and you can see clearly if the child is male or female, so what? So, in that respect I do admire the Chinese for not mincing words and creating a culture of people too removed from their own bodily functions, or body parts to do them good.
As AEB grows, I try to use correct terms for things. She’ll learn in school all the terms she won’t at home. You can be matter-of-fact and clinical without being ridiculous. Like saying she needs to do a B.M. (bowel movement for those unfamiliar) rather than poop, or some other euphemism because needing to eliminate, and needing to ask where the proper place is to do so shouldn’t feel unpleasant, dirty, or wrong.
Sometimes, I do think the Chinese go too far in laying things out for you. Like the bird flu news reel shown before the film shown out in the gardens. I don’t think small children needed to see all the gruesome details of how the flu hits the birds, effects the birds and kills the birds, or how they are disposed of when dead. It’s not something I was thrilled for my girl to be exposed to, but for the most part she was playing with friends and didn’t see all the horror I did. I would like to ease her into certain aspects of the awful side of life. I don’t feel the need to totally protect her like a Siddhartha was behind his palace walls. But I would like the chance to help guide her into the idea of life not being all imagination and wonderful. And yes, I know that those choices won’t always be mine to make. And yes, I know that more often than not I will be having to explain things overheard or told or exposed to before she’s emotionally ready.