Not much eventful this week, but I’ve got some cute cat pictures and silly musings and that’s all you need for a blog, right?
First off, the happiest of birthdays to my amazing father Bruce. I hope you spend it wonderfully and happily. Love you beyond words.
Now my Fulbright update, I have over 4,000 characters written, which is a lot more progress than I thought I’d get! So going back to do more reading. When I say writing, I really mean just getting my English notes translated into full Chinese sentences and put in roughly the correct location on the paper. But it’s progress!
We had more class off for Dragon Boat Festival, which was quite lovely. The holiday is celebrated by 踏青’ing (ta qing) which literally translates to “stomping green.” What it actually means going to grassy places near water to have a picnic, which is pretty awesome. At the same time people will take off colorful bracelets they’ve been wearing for two weeks up to this point and throw them into the water, allegedly to get rid of all the sickness in their bodies. Also eating sticky rice wrapped in leaves. In the south it’s sometimes accompanied by dragon boat racing as you might expect.
Now why do people do this? Opinions differ. The most popular theory is that during the Warring States Period, the minister Qu Yuan of Chu was exiled when he opposed his ruler allying with the state of Qin. When the Qin later captured Chu’s capital, Qu Yuan was so griefstricken that he jumped into the Miluo river to kill himself. The people loved him, so they raced boats (dragon boats) to recover his body, and when they couldn’t find it, they threw rice balls in the water to keep the fish from eating it.
Other people though, believe it is to commemorate the (unjustly) ordered suicide of Wu Zixu with similar protection from the fish.
Other places commemorate other just people dying unjustly, but the overall tone is the same. Incidentally Korea apparently celebrates a very different version of the holiday, and the differences are the study of a decent body of academic work.
The day of the festival, I went to buy groceries and get breakfast at the farmer’s market as has become my custom, and randomly ran into my advisor! He suggested that I go to Central Street to see the crowds of people, and as I had been planning to go the next day, I adjusted my schedule. What resulted was a lot of walking, a LOT of people, and some great journal writing environment. Got a tan, bought some bread, and overall had a lovely time.
This makes a fair enough transition to my thoughts of the week, which are still developing. Something happened while I was out on Central Street where a random woman yelled, “Hello!” at me in English as I passed by. This happens fairly often when you’re non-Asian and in public in China. Depending on my mood, it’s sometimes really funny and return the greeting (especially if it’s a little kid), but if I’m tired or just not feeling it it really irks me. This was one of the later times, and I almost chewed out this poor woman, who was just being nice. (I kind of did, “do we know each other? So you just go saying hello to random strangers?”) It, combined with something someone said, made me ask myself why I feel so combative in China, so apart from the culture despite living here for over two years now. Part of that has to do with being white of course, I stick out, I’m always different, but part of the blame lies on me as well. I certainly could be making more efforts to integrate fully with the culture, but there are still some disconnects that I find hard to overcome.
One of them is politics, as mentioned last post this inability to accept criticism of the country, the inability to grasp the concept that you can love something and still want to see it improve, provokes this almost primal reaction in me that leads to a kind of antagonistic mindset when I talk with people here sometimes. I’ve begun noticing this, and I’m trying to examine why exactly it happens and how to stop it, but it was a bit disheartening to realize it. I feel like I’ve failed my duty as a Fulbrighter and as someone who prides themself on understanding Chinese culture better than your average American. But it seems understanding doesn’t equate to assimilation or adaptation.
I’ll close this by adding that I actually have some good, local Chinese friends now! (Who came to trivia and the tea-shopping trip) so it’s not all bad! And kitty pictures to close it out. Hopefully a more eventful post next week.