countin' the days

Saturday, May 09, 2009

China: WTF?

China is a country of very extreme contrasts. In any given moment, in any given place, you can experience the strange dualities that seem to define much of China. The beautiful alongside the disgusting, zen among the chaos, balance within incongruencies, harmony not too far from the barely tolerable. Normally, during my travels I will keep my famous "best & worst" lists for each country I visit in the back of my journal. But in China, thanks to these strange extremes and all the oddities in between, best & worst just didn't seem to fit. Thus, my "China: What the F*ck?" list was born.

Generally, when I saw something fitting for this list, the dialogue would go something like this:
Courtney: "What the F*CK is that about?"
Erica: "Yup, that's China for ya."

Here are a few excerpts from CHINA: WTF?
- man painting a wall blue, in the middle of the day, wearing a suit
- man gutting a fish for a restaurant on the concrete floor on an alleyway
- taxi drivers refusing to drive us once they knew our destination (this happened probably 6 times)
- "no cars" sign posted on a small, quaint footpath in the middle of the park
- complete lack of internet cafes due to government censorship of the internet
- strip malls built in sacred spots (ie Jing'an Temple)
- "Take Me Home Country Roads", sung Chinese ballad-style, blaring out of speakers at the Hangzhou train station
- woman holding a bouquet of not flowers, but stuffed teddy bears
- getting cut in line every single time
- the lead-poisoned milk scandal & subsequent execution of the farmer who started it
- taxis cutting off cop cars, while speeding
- enormous popularity of Haagen Daaz chains
- vendors pushing carts through insanely crowded train cars, over & over again
- people blowing snot rockets into their hands
- is it really so hard to smile?
- men gardening bushes to clear the path, then parking their bikes full of clippings in the middle of the sidewalk, thus totally blocking the path
- 70% of adult males smoking 30% of the world's cigarettes
- speciality on the dim sum menu: "aerobics frog"
- children "fishing" for tadpoles at the dirty lake in the park and collecting them in water bottles
- guards at the park telling people to stay off the grass, then tossing garbage directly into the lake
- Lays potato chips in fruit flavors (blueberry, lychee, lime)
- stop lights with only red & green arrows, each pointing in 3 different directions

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