There are a bunch of little thoughts that I’ve had bouncing around in my head for a while, and I thought I’d dump them out. This is all just randomness.
The picture you see is a “Chinese pick-up truck”. While cars are becoming much more common, I would estimate that at least half of the traffic on the roads is some form of bicycle. E-Bikes (electric mopeds) and scooters are the most common. The “trike truck” in the picture, however, is very common. It’s the basic utility vehicle for everything. They will pile the back so full it looks like something from a Looney-Tunes cartoon. There’s also a common version where the back is a grill. They make an amazing array of food from the back of one of those trikes. Some have a seat in the back and become a taxi.
A Country in Flux
Whatever you’ve heard about China is probably 50% true and 80% false. China is a country–and a culture–that is changing very rapidly. It’s difficult to explain. America had 100 years to slowly progress through all the various stages of growth. China has done it in less than 30–or, to be more precise, parts of China have done it. China isn’t growing all together. Parts of the country are ultra-modern, while others are still living the same way they did 200 years ago (except with cellphones).
China is Not One Country
In the same way that the US is a mish-mash of different attitudes–New York, Hollywood, New Orleans, Chicago, Billings, Taos… all so very different–China is a conglomeration of different cultures, ethnicities, histories, and attitudes. And, of course, this is true for any country.
The Devil is in the Details
This is a phrase I teach my students. I tell them stories about my first months in China and how the biggest problems came from the smallest things. Chinese stairs are (usually) about 6 inches high; for the first few months, I would step up 9 inches, and then stumble because the stair wasn’t there. Green ice cream in America is mint flavor; in China it’s “green tea” flavor.
In my time in China I have not only met Chinese people, I have met people from England, Ireland, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Germany, Belarus, Ukraine, Venezuela, and more. And the thing that I’ve found is that 99.44% of what we do is familiar–if not the same. We may do it in different ways; have different traditions, different protocols, and different taboos… But for the most part, we’re all looking for the same things.
It’s that last little bit that causes the problems. The details are the hardest things to overcome–because they are the smallest. They are the things we do every day without thinking. They are the details that are so ingrained that we get severely upset when they don’t meet our expectations.
And they are the reasons that we fight. And hate. And demonize.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
There are plenty of things wrong with China. And pretty much every Chinese citizen knows this. The same can be said for every country.
Sometimes it may sound like I’m saying that China is better than America. I’m not. I love my home and I look forward to coming back. What I’m trying to show is that China and America are–in so many ways–the same. China–the people, not the government–looks up to America. They want to be America. And I do my part to explain to them why that’s a great goal.