Reflections From 1 Month in China

China, the unanswered questions

Why do chinese spit?
It took less than a day in Beijing before this really got under my skin (and under my feet, *drum sound*). Constant spitting. Preceded by a loud hukking sound, as though they’re trying to withdraw their intestines before they spit. The longer I spent in China, the more it ate away at me. Spitting outdoors, while disgusting, is on some level acceptable, by simple grace that it can be sidestepped and avoided. But doing so indoors, on a packed train, a bus, a cabin, motivates me to call upon the little friend mentioned in my previous post. I would be sitting on a packed peasant train, stifling heat, and observe a Chinese man eject a massive piece of saliva onto the ground and think, ‘You bastard. You absolute bastard. Why?!’

Why squat when you can sit?
I can on some level understand the thinking behind a squat toilet when it’s well maintained, flushes, and is completely separate from any area where humans converse. In China, sadly, these luxuries were rare. I did a Yangtze River cruise in a modest cabin with 5 Chinese and a squat toilet behind walls that failed to contain its stench. I looked at it as I entered the room and thought, surely all will refrain from depositing number twos for the duration of this trip. We are in modest surrounds, and I can’t see a flush on that squat. To my horror, I discovered bombs had been dropped on day 2. Again, I looked to the heavens and asked, why? Banging my head with force against the wall, crying. Why not just go to the communal shit house, why do it here? We now have to live with this stench. That night, neither the warm beer, nor the sleeping tablets could get me to sleep. I lay there berating my cabin mates. Then one of them, without warning, rose and lunged toward the toilet to huk and hurl a massive spit. Again, why? Why! How much saliva do you have in your mouth that forces you to lunge with such urgency in the middle of the night to get it out? Why would you voluntarily, unnecessarily, want to enter the squat zone? What is so abhorrent about saliva being in your mouth? Do you not have a natural saliva circulation system? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Why combine a shower with a squat toilet?
What’s worse than a filthy squat toilet? Having to shower right on top of it. Whoever came up with the idea of combining a squat toilet with a shower should be shot by a firing squad. Bathing in the direct vicinity waste, its like brushing your teeth with sugar, washing your hair with cooking oil, taking a hot bath to cool down, it’s like… it’s like… any other ironic smilie contradictions? Masturbating with Olbas oil.
Ouch, that was bad. Too far mate. Too far. *cue heckles and hisses from the crowd* Showmanship Adrian, learn the value of showmanship.

Why have Internet restrictions?
This one is simple, so the corrupt aristocrats in the CCP can keep the proletarian ignorant, in turn allowing them to keep their cushy jobs in the party and the eye watering riches it brings. Meanwhile, the majority of chinese are poor and struggling, and always will be, but don’t know the difference. Define irony… Chinese communism.

Mao?
Revering a man who was responsible for up to 70 million Chinese deaths is a little backward. Adorning him on the currency and in statues? I know why they do it, because many don’t know the difference, but i still cant get my head around it. It’s like Germany commemorating Hitler in a statue. The US commemorating George W Bush. It’s sick.

8 Hours on a Peasant Class Train
After experiencing the fleeting luxury of a hotel in Yichang, it was as if someone then asked, you all rested now? Yeah? Well you should have enough energy for this! Then picked me up threw me into a stinking hot train packed full of sweaty people, for 8 hours. I’d travelled a lot on trains in China up till this point, but not this. I seemed to have somehow booked a peasant class ticket. No air conditioning, little air, little space. The one luxury we were granted was that the windows could be opened all of 10 cm. It seemed as though everything on this train was designed to break the spirit of the people.

The last hour of the journey was a terrible sight. Day had turned to night. The carriages looked like a war zone. Bodies were strewn over the seats, people in a deep deep sleep, some were dead. Food and drink were scattered all over the floor. The toilets were evil, as were the basins. Puddles of spit were scattered across the floor. People huddled into corners, talking to themselves like madmen. It looked like a cyclone had struck. And then I borrowed that line from Elaine in Seinfeld, when she looks up to see everyone eating Snickers bars with a knife and fork.. ‘What is wrong with you people, have you all gone mad!?’ Then, pointing to the mess…’We did this to ourselves, we only have ourselves to blame for this sad state. Now we have to live in it. Correction, you only have yourselves to blame. I was clean, and this is the thanks I get’.

The horrible climax came when it started raining, causing passengers to do something terrible, such craziness reminding me of the final chapter of The Beach. As the rain tumbled down outside, splashes began to trickle through the tiny gap in the window. I’ll never forget what they started doing next… they closed the windows! All of them. So, they had spat on the ground, spat into bags, coughed and sneezed vehemently into the air, spilt food all over the floor and left it, thrown trash on the ground and out the window, smoked like chimneys. This was all ok. But the thought of rain coming in through the tiny gap in the window, that was intolerable. So with haste, all the windows were shut, and so the cooling gush of air coming from outside was replaced with the terrible stench of waste coming from the toilets. And the crippling humidity that only China can dish out. But this was ok, because the rain and noise from the tunnels was kept out. And that eternal question returned, why?

Hints and Tips for Surviving China
These are a series of very useful pointers for anyone wishing to travel to the other side:

Combatting Being Mocked
The chinese laughed at me a lot, some of which was quite clearly laughing of the mocking variety. I didn’t mind, nor should you, just do as I did, laugh along with them. But make your laugh much louder and much more intense. As though you’re taking your laughter very seriously. And don’t stop laughing, even when they’ve stopped. Keep laughing, and clap, really hard. With a very very intense look, until your face goes very red. And follow them. Laughing. Until the laughter is so loud and intense it becomes a scream-laugh. A scream-laugh? Yeah thats right, a scream-laugh. Then, the narrative will have changed, they will no longer be amused, rather, they’ll be concerned, even afraid. They may even try to run away from you in a desperate panic. And then, the joke will be on them. Game set and match.

Combatting Persistent Touts
When I’d disembark from the train at a new town, often very early in the morning, all I wanted to do was get my bearings, get a snack, and sit for a moment. The touts would have none of this. The worst thing to do with a tout is stop moving, they will hover around you like flies. I found the quickest and most effective way to get rid of them was as follows: when they asked 6 or 7 times in the first 10 seconds of seeing them, Where you want to go? Where you go?! Where you go?! Instead if politely saying no thank you, say… ‘Africa’. Silence usually followed, before they’d clarify their question.. ‘Where you go, now?’ ‘Africa’. ‘No no, now? Where you go now?’ ‘Africa, I’m trying to get to africa, can you take me there?’ They’d then look confused, probably wondering if they should help this poor kid who was trying to go to africa but somehow ended up in china, or whether to just move on. Every time it was the latter and I’d be free. True story.

Combatting the Language Barrier
I seemed to have a lot of in depth conversations with people who had no idea what I was saying. Often the chinese, despite knowing I couldn’t understand what they were saying, would talk and explain things to me for minutes at a time while I patiently listened. Then my turn to speak would come and I’d talk away while they patiently listened, neither knowing what the hell the other was saying. To make this more interesting I decided to change the topic of conversation and say… ‘I am Jesus Christ. I am Jesus Christ. My conception was immaculate. I am the son of God, that’s right, God is my Dad’ etc etc. It got me into a bit of trouble in Jerusalem, but in China it’s fun.

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