adventures in the people's republic of china and beyond

Friday, July 07, 2006

 

Writing a travel blog has been harder than I thought it would be. It seems I could write pages upon pages about trivial matters back at home, but now I'm travelling all over the world and the best I can come up with is some bland commentary, most likely unconsciously scrapped together from what remains in my head from reading guidebooks. And really, there are better places to go for pictures of Beijing and terse descriptions of often-visited places.


Delicious ribs.

I haven't really had a chance to talk about how I feel about being here. There's really too much to say, and I doubt any of it would really give you an idea of what it's like to be here. Every day after my arrival here I felt different, but I've been here for over a week and am starting to adapt.


A personal touch.

Being a Chinese guy in China who can't speak Chinese very well is difficult at times. Before I came here, I was told that everyone would somehow recognize that I was a foreigner even if I didn't say anything, just from my outward appearance and behaviour. This has been mostly wrong. Seriously, in a city of 20 million Chinese people, when you see one slightly odd-looking Chinese guy on the street, how are you going to instantly know he's a foreigner? Even in the US I can never tell the difference between FOBs and ABCs. Everyone assumes I'm Chinese, so it's really frustrating and embarassing at times to be the one guy who can't understand clearly spoken language and doesn't know what he's doing. I've been mistaken for Korean here in China more than any other time in my life(there are lots of Korean students here studying Chinese). I don't even look Korean, but I'm glad that people here can at least come up with some excuse for my weirdness. At least I don't think I look Korean. Some Koreans told me I look like some Korean actor, but really, you'd think the South Korean entertainment industry could afford to hire better-looking actors.


The signs here have wonderfully detailed illustrations.

I'm surrounded by millions of Chinese people, but at the same time, feel kind of isolated. I don't know any Chinese people here other than my host family and teachers. I've heard countless stories of foreigners meeting people who wanted to practice their English, but obviously this route doesn't really work for me: like I said, you wouldn't guess that I was a native speaker of English just by looking at me. At the same time, my Chinese skills are so basic that it's hard for me to make any meaningful conversation in Chinese.


A prayer wheel at Yonghegong lama temple. Lots of neat stuff to look at inside but you can't take pictures.

Speaking of my Chinese skills, it's been weird putting them into practice. I find myself struggling with the most basic sentences at times despite having studied much more difficult stuff before I came here. But then again, most of my learning before I got here was passive: just reading, mostly, and a little bit of listening.


A stone library. On the stones are carved the entire text of the Thirteen Classics.

I don't know if my Chinese will be that much better after these couple months. I've been to Thailand several times and grew up in a Thai-speaking household, but my Thai really sucks. I used to think that everyone else somehow had the magical skill of picking up a language just by being in that environment for long enough, but really, I don't think anyone does. Because I've met lots of people who've spent a year or more in a particular country and suck at the language.


Temples are cool but they get boring.

I think I've written enough for now. This post was a bit longer but was more like what I imagined I'd be writing in this travel blog.

Comments:
the food looks great, are you at some fancy resturant or something? or is that just normal over there?

i think if you want to be taken for a foriner, just change your hair color to blond, and whear the american flag somewhere on your shirt, then they will know.

 

Hey Pravit, I think you shouldn't worry too much about not being able to make fascinating blogs. I'd say be sure to have a good time while you're there, and don't worry too much about home. Thinking about it too much can really detract. And anyways, regardless of what you think of them, I think your blogs always come out to be pretty interesting.

 

fuck i just wrote a comment and it dissappeared. well, i ate a chicken´s haert and drank champagne and this keyboard is weird. so much food. tired. have to get up at six.
i´m in brazil. ciao e ate mais.

 

I suppose you can't please everyone. Some other readers thought previous posts was a bit boring and wanted something more personal, so I gave it a try. Anyway, nice to hear from you guys. Even Allyson.

Also Anis, it's normal for restaurants here to serve awesome food for really cheap. I'll write more about it later.

 

I love the very detailed signs--- cafepress shirts waiting to happen!

 

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