Sunday, May 09, 2004

A couple of background comments that I may have overlooked but may assist in trying to understand where I am and what is going on around me here in China. First, we have all heard the warning "Do not drink the water" well here that is quite true. Even the locals do not drink the water. The only water we drink is bottled water. Unfortunately it seems that the idea of drinking water has not really caught on in China :) instead they drink beer or tea, and in my very limited experience they prefer the beer.

The result on my part is that I cannot imagine craving a beer and when I am out I would about kill for a simple glass of water. That said, I have really come to appreciate the subtleties and various flavors of Muslim style tea as well as flower tea (much like what we would call herbal tea). Muslim style tea includes many fruits, flowers, and whatnot. The cup has not handle, and it comes with a lid which is used to push back the contents which are loose in the cup. If you ever get a chance to try Muslim style tea, do so without hesitation.

One of the other background elements about which I should comment relates directly to this blog. Though I can post to the blog, for some reason (government blocks) I cannot view it myself. This being the case, I ask for some understanding if I repeat myself, or miss some spelling or error in grammar, as I am not able to check the site myself.

Conditions are very different from that which many of us, myself included, take for granted in the western world. In some ways this means greater opportunity, in others it means conditions that are surprising and undesirable. In the day to day life of the average Chinese citizen, at least as far as I have seen thus far, there is a great deal more freedom than in the US. Fewer laws, fewer police, fewer restrictions on activity. That said the activities that are restricted are restricted absolutely, as with the blocking of web sites.

But do not believe all of the US government rhetoric about religion being forbidden, or the people of China being held down. Religion is abundant, open, and very obvious. There is no hiding, nor the need for it. As for the Chinese people.. well they are the biggest threat to complacency of the west, particularly with regard to capitalism. They are in general far far better and more devoted capitalists than any other people I have encountered, and that of course includes my 30+ years experience of living in the supposed epitome of capitalism.

Just to be clear I am not trying to express a preference for one group over another, or to insult any nation or its people. Rather I am simply stating some of the common misconceptions and false assumptions that have been the norm for far too long. Things simply are not as they have been described.

Other background info.. while it is very difficult to get around and communicate when you do not speak the language, I have found on a few occassions a welcoming nature and the ability to interact, even have some fun, without that common language. The Chinese people have been warm, welcoming, friendly, and interested.

Enough for now.. Time to return to my solitude (Dad is still in the US) while it lasts. Solitude can be difficult to come by, especially with such an energetic and wonderful friend/guide as Summer, who is always worried that I might be left alone. Community, comraderie, family, and socializing is far more important here than it is in the states, and since I am basically anti-social even in the states, it can be even more difficult for me, despite the fact that all intentions are well meaning.

All the best to all, and keep the email coming. It is good to hear from home..

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