Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Overture

I'm sitting on those un-welcoming drab gray cushion chairs at the airport, waiting for my 8:10 AM flight. Waking up on time to get to the airport was actually pretty easy - I guess some of the post-Yale test anxiety still lingers. Or maybe I'm just excited.

I'm not sure how to define my excitement. According to my parents, I generally contain any sort of enthusiasm with some sort of "Korean" dignity, whatever that means. On the way to the airport, my dad went on about how East Asian people know etiquette better than Westerners. But isn't etiquette relative? Take the Eastern and Western approaches to drinking soup. Western manners insist on no slurping noise, whereas in Korea, Japan, and China, slurping one's soup is considered perfectly acceptable - how else would the soup cool down? I'm guessing my dad meant that I take the unexpected on with a cool head with common sense, and, in his own words, "You're neither too happy or too sad." I see some truth in that. I'm happy that I'll set foot on new ground, but I'm not hyperventilating, "I'm going to China! I'm going to China!". I'm curious to see what the country's like, and how people are there. On the other hand, I'm sad that I'll be missing the chance to see my best friends, who will come after I leave. I'm sad to leave my family, and Willy. But I know that when I come back, they will be there, and I'll bring more stories to the dinner table.

I didn't plan to go to China before I started college. It just... happened. I thought that I'd be sitting in some lab or hospital right now, volunteering and researching, making my resume pretty for medical school. But how could I pass up a trip to China, all expenses covered? My language lectors had been amazing during my freshman year, giving me hilarious and often profound insight into Chinese culture and its state today. I want to use my knowledge and to see the sights I had only glimpsed in history textbooks. I want to see China before the Olympics in 2008, and the infestation of the world population in China. Yes, infestation is a strong word, and I know China's already very developed, but I want to see the mass of heads with homogenous black hair for myself.

My first rest place will be at a fellow couchsurfer's place. I can't give his name for privacy reasons. What is a couchsurfer, you ask? Couchsurfing is an internationally known method of travel, where independent travelers can sleep on other traveler's couches... for free. You can contact a couchsurfer online, ask for a couch, and hopefully you'll get one to rest on. It's all a system of trust - you pray to whatever deity you believe in that, as you sleep, your host will not sell your organs to the highest bidder. I exaggerate - there have there been such a case, according to the site. Here's the site for all of you who are interested: www.couchsurfing.com. This will be my first couchsurfing experience and I've never met my couchsurfer, nor do I clearly know how to get to his apartment, but it will be exciting to ride Beijing buses and taxis for the first time and meet completely random people. Stay tuned. I assure you, there will be a third post.

I just recently finished The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so I am compelled to add this final note: I hope you have your towel.

edit, 10:47 AM, Vancouver International Airport
I feel too lazy to get food or browse the duty-free shops at the moment. Vancouver is a beautiful city, a lot like Hong Kong (said the person next to me). Lots of little islands, beautiful clouds, but brown murky bay. Pity I won't be here for long.While I was waiting in the Canadian customs line, I happened to talk with a lady who published a book on bribery, and was going to China to talk about it to a government committee. She told me we were lucky to be stuck with U.S. bureaucracy and red tape rather than have to deal with developing government corruption. For example, in order for one to obtain a driver's license in America, one simply has to follow a few set age and knowledge rules, paying set fees here and there. The worst nuance that the American can complain about is waiting in line. As she said, "My students in India told me that to get a license there (in India), one could go about it legally and wait for days, or they could bribe the person behind the counter, have the driver's license personally delivered to their door, and have a commercial trucker's license to boot." I asked her what the word for bribery in Chinese was, and she said "hong2 bao1." Isn't that literally "red envelope"? I'm puzzled by this conversation, and a bit nervous. At least when I was in Tunisia I had a sense of Western values despite the Islamic influence, but what set of rules (or lack thereof) have I decided to subject myself to?


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1 Comment:

Viola said...

The theme you're using for these blog titles are quite clever. And as for your writing style... it's superb. If you ever were to publish books in the future, I can promise that I would buy all of them. =]

I always think about that culture difference whenever I have soup with my family because everyone slurps loudly and I try not to wince. hahaha.

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