Since my last post (which I realise was quite a while back) I’ve tried my hand at tai chi, visited old alleyways that have been restored, endured close to 3 hours of Peking opera and enjoyed lessons in Chinese painting and calligraphy. I think it’s a privilege to be a part of this program and to have the option of traditional cultural excursions and activities but what I prefer more than being a tourist is actually delving into the daily life of the common people. I want to know what they eat, where they go shopping and their hobbies so I go on little cultural excursions with friends or on my own. It sounds kind of boring to look into the ordinary life of an average person but I find it fascinating because it represents the reality of a modern Chinese city that people may overlook as unimportant.
During my little cultural excursions I feel the freedom of being able to blend in as a Chinese citizen thanks to my heritage as I stroll in the small parks (yay there’s actually green things here!) and walk along busy streets. It’s not until I open my mouth to bargain or try some street food that locals realise I’m not from around here because I’m so slow to understand haha. It’s a humbling experience because sometimes I have to depend on the generosity of people to explain what I’m planning to order for a meal or the product I’m considering buying.
There’s also certain things that are considered rude in Western culture that I find is acceptable here. The biggest example I can think of is staring. I already have a blunt personality to begin with but now I can finally unleash my inner desires to people-watch so I stare unabashedly at the students sitting nearby in the cafeteria for as long as I want… Before startling them even more by asking what they’re eating. In Australia people look at me weirdly and well they do that a bit here too but hey it’s China so it’s alright.
Other things you can only find in China are the large number of food carts and the option to bargain in markets. Trying different kinds of street food and bargaining for cheap items are two of my favourite things to do here. I find it fun being able to go back and forth between a price until I win and there’s all different kinds of food to be tasted although you should be warned that street food has its risks.
Anyway I’ve written more than I would have liked and not entirely in a succinct manner so I’ll edit it when I have more time but the main message I have for people is to not disregard the small everyday things but to go out and continue to discover what life here is really like as a local.