Literally, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So I have like three drafts of posts to put up, which I hope somehow makes up for the month I haven’t put anything up here. To be honest it has been really boring. I study Chinese, I take buses and subways home, I try and get out with mixed results. Eh. I thought I’d do a direct comparison between China and the US this time. Starting with some of my sticking points…
I miss goths. Real goths, not this ribbons and dresses visual kei nonsense imported from Japan. I want leather and studs and guitars and darkwave and spells and real blackness. I want to look at hot women and men wearing layers of leather and vinyl and spikes and consider them worthy adversaries in dance, love, conversation, or combat. You’d think a country on a legacy of geomancy, industrial decay, rehearsed violence in general, and apathy towards towards authority could manage the goth stuff well, but you’d be surprised.
I miss hyphenated Americans. I miss blacks, latinos, asian-americans, indians, eastern europeans, southerners, northerners, New Yorkers, Jews (I miss Jews so much! They are so nice to have around, and I have never before appreciated this), even Californians, although I stop missing them when they open their mouths.
To say nothing of the total deprivation of booty here! Everyone is made of sticks and sinew here, man and woman alike. And non-east Asian ethnic groceries. I miss eating my dollar samosas and drinking Limca in the park outside Carnegie.
Ooh, and Italians! You can get pizza here, if you want to call it that, but oregano and basil were unlikely to be invited to the party in your tummy, and if they were, they had some jerk friends who came along and crashed it.
But now that the major sticking points are out of the way–fairly small ones, really–I want to share my list of things I like. It’s difficult to show a snapshot of life here and my impressions of it from a blog I update so rarely, even if the posts are super-long, but I thought the best way to do it was by giving a comprehensive, overwhelming list of alternating good and bad points about China, or things I like here that are different versus things I find inferior or miss about America.
So let’s begin!
Letter sized paper does not exist here. While the many options of paper size can be convenient for different tasks, it makes binding impossible. Paper money is pretty. But I hate constantly breaking hundreds. I miss Indian food. But seeded watermelon is very common here, and thanks to Monsanto it is not in the US. As a cheap hippie, I miss used book/clothing/music stores. But there are lots of bootleg/copyright infringing/cheap new goods here that are about equivalent. It’s never easy to find seats on public transit like it is in the US. But then, buses and subways actually go places here. Frequently. On time. Even at night.
No Jews here, therefore impossible to get decent bagels or talk about economics. As a biker, I do enjoy the total lack of traffic laws, although I bike pretty dangerously, to be quite honest. Repetitive WWII television sitcoms and talent shows. Teeny tiny filthy proletarian delicious retaurants. Health risks of said restaurants. Italian food. Cheap and convenient public transit. Latinos in general. Cheap everything. Black people, especially women. Helpful and bored policemen everywhere. CURVES. Entire city is bikable. Mexican/Hispanic food. People don’t care that you can’t speak the language well (2 theories about this: 1 is that it’s because I’m American and “wealthy,” 2 is that China has a super-long precedent of being a multi-lingual unified state and language problems are expected).
Turn signals, and seat belts, I miss both of them. Inquisitive, kind people. Park benches are few. Street food. Clean air, water. Lack of zoning enforcement means eating, shopping are always convenient. Drinkable tap water (free in restaurants…although sometimes boiled water/kaishui is here). All the Russians here. Vegetarian entrees, and menus I can understand readily. How easy flirting is, even if it makes me uncomfortable how much power I have as a pretty white boy. Basic public acceptance of latent human sexuality (the battles rebellious youth won in the sixties through the nineties are still being fought here). Yanjing beer, it’s 45 cents US for 600 mL of 10 proof beer that tastes like wheaty carbonated water. Skimpy clothing. Free public workout spaces.
Vegans/art students/potheads. Traffic laws, or lack thereof. RAIN and HILLS. Propaganda; the banners everywhere are both amusing and depressing. The service culture here is awful. Free tickets to cultural events that make me feel all worldly and awesome. Bike helmets. Living in skyscrapers all the time. Music, pop music here is terrible. Sense of history, subjectivity in every single conversation, it’s like every person I meet is their own tiny world. Goths. Economic diversity–all the people I meet at school are all totally immersed in industrial bourgeois culture and totally fine with that, when they’re aware of it at all.
My dog. Cheap and effective knock-off brands. Classical architecture. The fact that the most expensive, exclusive club in Beijing has a US $7 cover charge. Produce in general is scary here, huge, misshapen Frankenfood covered in pesticides and needed to be peeled before eaten. But I do not miss seedless watermelon, and other things that are subtly twisted until they’re no longer plants so much as factory goods. Salespeople can be very aggressive here. But everything is cheap, local, and readily available.
Women shouting at me “Mister, you want go LADY BAR” every time I go to Sanlitun. Flash fried fruit slices covered in carmelized sugar. Total lack of stars in the night sky, although that’s true of Carlisle as well. How well old people and children are treated here. The general vulnerability of my school, apartment, daily routine, and the city in general to zombie attacks. You laugh, I worry. Stairs! They’re the next best thing to hills and necessary so I don’t lose my mountain-biking thighs here any more than I have to. The constant coating of dust on everything here. Everyone here is fit! Homophobia. But even though there’s a lack of organized religion here, the maintenance of culture and behavior is arguably much stricter than Europe or America’s ever was.
More later. Homework now! Au revoir.