Recently I went to the IKEA in Guangzhou (yes, IKEA has made it to China! And yes it sells all the same stuff!), and when I sat down on this amazingly comfy mattress, I remembered what I had left behind at home. Ok, so I know not all beds are that comfy. But the point being that when I first got to Beijing, I remember flinging myself on to the hotel bed after a monsterously long journey, and instead of sinking into a nice soft cushion, it was like hitting a rock. I thought it was really strange and probably just a cheap bed to begin with, but now I don't question the rock solid bed that I, nor anyone else, has. It's little things like that, that every once in a while, I take a step back and I can really appreciate these oddities. Like, I've become totally accustomed to the fact that all water that comes out of taps are cold. So that means washing my face in cold water, and doing the dishes in cold water aswell. The only way to get warm water here is to boil it on the hot plate. It used to drive me insane, but now its just normality.
A little cat on the wall outside my flat
The new statue put up in the 'park' across the road from my flat. I call this the 'big dog meeting place' because the few people with golden retrievers all seem to meet up here everyday. You can see my flat in the background with the red roof. I'm on the 4th floor
One thing I still find really bizarre is when I see people walking around with little chickadee type birds in little old-fashioned cages. I used to think that they had just bought the birds and were bringing them home. But I've since learned that actually they are taking the birds on walks. I've witnessed the same with fish in tanks! They really don't understand the concept of going for 'walks' here. Like when they put little dogs into a pram and push them along... on their 'dog walk'. As if that will tire them out!! Or when they walk around with their little puggles in a pink button up jacket (I kid you not) in their arms. Or, they try and sell guinea pigs by putting little pink dresses on them (See the top picture). It's as if they humanise their animals, and haven't really grasped the concept of having a pet. It's either FOOD or HUMAN and their seems to be no in between.
While I'm talking about Guinea pigs.... One of Roger's students had a pet guinea pig, but his parents told him that he loved it too much and didn't spend enough time on homework. So the solution to this problem was to bring the little guinea to Baiyun Mountain, the 'mountain' in the middle of Guangzhou, which is completely commercialised but the closest Guangzhou has to nature, and to set it free. Yep, set it free... on Baiyun Mountain.
A line of shops near me on the main road through Guangzhou, called Zhongshan Lu
Ginger laid out for sale in the smaller, typical streets of Guangzhou
Most of the parks and things here don't really have 'nature' like we see it in western countries. A friend of mine recently went to 'the biggest waterfall in Asia', in Guangdong province. While she was there she noticed all sorts of suspicious looking pipes, but passed it off as being part of all the construction work in China. She was told that it's not really well known to people outside of Guangdong, so when she got home she looked it up, and who would've guessed... that's right, the highest waterfall in Asia is man made. They actually pipe water to the top of a man made waterfall! And this is what they call nature! When Roger was on a school trip, they went to a lake, which all the other people thought was amazingly beautiful and pure nature. Roger pointed out that actually it was man made, as said the sign which was in English and in Chinese, but the other people refused to believe that it could be man made, 'of course it isn't! this is Guangdong's largest lake! It has always been here' they said. And when Roger asked what would've happened to all of the houses in the valley, they said 'no one lived here! it was all nature'... ignoring the little bits of villages left on the shore and sticking out of the water!! Talking about rivers and lakes... while I was in Conghua at the hot springs recently, I passed by a man sat in the river, on a plastic deck chair in water up to his chest fishing. Normally I wouldn't have really noticed this, but just before that I had seen a man driving along on his motorbike with his right leg stuck out pushing a woman on a bicycle so she didn't have to peddle. Ohhhh China.
Motor bikes here are great fun, actually. Although they have recently been banned in central guangzhou, where I live, they haven't been banned where Roger lives so we take 3 Yuan motorcycle rides from the metro station to Roger's school. They drive on side walks, dodging people, and on the wrong side of the road frequently. But it's always a thrill! And we get to his school remarkably faster than walking While motorcycles are banned, they have recently made an odd-even license plate rule to clear up traffic: only cars with odd numbered license plates can drive on odd dates, and even numbers on even dates. So today, being the 21st of December, only the odd cards could drive. Many rich families have dealt with this by buying two cars. Our school has invested in a second van with an 'even' license plate to counter that of the 'odd' plated van they already had.
Playing ping pong and badminton in the typical street neighbourhoods
Kids playing badminton, with a garden fenced in with bamboo
Although I think it's really strange, I'm glad that the people are trying to do something about the pollution problem in the city. Since the Asian games have ended, the pollution seems to have come back at full force. The back of my throat sometimes seems to be burning on the bad pollution days. Adding to this horrible air people are always breathing, I've heard that cigarette's here are 3 times more potent than cigarettes at home. It's men here that smoke, not women, and they smoke anywhere and everywhere!
So that's my update on the oddities in China. I've just finished a lesson with my newest pupil.... a 2 1/2 year old little boy called Lu Lu, who loves flags and national anthems (I think he's a born politician)... so I'm going to go relax in front of the TV on my wooden couch with a cup of Oolong Tea, to the strange commercials that advertise new ports and cities in China, rather than tasty cereals like the adverts we get at home, then I'll wash my face in the cold tap water, and go to sleep on my hard-as-a-rock bed.