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If you were able to fully understand my life right now, you may be surprised that this blog post is not about being kicked out of our apartment in three days. It’s not about how two of our roommates illegally subletted their rooms, and the less-intelligent of the two got caught by posting the exact address on the internet for the owner to find. It’s not about how we paid an agent a lot of money to secure an illegally subletted room, or how we had a very awkward run-in with the Chinese-speaking owner about how we have three days to vacate the apartment.

OK, so maybe I lied a little…this post is only partially about that. This recent turn of events isn’t the entire focus of my life because I have freaked out so much over my visa, job and the stresses of living here that I’m trying very hard to analyze and appreciate the other things happening in our chaotic Chinese lives, namely, The Beijing Subway. (And also, our friend and roommate Er Wei, who has agreed to move out with us and help find another place to live.)

I have been storing a mental list of the visual spectacles I have encountered on the Subway for about a month now, and felt a strong compunction to share them today. Coming home on Line 10, I overheard some relatively loud music while listening to the soothing instruction of my Pimsleur Chinese podcast. Assuming it was someone’s ridiculously loud ring tone, I ignored the sound at first. However, I soon realized that it was a guy playing the guitar with a surprisingly great voice. I turned off my podcast and listened to this tall, lanky, musician who was visibly nervous but playing his heart out. It was so refreshing to see a Chinese person standing out from the crowd, risking public disapproval, to share something beneficial with others. What really made my heart ache was that he didn’t receive the public shame so many Chinese are petrified to experience, he collected kuai after kuai to fill his guitar case with money. Old and young, male and female, they all appreciated the music and supported the young “rebel.”

Then, as so often happens during even one commute in China, I found that my mood careened from elevated high to depressing low. I heard a clipping sound to my left, and dearly hoped it wasn’t what I thought it was. I followed the sound, peered through the crowd, and found a thirty-something adult male clipping his finger nails in the car! Seriously?! My mind raced to find the words to tell him how completely disgusting and inappropriate I found his actions, but in the end my limited Chinese forced me to curse him only in my head. Where was that musician to confidently tell this guy off when I needed him?

Seething in my anger, I was reminded me of a few other subway spectacles I had experienced since moving to Beijing a month ago. First, there was the baby whose parents helped him squat to pee in the middle of a moving subway car. Fortunately for those hoping to rinse the bottom of their shoes that afternoon, the pee managed to slide all around the floor and and create an array of mini-puddles. While I understand that some perils often accompany the decision not to use diapers on children,(which I actually applaud for the resulting lack of non-biodegradable plastic in landfills) the fact that the parents had encouraged this behavior instead of reprimanding the child for peeing on public transportation caused these poor souls to feel the wrath of my disapproving looks for a long ten-minute ride to my stop. Additionally, there was the woman who not only completely exposed one breast to feed her child during the commute, but both breasts because the child would not stop screaming until he was drinking from one side and holding the other for comfort. I just chuckled at that one, I suppose you gotta do what you gotta to do keep a kid from screaming during rush hour.

So, I write this post for you today as a way to put my troubles into perspective. China is a trying place for foreigners to make a life for themselves, especially trying to do it mostly on your own. However, through every day and every struggle I learn how to better manage life here, and I am certainly exposed to scenes that I never would have experienced at home. Who would’ve thought that the crowds and pushing of the mosh pit that is Line 1 of the Beijing Subway would seem insignificant compared to the other shocks I have experienced during my commute?

*A great visual depiction of Eastern vs. Western culture: http://www.slideshare.net/praveenvarghese/eastern-culture-vs-western-culture

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Hello everyone!  We are officially TEFL certified by Aston Schools as of a few hours ago.  Overall it was not the most exciting process, but we had a good group of people which made it go by a lot quicker.  Besides the actual teaching in the classroom, we really didn’t do anything that was particularly helpful in my opinion, but what can you do.  Even writing about it is making me bored, so lets just talk about some more Chinese culture!

As mentioned before, we are in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province.  It is a city of about 6 million, and we are 2 of a few hundred westerners.  I would like you to imagine a place where 99.9% of the people you see on a daily basis look like you (in terms of skin/hair/facial features), talks like you, acts like you.  How would you react if someone totally new in all of those respects was walking, looking, or talking at you?  What would you do?  Well, the majority of people here stare at you, usually in a non-threatening, out of the corner of their eye kind of way.  They also usually just laugh along with us as we try to act out phrases like “stomach medicine” or “Thousand Buddha Mountain.”  So far I have found China an unbelievably gracious and welcoming place, contrasted with often feeling unwelcome or out of place in many cities in the USA.  It is hard to compare cities in China with the USA because of the total lack of outside people/languages/culture, but just imagine a US city with low amounts of diversity.  Now imagine a bunch of people that know nothing about the country/city/culture/language, coming in and slowing down every process that they are involved in.  The people would be chased out of town!  Contrast that with China, where we are not only welcomed, but almost viewed as celebrities by some people.  It is bizarre but makes the experience a lot easier to handle.

Another thing that really blew my mind was the levels of crime in China.  Crime and fear just don’t exist in the same way as in the USA.  Punishments are draconian in China, as I am sure you are all aware.  Illegal drugs of all kinds are completely forbidden, and the punishments are incredibly severe if caught, and illegal drugs account for the majority of crimes committed in the USA.  I don’t really want to discuss that though.  I want to talk about how people think about crime here.  People just do not worry about things like their safety or their property’s safety the same way as in the USA.  A perfect example is with people’s bikes, houses and cars.  NONE of these are locked.  There are no car alarms.  You will see, no exaggeration, hundreds of un-attended, unlocked bikes in front of stores!  This isn’t a particularly nice area, this in the urban center of a city the size of CHICAGO!  People are just not worried about it at all.  A lot of it has to do with the culture, in large part due to the man I will now discuss.

Confucius, or as the Chinese usually call him, Kung Fu Tzu (this means master teacher in Mandarin), was probably the most influential thinker in Chinese (and perhaps Asian) history.  His teachings are directly or indirectly responsible for so much of the culture here, and to most in the Western world, he was a funny little man that basically spouted fortune cookie-esque wisdom (which is partially accurate).  The closest equivalents in Western culture would be the teaching of Socrates or maybe even Jesus.  How is it possible that us Western folk know so little about him?!  A Chinese person would have absolutely no idea what you were talking about if you said the word Confucius to them, which really surprised me.  He is Kung Fu Tzu, and they don’t recognize his Latin given name.  The first people from the West in China were missionaries, some of whom read about and studied the teachings of Confucius.  They worked to translate the Bible and educate the East with the teachings of our important figures, but they worked equally hard translating and attempting to get the West to read about the East’s most important figures.  I am hoping that this blog can serve you all in the same way that the missionaries did back then.  By living here, embracing this culture, and sharing the thoughts of the East with our readers in the West.  I am going to wrap up this post with a quote from the Master Teacher himself.  Hope you all keep reading, miss you and America, but enjoying our time here.

“Isn’t it a pleasure when you can make practical use of the things you have studied?  Isn’t it a pleasure to have an old friend visit from afar?  Isn’t it a sure sign of a gentleman, that he does not take offense when others fail to recognize his ability?”

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