人山人海 – People Mountain, People Sea

Any good educational adventure is built around quality conversations.  The group in China is, by this measure, having quite an adventure!  Here is a collection of wisdom and observations from just one discussion:

On similarities & differences:

Moammar – “One thing that really surprised me was how the little things – like food, and how much is put on the table; how people talk and greet each other – reminded me of Saudi Arabia.  Many things here remind me of home.  The food here at the factory is an easy example – Dr. Liu said that people are known for their generosity in this region and it showed.  The spread reminded me of my aunt back in Saudi.  It reminded me that you are only done eating, in these cultures, when you can’t eat anymore.  The driving also reminded me of Saudi – how close people drive to each other.

Something that you won’t see anywhere else, is like old people literally dancing in the park and exercising. Hundreds of them, stretching and playing together. It was crazy to see. The old people play this soccer-like game with feathers.  They are not isolated or sitting alone, they are all out and working in the parks. That is a major cultural difference.”

Claude – “Other than the first impressions, I for one have really enjoyed the food.  Rather than having one main dish and one side dish like in America, meals seem like a collection of side dishes.  Paul took us to a hot-pot restaurant where we got to eat meat that was dropped into a boiling pot and ready to grab just a few seconds later.  I knew there would be differences, but it has surprised me to see that it is not so much the food itself but how they eat it.

Chinese people build buildings differently in big cities.  Here an architect’s design would be used for a whole neighborhood.  It is much cheaper and faster to build the exact same building 20 times.  Here the emphasis is on efficiency, which is different from America.”

Laura – “I was with Dr. Liu and one of her friends.  The food we ate was surprisingly cheap but amazing.  I fell asleep getting a relaxing massage to help fight jet lag.  The whole time we were in Grace’s house (Dr. Liu’s friend’s house), it was amazing to look out from the 17th floor.  Reminded me how different this place is.

Holden – “Visiting the parks has been a different experience.  We went to the Olympic park on the first night and it was pretty cool because there were groups of people all over the place and it was really colorful and there were lights everywhere.  It was cool how the stadium, the Bird’s Nest, projected a no smoking sign and other things. It was a unique way to send a message. We saw big groups of people dancing, with live music, which Mr. Fritz said was pretty rare. It was cool because they have these modern lights and stuff but if you walk a little bit, there is a whole tradition of dancing.

We also saw a 65-year-old man who was really ripped, like Mr. Cook!  He was doing pull-ups and other crazy things.  He was older than my grandfather!!”

On Kindness & Hospitality

Moammar – “We had a discussion here about how people don’t smile as much on the streets here but that they would immediately do anything for you.  A smile might not be their indication of kindness, but kindness is definitely there.  Kindness is within, not just an expression you make to others.”

Laura – “I realized that sometimes in America people seem kind when in fact it isn’t genuine.  When people show emotions here, it seems more genuine.  People are so hospitable – they have done so much to make us happy.  It feels so genuine – like they really want us to be at home.”

Holden – “As soon as we visited Shaohan’s house, the family was overwhelmingly friendly.  They made it clear that their house was our house.”

Moammar – “People here actually live that saying.  I felt like I was actually at home here in China.”

Claude – “Paul’s mother is CRAZY nice.  She would always make sure we were happy, and try to get us to try new things.  She was genuinely helpful and really wanted us to trust her, to believe that we should do things.  The relationship seemed so important to her.”

Hunter – “From the moment he picked us up, Shaohan’s dad said I was his adopted son.”

Mr. Fritz – “The biggest thing to me is time.  Our hosts took time off work for us.  That, to me, was the biggest way that local people showed us how much they care.”

On the Pace of Life

Moammar – “Everyone seems very busy and in their own world a little bit.  The Hutong (narrow street) was the exception, as people seemed more relaxed there.  I think it depends where you are.”

Claude – “Last night when we came back from the park, everyone seemed to be walking faster than us.  We weren’t walking slowly, but we seemed slower than the masses.”

On Perceptions

Holden – “I saw a lot more dogs on the streets than in the US.  I also thought about how in my little town (Urbanna), I see the same people when I drive home everyday (3 or 4 cars). Sometimes it seems busy with just a few extra cars – it is noticeable. Here it is overwhelming!”

Dr. Liu – “Isn’t it amazing – I didn’t even see the dogs! My focus is never on the animals, just like the other Chinese people. Whenever I am in the US, people sit around and talk about dogs as much as their own children. We would never do that in China. It is a big cultural difference. In China, our history has required us to think about human beings. We do not have the leisure to care about animals. I didn’t even see the dogs until one of the students pointed them out. See – why wouldn’t I see them? Our focuses are very different.”

Holden – “It really varied on the drive. I saw a bunch of buildings that were the same (because it is easier), but then we got into mountains. Agriculture – fields with tiered farms. Terraced. It had a lot of different elevations. It wasn’t flat square farming.”

Claude – “It would be square and the go up, and then another. Had to account for the hills and use the space efficiently. Another thing that was kinda odd, was that next to the highway there were a bunch of trees. Mr. fritz said they were planted just to green up the area. Rather than just looking like a normal forest, the trees were all in rows. It looked super uniform.”

Dr. Liu – “Beijing is like a forest of buildings. The buildings are like trees.  Then the trees are like buildings.”

Hunter – “There are so many people! I realized that I have already adjusted when I was looking through my pictures from the first few days. There were way more than I remembered. I got totally desensitized so quickly.”

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