Chinese Life A Year Later
It is nice to see the sun rising a bit later these days. Back in May-June the sun was rising around 4 am. Which was so early. My body adapted to the early morning light and I would be up at sunrise. Of course I was in bed by 8 pm. And the sun was setting around 7:45 pm. Now 2 months later the sun is rising around 5 am and setting around 6:30 pm. There is no daylight savings time in China. So when the clocks are turned back an hour in November, they do not change here. So instead of us being 12 hours ahead of the time in the United States we will be 13 hours ahead. The length of days here feel different. Probably because of the sun rising so early. Another thing is the seasons are a bit askew here. Spring started on February 3rd which it was still freezing cold out. And summer began on May 5th while it feels like spring weather. Fall began on August 7th and winter will begin on November 7th. These dates are about a month and a half earlier than in the United States. In late July and during the first couple of weeks of August the temperatures began to settle in the mid to upper 70s mostly, sometimes in the low 80s. Now this being for the most part the height of summer as I know it, I could only be happy to have this pleasant sampling of unseasonable temperatures which I thought was just a temporary weather flux. We are now in the last week of August and back home I am seeing reports of highs in the 90s. Nice and hot and I am sure humid. Last week it only made it into the 70s here and in the last couple of days only in the 60s with night-time temps dipping in the 50s and mid 40s. This is also the forecast for the next 10 days. This is not August folks! It is November, temperature wise! What a change in weather here and fairly quick. This is great sleeping weather because we sleep with the windows open and when the night comes when it is hot out and no air is moving to offer any relief it is hard to sleep. But now I love hibernating under my covers staying warm while the coolness surrounds me. Tai does have an AC but she rarely turns it on. When it started getting hot inside she would turn it on for about 15 minutes. The AC is in the bedroom so I would rest in there in the afternoons. But with Tai life is about extreme conservation.
She is OCD doing anything that will not increase her utility bills. She does not even know what OCD means. But like every one, we all have our particular areas we are obsessive about controlling in our lives. Hers is not using any more than necessary in way of utilities because it will cost money. That includes using less water, sitting in near darkness at times with only the light of the computer screen. Not using the microwave to constantly reheat my coffee. Or turning on the AC for only 15 minutes a day. I explain to her in America we know our utility bills will increase if we use something constantly. Like running the AC day and night when it is hot. Or using the lights at night to see or let the water run while washing dishes without turning it off between each dish we wash. We accept and expect the extra cost of these things so we can enjoy being comfortable and not be a prisoner to the power that supplies those benefits of comfort.
This is another way of life in America that completely escapes her understanding. Sadly, it is the thinking of most of the Chinese here. They make very little money and have, practically all their life, lived by going without many things, including being comfortable in their own home environment because of what it will cost. This is a significant lifestyle change for me over the last year because we take the cost of being comfortable without a second thought. But for the Chinese sacrificing their comfort (which inside they really do desire to be like us in America and to be comfortable) is what must be done as a means of survival. I have yet been able to convince Tai we can afford the extra costs. But, this way of sacrificial life is so ingrained into her thinking. Because of that this manner of living has become so habitual she cannot accept the possibility of using additional electricity or water. It is a fear that is real for her. And therefore, she cannot move past the idea of it is not permitted to use in excess what she thinks is reasonably allowed. For her using extra utilities is unacceptable and wasteful in her mind.
Transitioning over the last year
1) Television – We watch very little television. We can go a week without even turning it on. Before I moved to China I was a big TV watcher and had many favorite shows. In the winter we did watch TV more. Mainly because it was too darn cold to be in any other part of the house. The TV is in the bedroom and staying warm beneath the covers was priority for me. We get one English Channel and it airs global world news. So I get snippets of what is going on in other countries as well as China when I watch. It is interesting to see other country’s take on what is going on in the United States. I’m not much of a news watcher so that and the fact that everything else is in Chinese I don’t have much incentive to turn on the TV. Tai however, likes the news and looks forward to watching it when she watches TV. TV is a bit more enjoyable these days because as I learn more Chinese I am recognizing more words but I am still having difficulty understanding complete sentences. The Chinese talk so fast it is mind-boggling and they open their mouth very little when they speak. It took me until just a few months ago to watch any of my favorite TV show. That is when my son gave me his login to Netflix. And i finally was able to get a secure VPN connection on the internet through Google Chrome to log into my mother’s Comcast account and watch TV shows there also. Even though watching anything on Comcast is still frustrating. It is a constant stop and go when playing a video on my computer from Comcast. An hour-long show could take as much as 2-3 hours to watch, depending on the connection. With Netflix I don’t have issues watching movies as much. VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a special portal that allows you to connect to different servers around the world. I can connect to a server in the United States and all sense and purpose it looks like I am in the USA or depending on the server I am connected to through the VPN I will appear I am connected in that country. China is known for its great firewall. Meaning about 70% of the internet sites are banned here. Sites like Google, You Tube, Netflix or any Google associated website or connection like Gmail. Many American website are inaccessible without a VPN.
2) Chinese Fruit – For me, China has many unique and exotic assortment of fruits. Some I like and others not so much. The fruit I found as the most difficult to like was the Àn méi or durain in English. I don’t know if any of you ever tasted this fruit but to do so you have to first get past its smell. The smell reminded me of rotting onions, no kidding. Encased inside are custard like pieces that to me has a bitter and tart taste. I did not like this fruit that much and it smelled up the refrigerator and the whole house. The outta skin of this fruit is covered with hard spines. One of the most bizarre fruits I have come across. Another fruit is the Lìzhī, lychee in English. It looks pinkish-red with a hard tough outta skin. Inside is a
white fleshy fruit that is pretty sweet. The taste is not bad, I found the texture of the fruit itself a little strange. The gooseberry fruit is another fruit that has a weird covering to it. The outside is papery texture and kind of reminds you miniature Chinese lantern. Inside is a round berry the size of a cherry tomato. Interestingly enough it is said to taste a little like a mango. To me it taste more like a cross between a tomato and a grape. It is
an acquired taste, for me at least.
Lóngyǎn or Dragon Eye fruit when you remove the bark like shell there’s a black seed you can see through the translucent fruit, resembling a dragon’s eye. The fruit is a little tough but has a real sweet taste. The black seed is sometimes used in cooking Chinese dishes. Tai will buy grapes and we will eat them with our breakfast. Tai peels the skin off the grape before she eats it. She says this how the Chinese eats grapes. I gross her out by eating the grapes, skin and all. Yummy!
3) Children and adults in China – Tai and I were walking to the store one day and I saw a mother take her daughter who appeared to be about 10 years old off the sidewalk into a small opening in the landscaping of trees and bushes. There the young girl started to use the bathroom. She was not hidden from sight very well as anyone who approached could see what was going on. This is a common thing for Chinese children. Parents letting them use the bathroom right on the street. I have witnessed many younger children publicly relieving themselves. Toddlers mainly. but none as old as this young girl appeared to be. For the toddlers and younger, the parents do not have or use anything like a pamper or even a diaper when out with small children. To them it is too much effort to stop and clean any mess. So they just let them go on the side-walk. I believe the going to the bathroom in public has spilled over to some adults here (especially men) because they have no issue urinating in public and no one pays any attention to it. There are many public toilets but if you gotta go you gotta on. Try doing that in America.
Another thing with children in China, the parents are over protective. Many kids don’t have the opportunity to go outside and play the way we did growing up. A couple of reasons behind this is China is big on education where the child is constantly learning. Not just in the normal mainstream education in schools, but practically all Chinese children are learning other thing such playing a musical instrument, dance, painting, and continued after school hours learning additional mathematics and science. To a certain degree this is not much different from what is found in the United States. The difference is the parents attitude toward the children accomplishing things. They literally sacrifice their time of enjoying their own life and adventures to completely dedicate the time toward constant learning for the children. They keep the children from normal playtime of just going out and playing with friends. Another reason children are not out playing is human trafficking which is a big problem here. Mainly in Southern China in more tourist related destinations. Where I live in Northeast China, I do not see any signs or concerns of this worry among the parents living in my area. Many things you will see on the news originate mainly in the Southern area of China. The North is considered more conservative and to be of higher education. If that really makes a difference. Growing up we were told if we did something wrong we would have a consequence such as a whipping or being grounded. Chinese use a different tactic. Fear! If a child was apt to do something wrong as most kids will do, the parents would tell their child if they did so and so and disobeyed, then a bad man was going to come and take them away. You have to imagine the fear this could instill in a young child. The tactics are much different here. Fear is used to bring obedience in children in China.
Some interesting statistics about China – About 90% of the Chinese population cannot swim (Tai does not know how to swim). One reason is parents put a fear in their children growing up and were told fables of how dangerous the water was and of dragon monsters in the waters. That the water dragon would pull them down in its depths and will kill them. That is why if you see pictures of Chinese at the beach or in the water you will see that just about all of them are using some kind of flotation, even in shallow water. Another statistic is only about 2% of the Chinese women use tampons. One reason is woman in China feel it is unhealthy. And traditionally young Chinese women fear it would break the hymen. Chinese medicine is also hugely influential, too, why women don’t use tampons and its basis in non-invasive treatment creates unease around putting a foreign object into the body, for hours at a time. It is also seen as potentially harmful for girls who are still “growing”. to insert anything in their bodies.
China’s one child policy – You might be aware of this. China’s population has a large portion still following many traditional Chinese practices. Chinese are expected to marry by a certain age and immediately start a family afterwards. Also the older parents expect the children to take them in and care for them as they age. I can tell many of my neighbors have their parents living with them as I see them out and about in the neighborhood. These homes are pretty small and I am sure some of the homes are crowded with little or no privacy.
Now China’s policy on having children. In 1979, China’s one child policy was created by then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in an attempt to limit the growth of China’s population. China’s One Child Policy was most strictly applied to Han Chinese living in the urban areas of the country. It did not apply to ethnic minorities throughout the country. Han Chinese represent more than 91% of the Chinese population. Just over 51% of China’s population lives in the city & urban areas. In rural areas, Han Chinese families could apply to have a second child if the first child was a girl. There was one major exception to the One Child Policy that allowed two singleton children (the only offspring of their parents) to marry and have two children. Additionally, if a first child is born with birth defects or major health problems, the couple is usually permitted to have a second child. When the One Child Policy was adopted in 1979, China’s population was about 972 million people. In 2012 the population of China is about 1.343 billion people, 138% growth over that time period. China’s sex ratio at birth is more imbalanced than the global average. There are about 113 boys born in China for every 100 girls. While in some views, this ratio might be biological (the global population ratio is currently about 107 boys born for every 100 girls), there is evidence of sex-selective abortion, neglect, abandonment, and even infanticide of infant females. For families who observe the One Child Policy, there were rewards: higher wages, better schooling and employment, and preferential treatment in obtaining governmental assistance and loans. For families who violate the One Child Policy, there are sanctions: fines, employment termination, and difficulty in obtaining governmental assistance. Families who are permitted to have a second child usually had to wait from three to four years after the birth of the first child before conceiving their second child. On January 1, 2016, a new policy was enacted allowing Chinese couples to have two children in order to help address the aging issue in China. Tai has two sisters and a brother, all born before 1979. But Tai has only one child, a daughter because her daughter Li was born in 1992. During the time the one child policy was in effect.
Odds & Ends – Things you can and cannot do in China.
- You cannot buy ice in China. It is not sold in stores or convenient stores.
- You cannot buy guns in China of any kind. Guns are illegal in China.
- Since January 10, 2010, it is illegal to “sell, serve, or offer” any form of distilled alcohol to those under the age of 18 or any alcoholic drink to those under 16. So drinks like beer or wine are permitted above 16. If you are underage you can most like be able to still get an alcoholic drink in clubs or restaurants. China does not heavily enforce this law. Can you imagine if teenagers at 16 years old could legally buy beer or wine in the United States?
- Nowadays there are about 250 brands of tobacco in China. It used to be more than 2,000 some time ago. The cheapest cigarettes cost anywhere between $3- $5 US Dollars. So pretty close to American prices.
- Marijuana is illegal in China and is categorized the same as heroin and cocaine. The possession, sale, transport and cultivation of cannabis is illegal throughout China. Penalties for cannabis offenses are vague, but considered harsh. In China, marijuana is considered a narcotic. Under the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, individuals who smuggle, traffic, transport or manufacture narcotic drugs are sentenced to either 15 years of prison, life imprisonment or death, and suffer confiscation of property. However, the growing of industrial hemp is legal in China and is used widely throughout the country to produce products like clothes and ropes or to export to other countries. In China, there is no medical marijuana legislation allowing for medicinal use of cannabis.
- Hot vs. Cold water – When I first got here, Tai tried very hard to convince me not to drink cold water. That it was not good for my health. We had many debates over this issue but she finally gave in and lets me drink my cold water in peace these days. The reasoning behind why Chinese drink only hot or warm water. According to ancient Chinese medicine, drinking a glass of warm water in the morning helps kick-start the digestive system. Hot water and warm water, because of its temperature, supposedly aids blood flow. As your blood circulation increases, it helps detoxify your body and reduce painful contractions of muscles. Sore throat? Drink some warm water. Menstrual cramps? Stop drinking cold stuff and switch to some hot water. On the other hand, cold water slows down organ function and causes muscles to contract. Some Chinese people also believe that during meals, you shouldn’t be mixing hot food with cold water, as this creates an imbalance of temperature in your body. However, the suggested benefits of consuming hot water do not solely originate from ancient Chinese medicine. Many people boil their water because they consider it a way to kill off microbes and bacteria. We boil our water before drinking. Tai says the tap water is bad with much bacteria. Drinking straight from the tap is also seen as a big no-no for many Chinese people nowadays; 生水 (shēngshuǐ), or “raw water,” is believed to cause stomach and intestinal complications if ingested because it has not been processed and “cleaned.” When I first arrived here, I filled a glass with water from the tap. Tai about killed herself trying to get the glass from before I drank any of it.
Well that is a little more insight into my life in China for the last 12 months. There are a few things that are different for me in China and has taken some time getting use to living in Changchun. I apologize for being so wordy. I will work on making shorter posts. So many little things I find interesting and surprising. So when I think about them as I write I want to share them with you.
A note on our journey toward Tai’s desire to be a Christian. She is still trying grasp the whole story of the gospel message. I am thankful God has blessed me with a gift of patience in this area of teaching her. She is having difficulty understanding why Jesus died and how she can be saved. And grasping what eternal life means. But she says she likes Jesus and want to know more. It is a slow process. But I am happy she wants to learn. I have to remember that Jesus, the Bible, and even God have been completely unknown to her. I am slowly revealing the truths God has for her. But I also have to overcome her belief in Buddhism. Which has not been as difficult as I had imagined. There are times when I can contrast Buddha with Jesus so she can see the superiority of Jesus in her life and the promises He has for her. Buddha is still in his grave waiting judgement like all men are waiting for that appointed day. Please continue to pray for Tai’s salvation.