Monday, May 16, 2011

Markets and Mentality

 
Still trying to adjust to the time difference. The best way, I think, is to force myself to stay up till at least nine or ten. By then, I'm so delirious I'm saying strange things, which is extra confusing to everyone around me, since they aren't native speakers.
 
The AIESEC LC held a promotion for the Red Wings job. I learned more through the event and side conversations about the job than I had been able to in my pre-arrival research. The job is to host community workshops for a specific apartment community. I believe the community runs about 7 huge apartment buildings, all surrounding a small garden, where we held the promotion. We set up a table and talked to passerby's about what we were doing. The two EPs are me and a girl named Chen from Malaysia. We will be teaching about green living, being healthy, culture, and communication. So, English lessons, exercise and dance sessions, and games and other cultural activities. It is still very challenging, because I still don't know the age of people I'll be working with or their English levels. There's no way to know until the first day, because these promotions are how we recruit for the workshops. For now, if anybody knows of good icebreaking games, easy Western songs and dances, or has any other advice about this, I'd love for pointers.
 
Yesterday, I spent all day hanging out with Zoey, after an enormous breakfast prepared by Lance's mom. She was concerned that I wouldn't like Chinese food, and so had went around picking up all sorts of Chinese mutations of Western food, including an egg sandwich with a strange mustard on it and surprisingly delicious coffee from KFC. 
 
Zoey and I were driven to a marketplace by Lance's mother, who handled Chinese traffic in a much calmer way than the taxi drivers. Also, she had seatbelts in her car! Zoey neglected to use one anyway - "I don't use those." We were on a mission to find a Chinese learning book for me, since Lance and I couldn't find one in that giant bookstore we had gone to a few nights ago. The marketplace was really cool. Many of the buildings looked straight out of the Feudal age. "Very old," Lance's mother said, making me think that perhaps they actually were original old Chinese architecture. We managed to find a child's book on Pinyin, but I'm not sure how useful it will be. Afterwards, Zoey and I were dropped off at Tian Yie Square, the central area of Ningbo. It was huge, with hundreds of high-class stores and restaurants surrounding an enormous square with waterworks. Apparently, at night the fountains spray in sync to music.

After an intensely filling lunch, we went to Zoey's university and explored around. The university is The University of Nottingham China, a British University extension. It is an international university, and I encountered many  Australian and British students. Most of the AIESECERs are pursuing degress in internation business or relations there. There is also a duck pond, with ducks that are worth $60,000US and were imported from Britain. They really wanted a little slice of England in the university. While walking around, we talked about a lot of cultural things.
 
Apparently, the disparity between gender numbers is caused by the One Child law. Chinese families can only have one child if their firstborn is a son. However, if the first child is a daughter, then they may have a second, but that is the limit, whether the second child is a daughter or a son. Also, the government suggests that people marry late. Zoey was surprised when I said that people marry around 25 in the US. She expects to get married around 30. Marriage is hard, though. Chinese parents do not want their children to date while they are in school. Instead, they should be focused on their studies. However, as soon as a person graduates, they should get married. Zoey didn't understand how she could find a good husband if she couldn't date in school. I asked her if it would be different when she studied abroad. She didn't understand what I meant. I asked her if she would date if she went to school in the US or England. She stared blankly, then asked "How? There will be only foreigners." I asked why she wouldn't just date them. She covered her mouth (Chinese girl expression of embarassement) and shyly shook her head. I couldn't pull an answer out of her about what this meant.
 
We talked about the Olympics, and I brought up the rain-preventing spray they deployed in the air. She said she didn't know anything about it, but that she remembers that they used planes to make it rain during a heavy drought in her city once. So, the Chinese can control the weather. Good to know.
 
We talked about North Korea. I asked her what she thought about it. She said that the North Koreans are very fashionable and have good T.V. I asked her if she meant the propoganda programs. She said "No, they have good love stories, and dress very well." I asked her about the oppression of the North Korean people and the potential brainwashing. "No, no, the Koreans are fashionable." I confirmed that we were talking about North, and not South, Koreans. I mentioned Kim Jung Il. She confirmed.
 
Someone in Lance's neighborhood owns a Ferarri and drives it around in Chinese traffic. Balls of steel.
 
The culture seems like one of limitation. People work hard in school so they can get a job where they work all day and night. Lance has an expensive house filled with really expensive things (every TV is enormous and I'm honestly a little terrified of the subwoofer sitting next to me). However, I've seen his father once in the last 4 days. Sexuality is repressed. They want me to teach me about AIDS but honestly I'm not sure it's necessary here, I don't think the college kids are doing it. I definitely  have a lot more learning to do about this culture, there's an entirely different mindset. I think my metaphor will be the filtered water dispenser in the police station. Cold, clean water out for anybody to have a drink from, but no cups to use. The things to make China as developed as other first world countires are in place. There are traffic lights, clearly labeled road signs and traffic lines, hybrid buses, and recycling bins outside. However, nobody follows the traffic signals, people prefer to drive their car even if it means being stuck in traffic, and nobody uses the reycling bins. Clearly, somebody up top has the right ideas, but the ball just gets dropped somewhere. "People want to drive their car to work, there is no reason, they just want to." This is something I will hopefully understand better over the course of the next three months.
 
Many of the buildings here are identical. I'll get pictures up. Picture is of a pepsi can. The man on the pepsi can is holding a pepsi can, threatening it with his mighty Chinese fist. He will destroy the depicted pepsi can, yet he will never escape his world of the pepsi can. It is impossible. In fact, he is a drawing, so he cannot even punch the pepsi can in his hand. He is forever trapped, mocked by his pepsi can world and the smaller representation of it that he thinks he has power over but really is simply drawn in the same location that his hand is.
 
Communism.