Shopping day at Hualian shangchangnear the Wudaokou shan,train station. Now school is over I've noticed fewer crowds. Actually enjoyable getting out after big rain storm last night, thunder, lightening and buckets of water. [I'm writing this at lunch, and the darling fuwuyuan, waitress, brought me some zhi, paper, to write on, I had been writing on the kuaizi,chopstick paper inside-out.]
Everywhere I went the price was less than the tag. First time I've experienced Chinese refusing my money!
Well maybe not everywhere. Cute black slippers with flower on toe: Y300-51=Y249 at Hotwind ($46-7.85=$38); Peach colored taohongse straw cloche hat maozi, actually small enough to fit my head, Y55 ($8.46); Polo bag, huge enough to carry my camera tripods at 20-inches, priced at Y1200 ($184) sold to me for Y224 ($34)!! Last purchase at little shop with loud teenage music on the big avenue ChenFuLu Kama Classics, pink chinos Y180-90=Y90 ($27-13.85).
By now I feel ludicrous with all the shopping bags hanging off the handlebars, still I manage to ride back to the apartment, stopping for lunch, wufan,at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, the one with the live fish. Now that I can speak a little Chinese, things go smoother right from the start. I can tell them, 1 person, using the right measure word,yiwei. I learned how to order what I like, mifan, qiezi he mapo doufu--weila--rice, eggplant and mapo tofu--not too spicy. The fuwuyuan brought me tea in a glass like chrysanthemum flowers with big orange seeds and a little bowl of rock sugar. When I get low I add hot water from the tea pot. Delicious.
I had breakfast at a tiny canteen inside an apartment complex near my bicycle repairman with Dr Monica who is a regular there. I had something that looked like a soft taco with fresh lettuce. Dr M had a little flat bread with sesame seeds sliced open with a fried egg inside. We both had fresh, slightly warm soy milk in sealed plastic cups you pierce with a little straw to drink. Y9 ($1.38).
People are friendly in this little staff canteen. We got into a conversation with one fellow who called himself an 'intern student' which we didn't understand. He had questions about the US educational system. We agreed both the US and Chinese systems used a nationwide standardized entrance exam (GaoKao/SAT). Beyond that, there are many differences. I think the biggest difference is that in the US the student gets to choose where they go and what they study. If I had been told that I tested well for chemistry, and that was going to be my major, I would have acted out. How does that affect your love of learning?
Many Chinese I meet express a desire to immigrate. In fact of all the Chinese students who go overseas to study only one-third return. That's got to be a severe brain drain for the country. They are even discussing issuing US green cards to all Chinese students just to simplify the process.
To give you an idea of the process to get a US visa as an adult--not a student--you have to prove you have real estate and family ties in China for you to return to. Getting out, with your family and assets, well, its pretty difficult. So, why do so many Chinese want this?
The answer I get is 'freedom.' I've given this a lot of thought. Life seems pretty good here. Especially if you have real estate and a good job. There are many opportunities that I can see. The government doesn't interfere in a lot of ways that it does in the US.
Gradually I've concluded that the 'freedom' to choose your own path and the 'freedom' to access information is what lures people. We have a variety of career paths in the US to get to various career endpoints. But here there is one path through the GaoKao, the best test takers get to go to the best colleges which have a direct path to a career endpoint.
The Gates path equivalent, those who drop out of college and go on to shape their world on their own terms doesn't exist here. Once you drop out you are stuck in a societal hierarchy with few options. The freedom of many options, that's what it is, and the freedom to make an informed choice.
There are 31 named species of hydrangea native to China. This one blooming on campus near my office has the bloom of a paniculata but on a short bush only 1 meter tall.
The lotus garden at Tsinghua is an ethereal delight. Nelumbo nucifera is NOT to be confused with waterlily, Nymphaea, an entirely different plant lacking the distinctive central spool shape that forms the seed pod. Waterlilies come in a variety of colors while lotus are white to hot pink, taohongse (literally: peach-red).
"One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water." Bhagavad Gita.
Hui tou jian