Monday, May 10, 2010

Diversity - The One Thing We Have In Common

My biggest surprise about China was how friendly and welcoming the people were.  I don't know if I'm just a victim to propaganda or my own wild imagination, but I really expected it to be a slightly hostile environment.  You know... like visiting France, only more Asian.

In any case, if you decide to go to China, I would highly recommend a guide.  There are lots of college students there - many of whom have spent time in the US - who can help you get around, bargain down prices, and make sure you don't order a whole plate of chicken heads in a restaurant.  

These are two of our guides, Francis on the front of the bike, and Yao on the back.  They could not have been any better.  Fun, funny, and willing to answer any inane question we asked them.  And there were plenty.

(**this picture taken by The Brain while riding on the back of our tandem bike... which is another whole post all by itself.  I have never ridden a tandem bike before, and while it seems utterly charming, (doesn't it?)  it's not.)

What was I talking about?  Oh right.   Anyway, the people are great! When we were outside the bigger cities, we met a lot of people who were not used to seeing caucasian people.
At first it was startling to have people wanting to take our pictures all the time.

Then it was fun and flattering.
Then it got a little tedious.

But because we were trying to leave them with a friendly image of Americans, we continued to smile and pose. And hold people's babys.  And flash the peace sign - which they call the victory sign.

But it was all fun!

Other Surprises for me were-

*Nobody uses salt in China.  Don't get me wrong, I love some good soy sauce, but it doesn't always do the trick.  Since I have low blood pressure, sometimes I look for salt in the afternoons to get a little energy going.  Thankfully McDonalds has figured out that fries should have SALT, and it became the one place in China where we knew we could get it.  I started carrying around salt packets in my purse.

I don't know if you can really see the menuboard, but the far left two pictures are chicken -- original and extra crispy. Then you have regular hamburgers and boring stuff, then all the pink boards have more Chinese dishes.

*Speaking of McDonalds - it was also the only place we could get ice.  The Chinese don't believe in drinking cold liquid.  I defy you to find a drinking fountain in the whole country.  (Not that you could drink the water anyway...) but what you will find everywhere is hot water spouts so you can fill up your tea bottle.
* I have a new love for McDonalds.  Free bathrooms, ice, and salt.  It's the little things.

Here are a couple more things that I thought were different:
 Street Sweeper (they were everywhere!)

Delivery Driver (also everywhere)

Holy power lines!

The "Squatty Potty"
This is one of the cleaner ones. On the China Potty Rating Scale I would have given it about a 6 out of 10.
I gave an automatic point for each of the following:  a door, a lock, a flushing mechanism, toilet paper (not generally supplied - you have to byotp - and you aren't supposed to flush it.  Just use the trash can - which you can't see in this picture because it's behind the door), a sink with actual soap that you don't have to dip your hand into, and then the rest of the points would be based on cleanliness.
Most of the bathrooms we used we rated a 3 or 4.
The scary part about these isn't the potty itself, but the slippery floor. I know.  But you actually got used to it pretty fast.  And no, I never fell in - but I almost did. Once. Or possibly more, but that's not really what we're talking about.

Yes. It was an amazing experience all the way around.

Next Post:  Things I Found Endearingly Similar


Dave said...

lol, you look tall in those pictures :-)

good thing you took lots of them

Heather said...

So exciting. Did you sign any autographs?? What about custom clothes? You get any of those?

Heather said...

Darn you DAVE! I was this close to being first!

Dave said...

it's hard to beat a truly dedicated stalker :-)

Kristina P. said...

That is so funny about the pictures. You would think people would see tourists all the time.

Celeste said...

Well, I just learned about 10 new things about China. (5 of them had to do with the bathroom)

mormonhermitmom said...

Okay I don't know which is scarier. The power lines, the potty? That's a toss up.

Sue said...

When we visited Japan, the grossest thing for me was the toilet. Sometimes, people had..."missed."



Melissa said...

Love it!! People never stop me and ask for my picture :)

Who knew that a person could be so happy to see a McDonalds?

Super Happy Girl said...

So you needed that shirt that says "I'm kind of a BIG DEAL".
What did people compliment you the most on? Your hair?

I agree with Melissa, who know MCD's would rock?

Vern said...

That toilet brings on a whoooole new meaning to "let's get down to business" doesn't it? Like, WAY down.

Barbaloot said...

I love how reading your post reminding me of things I had forgotten-like people wanting a picture with me. Quite the new feeling:) And those bathrooms! I tried to avoid drinking anything (not hard what with the warm water-ew!) because I didn't want to use them!! I would just wait till we got back to my brother's or a hotel.

I'm loving these posts. Looks like you definitely made the most of your Asian trip.

Brenda Susan said...

I really identified with this great post. I spent 14 days in China a couple years ago & it was a crazy adventure....especially the awful squatty potties! Ever try one on a 36 hour train trip? OMG, on a moving train it gets pretty interesting! Ha!
Thanx for the fun memories!

goddessdivine said...

South America has the same issues about ice. Lukewarm CocaCola is not good people!

You are brave to use those "toilets". Those are more like ceramic holes in the ground.

Yvonne said...

I know we hit McD's too. We were so happy to see it.

I agree about them being so friendly.

Love the pics. The bicycle's would have been fun--but I don't think I would have gotten Allan on a bike.

In agreement about the toilets.

That Girl said...


I'm amazed at the similarities to the other countries I've visited. I'm convinced that America is the only country on earth that puts ice in beverages, for one.

rocslinger said...

Ice in drinks is pretty much a North American (to include Canada) idiom. In Germany You got cold drinks in the winter and not so cold in the summer (depending on how cool the back porch is).

Loralee and the gang... said...

I loved all the charming pictures. And that's so weird about the salt. Doesn't everyone, even Asian people, need salt in their diets?
But I was HORRIFIED by the squatty-potty. HORRIFIED.

LisAway said...

Don't they do MSG a lot there? Maybe in place of salt? Funny about the picture taking. And I would say those power lines look UNholy!! Sheesh!

SO fun to read.