Saturday, February 21, 2009

China Life

I realized that I never really gave a detailed description of what it is like to live in China. I've decided to describe some of the differences that I have been experiencing here and have in most cases adapted to.

Well, for starters, I have gotten accustomed to washing my face in a wash basin. Normally I would just use the warm water out of the sink and wash my face in the sink, but our sink does not have hot water and Harbin is just a little too cold to use cold water to wash my face. So every night I borrow my roommates wash basin and pour hot water into it and use it to wash my face. The lack of cold water in the sinks in our dorms (and most sinks in China) makes me very appreciative when I come across a sink that actually has hot water. Not only does hot water in a sink make it easier to wash your face, but also your hands and your dishes too.

I can officially say that I am used to using a squatty potty. Granted it's not my favorite thing in the world to use, especially when the floor is wet, there are cigarette butts in the toilet and no toilet paper, but I've definitely gotten used to it. Most of the public places here have squatty potties and you need to provide you're own toilet paper.

The Chinese kitchens are a lot different than I'm used to. I have never once seen an actual stove. I have seen a stove (with no oven) every once in a while, but most of the time people use hot plates to cook on. The kitchen in our dorm consists of a microwave, a rice cooker, an oven about the size of a toaster oven, a hot plate, and refrigerator. They also don't refrigerate their eggs here, or their milk and yogurt.

I have gotten used to using taxis and public buses as my main means of transportation. Most people do not have personal cars here. The main methods of transportation are public bus, taxi and walking. The few personal cars that people do have are generally very nice. I see a lot of Audis and BMWs.

When I take a shower, I always have the toilet and the bathroom sink for company. There is no separate partitioned area for the shower. The shower is water heater on the wall with a shower head connected to it. The shower head is just on the wall of the bathroom and the entire bathroom just looks like a shower, except that the toilet and sink are there too.

I hang dry my clothes every time I do laundry. Dryers must be a luxury or just not a cultural norm because they just don't really exist here. You always hang your clothes in the window to dry. Most apartments have a sun porch area with a shower curtain rod that you hang your clothes on. Also, if you need to hand wash your clothes, which most of the students here do anyways, you use another wash basin except bigger than the one for face washing.

When you go out to eat it is all done family style. You never order a dish for just yourself. If the group of people is big enough you will find yourself in a separate personal room and the table your sitting at has a big lazy susan in the middle of it. Then everyone share's the food in the middle. You pretty much just take what you want as you want it. There is really no dishing food onto your plate using a separate utensil and then eating what is on your plate. You just use your chopsticks to take food that you want to eat and you eat as you go. Rice is generally brought last and is meant to be eaten if you're still hungry. China also has a custom where one person treats everyone at the table to dinner, called 'qing ke' 请客; however, we often end up just splitting the bill.

These are the things I can think of right now. I know there is more, but I'm always afraid I'll just be repeating myself or that people will already know what it's like. Anyways, I've started school again. I started on Monday, and this semester is so far ten times better than last semester. My level of Chinese is a lot higher than when I first got here so the first weeks of the semester aren't miserable like they were last semester. The group of students this semester is a lot of fun. They are very social and they are generally all around the same conversation level. It is a smaller group than last semester, 20 instead of 27. I also have a new roommate this semester, and she is very sweet. Her name is Xue Yi, 薛艺。 She is a graduate student and a few years older than me. She is very talkative, but talkative in a very cute way. I enjoy that I don't really have to think of something to say, instead she'll end up saying something and then I can respond to her. All in all I'm enjoying this semester, I'm glad to be back to school, and time really has flown.