I made sure when I was living in China before to realize that my experience was in the north east. Realizing the difference between Texas and New York, I didn't want to think that I'd experienced the whole of China by living in one city. That said, after several days in my new city of Taiyuan, which is 20 hours south of my old city, Chang Chun, my experience has been dearly similar. And by dearly, I mean however you'd like to interpret that according to these experiences and sights:
(I love it here.)
Men huddle around checker boards on every street corner.
They use the same wondrous techniques at these hole-in-the-wall salons where I get a 2 dollar hair wash and head, neck, and back massage.
School hallways wreak of urine because of the poor plumbing systems.
Bathroom stalls in the school have no curtains and are squatty potties. This morning, the sweet teacher I met for the first time in my office who was clad in a pretty dress and heels, looking so proper and kind, walked into the bathroom while I was squatting and peeing with my pants pulled down, obviously. She smiled sweetly at me and said, 'hello' and went to the next stall and pulled up her dress. I love it. I feel closer to nature and grateful that I'm totally unembarrassed peeing in front of other people.
There are all forms of 3rd worldish looking forms of transportation for dirt cheap. After buying some pens and shampoo and various other necessities at the local convenience store I hopped a motorcycle cart covered in beautiful fabric for the ride home. It cost 80 cents for about 10 minutes on the most bumpity road ever. Pot holes here belong in the guiness book of world records!
My office in this elementary school feels strikingly similar to my office at the college where I taught two years ago. The walls are decorated with a paper 3-d Christmas tree, a purple Mickey Mouse, a banner proclaiming 'Let ABC become starting notes. Let the world hear the voice of China.' The teachers wear these sleeve coverings patterned with hearts and cartoons.
Vendors sell the same street food: mini candied apples on a stick, hot potatoes out of a tin barrel, meat and tofu on a stick, steaming meat dumplings in bamboo trays, and everyone eats seeds constantly.
These observations are but a fraction of the sensory overload I'm surrounded by each day. I love the overload. I love it here, even if the tissue turns black whenever I blow my nose. It was the same two years ago. Me and the dirt are making friends again.