(The author of this article, Mr. Kenneth Gillespie in picture above, is a Math teacher at Yiling American High School)
It tends to be “weird” from time to time, living in China. There are many similarities that remind me of home. There are familiar restaurant signs from the view from my window. I see the daily commute of the citizens, young & old, getting into the daily grind of earning your pay or earning your grades to eventually end up earning your salary. I experience traffic jams, rampant consumerism and fashionistas strolling about showcasing the latest trends. I eat in restaurants and see families & friends more concerned with their phone than the people around them. I imbibe at local bars, listen to western music and smile at pretty women. It is a very familiar life.
But then you have the 24/7 lifestyle that is apparent here. It is not a nation similar to my own. Every day, you can find the same businesses and stores open. Packs of scooters, e-bikes and motorcycles roam the streets. The people on the street are standoffish from my American point of view. I come from a country where common courtesy and politeness, while not practiced by all, is the norm. If you don’t know someone you at least acknowledge their presence and slightly reply to their “ni hao” with a wave, a smile or a nod of the head. In China, it tends to be different. I spent the month of June roaming around Europe and it is similar there as it is here. I did not receive as many acknowledgements back as I gave out. I consider driving in China to be the World’s largest game of Mario Kart. One, you are to use as much of the available road as possible to get to your destination, be it unblocked sidewalk, the other traffic lane or the bike lane. Two, anyone stopped has no reason to be blocking you so go around them. Three, there are no such things as stop signs. Stop lights.
So far, it seems that I might be bagging this culture that I find myself in but no, I am merely giving you my observations. This is exactly what I wanted in this stage of my life. I am the happiest I have been in a while as I work, live and play in this beautiful country. I get to explore it as necessary. I am learning Mandarin, how to speak as well as recognizing “survival” phrases and signs. It is an experience that I have longed for in this Life. Again, China tends to be "weird" from time to time but I have a huge man crush on this place.