"Nobody can out work a Chinaman"!

Trip Start Jun 30, 2008
Trip End Dec 31, 2009

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Flag of China  , Guangdong,
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It seems that every week (if not every day) we are astonished to have to 'relearn' things that we were taught, thought and expected about China.  If you know me, you know that I have been spouting off about China for some time and ultimately the reason I brought our family to live here for awhile.  Even I am to the point that it is hard to believe the changes taking place here and how 'misled' we are in the West.  Not only is this blog to keep you guys updated as to what we are doing but also to act as a 'teacher' for those of us who want to learn more about China.  It is for this last reason that writing this is sometimes 'awkward' because thru our travels many people have been receiving our updates.  I certainly don't want to hurt or upset any of our new friends but I try to be as honest and open as possible so that people can get a true picture of life in China as we see and experience it.

We were told that China does not allow any religion or church and that any church is 'deep underground' and out of notice of the government.  We were also told and believed that the only way to get a Bible in China is to have it illegally smuggled into the country.  Now I can't speak for the entire country or official policy but we have visited many book stores here where you can buy a Christian bible.  Not only that we visited a Church this week far from 'underground' but rather on the 3rd floor of a large commercial building across from a very large bookstore and next to a hospital.  Walking home from school today I was handed a Christian Track - go figure! 

To most of you this may not seem significant but to us it was important because it is so contrary to what we are taught or indoctrinated with in the West.  I even went further to enquire about the 'safety' of those participating in such activities.  The short answer was that people really don't care what you are doing as long as you are not causing harm.  Most are focused on working hard to get 'ahead' in life. 

I laugh when I think of the many times people have told me that we are capitalists and the Chinese are socialists.  I went to university and I read the books on the different political and economic theories and practices and let me state very clearly that China is more capitalistic (for lack of a better term) than any other country I have been in.  I have heard it hundreds of times over and over and can recite it in my sleep.  When I ask a student what their dreams are they say it is to "make lots of money so they can buy a big house, a big car and many things".  What I find very interesting is that the student, their parents, their teachers and their governments strongly encourage them to work hard so that they can achieve that goal.  Imagine the largest country in the world all believing that "if they work hard" they will get rich.  How is that going to affect you and your family in the future?  I'm telling you now.  Take note!

April 5 was a national holiday -  The Qingming Festival.  "For the Chinese, it is a day to remember and honor one's ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, (joss) paper accessories, and/or libation to the ancestors. We enjoyed a great day out with a family of one of Janice's students who took use to see some historical as well as contemporary sites of interest.  We all had lunch at a restaurant on the outskirts of town where we were able to enjoy each other's company.

I asked my students what they did on the holiday and the answer was always the same.  DO HOMEWORK. One of my students explained in more detail when he said "my parents gave me homework the size of a small hill".   I cannot believe how hard students work.  My personal fear is that this push to succeed can go too far and strain a country that already has a very healthy work ethic.  But how do you tell a country that has had to struggle for so long to sit back and be lazy like us who already have a big house and big car? 

As a teacher to about 400 students every week and teacher to a dozen English teachers I am seeing my role becoming more to help them see what we have already achieved in the West and provide insight.  I agree with them that it is great to work hard so you get good grades, so you can go to a good school, so you can get a good job, so you can make lots of money, so you can buy a big house, and so you can buy a big car BUT be sure you have a purpose beyond that and that you are happy with what you get.  I find people here (and at home too) have not really thought things all the way out.  I am still figuring it out but anytime I need any clarity I just have to talk to someone older than 60 years old.

Observations this week:

- Here in China, boys and girls don't begin dating until 18 years old.  When I told my grade 7s' that in Canada people have girl/boy friend's at 9 years old the class of 50 moaned and groaned like I said something very bad.  In fact, one of my students told me that that was very bad.

- To see pornographic pictures commercially displayed in the washroom of a local restaurant shocked me as it is well publicised that the government is blocking most if not all pornographic web sites.  The government has also recently blocked YouTube for some reason.

- For a city of 1.2 million people it feels very safe.  I feel safer here than in some of our cities of 30,000 people.  Sabrina can go anywhere at any time without fear.  This is strange for us who have constantly been aware of many dangers.

- You can buy an external Hard Drive and MP4 players made in China from the USA/Canada for less than right here where they are made.

- People here are freer than we are lead to believe.

- East: save money for a rainy day: West: no such thing as rain!

- You can't believe everything you read on the internet.  A good friend from India brought this to my attention "I just was going through the Summerland reference on wikipedia,  (search for Summerland British Columbia). I was really shocked to find that according to the site; "The town is the only municipality, in Canada, that is ran under a dictatorship and does not hold any elections. Current "Town President," Ian Gough, overthrew the elected Mayor in 1997 and has been leading with an iron fist ever since."  (I thought he was joking............anyone can say anything so beware)

- After traveling around the world visiting 40 or so countries I can confidently say "Nobody can out work a Chinaman"!

- 9 months, 10 days  on the road...........
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