Anything goes in China

Anything goes in China

Meet ... Randi Dermo

China Study Abroad Major: Languages and Cultures
Location: Beijing, China
Studying: Spending four weeks immersed in the Chinese culture while visiting majestic, historical sites and studying at the prestigious Institute of Chinese as Second Language of Peking University.

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While in Beijing, I’ve coined a saying of what I think is a perfect description of China. The phrase: “Anything goes in China.”

Vehicles driving on pedestrian sidewalks, people spitting everywhere, men always pulling their shirts up and letting their stomachs hang free … Yes, at first I thought this unfamiliar and carefree activity was, to be quite frank, insane and a touch gross. But I also found it funny at the same time. After all, where is the harm in these actions?

Driving on sidewalks could potentially be dangerous, but I think that the people of Beijing are so used to it, and these ways are just so embedded in their culture, that fewer accidents actually occur.

But these little quirks are simply a part of the Chinese culture. I’m a foreigner in their land and realized that I was looking at Chinese life with a completely alienated perspective. If a Chinese native would come to visit New York city, surely he would find many things to be weird, probably even appalling.

Being in Beijing is definitely teaching me to observe the world in an unbiased manner. In fact, you almost have to in order to be able to accept things. If you don’t, I think the whole purpose of travel would be defeated.

Bu hao de fuwuyuan

We’ve been in Beijing for nearly two weeks now, and I’ve had very few unpleasant experiences. As far as treating foreigners go, I find the Chinese to be a very understanding people. The other night, however, I had my first … blunder.

I went to an on-campus restaurant with a couple of friends for dinner. Even though much finger pointing at the menu was involved in order to assuage any confusion, we were doing our best to be polite and order in Chinese. The waitress kept giggling at us when we spoke, which wasn’t the nicest of manners, but at this point, we didn’t really think much of it. While she was taking our order, she didn’t seem to be paying much mind to what we were saying. At one time, in fact, she actually just tuned and walked away from us mid-sentence.

Turns out, she really wasn’t paying any attention after all. I must have stressed to her at least four times that I wanted vegetable dumplings, no meat. The waitress served me meat dumplings, which I didn’t know contained meat until she laughingly informed me so, while I already had one in my mouth.

She then served my friends cold ribs. And when I say cold, I don’t mean room temp. I mean straight-out-of-the-refrigerator cold. Now, one could argue that to be a mistake on the cook’s part rather than the waitress’, however, she already had two strikes against her. The least she could do at this point was to make sure we were happy with our food. Yet, when we told her about the ribs, she was just annoyed.

As a foreigner in this country, I definitely felt slighted by the service my friends and I received at this restaurant. But, for the first time, I really experienced what it was like to be treated unfairly just because you’re not native to or a citizen of a particular nation — and it was only over food service. What about the things that really matter? I hope for any one who reads this post that you take time and think about how difficult it can be at times for foreigners anywhere. Although trite, the saying “Treat others like you would want to be treated,” is definitely a good motto to follow.

I Climbed Tai Shan

Tai Shan
Today was a true accomplishment for us Bloomsburg students. We climbed Tai Shan! Well, we were driven halfway up the mountain by bus — a crazy ride in itself, might I add — and then walked to the peak. We climbed over 2,000 steps. In my book, that’s a pretty big deal.

I had a blast climbing Tai Shan. I just thought it was so much fun, and the views from the top of the mountain were spectacular! On the way up, there were thousands of red ribbons tied to the branches of trees. The ribbons had a little prayer on them in Chinese. A couple of us bought some to join thousands of others and tie our little prayer/wish on a tree. I’m not sure why, I just love that kind of stuff!

Many Chinese people, who were climbing the mountain as well, stopped us and asked if they could have their pictures taken with us because, well, we’re not Chinese. It’s kind of amazing what some cultures find to be rare. Tai Shan was a great time. I loved the adventure and I really hope I get the opportunity to climb it again one day. Next time, however, I’ll start from the base of the mountain!

Kung-Fu is no myth

I always just assumed Kung-Fu didn’t really exist, as though it was some sort of myth. You see it in movies and TV shows, but never had I seen a tangible image of this form of martial arts. My belief, however, was debunked when I attended a Kung-Fu show at the Red Theater.

The show was listed on the itinerary as one of our many cultural events, but the thought of it never really caught my attention. To my surprise, I was quite enthralled by the show. Anything that involves gymnastics instantly appeals to me. And believe me, these guys knew what they were doing! There were 10-year-old kids doing back handsprings across the length of the stage, but instead of using their hands they used their heads! There were whips, tucks, side aerials, front aerials, and layouts. It was just incredible.

After seeing that show, my ideas of Kung-Fu really were transformed. It was no longer a practice that only existed in the movies or in stories. Opening my eyes, I realized that Kung-Fu holds a true place in the world and is still a current practice even among today’s young generations in China.

Modernization and tradition mix well

Peking University’s campus is a diverse one at that. I’ve never been to a campus that combines such modern and traditional architecture in such a harmonious way. Although there is nothing too spectacular about the modern parts of campus, the buildings still display a sense of character, I think, unlike many newly built edifices in the states.

The traditional section of campus, which contains a lake and Pagoda, is absolutely gorgeous. Tall, green trees slouch over stone pathways, which carve past ornate ivy-covered buildings and through grassy meadows. There are arched bridges that connect one secret walkway to another, and gazebos that hide in the privacy and brush of nature. From old a whimsical to modern, one can easily become lost in the vast and intricate campus of Beijing University. This beautiful campus truly does compliment one of the best academic universities in the world.

    — Randi Dermo, languages and cultures major