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Our Visit to the Countryside in Northern China

We spent New Year’s Eve and Day for 2015 in the rural village of 坡头村中国。It was a very interesting time. We were served hot Coca-Cola with ginger in it, we could not find any way to explain to our friend why we don’t have warmer clothes, and we had 2 different elderly men sing for us.

In the village where we were the only heat source is coal burning stoves. It is very, very cold outside and the homes are not well insulated. You’re pretty much shivering all the time. The locals all had very thick clothes on especially made for such weather. They appeared to be thicker and more insulated than ski outfits. Then here we were with our blue jeans and people kept asking us why we didn’t wear warmer clothes. We explained that we don’t have warmer clothes and they thought we were insane. How do you explain to a person with no indoor plumbing and a dirt floor that we don’t usually need warmer clothes than these because our home and every where we go is heated? The only time we’re out in the extreme cold is going quickly from one place to another. But out there it’s cold everywhere all winter. IMG_0231

We are the first foreigners to have ever visited this village and everyone came to see us! It was almost like we were circus freaks more so than honored guests. We do have enough culture to know to bring a gift when going to someone’s home but our gift paled in comparison to what they gave us. The owner of the house we stayed in, our friend, gave us some of his hand drawn artwork and some old family photos, while a friend of his that’s an art teacher sculpted us little figurines and fired them during the day returning to the house in the evening to send us home with them. Our tin of chocolates was looking less and less like a worthy gift as time went on.

There was a never ending revolving “door” which is really just a blanket hanging over a threshold of people wanting to meet us. It was special but tiring.

Empathy for strangers does not exist in China

A couple weeks ago my husband and I were walking down the street and there was an old woman lying in the middle of the sidewalk. People were just bustling past her as if they didn’t even see her. We stopped and tried to see what we could do for her but she didn’t understand us and we didn’t understand her. When others saw us helping her they stopped too. Soon someone had called the police to come and help the woman.

Before that I had seen two guys riding a motorbike get hit by a car. They were both thrown off the bike and we left lying in the middle of the road. The cars just drove around them. I headed over there but before I go there they were up and riding off.

3 months ago a tourist fainted on a subway in Beijing and everyone on the train simply ignored him and left him lying there while they exited the train.

1 year ago a woman got her head stuck in a railing. People passed by her all day. Stopping to stare. Taking pictures with their cell phones. She died.

1 year ago a 2 year old little girl was hit by a car. A security camera shows over 15 people walking past the child lying in the road. Eventually a 2nd car hit her body and killed her.

The stories go on and on. Why is this? How can people be so cruel?  Those are shocking stories but there are the tiny almost mundane ones too like if a little old lady drops her bag of groceries in a crowd not one person will stop to help her gather them (but me).

I’ve been researching this for a few days now and it seems to stem from Taoism.  Apparently Laozi’s utopia was described as “Let your community be small, with only a few people. He said that “to do nothing is actually to do everything.”Laozi_002

So there we go. They have a 3,000 year old tradition of not caring for their neighbor. Only have a few people in your community and don’t ever help anyone with anything. It’s tribalism to the extreme.

In the lobby of my friend’s apartment building there is a sign that reads:

Look on and Do Nothing.

That about sums up life here.

It’s not as if Chinese people are not capable of empathy. They are very friendly to people they consider part of their group as in their family and their small circle of friends but anyone outside of that may as well not exist. It’s as if in Chinese culture there are two distinct, completely separate castes: my circle and the untouchables. They don’t separate themselves by class or rank or anything like that it’s just me, my family, my friends, and then the untouchables.

Then everyone lives in their little worlds like that. There are millions and millions of microcosms in China. Millions of groups of 20 or so people that are wonderfully sweet and helpful to each other that never intermingle with other groups and wouldn’t lift a finger to help the other even if a life were at stake.

For anyone interested there is a Chinese professor at UCLA writing a book on the topic. I have emailed him to learn more.

 

 

I still haven’t gotten used to this

In China baby’s pants have a slit in the middle and when they have to go to the bathroom the parent just stops where ever they are and baby pees or poops. In the middle of the sidewalk? Yes. Inside a store? Yes. On the steps outside your apartment building? Yes.

Grown adults will drop their pants and take a poo on the sidewalk too.  I’m not kidding.

The really weird thing? Pets are not terribly popular but some people do have dogs they walk on leashes. I have seen several people clean up their dog’s poop. Yep. They clean up dog poop but leave the baby poop in the middle of the sidewalk. They don’t even move off to the side. They literally stop what they’re doing and squat for the baby to poop or pee where ever they are.

9 weeks in – adjusting to China.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Adjusting to my new life in China has been quite interesting. For the first time ever I was completely and I mean COMPLETELY out of my element.  Sure I’ve spent several months back packing Latin America but you can almost always find someone that speaks English somewhere and often times signs are in both English and Spanish. It’s not like that here and if a sign is in English it may as well be in German because the translation is so poor most of the time I have no idea what it supposed to say anyway.

First off let me say that most Western people stick to Shanghai or Beijing and if they do get to my city at all it’s only for a day or two to see the terra cotta warriors.  I live in Xi’an. It’s a city of 9 million people and on any given day the total number of foreigners is less than 300. That’s including foreigners living here like myself, my family, and my husband’s co-workers along with tourists. So 300/9,000,000 means there aren’t a whole lot of people around here that look like me or can talk to me.

And yes I did say 9 MILLION. I’ve had several people message me and ask me what’s the closest big city to where you live? I only assume they ask because the only place in China they know if is Beijing. Well, I’m over 1,000 miles from there but I think 9,000,000 constitutes a big city.

Chinese people do study English in school but the quality of their English education is about as good as foreign language education in the US. If the student is highly motivated they can learn a bit of English but most just breeze on through only learning the basics.

I know a couple Americans on Facebook living in Beijing or Shanghai and when we talk about what it’s like living in China they may as well be living in different world compared to my experiences. There is no vibrant ex-pat community here. I don’t ever walk down the road and happen to meet someone that speaks English. It just doesn’t happen. It’s a very surreal thing living here.

I have finally made some local friends. There is a section of society that does speak English fairly well. The poor people don’t and the extremely wealthy don’t but the upper class do. When I say upper class let me put it into perspective: $433 USD a month is a very respectable wage here.

So in a nutshell there are 9,000,000 people in my city and I’d say maybe 2,000 that I can talk to until my Chinese gets better. I’m working on finding them but the going is slow.

Utila: The most beautiful disgusting place ever!

I will start this post with stating I have done a lot of traveling. I’ve been to 47 of the states, I’ve been to Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico and Guatemala. While Utila Island is completely different than main land Honduras so I can’t really say I know Honduras I can for sure say that at least this part of Honduras is one of my least favorite places I have ever been. It’s all in the people.

So we came to Utila Island Honduras for scuba diving lessons. Utila is on the Caribbean Sea and it’s absolutely gorgeous here. We’ve had a slight change in plans and we’re staying longer for Brandon to complete his advanced level scuba training.

Sure it beautiful here but I hate it and I can’t wait to get the heck out of here! I’m a people person and the people here are awful. To be honest I would take Gainesville Georgia over Utila Island and for those of you that know me you understand now my distaste for this place. utila dock

#1 I thought my language was bad but everyone on this island cusses like a sailor including the very young children. I overheard a 4 year old child scream at his mother “Fuck you, you cunt!” It’s difficult for me to type that sentence let alone hear a 4yo scream it. And that’s not an exception. All the kids are nasty to their parents and all other adults and no one does anything about it.  Kids here kick and beat dogs, they torture cats and they swear at adults. I had to tell my daughter that she can’t play with the kids here anymore because after just 2 days she was picking up nasty habits from them.

(additional) I took a break just now while making this entry and while walking back to my room I overheard a mother yelling at her 2 year old and calling him a “little shit” for not listening to her.

#2 I am terrified of water. Almost phobia level afraid. I thought I was going to face my fears and learn to scuba dive but I chickened out. Instead I was going to spend time in the water while Brandon was out taking his lessons, teach myself to swim, and get used to water. The first time I built my courage up and picked my feet up off the ground and put my head in the water someone here took the water hose and sprayed water on my back. It absolutely scared the fuck out of me and I almost peed myself. The next day when the same person asked me why I wasn’t out taking lessons I said I just didn’t feel like it and he teased me like a 5 year old saying “you’re scared, you’re scared” in a stupid voice. Since then I’ve been made fun of several times and several people have threatened to throw me in the water. I fucking HATE almost everyone on this island.

#3 People have parties, bar-b-ques, or just go out for dinner together and don’t invite us. Not only do they not invite us they talk about it right in front of us and then walk of without inviting us. 2 nights ago we walked out on the dock because it’s cooler than in our room and lo and behold everyone from the school (but us) was there having a party! There was ceviche and alcohol and music. Yep, everyone from the school: teachers and students and owners but no one bothered to tell us about it. A couple days ago I was chatting with a young couple for about 45 minutes when they talked about going out to eat. Another couple walked up and the people I was talking to asked them if they wanted to go out to eat and then asked the girl sitting right next to me if she wanted to go and then they all just got up and walked away without even saying good bye. Now I’m a pretty nice person. I’ve never in my life had anyone tell me different. I smile, I’m funny, I’m nice, I talk to everyone. I’m not any different here. The people here are assholes.

#4 My daughter dropped one of her flip-flops in the ocean. I was very angry with her because I’ve told her several times to not leave them on the dock because the wind will blow them in the water. She can swim but she’s not the best in the world. I knew where her flip flop was she  could stand so I made her jump in after it. Apparently she didn’t know she could stand there and she started panicking in the water. When I told her to put her feet down a local woman that was on the dock laughed hilariously and yelled at my daughter that she’s stupid. That’s how they roll here. Everyone is an asshole.

#5 There’s a 6-7 week old kitten here at the dive school. Yesterday it feel through a crack in the dock and was washing away in the ocean. Someone jumped in and saved it. When I suggested placing a towel over the crack so that wouldn’t happen again I was told “The cat has learned it’s lesson now.” I said I think you’re giving too much credit to a 6 week old kitten. Everyone around ignored my request and said the kitten will either live or die and it’s got to learn. I wonder if they raised their children that way?

#6 The people here are VERY racist. Utila was a British colony, the people are mostly white and black(descendants of slaves) and the main language is English. Over the past 20 years hispanics from the mainland have been moving over. The locals hate it. They call them invaders and say they are “ruining our island.”

I could go on and on. I could get the list up to at least 200 and we’ve only been here a week. Drunks and assholes is what I associate with Utila Island. If you want to get scuba certified for really cheap come on down! And if you live to party come on down! If you’re an all-round nice person and being surrounded by jerks is not appealing to you then I suggest taking your 4 day course, steering clear of everyone else and getting the hell out ASAP!

With all of that said I have met a few people (less than 5) that I do like.  Actually it’s 3. I’ve met 3 people here I like.

I keep reminding myself that the people here are poor and uneducated and trying to make myself feel better but no: these people SUCK! I’ve met poor and uneducated people all over the Americas including in the US and and these are the worst.

Cultural Differences

Traveling Latin America one will notice several cultural differences but the one I still have not been able to adjust to is the blatant racism .  There are restaurants such as the one in my featured picture that pretty much translates into “Black people food”. There is a tourism sign in Lima, Peru with a picture of horrible cartoon black people beating on drums that says “Go to this town and see our black people dance”. blacks dance

We met a guy from Chile that seemed pretty nice and since we didn’t make it to Chile I was asking him some cultural questions. I asked him if in Chile it was like in Columbia and no matter what the day or time there was music blaring and loud people everywhere and his response was “No, we don’t have any black people.” I don’t really know this guy so it wasn’t like he was saying this to me in any kind of confidence, it was just a normal run-of-the-mill kind of thing to say to a stranger.

Then there was the first leg of our speed boat trip to cross the Columbia-Panama border. We started off in the armpit of the world that is Turbo, Columbia at 8:30AM. There was a group of about 8 Columbians that were REALLY obnoxious. We couldn’t tell if they were really drunk or just like that naturally until they started passing the bottle of rum amongst them. I remind you it’s 8:30 in the morning. The ring leader of the group and the loudest, most obnoxious one of the group was annoying the hell out of us.

Every time the boat would hit a wave and crash to the bottom he would scream like a baby, he was making stupid jokes, and he kept blowing this damn horn he had. I swear in the US this guy would have been thrown overboard. Then at one point when I guess he thought the ride was too rough (once again-speed boat-ocean-not going to be a smooth ride) he leans back and yells “Hey nigger, slow down!” Then what happens to him? Everyone laughs. Yep. They laughed. This is how such behavior doesn’t stop. It was so offensive I made a video of it.  See link on side. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuLI5tvmQCs&feature=youtu.be

It was like being stuck on a 4 hour horrible roller coaster ride with a group of 12 year old boys. All but these people were older than me. It was a constant stream of fart jokes, stupidity and racism and it was praised.

 

My trip to the hospital in Peru

Two days ago over night a freckle on my face more than doubled in size. Scary, yes? We decided I really should go to a doctor about it. This morning in Cusco, Peru the first thing we did was go to a doctor. The primary care physician was worried about it and said I needed to see a specialist. I was pretty stressed out by this point and could have really used a Diet Coke, my comfort food, but apparently they have never heard of Diet Coke in these parts.

I’m pretty sure that anyone reading my blog knows what I think of the American medical system and what a sham it is but today I had an experience to reiterate it.

They called an ambulance and I was shuttled to the hospital to see a dermatologist. She said it’s nothing dangerous and not to worry about it and prescribed me some cream to apply to it every night and told me to apply and re-apply sunscreen every 2 hours.

Total cost? $75 USD.

  • Initial doctor’s visit
  • Ambulance ride to hospital
  • Consultation with specialist
  • Ambulance ride back

Let’s run that down for what it would cost in the US: Of course we wouldn’t take an ambulance for an overgrown freckle so we can rule that out but a visit with a primary care physician is at least $75. Then  to see a dermatologist would cost about $500.  So that’s close to $600. Of course if you were to need an ambulance ride in the US it’s usually $800-$2000 one way and they hauled me both ways. That means low balling my visit would be $2200 in the US.

That means it’s cheaper to buy a round trip airline ticket to Peru, visit with a doctor and go back home in the States than it is to see a doctor Stateside. Is that messed up or what?

I know there are plenty of people in border states that go over to Mexico to get their dental work done because it’s so much cheaper there but I just had my first real life experience with how reasonably priced medical care can and should be.

If you are reading this I hope you are outraged.

 

Our day in Lima, Peru

I had no idea how big Lima was! It’s somewhere between 8 and 9 million people. I’m sure there are interesting things to see there but we did one day and left. I got a chance to see my first catacombs and it was amazing! You’re not allowed to take pictures but, well, I did anyway.

We walked around town a bit, we ate in China town, and we saw some of the scariest mannequins ever. IMG_2299

We learned that nothing is open in Peru before 10AM. Stores are not open, you can’t find coffee and even the escalators don’t work before 10.

Trinidad made friends at the hostel. People love her everywhere we go but especially in Latin America where they don’t see many blonde haired blue eyed little girls.

This is the hostel we stayed in: 1900 Backpackers Hostal 1900

That’s it for me and the Catholic Church.

Anyone that knows me well knows that I was raised Catholic. I attended Catholic Schools through the 9th grade and I have nothing negative to say about it. In fact I have always spoken quite highly of the Catholic church I attended. I know they are not all as wonderful as mine was but I had an excellent experience with the church and I have always held them in high regard.

My schools taught me to think critically and to always question. Perhaps they taught me too well. I actually credit my excellent education to why I’m an atheist today! Score one for Catholic schools!

As of this week everything has changed between me and the Catholic Church.

In case you don’t know the Vatican is standing before the United Nation’s Convention Against Torture in Geneva this week. Cardinal Tomasi, the spokesperson for the Pope claimed yesterday that child rape is not torture and that the Vatican should not be held responsible for what every priest does around the world.  The pope says the priests should be dealt with by local law enforcement and not by the Vatican. Full opening statement by Tomasi can be found here.

His statements damn near sent me running to the bathroom to throw up. Child rape not torture? What planet do these people come from? Even more disgusting to me is that the Vatican says priests raping children is not their problem. The local police should deal with it.

     “The Declaration elaborates more precisely the Holy See’s position, in which the teaching of the Catholic Church clearly articulates its opposition to acts of violence and torture.”

So if the pope’s position is that the Church is against acts of violence then WHY THE FUCK is child rape not your goddamn problem? Seemingly everything else that is the church’s position is their problem.

The Catholic Church wants total, TOTAL control over every aspect of it’s “sheep’s” lives. Pre-marital sex? No communion for you. Vote Democrat? In many churches, no communion for you. Divorce? Ex-communication. Nuns in America suggesting maybe-just maybe- women should be given a little more respect in the Church? Get scolded by the Pope. Be a priest that rapes a child? Oh! That’s not their problem. Call local law enforcement for that.

I bet if priests all of a sudden started handing out condoms or paying for abortions the “Holy See” would find it the Vatican’s problem really fast. What if a priest fell in love and got married? I bet the Vatican would find it their problem. 

Hitler got the Catholic Church’s blessings, Napalm over Vietnam got the Church’s blessing, the rape of countless children is not their problem but birth control oh yeah! That’s their problem. They’re all over that shit.

I can’t believe I’ve actually defended this new pope. I fell for his bull shit and I thought he was a good guy. 

All they had to do was stand before the UN, admit they messed up big time, and list all the things they’re doing to try and make things right but nope! Child rape isn’t torture and it’s not their problem anyway.

I hope MASSIVE numbers of people leave the church over this. I know if I were still a believer this would have been my last day ever as a Catholic. I know there are good people out there that go to church every Sunday but how can you continue to go when your LEADERS say this stuff???? LEAVE!!! Get out! Nothing will happen to you but the lifting of weight off your shoulders. You can still be a good person. You’ll even have an extra hour every Sunday to do community service!

Anyone interested in leaving the church Recovering from Religion is an excellent source for help.