I talk about the kind people I meet in China often. I have made a friend in the countryside that even invited me to his mother’s funeral because he feels so close to me.
There’s a wonderfully kind little old lady that sits in her wheel chair outside the main gate of my apartment complex every afternoon and she always smiles and waves at me when I pass. There is a nice family on the 18th floor of my building that has invited me for dumplings more than once. The first friend I ever made here has been more than kind to me in showing me around town, introducing me to his friends, and being a nonstop help with my Mandarin needs.
I’ve had little old men get up from their seats on the bus and no matter how many times I insist he remain seated he makes me take his seat. The shop owner where I buy my fruits and vegetables always compliments me on my speaking.
There’s a little boy in my complex that always runs up to me and calls me 老师(teacher) even though I’m not his teacher and I teach him at least 2 new words every time I see him. There’s a restaurant owner that every time I go in she puts her grandchild in my arms and seems the happiest woman ever to see the way I hold and play with the baby.
There’s a bar owner that knows my name, knows my drink, and is always happy to laugh and joke with me.
I understand why Chinese people are so kind. They are a collectivist society. The group as a whole is the most important and since we are all a part of the group we all must be kind to each other. If one member of the group falls the group cannot function properly. Being unkind to one is being unkind to the whole. Confucius wrote “Act with kindness, but do not expect gratitude.” Confucius also said “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.”
So I’m curious. How many people are going to send me hateful messages for generalizing Chinese people today? I think probably none. No one gets upset when one generalizes in a positive way. Generalizations apparently are only a bad thing if the reader does not like them.
What kind of world are we living in if we can never point out the negatives of life? If we pretend everything is perfect and there’s nothing wrong with the world how will we ever achieve world peace? China is not a perfect place. Nor is the United States or Switzerland or Angola. If we are forced to accept, like, and even respect the very worst of every society in fear of angering others how will we ever change?
I believe that it is our job as humans to make the world a better place for the next generations. How can we make the world better if we don’t admit there’s anything wrong with it? If we have to pretend everything is perfect and we love everything around us at all times?
I can talk about how nice and kind Chinese people are all day long and never have one person call me out on generalizing but oh my god you say something bad about Chinese people and it’s immediately you’re a racist! You’re generalizing! Fuck generalizations! If you don’t like it just leave! We don’t want you anyway.
Sorry people, but generalizations go both ways. If all you want is to read about my positive experiences then you probably don’t want to read my blog because I write about the negative ones too.
This isn’t about me vs. China. This is me vs. the world. Wherever I am living or traveling I write about the good and the bad. I have loads of happy positive things to say about people and places but to leave out the negatives would not be true. For those of you that get angry with me for generalizing about negatives, but not angry with me for generalizing about positives perhaps, just perhaps, the problem lies with you and not me.
I leave with one last quote of Confusius:
“The faults of a superior person are like the sun and the moon. They have their faults, and everyone sees them; they change and everyone looks up to them.”
I complain about this a lot but Chinese people are mean and I hate it. It’s days like this that I have to chant to myself over and over again one more year, just one more year and it’s a different culture, they don’t mean to be mean, it’s a different culture.
By using the standard US sizing chart the average Chinese woman is a size 2. That’s the average sized woman. The woman pictured here is a woman I saw a couple months ago. She is the standard of beauty here. The thinner you are and the more skeletal you look the more beautiful you are. You only think it is bad in the States. A girl I know here is a size 6 and people call her fat. Her own mother calls her fat. She calls her almost everyday and tells her no man wants to marry a fatty and she’s going to have to lose weight. Size 6!!!!
I am a US size 12 today. That’s a full 6 times larger than the average Chinese woman but the average American woman is a size 14. When they call a size 6 fat just imagine how they treat me. I am brought to tears on a regular basis. Strangers walk up to me in the street, grab my arm and call me fat. In restaurants people at other tables joke that the owner should tell me I can’t eat anything because I’m fat enough, I have even been called a whale more than once. One time a group of children surrounded me pointing and laughing at me while calling me fat. Another time a complete fucking stranger sat down with me at a café and told me I was too fat and too ugly to be out in public and I needed to stay home. I’ve been window shopping before, just window shopping, and the employees come out and shoo me off while yelling at me that I’m too fat and they don’t have anything for me. That has happened several times. This is me. I took these pictures last week:
No one in the US would ever call me fat.
The same thing always happens to me. I always start crying on the spot. I have been brought to tears in my two years in China more often than ever before in my life. But today something happened. I was finally able to get angry instead of sad!
As many of you know I had cancer 9 years ago. The tumors themselves weren’t really that bad of a problem but there were many complications with my surgery and I was left with a very serious health problem. VERY SERIOUS. While no one can look at me and see that I am sick I really am. No need to get into details here but my illness prevents me from raising my heartbeat too much which prevents me from exercising too hard or I could oh yeah, you know, die. And I’d kinda rather not do that. I can exercise but I can’t push myself too hard and it has to be light stuff. I walk on the treadmill, I use an elliptical, and I lift weights. I go to the gym 5 days a week. Before my sickness I was a size 7 and while a size 12 is not huge I am very sensitive to it and I don’t need to be reminded 5 times a day that I’m fat and ugly.
Well today I was at the gym on the treadmill and one of the trainers approached me. She didn’t waste any time. The first thing she told me was “你胖了” you’re fat. She didn’t wait for me to speak she just laid into me. You’re fat, you have to run or you will always be fat. You need to work harder because you are so fat. You really are very fat. Run faster. You are fat.
I told her exactly what my Chinese teacher taught me to say. I have a health condition, the doctor says I cannot exercise too hard. This is the most I can do. But she just kept repeating I was fat and I had to run faster. I thought maybe she didn’t understand me so I pulled out my phone translator I typed up that I have a serious illness and I cannot run I can only walk. She told me I was wrong and I needed to run. She told me I was sick because I was fat. She kept saying it over and over again. Of course you are sick. You are sick because you are so fat.
I walked away from her 2 times and she followed me. She kept saying that I was sick because I was fat and I had to lose the weight. You’re fat. You’re really fat. Work harder. You’re fat. You will be sick your whole life if you stay so fat. You are so fat.
Finally I snapped and I said I’m leaving and I stormed out of the gym. She followed me and kept asking what was wrong and why I was leaving. I told her to fuck off. With that she left me alone. I have only cursed at a couple people here in China and they have all been taxi drivers. I do curse often but I do not curse at people. That is different. I must be very angry to curse at a person.
This behavior is very common here in China. If you don’t know about it and you live here it’s because you’re not of a size they consider fat or ugly, or if you don’t live here no one talks about it with you for fear of being called a racist. Well fuck that. By a Western standard Chinese people are fucking mean.
With that being said I understand that I am coming from a completely Western biased opinion. Don’t forget my degree is in sociology and I understand this stuff. I get it… collectivist society and all that jazz. I had a long conversation with a Chinese friend of mine about it today. He is a sociologist. We agreed that it is a collectivist thing. No one here gives a fuck about the individual, only the group matters. No one cares about others’ feelings and no one cares at all about what they say or don’t say to an individual. Children are not taught to be considerate of others’ feelings. The feelings of the individual simply do not matter and are never brought into consideration during conversation. That’s just how they roll. They don’t realize how awfully mean they come across as to Westerners when they say such things and I’m at least fairly certain that if they knew how mean we thought it was they wouldn’t say it but OMG some days I just can’t take it.
I once read a very interesting article on how traveling the world can make one more elitist and I have to say it’s happening to me. Ever since I was a kid I have been that uber lefty super open-minded accepting and loving of everyone person but living in China is changing that about me.
I cannot say I am disappointed about coming here. I really have enjoyed learning the language. It is so very difficult and I love the challenge. And I have done loads of academic research on the culture. I understand it and from an objective standpoint I can write about what they do and why the do it but on a personal level I do not have to like it. I can absolutely without one hesitation for even a split second say I do not like Chinese culture.
I am not required to like everyone and everything I encounter in life. I fully understand why they do the things I hate so much and I understand that I hate it because of my Western upbringing but that does not change the fact that I hate it. I understand that allowing their kids to take a shit in the elevator is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. I understand that when they hold their toddlers over the swimming pool to let them pee in it it is not because they are bad people but uneducated people. I understand that spitting on the floor of the restaurant is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. I understand that when my housekeeper spits loogies up on my living room floor she thinks it’s perfectly fine because she will mop it up later and it is my Western bias that thinks that’s gross. I understand that calling me fat and ugly is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. But the simple fact is I am Western and when I am called fat and ugly at least 5 times a day it does take a toll on me.
I get it. I came to their country I need to accept their standards. But I can’t. I just can’t. I am ready to go. My two years here have turned me into an angry, cynical, overall not happy at all person when this is not who I want to be.
And before any of you go and write me and say I shouldn’t let it bother me I assure you my answer will be fuck off. If you lived in a society where at least 5 times a day you were called fat and ugly I imagine you would struggle with it to. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Yeah. Fuck that. Words hurt.
So my friend texted me after midnight last Wednesday to tell me that his mother had died. He asked me if I would please come to the funeral. I said of course I would not only because his mother died but especially because of my interest in death rituals around the world. My friend lives in a rural village about an hour outside of the city so I was really curious about what the funeral would be like.
As far as I know I may be one of the only foreigners that has ever been to a rural funeral in China. Of course that is only through my own anecdotal research but I have asked everyone I know here and no one has ever been or even knows anyone that has ever been to a funeral in China and I do know for a fact that I and my family are the only foreigners that have ever visited this particular village.
When I arrived I immediately felt out of place because I was wearing black. I had asked a couple people what I should wear and I was told to wear black and white, or black, or white. I don’t have any white clothes other than a white Tshirt so I wore an all black kind of nice outfit. I was the only person in black and I felt I stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was in white. I think a crappy white Tshirt would have been more fitting than my black outfit.
Family members were wearing white robes and white pieces of cloth tied around their heads that made them look a lot like extras from a kungfu movie. Word spread immediately that I was there, and I mean like I had not been there 15 seconds before my friend came rushing up to me. He escorted me into his house where they had an alter set up to his mom where I was made to kneel, light incense, then bow to a photo of her her. Then I was taken to the guest gift registry room where there were several old men sitting around a table and one had a long scroll in front of him and a paint brush he was using to record gifts and names. I gave 200¥ (about $30USD) and everyone seemed pleased. Minimum wage in China is $181USD a month and these people live significantly under minimum wage so $30 is a lot of money.
I sat around for a bit waiting for things to get started while everyone was staring at me, touching me, and asking me a million questions about who I was and why I was in China.
Soon we all paraded to the burial place. The casket was inside a really neat looking litter with a big dragon’s head and tail.
Music was played, there was much weeping, so much in fact I would believe they were paid to be there,
and a bit to my surprise much celebration. It was like a mixture of an old times Spanish funeral with all the wailing and a good ol’ Irish wake. The family was wailing and the friends were having a grand ol’ time.
At some point about halfway to the burial place we all stopped. Immediate family members were guided by some leader type guy in how to pray in front of the casket. They had to hold their hands in a proper way, kneel a proper way, and bow a proper way a proper amount of times. Some guys teased me and tried to get me to go do it too. It was so weird. I was trying to be all somber and respectful but they were all teasing me and having loads of fun.
We got to the burial site and the hole was already dug. The band set up and played music the while time. The hole was different than we do in the west. It was dug about 10 feet down but then they dug in. So the casket was lowered down and then put into the ground kind of like a drawer. Then they made a wall of bags of dirt where the casket was. Then, and this part apparently is very important because everyone made sure I saw it. A guy took a huge gulp of xi feng jiu (rice liquor local to this province), spit it in a small opening towards the casket, and lit it on fire and a huge flame burst out while they scrambled to get out of there.
Then the music stopped quite abruptly and everyone walked back to the house.
My friend requested I wait with him. We hung back for about half an hour and were the last people to return to his home. Apparently at Chinese funerals the immediate family are supposed to be the very last people to leave the graveside. I am definitely not immediate family but he wanted me there so I stayed.
When we got back to his home there was a huge feast. There were at least 200 people there and a lot of xi feng jiu. At things like this everyone wants to drink with the foreigner so by 11:30 in the morning I was very, very drunk.
I left by 12:00.
After the funeral my black taxi driver (illegal taxi) and I went to explore some old cave dwellings people used to live in during the War of Japanese Aggression, better known to most of you as World War II. I will write about them later.
I’ve lived in China a year and a half now and people still ask me almost every day if I miss America. My answer is not really. It’s not that I think China is all that. It’s just I don’t really miss America. Sure, I miss a few things like clean public restrooms, conversations with strangers, finding clothes that fit, and coffee shops that open before 11AM. And don’t think I’ve forgotten you, I miss some of my friends too but let’s be real we probably talk more now that I’m in China than we did for the 4 years I lived in the hell called Gainesville.
It’s like the gods wanted to remind me of how much I don’t miss America. Yesterday I saw a record amount of gun related stories stream across my Facebook wall. I collected a list. Here is every story I saw in a 12 hour span of one day, January 3, 2016:
Here’s a sociological study for you. Chinese people do this thing where they think they’re helping you but they’re really not and I hate it. Apparently as a people they believe that if you ask them for help with something but then you end up not liking that thing they will blame you for it. So instead, what they do is try to talk you out of doing what ever it is that you asked about. It’s really, REALLY annoying and makes me never want to ask a Chinese person for help with anything ever.
****Watch for this in movies. We see it now in movies when anyone is trying to do business with a Chinese person and we go OH! That is so true!
Want some examples? Sure you do.
Example 1: I wanted to go to this big international supermarket I know of here in Xi’an. I know the name of the place in Chinese and I was feeling brave so I went out and hailed a taxi. I said the name and he asked me which one? All my hopes were crushed. I had no idea there were more than one. But oh! There’s We Chat, China’s social networking thing kind of like Facebook.
So I wrote on We Chat can anyone tell me how to say the Metro Supermarket near the TV tower? Here’s an example of how the conversation went:
Person A: Why would you go there?
Person B: It’s really far away.
Person C: You know there’s a supermarket right by your apartment.
Person D: You don’t want to go there.
Me: I DO WANT TO GO THERE. PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO SAY IT.
Person A: What do you want there?
Person B: It’s really far away.
Person C: Are you sure they don’t have it at a closer supermarket?
Person D: I wouldn’t go there if I were you.
Me: Can you please just answer my fucking question and tell me how to say the name of the place?
Person A: I still don’t get it. Why would you go that far from your apartment?
Person B: It’s really far away.
Person C: You can probably get what you want at the closer supermarket.
Person D: You don’t want to go there.
Example 2: My husband and I were tossing around the idea of buying a car here in China. We happened to meet a guy that does bank loans for car sales. We asked him about interest rates.
Husband: So what’s the interest rate on buying a car here?
Bank guy: You want to buy a car here?
Husband: We’re thinking about it. How much is the interest on a loan?
Bank guy: It’s really hard for foreigners to buy cars here.
Husband: Yes. But what is the interest rate?
Bank guy: You know it’s a lot of paperwork.
Husband: Yes. But what is the interest rate?
Bank guy: It’s really a lot of paperwork.
Husband: But what is the interest rate?
Bank guy: You’d probably need a friend to help you.
Husband: ANSWER THE QUESTION. WHAT IS THE INTEREST RATE?
Example 3: When I wanted to take a trip I needed help buying a train ticket because I can’t read the website.
Me: Can you help me buy my ticket to this place?
Her: You don’t want to go to that place.
Me: Yes I do. I have money in my hand. Can you please help me buy the ticket?
Her: It’s really far away.
Me: I know. Can you please help me buy the ticket?
Her: You’re not going to like it.
Me: Yes I will. Can you please help me by the ticket?
Her: It’s really far away.
Me: We already went over that. Will you please help me?
Her: You’ll be uncomfortable.
Me: I know. Please help me buy the ticket.
Her: You know its over 30 hours away right?
Me: Yes. I know. I want to go.
Her: I really don’t think you should go.
Me: Please buy the ticket. Here’s the money.
Her: If I were you I wouldn’t go.
Me: You’re not me. I want to go. Here’s the money. Please buy the ticket.
Her: You really don’t want to go.
Me: I’m getting angry. I want to go and I can’t do it alone. Please help me.
Her: I really wouldn’t do this.
Me: I’m REALLY getting angry. Buy the damn ticket.
Her: It’s not going to be worth it.
Me: Please leave my house.
Example 4: This one just happened today. I met a girl on a language exchange program online. She lives here in my city. She told me she is very, very friendly and she wants to make me as comfortable in Xi’an as possible. She said I could ask her anything anytime and she’d answer any questions I had. I said awesome!
Me: Can you tell me how to get to Qing Gong Market from my apartment?
Her: You don’t want to go there.
Me: And that’s why I never ask Chinese people for help.
Her: What do you mean?
Me: Chinese people say they will help but they really won’t.
Me: You just did it! You offered to help me. You said you would answer any question I had anytime. I asked a question and you refused to answer my question.
Me: I asked you how to get to Qing Gong Market and instead of telling me how to get there you told me I didn’t want to go there. Chinese people always do that. I ask a question and they refuse to answer it. I hate it.
Her: Offended I guess. Never responded.
So you can never get a simple answer for a simple question here. Being a new person that doesn’t speak the language it makes things very difficult. Everyone you meet that speaks a little English says they’ll help anytime you need it but dammit they won’t! I understand that in their own way they think they are helping me but they’re not. Just answer my damn question. That’s all I ask. I’ve taken to using an online service to answer all of my questions because there’s not really anyone I know that I can get straight answers from.
My husband, daughter, and I moved to Xi’an China a little over a year ago. Anyone that knows us knows we love to travel and we love to go to off the beaten path attractions. Oh boy! Did we find one in China!
When we arrived here we started doing online research trying to decide where to go on holidays. We found this article in The Atlantic and we knew we had to go. It’s an article about a theme park all about China and Japan during World War II. They even have laser tag where you get to dress up like Chinese or Japanese soldiers and pretend to be at war.
We were so excited! We arrived at the park and it was pretty much empty. We stayed in a hotel room inside the park and it was way nicer than we had expected and came with breakfast. For $30USD a night to be inside the park was a pretty sweet deal.
In China WWII is known as The Anti-Japanese War. Today anti-Japanese sentiments are really high. There are more anti-Japanese movies made in China every year than there are days. According to Chinese history the Chinese single handedly defeated Japan and they have more than one national holiday celebrating it.
We host on Couch Surfing and I’ve had several guests ask me why so many hosts in China say they don’t accept Japanese people so I went in and edited our profile to say we accept everyone even Japanese. My Chinese teacher refuses to teach or even speak to anyone from Japan. Polls show that anti-Japanese sentiment is higher in China for the younger generation of today than it even is of their grandparents that lived through the war.
The park is amazingly racist! Every bathroom stall has a cartoon picture of some anti-Japanese scene. In the gift shop, and I’m mad at myself for not buying one of these, they have little toys that allow you to slap a Japanese soldier either in the face or the ass anytime you want.
We walked around a bit the first day but mostly we rested and went to bed early. The next day we were ready to fight! We couldn’t find the laser tag. I don’t know how to say laser tag and it wasn’t in my translator so we resorted to hand signals. We would say in Chinese “We want to play” and then act with play guns in our hands. Most people just looked at us like we were insane but finally we met an actor that understood. He told us it was far away. Huh? Far away… the Atlantic says it’s here. Were we at the wrong place?
We went to a play that was about Chinese villagers playing mean tricks on the evil, evil Japanese soldiers. The villagers gave the soldiers lots of alcohol but then it turned out it was poisoned and the soldiers all got diarrhea. Then our “favorite” part was when a Chinese woman was brought out dressed in a beautiful red dress with her head covered and a Japanese soldier tried to grab her but she ran away. He chased her for an hour trying to rape her but never caught her. In the end the joke was on him because she took her veil off and oh! It was a man! Rape jokes are so funny!
There is another play but we didn’t go because it was very violent and we didn’t want our daughter to see it.
While the play was going on I was texting with a girl that works at the park. We were using an online translator so we could communicate. I finally found out where the laser tag was and it was at a different park an hour away! The Atlantic, you lied to us!!! The girl tried fiercely to discourage us from going there. She said it was boring and we would not enjoy ourselves. I told her she did not know us, that this park was a mistake, and what we really wanted to go to was the park with the laser tag. So how do we get there?
We walked to the bus station and found a black taxi, that’s what they call illegal taxi services in China, we argued a bit on the price, finally agreed on one and he drove us there. It really was a bit over an hour away. My husband and I talked about it and I bet the reason in The Atlantic they have both parks listed as one is they never thought there would be any crazy Americans like us that actually wanted to go there.
We arrived. It was awesome! On a not sarcastic note they really did have a pretty sweet ropes course that would cost $200 to do in the US. Other than that we got fake guns to shoot Japs with as we rode a ride. Then there were tunnels to get lost in. And then the laser tag! I had never played laser tag before. I’m not much a of a gun, even toy gun, kind of gal but it was so much fun! There was another couple there with a little girl but instead of evenly pairing us 3-3 Chinese-Japanese they made the two men Japanese and the two women and two little girls Chinese.
Even though there were 4 of us we still lost. I, nor the other woman, had ever used a machine gun before and my husband was in the army. We were doomed. It was so much fun though! It was my daughter’s first time to ever play guns. She had a blast.
I still can’t believe that girl tried so hard to discourage us from going! It was awesome! My husband and I both had more fun and laughed more than we have in over a year! It was by far the best time we’ve had in China.
Then we returned to the other park where our hotel was. We rode around in a miniature tank, which I think was the highlight of my husband’s entire week. We drove bumper boats where I ran into other Chinese tourists but they didn’t seem happy about it. Then my husband and daughter drove bumper cars and I took pictures. They have a smaller ropes course that children can do and my daughter loved it. She kept begging to do it over and over again. Oh! And they have airsoft guns where you’re targets are Japanese soldiers. We did that too.
So if you want to go to either of these parks here are the real directions. Every reference I’ve found to these places online lies to you and makes it seem that they are one in the same. I think they all go back to The Atlantic original article. Anyway, it’s in Shanxi Province, not to be confused with Shaanxi Province. Take a train to Taiyuan. From Taiyuan you need to go to the south bus station. From there you take a 2.5 hour bus ride to Wuxiang. From the Wuxiang bus station you can walk to the 8th Route Army Theme Park. That’s the one with the mini-tanks, bumpers cars and boats, mini ropes course, and plays. BUT! If you want to go to the 8th Route Army Guerrilla Warfare Theme Park you still have an hour to go. Outside the bus station there will be a bunch of guys hanging around wanting to drive you somewhere. We got a round trip ride for 150¥ RMB. Apparently there is also a beautiful limestone cave you can go to in the area but we didn’t have time to do them both due to our late start. If you need more exact assistance feel free to email me.
This past week I took the trip to 玉林中国 (Yulin China) to experience the 狗肉节 Dog Meat Festival. From what I had read about the place and from my own personal feelings towards dogs I expected to see and meet a bunch of brutal, heartless people. I thought they would be monsters.
That’s not what I experienced at all. I met the most heart-warming, friendly, kind, welcoming people I have encountered in my 10 months in China. Everyone wanted to make sure I felt welcomed in their home town. It was a trying experience for me all around since I have only been studying Chinese for 9 months and I traveled alone for 6 days. In my entire 6 days I only met 4 people that could speak even a few words of English. So I was dealing with the stress of knowing I was about to see fresh dog and cat meat in an open-air market and I could barely communicate with anyone.
Travel time to Yulin from where I live in Xi’an is 36 hours by train plus a layover. One 24 hour train, a several hour layover and then a 12 hour train. I arrived very tired very late at night. The taxi driver screwed me on the fare but honestly I was so tired at that point I didn’t even care. I arrived at my hotel and while no one spoke a word of English they tried their best to communicate with me and I got checked in.
The next morning was the big day. It was the day before the festival and I was going to go to the meat market to see what it was like. It was a 20-minute walk to the market. When I arrived the first thing I saw was a butcher shop with dead cats and dogs hanging on racks. It was shocking. I attempted to take pictures but an old woman yelled at me so I moved on.
The place is huge and I had no idea where to go and I wound up in the fowl section. There were hundreds, no thousands, of cages of birds of all kinds for sale. There were chickens, ducks, and pigeons, and geese, sparrows, some birds I had never seen before all ready to be bought by you, killed and plucked for eating.
Next I walked through the fish section. It was a very large area with hundreds and hundreds of tanks with fish. They also sold oysters and clams.
Next I saw goats. There were whole goats hanging on hooks at stalls. There was goat heads lying about on tables. There were big piles of goat legs. There were various parts of goats lying around and happy, cheerful women chopping them up.
Then I saw several tables of pig and one table of cow meat. Everyone was friendly to me. All the butchers wanted to know who I was, where I was from, why I was there, and if they could get their picture with me.
Finally, drum role here, I came to the dogs. Besides the quick jolt of emotion from my dog loving heart it wasn’t really that bad. There were butchered dogs right next to butchered goats.
Westerners have a real disconnect about knowing where their food comes from. We don’t like to think about the fact that my burger was once a living animal. We don’t even like to eat fish with bones in it and the idea of getting served a chicken with it’s head still on it is the stuff of nightmares for many. It’s not like that here. The people know where their food comes from. When they want meat they go to the butcher and they see the whole dead animal hanging there on the hook. And if you buy a chicken in the supermarket it still has it’s head and feet.
To them dog is just another livestock animal like a goat. They’re not eating people’s pets. They’re eating dogs raised to be food. Now I can’t say that I know 100% that no pets are stolen and sold to be eaten but I didn’t see any of it and I asked several people and they had never heard of that happening.
Sure there are pictures of dogs with collars at the market but it’s very different here. Most dogs in China are kept only as protection and they are on short chains tied up somewhere out front of the house and they’re lucky when someone throws them a little food. They are miserable beings in poor health that no one ever touches. They live from puppy to death on a 6-foot chain with no protection from the elements, and no affection. They eat and sleep in their own shit. They are not considered, or even called in their language, pets. In the Chinese language they have completely different words for a dog that lives in your home with you and a dog that’s tied up out front. The one in your home with you may be considered part of the family but the one tied up out front is given no more consideration than a goat in a pen.
The dogs with collars are often people’s old guard dogs that have never been touched by a human in their lives. The owners have decided the dog is too old or not good at its job for some other reason and they’ll take it to the market like a pig or a goat and try to make some money on it. These are not dogs that run and play with children, these are not kind house pets, they are livestock.
A friend we’ve made that lives in a rural village about an hour away has one of these dogs. We went to visit and of course I wanted to play with the puppy dog! I asked the dog’s name and my friend just looked at me funny. Name? Then when I went to pet the dog our friend freaked out and told me not to touch the dog, it’s not a pet, and it’s dirty. Of course I didn’t listen and when I could sneak out of the house without being seen I went to pet the dog. We’ve been back 2 times and each time I give the dog as much love as I can. It looks to be about 10 years old and I’m the only human that has ever touched it. These are the kinds of dogs with collars that you see in the pictures of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
Honestly, I think these dogs are better off dead. What kind of an existence is that? Living their entire life on a short chain? Living in their own urine and feces? Constantly on the verge of starvation because the only food they get is the occasional scraps thrown at them. No affection at all ever. I’m bothered by eating dog, I am, but for these poor creatures I see their death as a mercy killing. I am far more disturbed by the way that these dogs live their lives than I am by what happens to them after their deaths.
That’s that for the ones in collars. But the vast majority of the dogs are raised as livestock on farms. They grow them in pens just like pigs and goats. While it’s hard for Westerners to think about dogs being raised like that it’s just a matter of fact in Yulin. They don’t see any difference in the dog on the pen than a goat in the pen.
I spent my entire day in the market. I saw hundred of dogs butchered and sold in front of me. I saw a dog killed. They slit it’s throat humanely just like they do the goats. I had many conversations. Many people wanted to know the same things from me: Why do Westerners come here and get mad at them for eating dog? They eat cow, they eat pig, they eat chicken, why don’t they eat dog? And why do they not want us to eat dog? It was a great point. It’s the same argument vegans make when they post those pictures on Facebook with pictures of cute puppies saying you won’t eat this but you’ll eat this with a picture of a piglet. I explained to them that in American culture dogs are part of the family and eating a dog would be likened to eating a child.
Every person I told that to was shocked. It was an ah-ha moment for them because now they understood why the foreigners that come are so angry but they were always quick to explain that they weren’t eating pets. These dogs have never slept on a couch, and sat in a lap, or licked a face, these dogs were raised as food. I told them I understood that but most Americans don’t.
The most surreal experience I had was sitting and petting a cocker spaniel while a woman was chopping up dog heads right there next to me. I was so close that little bits and blood were splattering on my leg. I asked the woman how she could do this all day and have a pet dog at the same time and she didn’t understand my question. Once again she made it clear to me that her cocker spaniel is a pet and this dog she’s cutting up is food. They are not the same.
Almost everyone I met was incredibly warm and friendly. They were leery of me at first but when I explained that I was not here to protest them they opened up to me and welcomed me. The woman with the cocker spaniel invited me for dinner with her family and they took me out that night. They drove me around in a car and showed me the town. They took me to a fancy teashop and we had a tea ceremony. Then at 12:30 at night we went out for a midnight snack. They were nothing but laughter and warmth the whole time. They weren’t heartless monsters at all. They were the nicest people I’ve met since moving to China.
I was there in Yulin for 2.5 days. I met more friendly people and felt more welcomed there than I have felt anywhere else in China. I loved the people there. Sure, some people didn’t want their picture taken and I respected that. Many of them know that foreigners come to protest them so they are very defensive about having their picture taken. More than once I had old men or women shake their fists at me but it was like the stereotypical old man yelling “Get off my lawn” it wasn’t as if they were really going to hurt me. Most of the time after talking to them for a moment they turned all smiles and let me take all the picture I wanted. Some simply requested that I not get their face in the picture. There was one time that I was somewhere I didn’t exactly have permission to be and I was shooting video and a guy got mad at me and sprayed me with a water hose. If I were a CNN reporter I would claim I was assaulted.
I have read all the articles and seen all the coverage just like you have and I can honestly say that almost everything CNN and other news reporters say is sensationalism looking for ratings. An old man shaking his fist and yelling at kids to get off his lawn is not “threatening” those kids. A butcher with a knife in his hand yelling at me to not take his picture is not threatening me with a knife. He’s a butcher and he’s at work of course he has a knife in his hand. I never once felt threatened or in danger in the slightest while I was there.
I met happy, kind, friendly, loving, smiley people that wanted nothing more than to make me feel welcomed. There was one woman that was really excited to have me take her picture. She wants me to put it on the Internet because she wants to be famous! I’m torn about whether I should actually post her picture here or not because she was so nice to me I don’t want people to use her picture against her on activist sites.
One more thing: the Dog Meat Festival is a pretty small thing. It’s not a big deal in town at all. It’s like when any big city in the States has a festival of some kind. Sure people go but it’s not like everyone does. The population of Yulin is one million people. That’s roughly the size of Dallas, Texas. There were maybe 5,000 people at the festival. I met people all over the city that don’t eat dog, don’t go to the festival, and couldn’t believe that I had come all the way here just to see it.
The protesters have been really good for their business. Apparently ever since activists have been drawing attention to the festival it is getting more and more popular every year! In Yulin dog meat is available in the market 365 days a year there and it’s eaten all the time but the festival itself is only becoming more and more popular and they believe it is the activists that are bringing them the business.
In the end, they’re not monsters they are wonderfully kind people. They don’t view dogs the same way we do and they don’t understand why we’ll eat pig but we won’t eat dog. If you’re reading this unless you’re a vegan it’s hard argue with them on an objective level. Humans have been raising dogs and breeding them to look exactly how we want them to look for tens of thousands of years. We selectively breed them to make them cute and cuddly, to watch us, to obey us but ultimately they are animals. We have real emotions and feelings towards dogs. These people don’t have the same feelings. In the end pigs are highly affectionate and highly intelligent animals as well. How can you eat a pig with no problem but never consider eating a dog? Where are the activist starting petitions and paying to save hundreds of pigs from slaughter? We’ll save the dogs because we are emotional about them but what about the chickens?
Here are my best of photos. You DO NOT have my permission to use my photos elsewhere.
Ah Spring time! The forgiving of trespasses, blooming of flowers, cleaning of homes, buying of new clothes, the welcoming of Spring is heralded worldwide often through festivals. There is the Songkran Festival in Thailand, Las Fallas in Spain, Easter in the United States, Nowruz in Persia, The Spring Festival in China, Holi in India and many, many more.
This past weekend I celebrated the Indian Holi Festival here in China at the Redfort Indian Restaurant. An Indian couple that worked at the same school as my husband resigned and Saturday was their last day here. Several of us joined them in celebrating Holi as a farewell party. If they were not leaving I wouldn’t have even known about the event at the restaurant.
Holi is all about frolic and play. Traditionally anyone in an open space is fare game to have dye thrown on them but for us it was a bit subdued. We were quite the spectacle as there were a bunch of Indians and white folk dancing and throwing colored dye on each other in the designated area while scores of Chinese people stood around watching us and taking pictures.
There was an all you can eat and drink buffet for $30. There was music, dancing, throwing of colored dye, water guns, and yoga performances.
Many of you know that in my twenties I did the totally stereotypical spiritual quest that many Western youngsters do and became very interested in Eastern culture. I’m still extremely interested in Indian culture and I’d love to visit or even live there for a while sometime.
I’ve participated in many Indian themed events but truly this Holi festival at the Redfort was by far my favorite. The all you can drink part helped with the awkwardness of being around some of the people that were there that aren’t exactly my favorite people in the world, Indian food is one of my all time favorite foods, and I love dancing.
Indian men are always the best dancers and I’ve always had a thing for Indian men so with the combination of great food, wine, music, and attractive men covered in paint dancing in front of me it was a pretty awesome time.
We took our daughter and thought she would have a blast but instead what she did most of the day was hide and cry. It turns out loud music and a bunch of adults dancing while covered in paint is more scary to an 8 year old than it is fun. It makes me feel like a bad artist mom. As if I haven’t exposed my child to enough craziness. Well I guess I can’t do everything for her. She’s 8 and she’s been to 13 countries I shouldn’t be too upset that dancing purple people scared her.
My family and I went to 华山, Mount Hua, yesterday. It is about an hour and a half outside of Xi’An by train. I had read about it online before moving here and I’ve wanted to go ever since we arrived. There were a lot of stairs. Our legs are very sore today. But it was totally worth it! I got to walk on one of the world’s craziest/scariest/most dangerous hikes and I loved it!
We wanted to take our daughter with us but after standing in line for quite a while we were told no children allowed so my husband was totally awesome and watched our daughter while I go to do the hike. Getting down to the plank was terrifying. Once I was firmly on the wooden platform I felt secure. I moved faster than everyone else. I made it to the end, had someone take my picture, and passed everyone up going back before most of them were even halfway across. I think I may have done a bit more adventuring in my life than the average Chinese person.
I passed one poor girl on my way to the end and on my way back. She was frozen in fear and crying. I tried to help her but to no avail. I spoke to her in my broken Chinese and offered her my hand but she wasn’t comforted in the slightest. Passing people was wild. The trail is very narrow with a 2,000ft drop and it is a two-way path. When you meet someone going the opposite way as you the two of you have to work out who’s going to hug the wall and who’s going to go on the outside. While you are strapped in it’s still pretty scary. You have two straps with 2 separate carabiners. You unhook one, reach around the person, hook it to the cable beyond them, unhook the other, do the same, then carefully pass them while hugging as tightly as you can. This is the scene looking down. Yes that is my foot. Not something you want to be whimsical of.
This is the tiny temple at the very end of the trail. I can say I’m one of the few people form the US that has ever seen this temple.
We were invited by our friend to his home for the Chinese Spring Festival. They prepared a feast for us and there was opera sung for us. It was amazing being there. This is our friend 杨朋延 singing and below is a video of a friend of his singing,