Thursday, July 19, 2007

T.I.C Moments

I've decided it is time to blog on T.I.C moments. For those of you who do not recall what this stands for, T.I.C. moments are the times we here in the expat community lovingly refer to as, "This Is China". The moments I will share in the following list are not meant to paint the Chinese with a broad and unfavorable brush, these are just the occasional realities we from the Western world are faced with. These are the moments that jerk us back into the reality that we are in a very different place....

The following list may be a little gross, so don't say I didn't warn you. Utilizing discretion, I have left some of the more disgusting things out.

-Phil and I waiting for an elevator and some young woman comes out of nowhere, gets on the elevator and starts to push the door close button. We literally had to sandwich our bodies between the closing doors.

-Seeing someone farmer blow onto the street.

-General spitting (seeing the evidence of such an act in an elevator with marble floors is always strange.)

-Cutting in front of you in line. (Get those elbows out and learn how to use your cart if you don't know the language.)

-People staring at you- clearly talking about you.

-Strangers touching your hair just because they are curious.

-People pulling the food out of your grocery cart just to see what the foreigner is buying.

-Something I will call "Nasal Infirmities".

-Babies with splits in the butts of their pants- and there is no diaper....after some thinking, we wondered what kids did when they had to go to the bathroom, b/c clearly they wouldn't go to the bathroom just anywhere, right? WRONG!

-Which brings me to the next one on the list- children being held over garbage cans or the street to go "potty". I'd like to say it is only numero uno, but I'd be lying.

-Rush hour on the subway: Squeezing an unfathomable amount of people onto the subway and body slamming a few more into the mix for good measure. One time I saw a subway worker give someone's butt a little push so the door would close.

-Being asked to pose with perfect strangers so you can have your picture taken as the "token foreigner".

-Going into a market that clearly sells fake goods and seeing signs posted that warn people against buying and selling fakes, because it is "illegal".

-Squatty potties.

-No toilet paper- or soap.

-Someone smoking right under a non- smoking sign.

-There are times that if you need to find a toilet, you just follow the smell.

-Any vehicular situation you put yourself into will remind you that traffic laws are not only a good thing, but so is a society that follows them.

-Seeing someone on a bike with a woman riding sideways on the back, holding an infant, a couple of grocery bags and talking on a mobile phone.

Moments like these remind me that I am a stranger in a strange land. They also help me to remember that I do not have the world figured out, and that my way (although I often tend to think it is the right way), is not the only way. I think it is in these moments, when our beliefs and ideas collide with such a different thought process, that we have the opportunity to learn and grow. We can also, and often times do, close off further- never learning or sharing in another culture. Sadly I see many expats taking this road. At first I thought it was an easier road, but when I weigh the outcome and see the gain versus the loss, I conclude that it is the harder road. I see these people battling to stand still, constantly fighting the rush of water that is the other culture, and only growing tired and weary. Many of you who know me, know that I am strong in my beliefs. I am not saying there are not things worth fighting for or taking a stand against. I am saying there is a lot to learn from embracing and learning about another culture, where they have come from, and why they approach life the way that they do, So that is my lesson, the thing I am learning on a daily basis. I can embrace and be stretched as a person, or I can clench my fists and refuse to accept the reality around me. For now, I choose to embrace. After all, This Is China........


Curtis said...

A guy named isaiah said,

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways,"

Stef said...

I'm glad to hear that you're embracing the culture. You're going to have such a richer (a much more rich..?) experience for it.

josh said...

at least you can feel comfort that those steadfast and important traditions in TIC culture are shared across that great land. i'm pretty certain we encountered all but one of those when we were in beijing visiting aaron and danielle.