Well it's about that time again, sending those interested readers another update on my China experiences. It's hard to know where to start considering everday is a new adventure filled with bizarre sites and odd encounters. China is a strange an intriguing country and as Dr. Detrano has put it, "A place of contrast and contradiction". A land which is becoming increasingly more important on a global scale, where thousands of years of culture and tradition akwardly and amusingly try to coexist and integrate into a new generation being created by the fastest growing economy in the world. A place where communism and capitalism walk hand in hand. Where urbanization is an interminable process and rural living is and will eventually become depleted. As a couple foreigners who have been living in China have told me, "You can't find a more interesting place in the world to be visiting, especially with the upcoming olympics, which direction the country goes in the next decade or so is really anyone's guess". I encourage anyone with the opportunity to travel to come check out China, you will not be disappointed.
So, for the past 5 days or so I've been in Kunming. I went byyyee-cycling with Bob, checked out dragon gate temple in the West Mountains with Shao Li, and celebrated one of Shao Li's friends birthday by eating pig leg for dinner and drinking beers at a karaoke bar. Dragon gate temple was beautiful, the bicycling was death-defying, the pig leg was delicious, and the karaoke singing was humiliating. Maybe it's the way the Chinese language sounds but everyone who sang karaoke had fantastic voices and nailed every song with perfect precision, I on the other hand completely accosted everyones eardrums with terrible renditions of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and the theme song to ghostbusters. Adorably however, the chinese will never let you think that you butchered the song by always adding a thunderous applause at the end. Unlike many of my friends, they never have something criticizing to say, probably because they don't know how to say it, but regardless, I'm considering making a trade. Dr. Detrano left on Saturday to go conduct some business in a nearby city, so for the past couple days I've been hanging out with Shan Shan and Shao Li. Because neither of them speak english very well, especially Shao Li, you can only imagine the communication problems we've encountered and assume that we have not been engaging in the most interesting of conversations. There is not much talk of politics, religious beliefs, or even an account of an amusing anecdote. With Shao Li, we have accomplished the impossible if were even able to successfully exchange a proper greeting. Needless to say, this is not exactly the type of person you want parading you around the city and acting as your translator. For a while, due to the language barrier, we actually had a very funny misunderstanding for a while. For our entire stay in Yi Che, Shao Li and I were roomates. Through out the entire trip we were helping each other learn our respective languages. I'd point to an object in the room and say it an english, then he would tell me in Chinese. One day we were sitting in our hotel room and I pointed to the bathroom, which happened to be next to the door that left our room, and said "bathroom". Because he had trouble with the pronunciation of the words Shao Li was also writing down, in chinese characters, the correct pronunciation on a sheet of paper (kind of like pinyin for english speakers trying to learn chinese). Well for the next couple of days Shao Li kept asking me if I wanted to use the bathroom. He would either say, "do you want to go to the bathroom?" (not even that well though), or he would simply ask me in an inquisitive manner, "bathroom?". I found this very strange. I thought to myself, does he want me to go to the bathroom with him? is he being polite and asking if i want to use the bathroom before he does? or is he treating me like I'm 5 and making sure that I use the bathroom before we go out somewhere? I really had no idea. It wasn't until much later, when Bob, Shan Shan, Shao Li, and myself were all hanging out that the truth was discovered. Bob and Shan Shan were hysterically laughing as Shao Li was showing them his piece of paper with character written versions of english pronunciation. They found one in particular very funny. The day I was teaching Shao Li how to say bathroom, he had misunderstood and thought I was pointing to the door, implying that "bathroom" was synonymous with "leaving the room" or "going out". So on a number of occasions Shao Li would want to go eat and would say, "Jason, bathroom?" at which I would always reply, "Uh, no thank you Shao Li, I don't have to use the bathroom" at which he would usually just shrug his shoulders and leave the room. I'm happy to report that I'm no longer asked to use the bathroom with Shao Li and that we're able to successfully eat dinner together. This is only one of many experiences that I've had like that.
I'm actually going to have to leave this update a little shorter than the previous one because Bob is just getting back from his trip and probably wants to use his computer. We will be leaving tomorrow morning for another rural excursion to continue our research. I can't remember the name of the township but its about 4 hours south of Kunming and will be comparable to what our conditions were like in Yi Che and its surrounding villages. We'll make sure to snap some good photos and I'll post a message as soon as I get the chance. I hope everyone is doing well and I'll try to write soon.