Leaving Chongqing tomorrow

We will be leaving this huge city tomorrow, either in the a.m. or in the afternoon, we still await final word on the time.

I’m finally getting comfortable here, I’ve learned a few words and a few tricks that help me to communicate. Not being able to communicate has been the hardest thing for me personally. I communicate, it’s who I am, it’s what I do. Except here. And getting through a few instances where my communication attempts worked were highly rewarding.

I’ve determined that two weeks away is alot longer than it seems. Until this trip, time has been flying for me. I wonder where the hours, the days, the weeks, even the months are going — I blink and they disappear. Here, without my family, without my work, without my routine, time seems to stretch far and thin and linger leisurely. It already seems like I’ve been away a month.

I’m enjoying the time here, the food is absolutely incredible, the people are quite nice (although they didn’t seem to be at first) and the newness is giving way to appreciation…
There is a difference in our cultures where facial expressions are concerned. On the street, Chinese people will stare at anyone that is different, without expression. It seems almost rude. But, I’ve noticed if you make eye contact and initiate a smile, it’s almost always returned. And it often precipitates a conversation — and genuine attempts to communicate even when the language barrier is almost insurmountable.

Personal space is also different here. In America we are territorial by nature, rather than sharing — and this especially becomes apparent with personal space — that two to three feet around your body that you consider YOUR space. Here, the people don’t have that.

Possibly it’s because there ARE so many people here, because the living quarters are so close, or maybe just because their culture is much more inclusive (rather than exclusive as ours is)… but the result is that people tend to STAY in your personal space. That was really off-putting at first. Now, I’m more comfortable with it. Now, I’m starting to understand that standing “too close” isn’t a threat, it’s not rude — here it’s normal.

Michael made a keen observation about personal space the other day. He was standing in line to check out when two people cut in front of him. At first, he thought they were terribly rude, but then considered the personal space differences and decided that they probably didn’t recognize that he was in line, since he gave the person ahead of him an “American” amount of personal space. I think he was probably right.

I know that there have been a few instances of rudeness that isn’t merely a matter of cultural difference, but they have been VERY few. And I wonder if I were in New York or LA, if I would find so few rude people. I tend to believe that overall, the individuals here are just nicer.

And the concept of service here is amazing. We laughed that we had four people helping us find diapers in the grocery store — PLUS our guide. In America, you would have to hunt down one, and then hope they didn’t duck away. And the possibility is great that the only help you would get then is “If it’s not on the shelf, we don’t have it.” (that’s one of my personal pet peeves).

Service is the rule here everywhere we go — people are dedicated to providing good service. It gives me hope that our own country may eventually relearn this lost art.

Ok, maybe not, but I can dream.

So much has happened in these few days, I’ve seen and experienced and tasted and enjoyed too many new things to name.

I’ll always be glad that I came on this trip. I may never make it back to China, but I’ll always remember being here.

Until next time…