Monday, 2 April 2012

Reflections from the land where Facebook is blocked

I recently visited China for the first time in my life. (I say China here in this post, but really, I only a tiny part of it, a small-by-Chinese-standard, peripheral city in China called Qingdao. If you heard of it, you might have heard it only because of the famous beer from that place, Tsingtao beer. It'd do an injustice to the large and culturally diverse country as China to do so, but for the sake of readability, I'll simply refer to the place I visited as China. I hope most of things I noticed apply not only to Qingdao, but China in general.) It was good to catch up with Sulah's parents who live there, and they enjoyed seeing us, especially the little John.
Aside from that, seeing the country and people of China opened up my mind a little as well.
Here I list some of the things I learned through this trip.

1) Pray for the safety and health of your family.
You might have packed some medicine and perhaps even purchased a travel insurance. That's all good and fine, but it's important to ask the One who is sovereign over all things. Making sure you have basic access to medicine and choosing safer way to travel is not necessarily a sign of your lack of trust in God, but not praying is. I guess I learned this because Sulah and I kept on getting sick on and off throughout the trip.

2) A boring plane trip is a good plane trip.
I used to secretly wish for some excitement when I went on a plane trip. Not the super-excitement that ends in tragedy, like a real terrorist attack or a serious accident, I don't want that to happen to anyone, anytime. But just a little turbulence that will rattle the plane to let me know that I'm flying, or a rough landing to let me know that the pilot's not god, etc. But, no. Now that I've got a little child travelling with me, I realise the quietest, smoothest, eventless, yes, boring flight is the best flight. The flight where my child won't be scared or awaken is the most enjoyable flight, not those little excitement I wished in luxury of single life.

3) Chinese people are confident.
Their confidence may be tainted with pride, but I found it both fascinating and attractive. They might be poor and doing a hard labour, but they don't suffer from inferiority complex. I think they know what they do is not what they are. Their confidence isn't grounded in Christ, maybe it's their rich cultural and historical heritage, but I was just envious of the fact that they could be so confident in who they are. I am a Christian, and why do I still feel so insecure and lack confidence? How deeply do I really know who I am in Christ?

4) I need to repent of cultural prejudice.
I realised that my prejudice against people from a different culture was worse than I thought. For example, I used to think that many behaviours by a Chinese was rude or wrong even if it was acceptable in Chinese culture. But I realised that a lot of it had more to do with my prejudice. I still believe that some accepted behaviours in Chinese culture are wrong, as I always believed that some accepted behaviours in Australian culture are wrong as well. However, I now understand that it was my narrow-mindedness and cultural arrogance that shaped my attitude towards different cultures more than their culturally acceptable behaviours.

5) There are many things to do other than Facebook.
I was surprised to find that Facebook was blocked in China. Twitter was blocked too. I think Chinese government sees these social networking services to be a threat to the stability of the country. I think it helps people to be more productive too. Using Facebook attracts more criticism for wasting of time, I suppose, than Twitter. I think Twitter is used more for sharing and spreading ideas than Facebook, and used less for entertainment. But after the initial adjustments, that is, not habitually logging on to Facebook or Twitter, I didn't miss either very much. I once or twice wanted log on to Facebook to see what my friends were up to, but then, I knew I would be able to catch up with them when I get back home. In fact, seeing their updates on Facebook every so often, I now realise, kind of dilutes the joy of seeing a friend after some time had passed. Twitter, likewise, didn't really improve my life all that much. It did break some of the world news or interesting ideas to me a few times, but it didn't come without a price. By consuming streams of tweets whenever I had to wait for something I forgot how to wait and grew impatient. I guess I can't blame Twitter for making me impatient. But it was one of the quick and easy distractions. Having said all that, would I now stop using Facebook or Twitter? No. But I hope to use it more wisely. I still think Facebook and Twitter can be used well.

6) China blocks as well.
This was actually more disappointing and I missed it more than Facebook or Twitter. I should be more thankful for the openness we enjoy in Australia.

7) Chinese roads are much more chaotic than Australian roads but there was no road rage.
There were quite a lot of cars on the road. It was pretty much comparable to an average Sydney road. It looked very chaotic to my eyes, but even I could sense that they were being more mindful of other cars and people than Sydney road users. Perhaps they became more accustomed to cars coming in and out in front of you, but I didn't see anyone getting angry over the way other people drove. I would hear honking time to time, but it wasn't at each other like showing their aggression towards other drivers, but rather just a warning of a danger. It felt kind of comically friendly the way everyone drove, all sharing the road together. It also seemed that these Chinese people were above the little annoyance traffic could cause. I think we, Sydney-siders could learn from them.

8) Durian is very tasty but its smell is still hard to bear.

9) I found myself interested in the Chinese history, culture, and landscape. I wish to learn more about them.

There. Just a few things that came to my mind reflecting on the trip.

Maybe I'll write up some thoughts from my stay in Korea too... Just maybe.