I suddenly feel as if I have a bad taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong – while I was there, I really enjoyed it. My mind seemed to block out the things I thought I would miss and the things that weren’t available
I didn’t mind not having unlimited WIFI access.
I didn’t mind that the Internet was painfully slow.
I didn’t mind that my A/C was ancient and dusty and didn’t work well, if at all.
I didn’t mind that I was getting underpaid at a “well-known” university and was still having to pay rent out of my own pocket.
I didn’t mind pushing past people to claim my place in line for public restrooms.
I didn’t mind any of it because I no longer began to notice.
In China, there is a level of disillusionment that I had never experienced before from living in the U.S. (But perhaps it’s like that everywhere if you live in a place long enough. Now that I think of it, that false pretense is somewhat ubiquitous all over Asia.)
After leaving China and returning to Taiwan, my perspective has changed quite a bit. There were so many “did that actually just happen?” moments. When I begin to remember them, I just feel frustrated.
Thursday morning, September 22, 2011:
“Why did you say you resent China?” she asks me. (A couple of weeks ago, I asked my friend if she felt any resentment towards China now that she’s back home. We there together for a year.)
I’m exhausted and it’s barely lunchtime. I didn’t get much sleep last night – too much coffee. My mind is jumbled with thoughts of half wanting to go back to sleep, but also refueling the caffeine tank. I’ve wanted to discuss this with her for a while. Must focus.
“Maybe I just feel biased from being in Taiwan. I don’t know.”
I think about brainwashing: influence, family, advertising, politics, friendship, music, pop-culture…
“I just feel like there were a lot of things wrong there that could have easily been fixed, like putting soap in public restrooms. Or even hand dryers that actually work…
I pause for reaction. What does that face mean? Her pixilated image doesn’t make her any easier to read.
“It’s not just the physical things,” I continue. “There are obviously so many things wrong there, particularly with the policies and the way that the system is run. I just don’t understand it. And I don’t really feel like the people themselves even understand it which makes it all the more frustrating.”
Pixilated friend: “I meaaaaan, I just…I have an attachment to China that I don’t really have towards anywhere else. There’s so much mysticism surrounding it and so much culture. It’s very well established and it knows who it is as a country—”
“But don’t you think it kind of contradicts itself? I agree – I think it is well-established and all, but it’s ideals are so mixed up. Even the people that live there are confused by the policies.”
“Yeah, but that’s what’s so fascinating about it…The fact that it is so different from places like Taiwan or Hong Kong. It’s easier to adjust to living in both of those places because there is more available to you. They try to cater to the needs of the foreigners. It’s not like that in China, (at least where we were). That’s what I liked about it. When I’m going to be in a different country I want to feel like I’m—”
“In a different country?” I keep cutting her off. I can’t help it.
“Yeah, in a different country. It’s just not like any other place…And I miss it.”