B.Y.O.B. – bring your own… bird?

(Click the photos to see them big-size.)

I was buying some new notebooks after my morning class and it sounded like someone had unleashed the entire contents of an aviary onto the sidewalk. Across the street there’s a small park, and now that the weather is nice the old men have started walking their birds again. (Get a good look at one of our neighbour’s birds here.)

It would’ve been such a waste of a beautiful morning to spend it writing homework sentences in the library; I headed to the park. It seemed like most of the men were just sitting, looking at the birds on the wall, not saying much. Some were chatting, and a couple started talking with me. Tianjin locals on the whole are really friendly like that. I almost never have to force a conversation. We went through the usual questions and answers, which often start discussions about countries and cultures. That’s when they offered their unsolicited opinions about the Japanese:

“We Chinese all hate the Japanese.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard.”
“Yes, we hate Japanese.”
“I also heard that some Chinese don’t like Koreans.”
“Yes! They’re also no-good.”

Several times people have offered their opinions of the Japanese without our prompting. I asked about the Koreans because I thought it was kind of funny, probably because I’m not Korean (apparently they have a reputation for being really rich but really stingy in the markets).

I suppose I should point out – lest this encourage thoughts involving racist and xenophobic Mainlanders – that in the West we don’t exactly handle race or diversity in general very well. That’s one thing I’m discovering the longer we live here. Maybe our collective guilt from our imperialistic, slave-trading, minority-oppressing cultural pasts (we love to bathe in cultural self-loathing – the easiest of responses) is making us overreact and go way overboard with the racial hypersensitivity – I don’t know. But the Chinese aren’t afraid to generalize or call a spade a spade when it comes to race, skin colour, body type, etc. – things that are culturally “wrong” for me, and I’m starting to wonder why, and how much of our own Western political correctness is really just serving our collective (white) cultural felt-needs more than enhancing our societies’ capacity for healthy diversity.

Anyway, sorry for that tangent – wasn’t planning on it. Springtime is fun-time in Tianjin. People seem to spend most of their spare time outside, and that brings a lot of colour and fun activity to the parks and neighbourhoods.

4 thoughts on “B.Y.O.B. – bring your own… bird?”

  1. Joel…you always find something interesting to write about in Tianjin. Definitely an interesting place!!!

  2. It’s most interesting in the spring. And it helps that people seem to play outside more than inside. Soon we’ll be walking in the evenings again down where all the action is, and when it warms up a bit more I’m going to get up reeeaaal early one morning and follow the canal to see all the morning exercise action.

  3. so, am I hearing you correctly that most of the Tainjin racism is coming from simple situational experience, and as in the case of Japan and the west cultural oppression?

  4. I suppose there are a ton of reasons for why people act the way they do toward people different from them. I surely can’t account for them all. Most of that little rant was about how we don’t handle diversity very well in the West (regardless of how we compare to Mainland China). China does racism and ethnocentrism in its own special way, starting all the way back with their traditional creation myths, but I don’t want to make it look like I’m saying we’ve got it all figured out in the West, or that we’re even necessarily substantially better integrated on the whole.

    After Jessica gets her beauty series going again (she has several posts drafted), I’ll start posting one I’ve also got half-written, about living as foreigners in China, and how they perceive us, react to us, and why. I can’t explain every reason, but I’ll play around with one or two.

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