(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.