Published July 26th, 2008 by Mliesie

Jia ren.. / one of us..

My last months, weeks actually, in China started some weeks ago and I have been lucky enough to be invited to spend some time at my best friend’s home. He lives in the Ankang area and we went there by train as I decided Marcel had to experience train travel in China at least once. Not even the hardseater… NO, soft sleeper! Way too luxurious and expensive for SC, but I didn’t want MC to suffer too much ;-) . After a 16 hours’ trainjourney, we arrived in Xunyangbei, the county his hometown is in. From there it was another 2 hours to his home in Shuhe, a small town on the river. The area was absolutely beautiful and so different from Yulin. I now understand why he sometimes had trouble living in Yulin and getting adapted to the Yulin environment….

The welcome was heartwarming and interesting at the same time. On getting off the car, we obviously attracted a lot of attention, but to be honest, it was just friendly curiousity and no “HELLLLOOOO” this time. We had met SC’s dad and uncle on the train already and now met up with his mum. Finally we got to meet each other! After having been friends for 2 years and having been invited several times to come and visit his home. He comes from a reasonably good family, so no horror stories about our living conditions ;-) About an hour after our arrival, perhaps even half an hour, SC got a phone call from the one-and-only policeman in town. He had heard from the people in the street that ‘laowai’ had arrived and he wanted to have some information and drop by the house. To me, it was quite funny to see the official on top of everything and explaining that he had to do this and ask for all this information because of tighter rules from Beijing Government, due to the Olympic Games. To SC it seemed to set off a lot of annoyance; the official showing off his power… Interesting to compare his reaction to ours.

Anyway, after this interval we really had a splendid time. We swam in the river, we visited (were shown off to) many relatives, we hiked in beautiful surroundings, we were fed as if we hadn’t had food for months and we were part of family life in general. I know the Chinese are heartwarming and generous; I’ve been invited to students’ homes before, but here it got a bit embarassing at times. I do not want to be treated as a special person, just because I’m a foreigner or a teacher, I want to be treated as any other person, but that is something impossible I guess. At times I felt there was ’a clash of cultures’; me wanting to do the dishes, me not wanting SC’s mum to do MY laundry, me wanting to do things in my own stubborn way. I managed to get some of those things done, except for cutting down on the food. At times I really wanted to cry, because they never seemed to stop eating. Had we just finished one meal, they were already talking about the next and during the meals they just kept feeding me and scooping food into my bowl or onto my plate. However many times I said ‘bu you’ or ‘bu chi le’, it really didn’t help and at times I really had to get angry or I almost cried out of despair. I now understand that people can eat themselves to death, it could actually be corporal punishment!!! During this stay, SC’s mother asked me several times to please, please, please come and celebrate ‘Guo Nian’ (Spring Festival/Chinese New Year) with them. I would love to, I would love to celebrate a traditional festival at a family’s home, I would love to meet SC again and his family, but….. I know what my students look like after Spring Festival holiday. They all gain soooo much wait, I wish I had ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures to prove it. This is my only doubt, for now, about coming back for Spring Festival.

Besides the food I had only one other frustration during these days; my lack of Chinese! I really hated myself for not having been a good student and not having studied harder. I would have loved to communicate with both SC’s mum and dad; talk about many different things and show them my appreciation. Ofcourse one doesn’t always need words to communicate, but it would have made the stay even better. The good thing about this? I will definitely study Chinese when I get back to Holland, so that next time I WILL be able to talk to them myself and I will be able to tell them what wonderful son they have and what wonderful people they are, perhaps even talk more in-depth about certain issues.

On the night before we left Shuhe, we had a talk with SC’s mum and dad (with SC interpreting of course). 2 Things they said rally touched my heart. I was told that as a teacher we were at the same level and after this week we spent together they wanted me to call them Jiejie and Gege (older sister and older brother). I told them I was honoured, but that I couldn’t do that. SC asked me why and I really couldn’t answer that question. Because his mum and dad are quite a few years older? Because I do not feel I deserve that much credit just because I am a teacher? Because it’s too close? I really do not know. To the question what I would like to call them then, I also didn’t know what to say. Probably just SCde baba and SCde mama.. The next thing that got to me was something SC’s mum said during a short talk. She told me I was ‘Jia ren’, which means something like ‘you are one of us’. What more could I wish for? What can make you feel more welcome than people saying that? I was touched beyond words…..

blog 26-7-1.JPG  Gege/SCde baba  

blog 26-7.JPG Jiejie/SCde mama

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