Monday, May 3, 2010

Shainghai Still

Still May 2nd. Still at Shanghai Airport. I am sitting waiting to board the plane. 5:35 pm. There is a woman with blonde curly hair asking to use a phone and requesting someone to translate an address into "your language" for her, as she is trying to contact a hostel. God, I hope that is not me later...but perhaps...

I feel so a beaming, obnoxious beacon of white America. I am the funny, different looking one. I don't mind, I think everyone should feel like a minority sometimes in their life. Some people show their “globalness” by adorning their home with souvenirs from traveled countries but do not honestly know much about the culture, it’s a blanket identity. I want to adorn experience with learning and understanding.It is not possible to completely escape one’s own cultural rearing but it is possible to develop an understanding about culture fluidity and become flexible in order for intercultural communication and cooperation. “Intercultu
rally competent” people understand that we are all raised within certain belief systems and ideas varying by space and time. Knowledge plays a big role in recognizing the dynamics of these differences and/or disparities, as well as being aware they are all embedded in certain loaded histories, events and conditions. Time is not static and various “groups (which are neither static in place or time)” have certain histories. Being interculturally competent is important in all aspects of life, especially in our contemporary globalized world. We are all products of these histories and our identities are situated in cultural experiences at “home” and when we travel. We must recognize that ideas vary within “cultures,” not just between them; “culture” is not a fixed structure but a negotiable social construction. I have come to believe that politics, ignorance, lack of experience/knowledge and individualism can be blinders of intercultural competence.

I really wish I knew more Mandarine. I want to talk to people more, instead of looking at them dumbfoundly. I know some. XieXie is handy. Ni hao. Zai jian. Wo shi mei guo ren. Dui bu qi. bu ke qi. Bu, wo bu yao. Tai gui le. yup...I hope to expand that list...

At the same time, I can see similarities between cultures. Things that scream human, especially when it comes to children. We all have a fascination for taking pictures of the children here. They also have an interest in us. Some of them have never seen an American before, especially African American. The language is different, yes, but there is still a level of comprehension and understanding, had that not been the case, my interaction with the sales woman in the airport store a bit ago would have been impossible. She did not say a word in all...yet she continued to converse with me. Me smiling and nodding and shaking and pointing and laughing. Verbal and gestures carried out a conversation from two people from worlds apart brought together through trade. She let me try some peanut crunch after she spot me examining a container of it. Not as sweet as I am used to- Americans are sweet, literally. Sweet and salty. I wandered around the store, flipping over packaged fruit, nuts and candies, hoping to find an English translation or word. Only a space few humored my foreignness.
Pictures helped a tad. I finally settled on a bag of dried banana chips, I knew what they were and my mom used to even make them at times.
There was also the case of the screaming "water fountain." There was no cold water. The water fountain had warm and boiling sanitized water options. I grabbed a cone cup and pushed warm, as the hot would burn me through the paper thin cup. It began yelling loudly at me so I stopped...and again...and again. A maintenance lady near by signaled for me to just keep pushing the button. I am still afraid each time I approach the screaming dispensers.

In the airport I passed an Asian couple signing to each other and wondered if they would encounter the same difficulties or aspects I do when I meet a foreign language; if they encountered others using other versions of sign language. would it be easier to ignore differences in understanding and interpretation? Interesting.

I read Evann's "Day One" letter again. (Miss you, not because I am in China, but because you are in the US. I love/enjoy traveling with you. It is taking a lot of will to not open your other 3 letters instructed for "week 1..2..and 3.")

Getting tired. I am glad my schedule was messed up from exams and work. On the first flight I was awake but the 14 hour flight consisted of me writing letters, watching Wheat, Extraordinary Measures, and Have You Heard About the Morgans-part of it- sleeping- music- watching the flight path, walking around, eating 2.5 meals, and going to the bathroom, with slight conversation with my fellow window seat passenger. At first I was unhappy about not having the window, but everyone shut the windows and I was glad I could get up and stretch or walk around whenever I wanted to. I was upset he broke my glasses though when he got out of his seat. boo. My ass got a little sore so I sat on a blanket.

6pm. Need to stretch legs before the last flight to Beijing.

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