Monday, February 25, 2013

Daily Life in Suzhou/China

Favorite place in Suzhou: Pingjiang Lu

A few of you might remember that several weeks ago I posted a Facebook status about my ability to walk around Suzhou singing blissfully along to my iPod. This is one hundred percent true. In Suzhou, the number of English speaking people is relatively low. This has lead to me believing that because people can’t understand anything I say, they more or less can’t hear me either. Therefore, on my walk to work every day, I pick an album and sing to my heart’s content. For Tommy, this has led to statements that aren’t mumbled so much as said relatively quietly, because no one knows what we are saying. I find it all to be incredibly fun because who doesn’t want to live life like a mini musical?

And I feel that I am correct in saying that as a whole, China agrees with me. At least once per day I hear someone singing, and not quietly. When the people in China feel like singing, they apparently do so with no reservations. And they don’t even have the whole ‘no one knows what I’m saying’ thing going on! Furthermore, the old men (I have not seen any women doing this) put mini radios in their pockets and blare their favorite radio stations. It reminds me strongly of people carrying around boom boxes, but on a much smaller scale. Tommy apparently knew about this before I did because he wasn’t at all shocked when we walked past an older man with his radio playing his favorite “classical Chinese music” station.

Additionally, celebrity pictures are a mainstay for white people in China. This includes two types. Type A: the Chinese will be brave enough to make gestures to show that they want to you be in a picture with them. If they do this, you pose with them, usually with them embracing you in some sort of hug as if you are lifelong BFFs (during this hug you may also feel the need to be hyper aware of your purse or wallet). Type B: the Chinese will take stalker photos of you. No questions asked, they just hold up their phone and click away. This is not done in any sort of subtle manner. It is blatantly obvious and therefore excessively awkward. This of course leads to Tommy making faces at the camera and the Chinese person laughing or getting embarrassed but nonetheless taking the picture.

Getting around Suzhou and China in general involves a ton of walking. You walk to the store, to the restaurant, to the bus stop, to the subway. Anywhere you want to go, you have to walk somewhere first. I don’t mind walking, in fact I quite like it otherwise I wouldn’t have survived on MSU’s campus for four years. However, China enjoys making walking painful. Not due to distance, but due to the sidewalk configuration. In the ‘middle’ of the sidewalk there is a patch of tile that is meant to help the blind walk. A: I have never seen a blind person in China. B: As Lemon told us, if there was a blind person walking around, he or she would have a friend helping him, so he or she would not need the tiles. C: The tiles are painful as hell!!

I am not kidding here, people. These tiles literally murder your feet. They are a good foot across so basically unavoidable unless you walk on either side of them, but sometimes the sidewalk isn’t wide so you are trying to counter four inches of regular bricks and a foot of death tile. The tile is raised long cylindrical ridges. For a visual look here:

The Chinese comfort strip

Finally, the street food. I refused to touch the street food in New York, sincerely fearing for my health. Not so in China! Of course, I didn’t dare try any one my own, only with the guidance of Lemon did I make my foray into the extensive options of street food available in China. They do it up classy here. No boring pretzel and hot dog stands! Instead, we have melted sugar covered strawberries on a stick, freshly made popcorn, cooked yams, this special flat bread they make with chives, freshly cut and shoved on a stick fruit, cotton candy! All very exciting. So far we have tried the popcorn and yams, both are delicious! The yams are amazing, you peel them out of their blazing hot skin and dig in (preferably with spoon, but people eat them like an apple so no big if you just feel like sinking your teeth in to the steaming goodness). We ate the strawberries, but that was from a food kiosk in a mall where we could see them being freshly made. Still delicious though. The strawberries are hot from the sugar and it’s a crazy explosion of flavor in your mouth, much different than eating cold strawberries dipped in granulated sugar but equally as good. 

Chinese dinner on our street

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