It’s a green-tea-drinking, guitar-music-playing and blogging type of night! After a fabulous day off spent scooting around Guiyang with Dave, I’ve decided to postpone my final piece of the National Holiday Saga for a night when I have less recent events that need telling. So today, I shall write about Guiyang, the city where I am living 365 days of my life.
Guizhou Province is the poorest province in all of China. People who know about Guizhou province don’t have very fond opinions of the place, and while we were on vacation we received quite a few negative reactions from Chinese people when we told them where we live. However, the majority of westerns have no idea where Guizhou even is. It’s sort of like Saskatchewan in Canada…internationally, it isn’t very well known, and within the country, nobody really wants to talk about it!
We live in the capital of Guizhou province: Guiyang. And although it definitely has it’s flaws, we feel safe here and I most definitely never scoff at it’s scenery. Guizhou may not be as rich as Xiamen city , or as scenic as Guangxi province but the scenery here is so ruggedly beautiful.
Still, Guiyang does have its flaws.
It’s an up and coming city…In the last 6 months, there’s been a huge influx of western restaurants and stores. As of now, Guiyang has many KFC and Dairy Queen locations, a Burger King, a Starbucks, 3 Walmarts (with another being built), a Carrefour (a French Grocery store chain) and most recently, a Subway (it opened here last week). There are even western clothing stores in Guiyang, such as H&M and designer stores like Diesel and Calvin Klein. Guiyang is moving up in the world! The only problem is that many of the citizens of Guiyang haven’t caught up to their city’s progress!
I know that Guiyang will eventually be fabulous in all ways, but the city is currently very lacking in the sanitation department. Parents allow their children to urinate in the streets (they sometimes hold them over sewers so they can relieve themselves…but often it’s done on the sidewalk), and people spit constantly. It’s not pleasant to hear, and it’s not pleasant to see on the ground. Walking in Guiyang is a fun little game…you need to watch where you’re going, but at the same time, you need to have your eyes on the sidewalk so that you can dodge spit, urine and loose or uneven tiles in the ground. How so many women here walk around in 3 inch heals is beyond me…the sidewalks are an obstacle course!!
Surprisingly, there aren’t many cockroaches in Guiyang. When we first moved into our new apartment, they were a HUGE problem, but since we got the place cleaned up we haven’t seen a single one. Rats, on the other hand, are an issue. The school is infested. My desk often has poop in it, and I find myself constantly wiping everything down with sanitary wipes. We find chew marks in our books and we sometimes see them running along the pipes above the teacher’s office. Worst of all, I can often hear them moving around in the walls behind my desk. Lexie and I will just look over at one another and shudder at the sound.
And Guiyang’s lack of sanitation isn’t its only problem. The queue situation isn’t quite as bad as it was in 2006, (the main issue in Xiamen was that queues didn’t even exist…), but still, people often cut in line. Just today, I had a women cut in front of me at Carrefour. She had a cart full of items, and all I had was a bottle of MeiJiu in hand but still, as soon as I looked away, she pushed her way past me. The smug grin she gave me after made me so angry I wanted to backhanded her. But the Canadian in me took over and I just gave her a passive aggressive dirty look instead.
But there is something even worse than urine on the streets, or people cutting in front of me at Carrefour. Traffic in Guiyang is insanity. The infrastructure here is so bad that it makes Winnipeg’s streets look logical, but even THAT isn’t the worst of it! People here have absolutely no regard for other drivers on the road, to the point where signaling isn’t done (EVER!) and instead of doing shoulder checks, everyone just honks to let others know that they are there. Guiyang is a LOUD city!
Just today, we saw someone make a U turn from the far right lane of a busy 6 lane road. I should add, that this U turn was NOT made at an intersection. We were driving in the lane to his left and had to swerve and slam on the breaks to avoid T boning him. Did he look scared or regretful, you might ask? Nope! He just kept driving. I’m not even sure he realized that there were other vehicles on the road, or that a beautiful white scooter had nearly been injured due to his insane expectations of what driving should be.
So why, you might be wondering, am I still living in this city? Why do I continue to work in a rat infested building and continue to navigate horribly designed streets under fear of sudden insanity brought on by road rage? Well…that’s the thing. Amidst all this craziness, we both find ourselves happier than either of us have ever been.
There are so many things here that contribute to this happiness. The food is a big one…everything here is flavored with an abundance of spice. The only bland food I’ve had has been when Chinese cooks try to prepare dishes for the western palette. Hot Pot is especially delicious and we’ve found several restaurants that have really made living here a tasty and fantastic experience.
Even better than the food at this restaurant, are the people who work there. Their restaurant is always clean and well maintained, and the staff work very hard. The owners, Kevin and LoMan, greet us by name every time we arrive. They are two of the nicest people we’ve met here and I hope our friendship grows. I always told everyone back home that the two things I missed the most about China were the People and the Food. At our hot pot place, we get the best of both 🙂
But honestly, I think even more than the people and the food, what makes me so happy here is how much I LIVE!! Every day is an adventure…every adventure is a challenge. Whether we are trying to mail post cards or trying to find some western ingredient for a dish we are craving…every moment of our lives here is interesting. Seeing the way people drive here is interesting. The cultural norms here, that are so drastically different from our own….are interesting! We went to Walmart today to look for a Halloween Costume for Dave, and saw the funniest things. We saw strange meat, and asked what it was. The woman replied that it is rotisserie rabbit. You can also find stools at Walmart, that have the middle section cut out. These are built this way so that they can be placed over squatter toilets so that you can sit comfortable instead of crouching, while trying not to get pee on yourself!
So I suppose what I’m trying to say here, is that I love my life. I love that everything is difficult. I love that I’ve learned so many new words in the last 3 months. I love how exciting it is to say something in Mandarin and have the other person understand what I’m saying! I love how the people here can be so amazing! Our waitress at the hot pot place didn’t speak a word of English when we first started going there. Now, she has a friend teaching her so that she can ask us simple things in English, even though we know how to ask for them in Mandarin.
I love how I’m building meaningful friendships here. I’ll never be able to talk about those rats with anyone like I can with Lexie!! I’ll never be able to stand on a street corner in the rain and rant about work and students and craziness like I can with her, because she’s going through the same things I am!
I love what I’m discovering about myself, and what Dave and I are discovering about our relationship. We are learning what we are like under the most stressful circumstances, and I’ve gotta say…I am SO happy to be here with someone I love so much!!
I love my life here…Urine and Rats included…