After two weeks in Tianjin, China, I think I will stay! Indeed, it is perhaps one of the most difficult cultures to adjust to. However, if you are open to experiences and ready to learn from some of the most respectful, curious, and resourceful people in the world, this is the place to be.
Tianjin, one of the four municipalities, is a flat city…no mountains. And unlike the capital city Beijing, it is not as crowded as one would expect. One thing is sure though, you better ‘walk good’ on the streets. Traffic lights are just decoration cause most drivers just ignore red signals, leaving pedestrians to hop, skip, and jump through traffic to get to the other side of the road. But, no problem man. The Chinese are experts at street crossing, and so nonchalantly, that it seems drivers, walkers, and cyclists are in tune in a curiously chaotic sort of way. It’s like watching a ballet. But guess wah, mi a learn ow fi dweet tuh… so that makes me almost Chinese.
But, my obvious difference makes me a curiosity as well, but a good one. Many Chinese stare and smile. Children will take the opportunity to practice their English when they see me. They wave and say hello, then I ask ‘how are you?’ and they answer ‘fine thank you’ with an broad smile of accomplishment. Then I clap them and I have made a friend.
There are only five of us (meaning black people) on the campus where I teach…three Jamaicans, and two African Americans, one is a student. And in fact, I haven’t seen another black face in Tianjin. However, I am sure there are many in Beijing. Laaks mi dear, I have already met a Jamaican working in Beijing.
Walking the streets of Tianjin is like bucking up on treasure every couple of blocks. Colourful, lively, and thriving street markets with exotic aromas, sounds, and surprises assault your senses. If you want sweet mango, coconut, and jackfruit, yeh mi seh jackfruit…a yah yuh fi deh. Of course, if you don’t speak the language, like me (not for long though), the buying process becomes an interesting game of body language.
And speaking of body, one thing unoo people from farin haffi get used to is the hole-in-the-ground toilet. So, you enter what looks like an ordinary bathroom. Then you push open the stall door and you are confronted with a tiled hole in the ground. So, a weh mih fi duh? Crouch like our ancestors used to do. Actually, it’s the natural way to ‘go’. You aught to try it sometime.
Till next time,
Black Mandarin pan di case