Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 Asia Trip, 1400 miles from home

Yawn… another 2:40 and I’m back in Los Angeles. I think I slept for a total of 2 hours this flight.

So anyway, after KTV, we went to see Sindy’s grandparents at their apartment. At first, they were embarrassed to have me over since the place is old and kind of run-down. It was built in the 80’s according to communist ideals so there are only three bedrooms and a bathroom; there is no living room or dining room… I guess you’re supposed to eat communally and not have private gatherings. Ugh, it still amazes me how a handful of people can mess up the lives of so many. They were having noodles for dinner and they asked me to join them. We ate in one of the bedrooms after washing my hand in a metal basin in the hallway. The meal was simple but good, yet they kept apologizing for how inadequate things are compared to the US.

Homemade noodles. The sauce was just tomatoes and eggs.

It was interesting to interact with her family. Even though most of them have a college education and live in Beijing, they seem to know very little about life in the US and have many misconceptions. I think the government controlled media is partially to blame since it always focus on the negatives of America and hypes how great China is under communist rule. Surly all governments do this to some extent but differing opinions are censored in China. If you’re determined, you can get alternative news sources but I think most people don’t bother, and end up accepting the government sanctioned worldview through repeated propaganda.

As most of the older generations of Sindy’s family are members of the communist party, though her uncle admits joining for economic rather than ideological reasons, strange jargon sometimes creep into our conversations. Her father kept referring to danwei (单位) or work unit each time he asks about my job. I think in the past, everyone in China was assigned to a danwei and it decides everything about your life, including where you live, your occupation, whether you can travel, and even who you married. It was a very effective way to exert centralized control over everyone. Things have changed with the rise of private businesses and multi-national corporations but the vocabulary remains.

Another thing about living in Beijing are the supposedly high property values. Sindy's grandparent's apartment is cozy but looks worse than the slums of South Central LA. Her father said that it was assigned to them by the government when it was built and supposedly is worth >RMB30k/square meter or ~2 million RMB for the 60m2 apartment. That seems crazy high and unsustainable... maybe there's a looming property bubble crisis in China too.

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