Monday, 9 April 2012
Allora Lollyplanet quali sono le prime impressioni di vita a Sydney? Dopo appena due settimane potrebbe risultare prematuro delinearne già i tratti in modo chiaro, ma vi assicuro che già dai primi spizzichi riesco già a dipingere un quadro piuttosto chiaro della situazione, soprattutto anche all'aiuto di alcuni stranieri che vivono qua da anni e del mio flat mate australiano che ha vissuto 10 anni a New York e altrettanto tempo in Europa, Francia e Spagna. In ogni caso sarei entusiasta se Voi esprimeste la Vs opinione anche contrariando i miei pensieri perché la comunicazione è per me essenziale!!! Vista esternamente credo Sydney sia uno degli angoli più favolosi al mondo, con la zona di Hyde Park che ricorda Londra, i grattacieli maestosi come nella Big Apple ed il paradiso tropicale come la spiaggia di Manly a soli 20 min di ferry dalla city e la spiaggia seven mile beach a solo de ore da Sydney che non so se avete visto le foto ma Heaven is a place on earth! Il tutto con una bassissima densità demografica quindi no traffico no code no inquinamemto. Già nel 2009 quando venni qua da sola in viaggio ne ero rimasta stregata! Qualità della vita altissima dovuta credo anche alla natura easy going degli Ozzies e ahimè anche ad un'inflazione vertiginosa che cmq và di pari passo con gli stipendi che sono altrettanto alti. Si lavora perlopiù dalle 9.00 alle 5.00 così si può dedicare del tempo anche a se stessi e soprattutto allo sport. Gli Ozzies sono fissati con lo sport (punto a mio favore) ma anche con la birra. Il week si ubriacano raggiungendo livelli imbarazzanti, un po' come tutti gli anglosassoni del resto :-( Ma questi sono aspetti lapalissiani tutti sanno che gli australiani o sono tutti biondi belli fisicati surfisti e notoriamente degli ubriaconi oppure sono obesi puzzoni e notoriamente ubriaconi hahahahah Bene allora scaviamo a fondo e cosa troviamo... Aldilà delle città meravigliose e di una natura strepitosa con una fauna super pericolosa... Beh non so Voi ma entrando un po nel vivo di questa gente, io ci ho trovato poco, poco nulla purtroppo. Sarei felice possiate smentirmi. Pur essendo una delle più belle città al mondo io non sento nulla, non sento l'anima della gente, l'energia dell'universo. Senza entrare troppo nel profondo, porto esempi concreti. Certo non mi aspettavo di provare emozioni forti e indimenticabili come quando ero volontaria nella missione in Perù l'anno scorso o quando vivevo in Cina... Posti non certo paradisiaci come Sydney ma eppure avevano una storia un'anima un energia particolare! Credo alla base di tutto ci sia la mancanza di comunicazione dovuta credo ad una mancanza di storia ce certo fa la differenza! Non so se condividete e demonizzate il mio pensiero e forse direte allora Malini tornatene in Cina Italia Perù America dove ti pare ma visto che lo critichi tanto questo paese vattene e lascialo a noi Ozzies e a noi stranieri che abbiamo deciso che questo modus vivendi Aussie Style ci va a meraviglia Bene sviscerando la questione con altri europei che vivono qua ed altri Ozzies tra cui il mio coinquilino, è vero la gente qua pecca di un individualismo esasperato accompagnato da un forte egoismo e chiusura. Condito il tutto da una buona dose di menefreghismo e tanta, troppa superficialità Ho conosciuto solo pochi Ozzies per ora, quindi chiedo conferma ad un amico della west coast che ha vissuto per anni a Madrid. Anche lui afferma sia proprio così, addirittura se un uomo australiano 'si apre' troppo a livello del proprio subconscio passa per gay o per fuori di testa! Gli Australiani in generale, con le dovute eccezioni ovvio, vogliono vivere sereni senza porsi troppe domande senza scavare troppo nel profondo, ma neppure in superficie direi Pensavo ubriacarsi fosse un modo per disinibirsi e abbattere le barriere, no Il mio coinquilino che incredibilmente è astemio!, mi dice che anzi bere è un modo per rilassarsi ancor di più: bevo e non penso a nulla ma solo alla mia pinta di birra. Lo stesso nello sport, dopo il lavoro penso solo alle onde al surf ai miei pettorali ;-) e ovvio cosa possano fare di diverso se non andare a fare sport e sfondarsi di alcool? E lo dice una che vive per lo sport ma cavoli qua manca cultura forse. Anche l'America a parte le guerre tra Sudisti e Nordisti non ha storia ma loro pur gonfiandosi di alcool pure loro, eppure hanno i musicals, il jazz, il baseball, i concerti... E parimenti noi giovani Europei andiamo a teatro, alle mostre, ai concerti di musica classica e rock, leggiamo libri e stiamo ore a parlare magari non rispondiamo a nessuna domanda esistenziale però almeno facciamo funzionare non solo i pettorali ma anche il cervello che è un muscolo che va usato per evitare si atrofizzi ;-) in breve quindi qua cosa resta da fare nel tempo libero per gli Ozzies... Birra e sport! Anche perché ho visto che un biglietto per un'aria all'opera house costa uno sproposito e certo questo demotiva le masse :-) Mi odiate, ma non sto esagerando tant'è che alla domanda se gli Ozzies sono al corrente di questa loro caratterialità e se ne patiscono, ancora un amico di Bondi conosciuto in Cina conferma. Eccome se be' soffrono soprattutto quando si relazionano agli Inglesi che li definiscono rude e percepiscono la differenza che anni di storia rappresentano. Loro la storia come la NZ ce l'hanno rappresentata dagli aborigeni che qua però vengono emarginati, la cultura Maoi in NZ almeno è un po' piu rispettata così mi dice Patrick un mio amico di Aukland Perlopiù quindi mi relaziono con gli stranieri piuttosto che con gli Ozzies perchè di natura non spcializzo con chi è riservato e solo dopo anni di frequentazione so arriva un po' piu a fondo. E poco da fare ho trascorso un week end fuori Sydney con due inglesi un tedesco un francese ed un olandese e i dispersi erano subito diversi anche con gli inglesi e tedeschi che seppure riservati e un po' cold eppure hanno un bagaglio culturale millenario che li contraddistingue! Perché sono volata qua dall'altra parte del mondo? Credo per una qualità di vita superiore, una possibilità di un futuro economico migliore, insomma un sogno. Soprattutto considerando la stretta vicinanza alla Cina il mondo con cui lavoro, ma senza il sovraffollamento e nè l'inquinamento folle. Ma il prezzo da pagare è alto, troppo alto per una come me che pur amando spasmodicamente la beata solitudo e lo sport, eppure io vivo di comunicazione, emozioni vere, insomma vita vera vissuta fin nei meandri più profondi dell'essere per far vibrare ogni corda della mia anima vivendo non nell'egoismo ma nell'altruismo più alto volto al bene fine a se stesso e non col tornaconto! Qua mi pare ovvio che diventi implicito mascherare le emozioni, non porsi troppe domande e andare avanti come un caterpillar pensando solo a se stessi e usando gli altri, do ut des. No decisamente in questi 32 anni ho improntato la mia vita su altri principi e questa non è per fortuna la mia indole e spero mai lo sarà! Quindi? Lascio ai posteri l'ardua sentenza! Anzi chiunque tra voi è libero di esprimere la sua libera opinione al riguardo anche criticando le mie tesi. Comunicazione, grazie al web ora possiamo scambiarci opinioni liberamente per rendere il mondo più piccolo. Per fortuna la globalizzazione non ha ancora frullato tutto ed un Ozzie non sarà mai come un Italiano un Francese un Cinese un Africano... ecco perché ogni angolo di mondo ogni anima ha i suoi colori, come sempre il dolce e l'amaro esiste anche qua in questa terra che pensavo fosse il paradiso in terra ma per me il paradiso non sarà mai un posto dove io non sento la mia anima, quella degli altri e quella di coloro che mi circondano! Forse dovrei tornare in India e vivere a New Delhi... Forse semplicemente il Paradiso non è su questa terra e dovrò attenderlo per trovarlo dopo questa vita. Nel frattempo vivo ogni momento come fosse magico magari combattendo anche contro i mulini a vento ma non certo rinunciando ai miei sogni e faccendoni assalire dal cinismo e dalla incomunicabilità! Con affetto La Vs Lollyplanet Manly Sydney NSW Australia NewWorld Earth Universe Lollyplanet so what are your first impressions of life in Sydney? First of all pls forgimme if my English is poor. Well after only 3 weeks may be premature to clearly delineate all the feature already, but I assure you that since the first dribs, I can already paint a pretty clear picture. Especially thanks to the help of some foreigners living here since ages, two extraordinary Gemini friends whose modus vivendi is like mine and my flat mate from Australia who has lived 10 years in New York and as much time in Europe. They all helped me a lot! However, I'd be thrilled if you guys could write down your opinion too, even if you feel like contradicting me pls go ahead: communication is essential for me! Communication is the best effective way to knowledge, as Dante wrote: “Consider your origin; you were not born to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.” Sydney is definitely the best city I have ever been to. I've worked as Tour Leader for 10 years with Chinese traveling pretty much everywhere but .... no place on earth is as breathtaking as Aussie! From an external view, Sydney is I guess one of the most fabulous cites worldwide: Hyde Park recalls London, NYC with her majestic skyscrapers and the tropical paradise on Manly and Bondi, both only 20 minutes by ferry / bus from downtown. Seven mile beach just two hours away from Sydney is unbelievable check picts on my FB profile. What characterize Australia I guess is a very low human population density which doesn't bring any pollution and not even a bit of traffic jam! Back in 2009 I came here on my own and Aussie already fascinated me so deeply that now I have decided to move here some time and check if I can get a job. (things are more difficult than expected cos this Visa thing is driving me nuts. Unsuccessfully I've been through many job interviews, so soon I may go back to my old job in Italy as freelance Chinese interpreter and tourleader...) Anyways. Quality of life here is pretty high, salaries too and working schedule time only goes from nine to five so everybody gotta time to workout and getting wasted on beer ;-) Ozzies are keen on sports but on beer too. No matter if they are beautiful and blond surfers or not, they are all pretty drunkards... Well so let's now dig down to the bottom of the issue and see what we can find ... Beyond this breathtaking cities and outstanding nature and wildlife ... Well I dunno about you guys, but I entered a little bit deep down into the heart of Oz, Ozzies and even most of foreigners living here and... Unfortunately I've found really little here, probably nearly nothing! I'd be happy you can disagree with me but sadly here I don't feel that much. Despite being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, this place has not a soul, sadly here I don't feel any energy. Without going too much into the deep of my subconscious, just some few concrete examples. Ok I were not expected to experience all the strong emotions I felt in Peru last year as volonteer in an orphanage or during el camino to Santiago de Campostela or in China but ... Yet Down to the nitty gritty of things, the essence I guess is a deep lack of communication, culture and history. I dunno if you guys share or demonize my thoughts, probably you are just kinda disappointed with me and think I'm just a big pain in the neck!!!! Malini then what are you still doing here? Go back to China Santiago America Peru whatever but pls do stop complaining and leave this paradise to us, Ozzies and foreigners, who think this "modus vivendi Aussie style" really suits us! Well I tried all my best to disclose this matter also with other Europeans living here, my closest friends back home and Ozzies who have lived aboard and so are pretty open minded. We tried to look at the picture from a deeper analytical point of view. They all agree with me: here most of ppl are exaggeratedly individualist and selfish, cold and not able to communicate, they are in a way too detached and superficial, cerebrally lazy... I've only met a few Ozzies for now, among which Tom who has lived for years in Madrid and China. Tom agrees with me and actually often tells me: if a man speaks too much in Oz about deep meanings and "opens too much" we think he is either gay or crazy. That's why Tom has left Oz long time ago and he is not gay nor crazy... Just a smart guy who wanna use his brain! Generally speaking, with some few exceptions of course, Ozzies wanna live peacefully, without digging too much into the deep. I thought getting drunk was a way to let them "open" and break down barriers and communicate more. No way, my adorable flatmate Drew who is incredibly a teetotaler!, he tells me that drinking is indeed a way to relax even more: I drink and I don't think of anything else but beer and getting wasted. The same happens in sport: after work they only wanna concentrate on waves and jogging. Yeah but for God's sake I'm a super fit sportswoman and I love parties too, but life can't be only this. Europeans, even we young generation, a part from sport eat drink and be merry, we go to theater, cinema, exhibitions, concerts of classical and rock music, we read books and we communicate. In most of my friends' life and mine too, communication has always been a priority in families, among friends and colleagues too. Ok maybe we have gone through more verbal fights and haven't disclosed any such big matters, but at least we keep our brain fit too, not only our butt. Brain is a muscle too, it gotta be often used to prevent atrophy ;-) I love America and Americans and frankly speaking, apart from wars between Southerners and Northerners, they don't have any history neither, most pf them are drunkards too... but they have musicals, jazz, baseball, concerts and most of best contemporary thinkers and doctors all come from US ... I can't even think about any famous cultural personalities worldwide, apart from Nicole Kidman and Mark Webber. Pls gimme reasons to believe I'm terribly wrong... I have checked prices for theatre tickets and they nearly cost an arm and a leg (150$ 200$) books are also unreasonably expensive (30$ the cheapest ones) and this surely discourage masses ... Beer and sports are much cheaper! (in Torino most of my friends and I gotta a season ticket both for theatre and arts exhibition which is cheap and allow you to go to theater once a week) I swear I'm not exaggerating. Another Ozzie friend of mine met in China told me Ozzies are aware of this and they suffer too, especially when relating with British who genetically might be like them, but thanks to history and culture are definitely "superior" in some way, probably even better than Italians too ihih Aussie history is represented by Aborigines who most of times are marginalized. A Kiwi friend of mine, Patrick told me that in NZ the culture Maori is fascinating and fully respected too. That's their history they should be proud of it However I was told Ozzies are adorable ppl and become lovely friends too, but it takes some time. I still gotta figure this out. Although I'm not in an hurry, I gotta a different personality and for me, life should be lived into the deep, immediately! Actually last weekend I spent an extraordinary weekend with some Europeans at Seven Mile Beach. We were two British, a German, a Frenchman, a Dutchman and two Italians and we talked freely ad deeply too. I learnt a lot from them, sth that I adore!!! They are all super smart businessman who moved here with big Companies. So in Oz there are nice ppl too but still sth is missing I feel empty here, most of the times I feel I'm not learning anything and this is probably the first time in my life so I'm kinda freaking out... So why did I fly here on the other side of the world? Probably for a higher quality of life without pollution with outstanding weather and scenery, a dream where economics and finance still are steady and gotta a thriving future too, especially considering the close proximity to China, the world I work with. But the bargain price is too high for me not in matter of $ but of anima et core soul and heart. I've always spasmodically loved sports and blissful solitude, but also communication, real emotions, real life. I wanna see every chord of my soul vibrating again. My values have always been altruism not selfishness, doing the pure good for its own sake, not only for self-interest. Here it becomes implicit hiding emotions, not thinking too much and simply go forward like a caterpillar, caring only about themselves and... tit for tat. No way in these 32 years I have lived on other principles and luckly this is not my nature and I hope never will be! So? Again Dante, I leave it for posterity to uncover! But pls be free to criticize my ideas. Thanks to the web now the world is smaller and we can exchange ideas more easily and freely! Luckly globalization hasn't shaken all over too much and Ozzies will never be like an Italian a French a Chinese an African ... hence each corner of the world, every soul has its own colors. Again, sweet and bitter are everywhere so even here. Nowhere can be heaven on earth! Probably heaven is not even part of this material world. So now I enjoy life and live every day with passion and "brain" I may also fighting against the windmills of cynicism and un-communication, but certainly I wont never give up, life is a dream but also a reality!!! With affection Yours sincerely Lollyplanet Manly Sydney NSW Australia NewWorld Earth Universe
Sunday, 26 February 2012
HERE IS THE ITALIAN VERSION www.cinaoggipiuvicina.blogspot.com.au
AND IF YOU WANT TO BUY IT ON LINE http://www.bookrepublic.it/book/9788863471373-cina-oggi-piu-vicina
Notes about the AUTHOR : LORENZA MARINI
Lorenza Marini: a young Italian woman from Turin city. She loves China where she first studied and then worked. She spent and still now spends long periods in this great and fascinating Country. "China ... now closer" is the story of her experience. Impressions and emotions described by a young Italian woman grappling with a Country and a People so different from hers. A diary, interesting and hilarious, to know more about a n Nation with which we increasingly will relate to.
China may change us, China has changed me, China will go on changing me more and more again. Gray smoke into one of the most polluted skies of the planet, secrets and signs of divine emperors, enchanted parks, martial arts, geomancy, swarms of bicycles, dialogues with ordinary people and friends of the campus, cups of hot green tea, chopsticks and scorpions ... ideograms. This is the "world" you'll find in this book. Although great thinkers have said "you must change your soil, not your sky" (Seneca) or "even if you travel all around the world, you will never find the end of your soul" (Heraclitus) in this book you will find reflections regarding that typical of many teenagers innate stimulus to escape, desire to know different mentalities and discover every day something new and magically unexpected. Memories and emotions from my heart to yours, Lorenza Marini
I have never really known what I would have done as an adult, maybe hostess, psychologist, archaeologist, architect, writer, actress ... I was only convinced of one thing: I would have traveled as much as possible! And so when I reached that silly age of nineteen years old, after High School I had a real deep identity crisis: I did not know what to study at College. I was tired of doing the same things in the same places with the same people. In my routine I was safe: everything was known, we ate here, we hang out there, we go to this disco, we dress like this and we talk in this way but ... there should be an emergency exit from all this, I could not even imagine to just being lost in an ordinary life, already marked! I had always the feeling of being on this planet for something more important than all this, I had a talent to express ... I just had to find which that was! And thanks to my dad, I found my way: the Chinese! Many, actually too many, always kept on asking me: "but why studying Chinese?". Ok what I say to strangers is : "my father claims China is the future", to people who can understand, I declare : "because I want to run away from Italy for a while and what place is more far away than China?". To myself I simply tell this story: "there was once a frog who had always lived on the bottom of a well. Every day she took satisfaction in the beauty and comfort of her little world, but one day she meets a sea turtle which informed the frog of the existence of the immensity of the world. Hearing this, stunned and disappointed, the frog was sad and wasn't so happy as earlier. Now the frog knew the world was not only that tiny angle of sky she used to see from the bottom of the well." Thanks mom and dad, grazie mamma e papà, like the turtle I have opened my eyes. Now my real nature is finally revealed: I can dream about wide open spaces, amazing places, a life without a monotonous routine, far from expectations related to physical assets. A fabulous life in search of freedom, including the interior more spiritual deeper one. Bruce Chatwin would have called me a nomad: someone who meditates in solitude and abandons collective rituals. Someone who doesn't care about rational processes of education and culture. This Chatwin, very famous British writer of last century, he used to wonder: "why am I always getting restless after a month lived in the same place, why I will never resist for two months in the same place?". Oh I utterly deeply agree with him!
FIRST WEEKS IN BEIJING
Mamma mia! OMG oh my God! Maybe it would have been better for me if I had stayed in Turin, starting the autopilot and living just a normal life like everybody else! No no no no : no way! "By striving to do the impossible, man has always achieved what is possible. Those who have cautiously done no more than they believed possible have never taken a single step forward." This was Bakunin. .... I am ready to spend my first night in my first Chinese tiny room in the BLCU Beijing Language and Culture University. I open my suitcase, take a quick shower and I rush to bed but, although exhausted, I can not fall asleep. I am still feeling bad for the fish eaten on the plane and at the same time, I can not believe I am just on the other part of the world so far from home. I am in China! So I start doing what I always do when I suffer from insomnia: I open my diary and start writing ... usually I just only note down few disconnected phrases, sentences which I am the only one to understand. Other times I just simply write on my laptop some universal thoughts to send to my buddies in Italy by email. But tonight it is different, I start writing what tells my soul ... Life is made up of priorities ... your biggest priority is living for these priorities, otherwise you will get lost, do not lose your way, do not waste your time while chasing false illusions. Grab your whole life with all your energies, live your life as deeply as you can. Run, baby run keep on running and fight against the tidal current which make you drown in the deepest darkness of the soul, break all the tides with the people who bring you down, break all the barriers of indifference, smile at those who do not know that life NEVER stops! Even when you are sad, life is love. Even in tragedies, life is love. The whole life is a gift, so let's always sing for her ... "do not be afraid to stop, breath and wait for a minute ... WAIT, take your time , take it easy as your time is not haste, not anger neither fear, if you have a problem ... sit down, listen to the silence and all around you, within you, a sweet music will start playing in your ear in your heart in your soul. That's the sound of AWARENESS! .... I do not really know what this China has done to me, considering that there are more negative aspects than positive ones. How to define this hate / love emotion? Maybe it is just an inexplicable attraction! I hate the food, toilets, odors, traffic, pollution, dirt in the street, spitting on the ground and all the other rude chinese habits ... but for some arcane reason : I love China. It is not only because I am only 20 years old and I am living here on the other part of the world, all alone and free without anyone controlling me. It is not neither because every night I go to bed happy and satisfied with life as never before. Not only because it makes me feel like a heroine to speak Chinese, and not just because CDs do not even cost a $ ... no no no no. There's more. I love and I could not live without that sense of peace and tranquility that only China and its people can give me. Yes, during these first weeks what I have learnt, apart from handling chopsticks like a samura, it is patience, the virtue of Taoism which can be summed up with this thought "the way is the goal." I am talking about the same patience that we Westerners too often are missing! One morning I read the headline of an article in China Daily "do not rush ..." and while reading I start wondering how it can be so easy for Chinese to keep calm in a city where people walk on your feet, spit at an inch from your shoes and push you all the time. Chinese can't line up and often just in the middle of the street, take off their shoes and start cleaning between toes ...! Yet in all these months I have never seen any Chinese lose his temper and go nuts, even in the streets where I think there is no philosophy that helps to tolerate the traffic, at least in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai: it is a jungle of bicycles, tricycles, rickshaws, taxi, bus, minivan and ... thousands of pedestrians who risk their life every time they actually cross the street! I adore Chinese also because when they discuss they always keep their hands behind their back, holding one of their wrists tight in the other hand, perhaps in this way they show that despite the anger, they will never attack. Actually, as an Italian it is pretty natural for me using body language. Everybody stares at me in terror when one day I angrily leaned my hands on the counter of a store because for the sixth time I was sold a broken cd! Chinese are not allowed to show such an attitude, otherwise they "lose face". I deeply envy the calm or maybe the resignation they show while they are all bonded one to the other. Maybe this is their way to defend themselves from their physical proximity, using their mind! Everywhere in China you are all the time packed like sardines, by bus, shops, post offices, theaters and even on the street. Unfortunately I do not have this virtue and I resist only few seconds stuck in lines, especially when they show off their lethal weapon: "the garlic breath" ... I challenge each of you to withstand motionless when lots of Chinese blow on your neck garlic breath, garlic coughing, garlic words and garlic spits. I consider myself a very patient woman (or at least this is what friends and relatives say in Italy) but I guess here Chinese and Eastern people simply judge me as an hysterical and neurotic foreigner ... They may have some imperfections but let's give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's: their patience is really something to be jealous of. It is disarming and atavistic!
FIRST CHINESE FRIENDS
The Chinese are still nowadays crazy for Mao, they love him more than a god and still believe in slogans like "modesty strengthens, presumption weakens". One my Chinese friends, Xiao, is reluctant to admit he still remembers the old story of Yukong, the old man of the mountain. An old man had a mountain just outside his front door, exasperated by that huge annoying obstacle, he started moving it using a pick and a shovel, he used all his life, but he succeeded. This myth of the iron-willed old man was often taken from the Maoist iconography to symbolize that nothing is impossible for a Chinese! Would it have been better for him to move the house instead of the mountain? Never mind, that's China and well sometimes I would define them also a little bit megalomaniacs! Although People go on idealizing Mao, Xiao heartens me: "me and my Chinese coetaneous friends are defined Chinese of the new millennium. We enjoy more freedom, we can get rich and even buy a car, live independently and we are no-more obliged to accredit to the Party." Xiao is Sarah's Chinese fiance who has lived long in France. He is a rebellious spirit, and this may be the reason why we laowai adore him (laowai: the way Chinese nickname foreigners). Xiao keeps on repeating that the key point is this: individual freedom here has never really existed and a person has always counted nearly nothing, the individual does not exist as such, but only as part of a group. As I am a very curious person eager to know as much as I can about this world, I search for some material on the web and what I find in some websites about chinese history is that people in the past were divided into six groups, which in turn gave birth to three "sub-groups": the workers and peasants, town and country, workers and intellectuals. Malini (that's my Chinese name), so once again, are you sure you want to live in a Country where there is no single individuality? You can fool yourself believing that China is changing, that evolution changes the aspects of the city, that workers are turning into entrepreneurs ... but remember that five thousand years of history and communism can not be annihilated, well at least, not in such short time! ...
THE CHINESE WAY
Apart from the fact that digest loudly is the best way to communicate that one has enjoyed the food and cough often is a sign of cleansing the body (according to them!). Let's say that in China exists a sort of Bon Ton, or at least this is what says Vivian, another of my Chinese buddies. Sometimes even here I see Chinese men open the door to women, helping them to take off their coat, fill their glasses.. Vivian says that while eating, you have always to accept what is being offered, a refuse would be considered like a really serious abuse. For example, one day Vivian offers me a candy which smells super repugnant, so I immediately thank her deeply with a great smile and put the candy in my mouth, immediately swallow it without even feeling the taste ... while seating at the table, always leave something in your dish, it means that the food was abundant, everywhere all the time remember to smile, as Chinese always smile. The ceremonial farewell to a guest requires a very complex procedure, first of all ask him to stay longer then offer him more tea and some more candies and nuts. Then when the guest has decided to finally leave the house, escort him to the door, enter the elevator with him, till the main door down in the street. Another curious aspect is the way to give a business card, a note, a candy or any objects : present it with both hands and be careful not to touch the hands of the others. That's may be because they never wash hands and they do not want to mix bacteria ... This may be the reason too why Chinese actually never shake hands.
TERRACOTTA WARRIORS IN XIAN
April,25th 2000 my mom comes to visit me a second time in Beijing when the cold winter is finally over. I am lucky, my mom loves la dolce vita so I can stay in first class hotel and eat in super fancy and clean restaurants. Since I have always been an excellent trip organizer, I plan everything, including sightseeing and accommodation. We will go first to Xi'an in Shaanxi province, then Kunming in Yunnan and finally to Canton in Guangdong. My mom has always been a brave woman like her daughter so she accepts to travel around China with me without too much pressure. So here we are, my mom and me sitting on a Boeing 747. Chinese passengers are all strangely fat, they may be the patrons of McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts ... let's forget about humor, but seriously speaking it seems that American food, as well as obesity, have introduced new diseases in China as diabetes, osteoporosis and heart attacks. Apart from these new fat Chinese, what attract our attention are some businessmen sitting in first class. They wear black elegant suits and big gold watches but their faces are scaring. My Chinese neighbor maybe reading in my mind, out of the blue starts complaining: "oh look at them they probably are some mobsters who made fortunes through drugs and prostitution." Drugs became a reality in China during the seventh century when Arabs and Turks introduced the poppy in China, it was used as a medicine until the seventeenth century, then it was spread as a narcotic and it became a critical issue during the nineteenth century when it was spread to the wealthier sectors of society among those who were eager to live powerful experiences. Moreover, opium was used by the British as a bargaining chip with the tea, just to weaken the Chinese military in the so-called Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860) which marked the decline of the Qing Dynasty and the disintegration of the imperial system. I hate wars because statistically they always turned out to be useless. I agree with Xunzi, a general who lived in the period of "Spring and Autumn" (722-481 BC) who wrote an outstanding book "The art of the war" where he argues that the ability of a leader essentially lies in getting the enemy to surrender without even a fight and win the battle. ... I definitely do not agree with the First Emperor, who was historically recorded for his cruelty and megalomania. He created an unified Country for the first time, he burnt all previous texts and he ordered the construction of the Great Wall, the Grand Canal and the massive Terracotta Warriors Army which was discovered in 1974 in Xian by a peasant while digging a well. The First Emperor was hated by everybody so every night he slept in a different place for fear of being murdered, and perhaps also for this, at the age of just only thirteen years old he ordered the construction of his tomb which was built in thirty-six years, by seven hundred thousand workers. This huge tomb was filled with thousands of Terracotta Warriors designed to protect the Emperor in the afterlife. Ironically the Emperor died at the age of only forty-nine during a voyage searching for the elixir of life. It is a breathtaking view standing in front of this majestic army where these six thousand warriors stand up proudly already for over than two thousand years. What more impress mom and I is the look these Warriors have. They really seem to be ready to attack, square faces, thick eyebrows, broad foreheads, thick-lipped mouths and eyes that seem to set a point in the infinity, the terracotta humans seem to hide the desire to reveal the secrets of the distant past while the horses with their wide nostrils seem to be ready to gallop. It is really miraculous if you consider the remarkable skill they use to carve such an huge army. They used to be colored, hair painted with charcoal, clothes with pigments made from a mixture of animal blood and egg whites. Expressions, hairstyles and clothes are all different one from the others. .... We are with a young guide who provides us all these details with an exceptional enthusiasm and describes to us every corner of the museum. While listening to him carefully, his words open my eyes like those of a baby girl who sees the world for the first time. I try to enjoy this masterpiece in silence, but i have a strange desire to shout to show my emotions. As often happens to me after being in contact with evidence of a glorious past, I fall into sad reflections about death and the precariousness of life, and I think the terracotta army will continue to enrich the world, but I will not be there any longer and actually I'll be a pile of mud with no conscience nor memory. At the same time I also think about those who watched this show before me, while I was still a star in heaven or a drop in the ocean. So I start getting lost in thoughts like: "... and what happens if I will not come back and I will die away from home and far from the ones who love me ... and what if I will not meet again some of the people I love?" Doubts like those could go on forever, but what really matters now at this precise moment is the present action : I am lucky, I am happy, I can see exceptional places and live exciting experiences, while feeling thrilling emotions that few others can experience, moreover I can deeply appreciate all this. The words of Mother Teresa read as a child suddenly come again to my mind: "Life is an opportunity, take it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, make it a reality. Life is blissful, savor it."
(In 2001after 12 months in Beijing I went back to Italy and then after 2 years I decided to head back again to China.)
BACK TO CHINA
.... The traffic jam is still unnerving and even complicated by thousands of bikes. These riders drive me crazy as they make casual acrobatics in the traffic, they cross the street even with red light, they invade the sidewalks and actually cause eighty percent of the accidents. In short, although slightly reduced, the 'traffic ocean' remains made up of bicycles and tricycles, but it's good that this army of ecological wheels has not yet been entirely replaced by cars ... like this, the city is already one of the most polluted ones in the world! .... Two years ago, how could I dedicate myself only to architecture without paying any attention to old people practicing taiqi and playing badminton, to the ladies singing aloud the Beijing Opera arias? Some others write real poems on the floor with a brush soaked into the water, they create ephemeral works of art to read for several minutes before they evaporate, leaving room for new compositions. Others spend their time sitting on benches in the garden, playing cards, dominoes, Majhong or simply admiring the scenery. .... One day walking across the hutongs, the old street in Beijing, I feel lost in despair watching how these people are happy even with nothing at all. A young girl approaches me and pleads me not to cry and when I ask her if she's happy, she replied: "to us it's okay, even if you're a rich laowai you have to believe me, we are not missing anything at all, we want the tradition, not the progress: modernization is destroying most of traditional architecture, because hutongs are our soul, our past, do not take them away, please. "Thank you. She does not know why, but I do" .... While walking around Beijing downtown, I realize the big evolution the city has known. Many people are sending messages and answering phones with polyphonic ringtones, everywhere I see skyscrapers, private cars, wide boulevards and vast stores of foreign companies with big brands, Fiat, Motorola, Volkswagen. I can breath the air of new China, what young people dream about and older ones detest. .... Another Chinese friends of mine is Bill, my fudao Laoshi, my private afternoon teacher. He drinks his green tea, he pulls his hair back his ears and tries to assume an air of superiority, then exclaims, "in China, particularly Hong Kong, people who have undergone some plastic surgery can not become a character in the show! "In Italy it is exactly the opposite: few stars are "100 % true" from head to foot. Silence. Bill is lost in thought, maybe he thinks about the woman he dated few days earlier, then I try to bring him back to reality, begging him to describe me some aspect of women. With a weird air, still dreaming and perhaps feeling even annoyed by my numerous questions, he finally says: "it's only a matter of addiction, women should not have their own incomes, women must always depend on men." It is clear to me now why Chinese women are unable to exercise professions that allow them to get richer and earn a substantial salary. Actually, I am afraid many Chinese agree with Bill and still believe in this saying: "women have long hair but short intelligence."
WOMEN AND LOVE IN CHINA
The following afternoon, Bill arrives with little delay and as serious as I have never seen him. He announces the theme to be discussed today: love in China. Bill begins his monologue, citing a recurring phrase among the masses: "re qing jiu sheng" which can be translated in this way "with the passing of time, feelings can be created", confirming that in China, sixty percent of marriages are inspired not by love but economic advantages. I read on a newspaper: "women who fall in love usually do not have an happy life, because boys want a girl just only for their pleasure, husbands want a wife just to look after house and kids, no one is inspired by love." So, he agrees with Giovanni Agnelli who founded the Fiat Automotive Company in Turin who once said: "only waitresses fall in love." Bill says that a friend of him is looking for a wife. He is thirty years old and his friends and even parents help me finding a woman in a weird way: through newspaper ads and dating agencies. It sounds so shabby for me that two strangers, after reading an ad, arrange an appointment in an anonymous room, and if they like each other, even just only a little bit, they will immediately arrange the wedding. Bill says: "love is not necessary to get married, what really matters in a marriage is the economic stability which eventually can lead to a decent life. A serene man is just only interested in having by his side a beautiful woman, who will give him a son to continue the race. What really matters to women is only the bank account, there are so few women who love the poor ones." Bullshit ... I want to be in love "as a waitress", well actually I want to love because falling in love is easy, it happens with no big effort, naturally, on the contrary you have to learn to deeply love someone! My fudao Laoshi seems to be pretty nervous, he sips some green tea, twirls his pencil between his fingers and his face turns red, I guess there is something which really upsets him today, then with an humble tone he starts speaking about an heartbreaking love story : "during a party while still attending College, I met Mimi, a gorgeous woman from Beijing. She was tall, skinny, magnetic eyes, long straight shiny black hair. That night we kissed and immediately got engaged, but after a year I discovered she cheated on me many times. I discovered she had an affair also with her boss, ten years older than her. I was freaking out and felt miserable but frankly speaking how could she imagine having a life with me? I was just only a college student with humble origins and no money no salary, I could not offer any guarantees!"
NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN CHINESE Suddenly he quotes a famous proverb dating back to the days of the civil war between Nationalists and Communists: "a child who enters the army gives prestige to the family, while one who flees to Hong Kong shames all", then he pauses for a while and eventually exclaims: "this applies to the North, but in the south no one wants a relative to waste time to be a soldier". Actually Chinese Southerns care about nothing but money, they believe in the saying "time is money." ....
.... Today Bill highlights the process of modernization in China: "China is a developing Country which wants to reach the West and hopefully even overtakes it. Often you Laowai believe that in China all the techno products are imported from the West. Wrong. We have everything here and we are able to produce everything." I make the terrible mistake to say that Chinese use tons of mobile phones, cars and other techno and cosmetics products which are all imported from foreign suppliers. His stares at me and his eyes reveal a disappointed expression, then he says: "Malini you are again wrong. Mobile phones, cars, refrigerators, televisions, hair gels and all those products with a foreign name, are all actually produced in China by experienced workers. Have you ever heard of joint ventures? For example, in the automotive field, bodywork and interior of the top Western brands cars are "Made in China", while only the engine components are imported. In short, we are exporting the technology while you Laowai just put only your name. I am very proud to be part of a Nation which is achieving so much success so quickly. We will be entering soon the Guinness World Records! Then he exclaims: "It's just a matter of time then China will conquer the whole world." Bill is damned right, as a matter of facts the previous night on tv the breaking news was that the Chinese GDP gross domestic product has achieved the same level as the one of France (and this was only 2002!!!) With an outstanding enthusiasm, Bill exclaims: "not enough, my dear Malini, the income of families has reached an enviable goal, a thousand dollars a year per capita, a small thing compared to the one in your Countries, but huge if compared to 791$ in 1999 and 848$ in 2000." Now I am sure. My future is in China, my dad is always right! ....
DORIS AND HONG KONG ... Unfortunately only two weeks before heading back to Italy I meet Doris (Dor-Dor), a beautiful Chinese girl born in the year of the Rabbit (1975), shiny black hair, serene face with high cheekbones, pointed chin, thin lips curved slightly downward. She tells me her story saying that she was born in Hong Kong, but in the nineties she soon escaped with her family to Toronto because, after the massacre in Tiananmen, they were afraid of clashes between Chinese and English. She speaks about the history of Hong Kong, from the far 1841 when after the First Opium War was ceded to the British till 1997, when it returned back to China as a SAR (Special Administrative Region) with the slogan "one country , two systems". Doris moved to Canada with her family to spend the difficult years from 1997 to 1999, when Hong Kong recorded a terrible economic crisis with a consequent increase in unemployment and loss of tourists, then she returned back to the former British colony. Doris loves Hong Kong but at the same time she feels also very fascinating by the great China. Knowing that I'm writing a book, she gives me some information: "in Hong Kong there are about six million people occupying an area of few square kilometers divided into three areas, the island of Hong Kong is the economic heart, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories which occupy the remaining ninety percent." But I want to know: "is the soul of Hong Kong more Chinese or British?". With that mysterious intriguing smile which so much characterize her, Doris explains that nothing has really ever changed: the Central District skyscrapers still dominate the zone and the Buddha still stands on Landau island. In the fjord Aberdeen is always packed with thousands of junks where homeless people keep on living on their floating disastrous boats, on Apliu Street they still sell faked Rolex and computer, whereas Kweilin Street and Portland Street remain the paradise of sex and pornography. Hong Kong will never become a Chinese city also due to the language: few Hongkongers speak Mandarin, but just only English and Cantonese, all the signs are bilingual, with traditional non-simplified characters, the same ones used in Taiwan whereas in China mainland they use the simplified ones. "At home I speak only Cantonese because my father cannot speak neither English nor Mandarin ...". According to Doris, Hong Kong is not China, unfortunately but it's not even England. Hong Kong is just Hong Kong. She does not understand why they keep on driving on the right side, why Beijing allows to write on the stamps Hong Kong, instead of the Chinese name Xiang Gang in characters (harbor of perfumes). Doris continues: "and then why do they keep on using the Hong Kong dollar and not the chinese yuan instead. The HK currency is just only used here!". Actually most people use both currencies, Hongkongers are canning and know how advantageous is keeping feet in two boats: work and take a capitalist salary in Hong Kong, live and spend it in a supermarket in the nearby communist Shenzhen where everything costs less, flats are even ten times cheaper! She describes a detail which better explains this: "early in the morning Chinese kids dressed in impeccable uniforms cross the Luohuo bridge to go to school in Hong Kong. Few years ago there were only few of them, but now there are really a lot". At night many others cross the famous bridge, just to see the shops and spend fancy evenings in trendy bars in Hong Kong. I ask her what she most dislikes of Hong Kong, but she can not give me an immediate response, then she looks around as if she is searching for inspiration and then she repeats: "money, money, money, money. In Hong Kong you can breathe the smell of money everywhere, you can die suffocated by this smell, the only way to survive is to have large amounts of money, the standard of living is terribly high."
THE END Zaijian Beijing, although this is not a real goodbye, I promise and I always keep my promises. Zaijian my sweet and smart Doris, Zaijian friendly Chinese people, Zaijian fudao Laoshi, Zaijian Wang Zaijian my loving Chinese family. I will miss you all like crazy. I miss you too taxi drivers who always ask me questions as soon as I sit on your race cars, I'll miss the immensity and the perfection of the Forbidden City, I will miss the irresistible romance of the Summer Palace, the mysterious spiritualism of the Lama Temple, the immensity of the Great Wall, I'll miss the music of Beijing opera, I will miss the scent of green tea that hovers in the air cuddling all my dreams. I want to return to live here two, three, ten years or maybe even a lifetime. China, wait for me and do not change too much, because I know that when I return one day I will see you differently. Probably anyone who will read this book some time after 2002 will find a China "of the past" ... because time flies here, yesterday is today, today is already tomorrow. Zhonguo wo ai ni 中国我爱你 China I love you