It's not something you seek as a tourist. No time for that. I want to visit this, see that, go there, "been there, done that" style. But I'm in for a year long journey, and understanding the Chinese culture won't happen without mixing in. So I'm trying, with limited success.
Every now and then an okay English speaking local comes up to me and starts to chat. I'm always keen on chatting, just don't get me off track. Last Friday I lapsed.
As I walked out of a small supermarket in my campus five Chinese students ran up to me offering me to join their community through a phone app they had created. I brushed them off. I'm active on over 5 social media platforms, I don't need more. They persisted in a sympathetic way so I gave them a second chance. Everyone deserves one. I wish I got a second chance more than once. Cruel world; "Rawrrr".
Their app's purpose was to connect local people with expats. "Do you want to hang out with Chinese people or expats?" one asked. "Locals". My Swedish friend made a face.
With that said, they had me, backed into a corner; the following question was obvious: "Would you like to hang with us?". I did but I didn't so I postponed, sharing my contact info and heading off to my lecture starting in 10 minutes. Sometimes it just doesn't feel real, genuinely honest. I'd never walk up to a stranger in a western country and say "Hey mate, wanna hang out with me?". That would be the weirdest thing to do and that's why it just doesn't occur. But in China it happens on a weekly basis so I had to end up falling for it.
On Saturday they offered me to have breakfast with them the next day.
I went to meet Bea, Flora, Frank Li and Mate at a subway station near their home (don't get fooled, these are their chosen English names!). We then caught a bus to Xiao Zhou, a small village out of Guangzhou. It felt good just to get out of town a bit and change scenery, not the concrete jungle anymore. Fish farms, some crops, filthy rivers, messy streets.
We shared "Dim sum" for breakfast, which means snacks. The restaurant was full of people spinning the steamed or fried food around snatching their favorites as they chatted. Bea explained me how it was a tradition for them to gather for a meal, especially if it was dim sum and Sunday. Huh! Scored two points.
We then visited the village. Buildings had quite a few drawings and paintings on their facades but nothing outstanding for a town said to be a meeting point for students who wish to learn how to draw. An old beaten up building with electric cables and AC pipes hanging out doesn't gain much charm with a few pencil drawings on it. Not in my book.
After a village tour we decided to move on and go to Lotus Mountain. A bus brought us back to the Higher Education Mega Center, an island in Guangzhou with ten universities on it and over 100 000 inhabitants which are for 99% students. We hopped on the Line 4 of the subway and got off at Shiqi. A new bus brought us to the famous Lotus Mountain. Although the Lotus flowers were all dead, it's truly a beautiful park, and the temple at the top is a peaceful place.
The last picture of the photo gallery shows the steep hill we climbed to reach the top. We caught up with this man carrying all sorts of colorful thingies.
Chinese people don't worship much. To quote Frank Li they "don't like "European" religions" meaning Christianity and only very few are Muslim. They have some Buddhists but nothing crazy. To sum it up, there is no mega trend as far as religion goes in China. Some worship the Moon when it goes full. They each got their thing; for this man and the others at this temple it was Buddhism or Sunday fun day.
After the tour we walked down for a late lunch and went home. It was a great experience and a good day I am happy to have shared with them.
Making Chinese friends is among my goals and I will definitely pursue this relationship but by times it just lacked depth. To get genuinely interesting I need to either learn Chinese, I mean rely learn it to a point it exceeds their English, either they need to dramatically improve their English. No offence meant here, but very often conversations just couldn't go very far because the premises were idling.
And I don't want to stay in neutral, let's get the gears going, bring up that torque; "Vroummm".