Mutatis

Sean is sleeping near my desk; his schedule is completely out of whack. We’re both being reasonably productive, but this is a largely unstructured life at the moment. In fact, many other strictures also seem to have fallen by the wayside. Whether to good or ill effect, I can’t yet say.

I suggested to him (after he disposed of some subpar fruit pieces by tossing them to the side of an alley) that he is becoming more Chinese. Putting aside the disputed question of whether he would have utilized the same disposal method in the States, I think he thinks any change in his behavior is a necessary or at least reasonable adaptation.

How Chinese do we want to be? There are clearly many points of life here, even so far, that are superior to life in the States. For one thing, despite my unfamiliarity, metric is more logical and I should get used to it. More importantly, the environment encourages some salubrious habits. One can walk to a store to acquire supplies; produce is cheap, and at least some of it is cheaper than some processed food. I also appreciate that the ready correlation between energy and water use and a bill for it encourages awareness and conservation. (Of course, maybe this is no different from how many people live in the States; but I had a ridiculously inflated flat-fee utility bill, which encouraged me to get my money’s worth.) I’m not expected to maintain a personal automobile, a circumstance I often felt guilty about in the states. I didn’t want to drive a car, didn’t want to worry about it, didn’t want to have to return to my starting point if I took a trip, didn’t want to pollute, would rather get some exercise, would rather be able to drink without determining whether I’d need to go anywhere in the next few hours, and didn’t want to pay insurance (which is clearly a massive, and massively inefficient, scam). Plus, Beijing subway kicks L.A. subway’s ass.

I’m not stressed out. This is good. Of course, had I quit my lawyer job and taken up studenthood in the States, I would likely also be less stressed. It’s certainly cheaper to be a student in Beijing than in L.A. (On the other hand, I must be nuts: I still can hardly say anything to most people, can navigate only in a very limited way, and almost get hit by various motorized vehicles all the friggin’ time.)

But. I’m not such a big fan of everyone spitting in the street all the time. Not a fan of adults peeing in the bushes at the park when there is a public toilet in view, if not within 10 meters. Not a fan of people throwing their trash to the ground, even though in most parts of town it seems that someone else comes along and cleans it up reasonably promptly. I’m getting used to the pushing/shoving/no personal space thing…but I still wish people would form an orderly line so I didn’t feel like I had to push/shove/breathe down the old lady’s neck myself. I wish people would maintain awareness of others using the sidewalk and make some effort not to obstruct others’ movements. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m willing to resist. I have my standards. We’ll see how long that lasts.

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