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Born in the UK but now living in Australia, Paul Fox has travelled to many places throughout China. He has seen the lighter side, the darker side, both the gentle and the seedy sides. He documents his experiences and is willing to share them with anyone who wants to listen. He is not afraid to say things exactly how he sees them, and is quite happy to "name and shame" when necessary.
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Are you Ready for REALITY ?    

By Paul Fox
2692 Views | 6 Comments | 1/5/2014 3:18:43 PM

A face you should remember but a name you have probably forgotten - Simon Weston (OBE) - A welsh soldier, a hero from the Falklands war back in the 1980's. Simon became a household name because of his bravery when fighting for his country, suffering horrendous injuries in an explosion that resulted in 45% burns and dis-figured him for life. Simon was, and continues to be a huge inspiration to many people who have faced massive hurdles in their lives and shows us that life really does go on, no matter how bad things get.

A new year dawns and as is often the case, a time for reflection. A time each and every 12 months when many of us think about our past mistakes, things that have gone wrong in our lives and what we can do to make them better in the year ahead.
Is this going to be "MY YEAR"? - Is this really going to be the year in which I will find my eternal happiness? - No-one knows, but like Simon, we don't simply roll over and give up because life has not been so kind to us in the past.
Whist Simon Weston has been a huge inspiration to thousands of people, there is another reason as to why I am mentioning this kind and gentle man who spends most of his life doing charity work
Simon is a burns victim.
At times, the English language has some strange phrases. The media would refer to a person such as Simon as being "Burnt Beyond Recognition" - a strange turn-of-phrase really, especially if you consider that a serious burns victim is probably the most recognizable person in the room (and I am not being flippant)
Out in the street, people would recognize Simon Weston BECAUSE of his burns - not despite them - and I am certain that during the last 30 years or so, he has become well accustomed to the stares and remarks that have become part of his everyday life.

2014 is the year in which you are going to meet the love of your life - right ? - But are you prepared.....I mean, REALLY prepared ?

When you finally arrive in her home-town and your Chinese girl is there at the airport to meet you with a big beaming smile on her face, are you prepared for what will happen during the next few days, even hours??
Your Chinese is perhaps as limited as her English so you rely on body language and that wonderful little translation tool on your I-phone. As you walk down the street you are one western face in a crowd of millions of Asian faces. You are as recognizable as an individual just as much as Simon Weston. Are you prepared for the stares? Are you prepared to see eyes following you as you walk because people in the street have never seen a western face in their town before?
Are you prepared to sit on a bus or train and feel comfortable while the 3-year old child sitting on Mama's knee opposite you stares at you constantly throughout the whole journey because that child has NEVER seen a western face in their life?

You may get the occasional "Hello" - often followed by a giggle - as a young girl may try to impress her friend by speaking probably the only English word that she knows - and when you reply "Hello", it will likely be followed by further giggles.
Your girl is now the subject of low-level discussion and she is also being stared at as she squeezes your hand re-reassuringly whilst muttering something you don't understand.

As you enter the restaurant you may feel a little more "at-ease", even though you are constantly being stared at by fellow diners, but as you are handed a menu that looks like it has been written by a spider, you rely on her to order food for you.
Her China culture makes her think she is being kind to you when she orders you fish-head soup, braised chicken feet and duck intestines, but as the dishes arrive on the table and you don't know where to turn, she now feels that she has done something wrong and quickly orders you something else - perhaps fried goose-head, pigs brains or lungs?
As you try your best to explain that you are not hungry because you ate on the plane, it is no problem. The Chinese hate to waste food so she will just ask the waitress to pop it in a bag so you can take it with you and eat it later.......

Right now your girl is a face on a computer screen, a message in your in-box. You both have a strong desire for more and more, but in reality, are you really prepared for... REALITY ?
It is HER town that you are going to - so naturally she will feel a lot more comfortable than you are likely to - but believe me, if you have never been to China before, you are going to experience sights, smells, sounds and reactions like never before.
Don't get me wrong, it is a wonderful country that has a very unique "attraction" that's almost impossible to describe. Just popping outside at 11 o'clock at night to buy a packet of smokes from the nearest deli or street vendor is an experience in itself - but if you are not PREPARED for life in China and what lies ahead, you are going to potentially have some serious regrets!

I have a brother in the UK. Every year he and his family shoot off for 10 days to some European country. Maybe Spain, Majorca, Greece etc for a nice relaxing holiday.
Then he will come home and tell you what a wonderful place Greece is (or wherever).
After a few years of these never ending stories about how wonderful (or terrible) a certain country was, I discovered that they NEVER left the holiday resort during the whole duration of their holiday!
OK, so a holiday is supposed to be relaxing and a time for "chilling-out" - but to sit by a pool all day for 10 days drinking cocktails hardly qualifies a person for stating whether a country is a nice place to visit or not, especially when you have been cocooned in a bubble for a couple of weeks!
"What about the markets, the shopping, the nightlife?" I would ask him - "Oh, we never did any of that stuff - but I can highly recommend Majorca as a holiday destination!"
What a "plonker!"
I sincerely hope he never heads to China for a holiday because he is in for one hell of a shock!

That said, if you have never been to China before then nothing can really "prepare" you for what you are likely to experience. The only "preparation"  is to do as much research as you can and try to mentally prepare yourself for your China travel. No matter whether your trip is successful or not (insofar as finding the right partner), you are likely to take home some memories that you will hold forever

 

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Comments
(Showing 1 to 6 of 6) 1
#2014-01-05 15:30:36 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

The staring thing never really goes away in China, even in the major cities. Although there are lots of foreigners in Shenzhen, or Shanghai or Beijing, for example, there are not so many that you aren't frequently the only one in a restaurant, or even the only one on a busy downtown street. And on any given day there are more Chinese visitors from rural China to these cities by far than there are foreigners in them. So there is always some Chinese person nearby who is seeing a foreigner for the first time when he sees you.

Just get used to it, especially if you're with your Chinese girlfriend or wife. It is always going to be a fact of life while you're in China.

#2014-01-06 15:55:46 by aussieghump @aussieghump

There may be situations where the lady's hometown is the last place she wants to meet you! It used to be common for a lady who might like you to invite you to visit a city away from her hometown!

Yes, I agree that local food and local haunts are relaxing at times - but they are also threatening!

1) She probably hasn't been to any places you might like - bars and nightclubs, foreign restaurants and hotels are usually off-limits to a 'traditional' local lady.
She may not know anything about your culture or your 'needs' when travelling.

2) She will be watched by everyone (and Chinese like to gossip and cluck) - and will be on her 'best behaviour' in a Chinese sense - this may not be relaxed or like she is on the video-phone in the privacy of her home. Be careful of this...if you insist on going to their hometown be wary of this possible limitation on her personality.

3) She may be performing - expectations within her family and friend structure will be high to have a man 'pursue' her in her home town - from the other side of the world no less! It must be love! They will be married next week and when she lives in America (every foreigner comes from America) she will send word and all of them will emigrate and live on a big ranch and eat beef every day!

You don't marry the woman - you marry the family! And that starts with the first date!

#2014-01-07 13:28:51 by anonymous8645 @anonymous8645

@aussieghump - I find it fascinating when you write "She probably hasn't been to any places you might like - bars and nightclubs, foreign restaurants and hotels are usually off-limits to a 'traditional' local lady."

It seems the majority of Chinese women I have met so far have great experience with the bar and nightclub scene! Where are you meeting these innocent ladies???

#2014-01-07 20:29:19 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@anonymous8645
Obviously you are meeting 'experienced' ladies! Or younger ones! Or ones on holiday where the chances of 'western debaulchery' being observed by people who know them is slim!

The example as stated probably fits for a majority of slightly older women on CLM - they may 'go out' with friends to similar places that are 'safely Chinese' a few times....maybe with work, but probably very rarely mix with foreigners socially. They are unlikely to be discerningly experienced between foreign drinks, cuisines or drinking/party culture

If the lady has family or responsibilities, her past-times are likely to be more family and community directed and she is unlikely to attend these places mentioned. She probably doesn't drink much either, is more likely to save rather than spend. Her primary concern will be children and family, not nightclubs and partying to the small hours

If you meet a lady that can hold a lot of alcohol, knows a few people in a few bars and seems to enjoy the scene with wild abandon and little concern for cost them I would suspect that she may be a female player! Or be used to the 'high life'!

If your primary acquaintance is this type of lady, you are not meeting someone I would easily classify as 'traditional' as per my comment!

Given that many ladies on CLM classify themselves as 'traditional' rather than 'modern' then I have no problems with the general validity of my comment. To break away from the restrictions of a 'traditional Chinese' lifestyle, the lady may indeed have to travel just a little away from it!! So ask before you just 'turn up' at her railway station and demand the full guided tour! And also be aware of what the 'meaning' might be in a 'traditional sense'!

#2014-01-07 20:55:18 by Barry1 @Barry1

@paulfox1

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Paul.

In my limited experience of China, the more inland I travelled - further and further away from the tourist towns - the more and more interesting China became.

In this way, cities such as Shanghai and Suzhou were - as nice as they are - not as interesting as Nanjing or Xuzhou as far as experiencing the real China.

Similarly, travelling in the slow, rickety trains were also far more interesting than on the high speed rail, as more normal, working class folks use the cheaper, slower trains.

But - isn't there always a "but" to everything in life? - the downside to meandering around the traditional, less popular places is that less and less people speak English. So unless one has at least a rough knowledge of Pinyin, one really needs to be accompanied by a Chinese speaking person, presumably the nice lady you've travelled so far to see.

A good example of this is Hangzhou (and Hong Kong).

These places are lovely in their own way - but are so infested with tourists from all over the world - to me, they're simply not as interesting to visit as more remote regions.

No doubt the same could be written about every country in the world, not just China.

If you want to experience the real culture and traditions of a region - get away from the popular areas. Go and explore the hidden valleys, the craggy peaks and one horse towns where Westerners would rarely dare to visit. And don't be in a hurry!

Make sure also to take a video camera with you. Because you'll be seeing fascinating things that otherwise will inexorably fade away in your memory with the slow passing of the years.

#2014-02-15 11:18:10 by Grace172 @Grace172

"As you enter the restaurant you may feel a little more "at-ease", even though you are constantly being stared at by fellow diners, but as you are handed a menu that looks like it has been written by a spider, you rely on her to order food for you.
Her China culture makes her think she is being kind to you when she orders you fish-head soup, braised chicken feet and duck intestines, but as the dishes arrive on the table and you don't know where to turn, she now feels that she has done something wrong and quickly orders you something else - perhaps fried goose-head, pigs brains or lungs?
As you try your best to explain that you are not hungry because you ate on the plane, it is no problem. The Chinese hate to waste food so she will just ask the waitress to pop it in a bag so you can take it with you and eat it later......."
I can not help bust out with laugh when I read these paragraphs. (rofl) How can you write your story so lively and sarcastic.. I really admire your skill of writing. lol

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