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Thursday, June 12, 2008

So long, Farewell, Auf wiedersehen, Zai Jian

Two years in China: check. Grades are in, salaries are paid, tickets are booked, and its only a matter of hours before I leave this mysterious, baffling, wonderful, terrible country. And now it's time to say so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, zai jian, to all things China, good and bad.

Goodbye homicidal cab drivers. Drivers who would not just be arrested, but beaten to death by angry mobs back in the states, and yet somehow still manage to get offended when you put on your seatbelt when they try to play chicken with a bus. And that seatbelt, so filthy from never being used, covered in dust and cigarette ash and god knows what else from countless other passengers, that it leaves a stain like bacon grease on the front of your shirt.

Goodbye cheap eats. I am still amazed at how cheap it is to eat out, and eat well, in China. A group of four can go out and have a small feast of three of four dishes and beer (sometimes it's even cold ... but more on that in a moment) for less than $2US a person, no tax, no tip. It's going to be painful getting used to dining out in America again, assuming I ever have the money to do so.

Goodbye, freshmen. It was a very strange year of not really knowing if you were learning a damn thing. What small glimpses of success I had were outside of class, never within, as even good students who were chatterboxes face to face were as passive as wet dirt in class. Only when students talked with me outside of class, students who before couldn't or didn't have the confidence to speak three words clearly, it was when they started having meaningful conversations, started voicing ideas that weren't just lifted from some textbook, that I knew I was at least having some impact. But goodbye none the less, students who at turns delighted and frustrated me, who made up such a large proportion of what life was about in Jilin.

Goodbye bad beer. If I never have another piss-warm rice-grain Snow beer again, I will be a happy man.

Goodbye Jenny, my dear friend, who was such a huge part of making Jilin what it was. She'll have good people with here next year, Kevin and Aaron and the other two Maryknollers who will be going north to Jilin.

Goodbye gateway travel. Before China, I knew of travel as an EF package tour through Europe. Post-China, travel to me is doing everything on my own, taking the run-down local buses, eating where the locals eat, avoiding the crowds of the beaten path, and finding joy in getting lost and getting around in a new country, in a crowd of new faces and languages. China has helped me realize this, and it's been a gateway for traveling throughout Asia. I'll never be able to travel so far and so frequently again.

Goodbye loud disgusting loogies. No place on earth will ever match the loud throat-emptying frequency of China's spitters and hockers. On the bus, in a restaurant, snot rockets on the ground or wiping it on the bus seat next to you, China will always remain the king of phlegm.

Goodbye dog on the menu. For shame.

Goodbye dumplings on the menu. You will be dearly missed.

Goodbye plentiful photo ops. I could walk around Jilin, or any city in China, and I'd run out of steam before my camera ran out of things to snap. So many strange, stupid, bizarre, and funny things going on when you cram billions of people together.

Goodbye Bus 32, the sole bus to and from campus, that was never empty, often times more than full, horribly maintained dirty ugly uncomfortable terrible buses. Goodbye the refusal to make a line to get on, goodbye idiotic and meaningless bullrushes to get on an already overcrowded bus, goodbye moronic drivers, horn honking that'd make the taxi drivers blush, slamming on the brakes, and goodbye hot cramped crowded human cattle cars. If I ever become a millionaire, I'm going to buy a whole new fleet of buses just for that route. I hated that bus, and I rode it all the time, and will be so happy to never ride it again.

And finally (for now, at least), goodbye crowds. Goodbye crush of billions of people, goodbye never having any personal space in public, goodbye gawkers and staring and yelling "Hello!" and people remarkably oblivious to others' and their own bodies position in three-dimensional space. Goodbye yelling spitting loud laughing hot and sweaty pushing shoving angry awestruck oblivious charming annoying Chinese crowds.

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