Outside the Great Firewall

Now that I’m outside China, it’s time you all should know the unfiltered truth about the country….

It’s a common belief that the Chinese government monitors everything from email to blogs and censors everything from news to mail to internet content. The only thing that I ever noticed was different was the fact that I did not have access to Facebook. I still accessed news websites and blogged without consequence (but with some reservation). My personal opinion is that there is no possible way the government is reading everything. For one, there are so many freaking people that they would require another country the size of China just to handle the monitoring. And 2nd, they are just not smart enough, which is something I could blog about for months. But, I won’t bore you and generalize all Chinese people.

The government is also on one big power trip for no reason at all. One night, we were at the train station trying to get out of town for the weekend. While we were in line, there was an altercation with a man and the police. Instead of arresting him and taking him to the police station, they just kicked his ass in front of everyone for a couple hours. I’m assuming they did this to set an example. There was no need. In a city of 12 million, crime was really rare. Basically, if you steal something, they just cut your hand off. Hurt or kill someone, you’ll be dead within a few weeks.

In addition, the country loves a cover up. When I went to Beijing, I assumed everyone would speak English because of the huge overhaul they did for the 2008 Olympics. No. A friend of mine told me that the government just forced all the Chinese English speakers to work in the city for the event. Guangzhou is getting ready to host the Asian games in November and as of July 1st they’ve taken action to reduce the pollution in the city. So, no more big trucks or construction in the city center but once the games are over, it’s okay to go back to polluting the Earth. At least they actually acknowledge that the city is polluted. Also, I don’t think it was a coincidence that in the last month, most of the taxi drivers, all of a sudden spoke a little english. I’m sure once the games are over the old, rude, farting, burping, lougey hacking drivers who scream mandarin and refuse to take you to remote parts of town will be back in action. So, if you ever go to China, just remember that almost everything is an illusion.

And lastly, there is a big rumor that China is on track to be the next world power. Not gonna happen. The only reason this rumor exists is because of the huge number of people. Of course the economy will grow when you almost have nearly 2 billion people and many of them are coming into the age where they have a little spending power. But, until their government gives them a little more freedom, how can they advance, try new things and grow into this power. And even when (and if) that happens, it’s going to take decades for the people to embrace the change.

Of course, these are all just personal opinions. And if the government is reading blogs, I can probably consider my Chinese visa revoked.

D-O-N-E

Fabien’s contract in China and with his company was scheduled to end on July 31st. I was freaking out a little thinking that we’d both return to the US without jobs to one of the worst economies in the country. And not to mention the fact that Fabien is a foreigner and even with his excellent experience, that still makes him a challenging candidate. That being said, once we did return to the US Fabien would only have 3 months to find a job before he would be forced to return to France. So, needless to say, we were totally thrilled when we were in the Philippines and he received an email from a Director at his company stating he would like to speak with him about a permanent transfer to the US. From hearing that, I exhaled a little. Our excitement was short-lived when he finally connected with the Director and was told the company would like him to stay in China for 6 months and then transfer to the US. This was deflating because we already began to make plans and had our mind set on being in Michigan for summer camping, Michigan games, the marathon, etc. Plus, we are both mentally done with China. The days following that information were like a rollercoaster. And this was all going on while Fabien’s parents and 4 friends were here and I was playing tour guide. Then, while we were in Macau Fabien’s mom received a phone call from him. On the way back from his farewell lunch he received a call that they would settle for 2 months in China with the transfer happening in October. Big exhale. We’ll take it. If you’re familiar with the Detroit economy and the US Immigration system, you will know that this is truly a miracle.

Even though Fabien has another 2 months to endure, we both decided that I should return home. I’m really, really, really sad that I am leaving him behind, but I am really, really, really excited to get home. I am done with China. Done with hearing people burp, spit, fart and slurp their noodles. Done with the heat. Done with the pollution. Done with the sidewalks being tore up everywhere I go. Done with trying to speak chinese. Done with trying to embrace the culture. Done using squatty potties. Done with everything smelling like a toilet and cigarettes. Done with having to look both ways, ten times when crossing the street. Done with the metro. Done with people staring at me all the time. D-O-N-E. Done. So, I began pricing flights to go home for the 2nd week of August with a brief stop in France to visit Fabien’s family. After a full spreadsheet and checking and rechecking, the cheapest flight I found was leaving Friday, August 6th and by the grace of God, it was a direct 15 hour flight from Hong Kong, so unfortunately, there would be no France for me. But, as I post this, I’m happy to announce that I am home. Home, sweet home.

This also means that my occupation as a blogger will be ending soon. But, before I retire, I plan to write a no holds barred expose on China and, of course, a reflection piece. Stay tuned for 2 more Stacie in Asia blogs, directly from Stacie in North America.

My Night at the Brothel

Fabien went to Japan this week with a couple friends, so I’ve been left to fend for myself. My friend, Julia, had some vacation time to burn, so it worked out well that both our boyfriends were out of town and we were women in need of some relaxation. I suggested we finally head to the all night spa that she had told me about months ago. And so we boarded the train Wednesday evening and within an hour and a half we were being greeted by 10 singing women spa employees. Weird.

They immediately whisk you to the female locker room and give you a key tag with a number that services are charged to. The attendant screamed as us to take a shower and threw a towel down. Strange. So we did as we were told and when I got out of the shower, I couldn’t find Julia. Another attendant said something I didn’t understand and motioned for me to follow her. Hell bent on not being kidnapped and sold into sex slavery I decided to find Julia instead. Once I did, we were given pajamas and cleared to enter the spa area. I was just grateful they make everyone shower up before coming in with God knows what on their body.

It reminded me of being in a casino except there was no gambling and everyone was in pajamas. Low overhead lamps, neon lights, curricular booths, women dressed scantly clad and lots of people smoking. The cool points were that there were leather recliners with your own personal TV screens everywhere, free buffets and so many activities to occupy your time. Sauna, steam room, 5 pools, hot tubs, pool and ping pong tables, bars, restaurants and kids area (yes, there were tons of kids there). For our first activity, we decided on a 2 hour aroma therapy massage. After we ordered it up, the hostess asked us if we’d like to choose our girls. Bizarre. Um, I’ll just take one that is free of any sort of STD, thanks. The massage itself was actually one of the best I’ve had and my masseuse was nothing but professional. However, it sounded like the guy in the next room had the best “massage” of his life. Creepy. After that, we were ready for bed, which would be in one of the big leather chairs. Surprisingly I slept really well with the exception of someone’s kid crying several times throughout the night and people having loud conversations on their cell phones. This just reinforced the fact that there is no common courtesy in China.

The next morning Julia and I had one of the most amazing cups of coffee I’ve ever had, fresh fruit and foot massages, all while we watched a movie. This time my masseuse raped my foot with his hands. Basically, it just hurt and I asked him to stop several times. He responded by telling me we was trying to work out the pain and that I should relax. No means no and after I protested further, he eased up. Then I got a foot scraping, which sounds scary but I can assure you that my feet are as soft as the day I was born.

I’m positive there were some sketchy things going on but overall, the place was pretty awesome, clean and, for the most part, classy. For about a hundred dollars I got a few hours worth of massages, ate great food, drank, had a relaxing night and another authentic experience.