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Rice paddy terraces

The Chinese Agora

In Ancient Greece, the wise men of Athens would meet at the assembly square (known as the Agora) to discuss what was on their minds, from the best form of government to whether or not a de-feathered chicken could be considered a man (yeah, the Ancient Athenians were weird). Sure, we are over 4,000+ miles away from Athens, but I can certainly try my best to emulate this exchange of ideas. Here is what I and the other nine members of the Dragons crew have observed during our time in China, in little bite-sized chunks for your entertainment:

– Chinese driving is bonkers. Anything goes. Think Mad Max mixed with Crazy Taxi.
– Most Chinese are extremely willing to help each other and even foreigners like us. During our time in Beijing we had a scavenger hunt, and one of the things on the list was to borrow a Chinese person’s phone and call our instructors. Naturally I was mortified. I am used to cities like NYC, where asking to borrow someone’s phone is akin to loudly complementing Chicago “””pizza”””. Much to my surprise, however, the first person we asked readily let us use their phone. Not only that, but they rushed after us when we left our map behind. For all the ways China can seem rude (*cough* people pushing on the bus/subway *cough*), people are extremely open to helping others.
– Learning how to live without music is probably the hardest thing for me on the trip so far. I think most of us are used to using music as a crutch when we feel down, so we are going through serious music withdrawal.
– China, like many Communist states, struggles with either having collective leadership (the Party higher-ups calling the shots) and strongman leadership (Mao, Stalin, Castro, etc.). After the death of Deng Xiaoping, China returned to party leadership. With Xi Jinping, the pendulum has swung all the way back to strongman leadership. While his face isn’t omnipresent in propaganda, you spend enough time in China and you realize pretty quickly that Xi calls the shots now, and he isn’t stepping down anytime soon.
– Magpies are majestic creatures. No real mind-blowing information here, I just never knew how cool they looked. Probably the most important thing I learned in China.
– Spending two weeks without western food can make even the most mediocre grilled cheese taste like nirvana.
– China is extremely religiously and linguistically diverse, although the Party would have you think otherwise. Confucianism, Daoism, Islam and Christianity are all thriving in China despite intense governmental pressure. As for language, Tibetan is everywhere here on the Tibetan plateau, despite the party’s insistence that everyone speaks Mandarin.

Those are just a few little things we have noticed so far on the trip, so I hope you guys enjoyed. Also a quick update: we will be headed on our trekking/rural homestay stage soon, so we may not have reliable internet for the next week or so.