Thursday, May 29, 2008

On my way home

Just so you all know, a rooster woke me up this morning... at the time I needed it to... it was weird.

It's my final day in Xiamen. We've accomplished a lot and seen a lot. I didn't do as many touristy or recreational things as I was expecting but that's okay with me. I've really enjoyed working and we've been able to get a lot of good things done. I guess I'll have to come back and really do the touristy things. Next time I'm bringing my wife and daughter.

So I leave this afternoon at 2 - 3pm out of Xiamen and fly into Narita. I was thinking about taking the train into Tokyo proper just to see it. But my flight gets in at 7 pm and the train into Tokyo takes around an hour and I have to be back at the airport in Narita for an 11 am flight. Given how tired I am I don't think I want to try and manage something like that.

I get back in to Chicago at 8 am on Saturday and will meet up with my aunt and uncle for the drive back to Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, Katherine and Lyla leave on Friday to go to Ohio for her cousin's wedding. So I won't see them until Sunday. It will work out fine because I'll need to rest and don't want to force them to be around me when I'm jetlagged. Still I miss them a lot and really can't wait to see them.

Here's a picture taken last Sunday at lunch. Adriel and his wife Lauren are front right, Bill is on the left in the very rear.

China has been awesome. It's definitely more modern than I think a lot of Americans would expect. It's so neat to see how the country is shaped by two main forces: the sheer number of people and the culture... both of which go hand in hand. The culture is very different from American culture in that freedom and independence are not valued. You might think that this is absurd but when you think about living in a place that has 4 times the number of Americans it begins to make sense. When you are a country as big as China, you value stability and stability requires control and maintenance. As a result, the people seek to fit in, to not rock the boat. And the government seeks to preserve that stability and protect its people by attacking whatever it perceives to be threatening. The other huge cultural influence here is the importance of saving face. As a result, people (esp. the government) are more likely to respond to shaming than they are to logic or foresight. Once you understand that, it's easy to fit in and to use that knowledge to get things done. This of course is a very simplistic assessment of a culture and people who have a long history and thus is not complete nor does it do justice to the beauty and intrigue of this place.

I've really enjoyed my stay. I like Chinese food a lot but I am ready to come home. Forty six hours of travel to get back to my own bed does not seem that bad right now. Especially because ANA (All Nippon Airlines) really knows how to treat its passengers.

The picture to the right is me looking perplexed at the "no pandas" sign in the Japanese temple grounds.

Here's a video I took while we were driving somewhere. I tried to get a video of what has been described as the "blending" style of driving but this doesn't really capture it. If I take a cab to the airport I may have a chance to film it. The crazy thing is that cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians all use the roads (even highways) and everyone just tries to take the path of least resistance when trying to get somewhere. It's crazy. Kind of stressful too.