Being in China, at least in Dongguan, is very peaceful. The Chinese have an entirely different way of life than Americans-- the pace everyone goes at here is so calm. In the morning, children come out and play, even before school. Older men can be seen exercising at small parks built into the Garden. There are designated areas, outside but still in the garden, with tables where friends play games with one another. Women stand outside talking to each other with their babies in their arms. In the afternoon, lunch breaks are usually 1.5 hours long; this gives everyone time to stop and nap. Are you hearing this, they have designated nap time!? In the evenings, the old-folks get together and dance outside of the garden gates; this is also a form of exercise as well as a cultural tradition. There is much time and recognition given to the physical and mental needs of human beings. Here, in Nancheng, health and prosperity are given great weight in daily routines.
Further, I would say that the vast majority of the Chinese people I have met here, are the sweetest-natured people. The concept of crime (if it exists) is so grossly different than what crime is in the U.S.A. Being in China is like growing up in the 1950's in Iowa -- children out alone after dark, women out alone after dark. What is going on here?
I can walk home after work, which is a good 20 minute walk down a “main road,” and not have to worry about my personal safety at all. Alright, I did this on the rugged streets of Denver as well, but not without hardening my gaze and shifting my walk. The hard-boiled appearance required when you are walking around, on your own, after dark, in most big cities in the U.S. (the one's that I've lived in anyway), doesn't exist here. Being female and alone is suddenly no big deal. The biggest concern I've even had is simply being naive about prices when bartering for an item with a merchant. How ridiculous is it, that this is my greatest dilemma? What is mace again?
With all this information in mind, I find it only natural to want to tell you about my one "close encounter" (even perverts here are nice):
Today I ventured out from my apartment and walked the main road from the Nancheng district (where I live), to the Dongcheng district. I’d quantify that distance for you, but I have no idea how to. City blocks are gigantic here, and comparing them to a US city block makes no sense to my brain. Miles… how many miles did I walk? From the city to the mountain! Lets go with a LONG walk. Anyway, on the way to Dongcheng, a man on his bike (older), started to ride along next to me and talk.
At first, I tried to tell him, in Mandarin, that I couldn't understand what he was saying. Then I realized he was speaking Cantonese. Oh Jesus, Thank you! I said, "hello" in Cantonese and fumbled through a few lines. Oh wow, My Cantonese sucks. I think in an hour of talking I understood maybe three sentences. But the take-away detail from the previous sentence is that there was an hour of talking between this gentleman and myself. How is this possible, you may ask yourself?
For the first few minutes he rode slowly along next to me. After about ten minutes, he indicated to me that I should get on the back seat of his bike (me laughing and shaking my head, "no"). After mild persistence on my end, he dismounted to walk along next to me. We went around blocks, he pointing and saying the name of each building. Here is a library. Now a community center. Then a business structure.
After a while he pointed to the sun and covered his head. He pointed to a thick patch of trees in the park, and started to lift his bike over the park wall as an indication that he wanted to go to the shady place(no pun intended). I had to rationalize through his set of hand gestures. Yes it was bright outside, but the weather here is insane, all things considered, it wasn't that hot. However, the Chinese people do value pale skin, and getting burned or tan is considered low class (it means you work outside, and is the physical manifestation of being working class).
I shook my head, again telling him, "no." He longingly looked at the trees, but pulled his bike off the wall and continued to walk with me. We went for a few more blocks, he still talking, and myself occasionally insisting that I did not understand him. When we passed by an open area of grass (much more public), he walked over to a shady patch and sat down. I followed.
Do you have a shiver yet, dear reader? I did :D. As we sat in the shade, he leaned over and rested his elbow on my leg. Yuh. That was his great move! He said in Chinese, "I really like American women. I love America." Then he looked at me with an expression I would expect from my cat when he is trying to seduce an extra meal out of me.
In the US, I'd have laughed at a man who made his signature move in this manner. However, I know that in China, the culture doesn't allow for physical contact. Furthermore, men should never approach women this way. This knowledge did not stop from me from laughing my ass off as I stood up, asked to take his picture, and then started to walk away, calling, "bye-bye." All the while, he was panicking behind me. Poor guy. Non-verbal communication is a bitch.