April 8, 2004
Today we went to a market near the University and then shopping in downtown Qufu. The market was more or less what I was expecting, but its a lot different to really experience it. To see, hear, and especially smell it makes it seem so much more real. To imagine that being daily life for people is hard. It seemed so far removed from the life I live in Vermont. I can still picture vividly the vegetables laid out on the ground; huge pieces of raw meat hanging on hooks; live fish flopping around in tanks next to a pile of fish heads stacked on the ground, cages of chickens flapping around awaiting death, flies buzzing around lazily stopping to rest on vegetables or raw meat, and people walking or riding bikes down the street. The scene described would, to say the least, seem out of place in, say, River Bend Farm Market.
Shopping in downtown Qufu was a lot of fun. While I was trying to buy a pair of jeans, I luckily ran into a few Chinese girls who spoke English and helped me communicate that I wanted a smaller size. Its amazing how friendly Chinese people are. They’re always so happy to meet Americans and help them in any way they can. Thinking about this afternoon’s shopping expedition makes me realize how much we take for granted the ability to communicate in words with other people. There are so many times since coming to China that we had to find some other way of communicating what I want. I know this has made me look at every little thing about life in the United States that I took for granted and now don’t have. Drinkable water is high on that list along with the fresh air of Vermont. I haven’t noticed that the air is that bad even in Beijing but its not as good to me as Vermont’s air. Communicating in a common language follows closely to water and air. Even the Chinese people who speak English are still hard to talk to sometimes because while their English is good, they have strong accents that I have trouble understanding.
Don’t get me wrong: I really like being in China. I just want to say how much its made me appreciate everything. Its amazing how many ways this trip has affected us already. As students, as actors, as people, we have grown and I think well come back with a very different outlook. It reminds me of something Tom Connor told us: A word has different meanings to different people because of the ways people relate a word to their experiences. He used the word village as an example. A village in China is drastically different from one at home. When we get back, things will have more meaning. Well have more to relate to and more than one angle to relate from.
-- Torie Gervais