Dec 29, 2011

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Ni hao from China

So I’ve been in China for just over a week playing tourist/photographer all around Changshu and the surrounding towns. Changshu is about two hours drive from Shanghai and has a small (by Chinese standards) population of about 1 million. It’s quite a prosperous city because it’s close enough to such an economic hub as Shanghai but far enough that it’s not part of the city, so it’s cleaner and less populated.

 

Coming back to China has been an experience, as you’d expect. Chinese culture is very different from Western – the country is vast, old and is a huge player in the world economy. Coming from New Zealand, a very young nation, it’s humbling to see how old some of the buildings here are. It makes me wish I’d paid more attention to history when I lived in the UK too.

The biggest challenge has been language again. I’m very glad that the phrases I learned last time are still there, so I didn’t have to relearn them, I just need to build up new ones. So far the most useful has been “I don’t want that, thank you” and “How much is that?” I need to learn the numbers, but pulling out my phone and typing the numbers in (or them pulling out a calculator) works well too. I’ve downloaded Pleco and a paid add-on that has how to pronounce each word, which is helping a bit too.

 

I haven’t had a big culture shock this time (yet). My time on the photogenX DTS in 2010 covered lots of things including how diverse cultures are and how our world view is shaped by our own culture. I got to put this knowledge to work in Philippines and again in the USA before I came back to the safety of New Zealand. With all this in mind it’s been easier to accept that things around me will seem weird to me (like the food, the protocol, the huge level of hospitality we’ve had here, the fact people want to carry my breakfast plate for me, etc.), but not to others and to be willing to give it a try. This may have got me in a bit of trouble at one point, but we learn from our mistakes.

Our group has been getting along well. We’ve had the usual adjustments any random group of people has traveling, but I must say it’s much nicer to travel with a larger group than a smaller one. There are about 16 kiwis here who came for Neil & Rose’s Chinese wedding yesterday (us + his family) – eventually we’ll be down to 6 traveling around. About 600 people came to the wedding,  which is the first overseas wedding I’ve been to. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but in the end the ceremony was quite short, but full of entertainment. We went around each table and the couple and their families toasted each table (10 people per table = 60 tables).  The ceremony was short (5pm welcoming, 5:45pm start, 8pm finish), but well received. Eddie and Neil made speeches in Chinese and we all cleaned up rather nicely in suits and dresses. Of course, after all that I can’t not show you a couple of photos can I? I haven’t even started editing these ones yet – wait there a second…

That’s all I have time for now, thanks for reading. If you’re keen for more – I update Facebook when I can and I’m uploading more photos to my photo page on flickr after they’re edited. I’ll be making up a photo show when I get back to NZ with more fun shots and stories too. Until then :)