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Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Smells of The Middle Kingdom

This is a funny and accurate short introduction to some paticularities of China: A Pictoral Guide to Life in China. I can personally attest to all of these, except the bit about the collapsing Internet cafes. In my experience they were only really, really warm.

The smell is an immediately noticable thing. I stepped out of the airport in Kunming upon arrival in the PRC, and my first sensation was, "What's that smell?" One of my friends refers to it as "China funk," and it pretty much swathes every city and town in China. Even pre-packaged food has a particular China-funkiness, that, like the smell, cannot exactly be described, but it very tangible.

However, the general China funk- which, after several days I stopped noticing- doesn't hold a candle to some more specific smells. Bathrooms range in sanitation, from the partitioned holes in the countryside to perfectly acceptable ones in some restaurants and hotels. The one in my dorm room smelled horrid perpetually, and it quickly became a rule that neither I nor my room-mate was allowed to leave it open for longer than necesary to get in and out. Speaking of toiletries, the "squatty potty" proved less difficult to get used to than I had thought. Actually, considering the state of sanitation in many places, Western-style toilets would have been much more frightening...

The market was always a smogasboard of interesting smells and sights, from mushrooms of sometimes insane sizes to livers and hearts and intestines and such hanging about in the open air. Not to mention the debris that covered the floor- it was always best not to look down too much. Most people just throw their rubbish down, whether organic or inorganic. I must admit I had gotten into the habit of just tossing my fruit seeds, until I went to market one day with some of my Chinese friends, Victor, Truman, and Irene (their English names, a terribly helpful thing for those of us with a limited grasp of Chinese). We had to get a bag and put the husks and seeds in the bag and dispose of them properly. I hope more people in China will emulate their custom. Until then, the rubbish and stench is all part of the fun, I suppose.


Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for the info on Mengzi, Jonathan. Your comment:
"The beds were spartan- wooden planks and a quilt with a mosquito net about it- "
implies the presence of mosquitos in Mengzi. Did you see any?

5:13 AM  

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