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189. On The Long-Gone Utopia and the World on the Verge of Extiction


Chengdu, 2015-05-29 02:48:08 +0800
Day 93 (286) in China

=== The Long-Gone Utopia === I recall there was a time in my life when I was highly enthusiastic about China and the Chinese language. When I started learning Mandarin almost five years ago, I was absolutely fascinated about Chinese characters, and I spent most of the boring, inert time in school practising my Chinese handwriting, and studying vocabulary and grammar. I once wrote on my blog (albeit the original story has long gone been blasted into oblivion,) about the stories I read in my textbooks, an obsolete vision of Chinese everyday life, the long-gone utopia only preserved now in the form of reading materials. My first textbook, ‘‘A Course in Contemporary Chinese’’ (现代汉语教程,) told at length of the little joys, as well as hardships, that foreign students in China supposedly experienced. All the imaginary creatures described in those stories bore Generic Foreign Names—Ali (阿里,) Mary (玛丽,) Jones (琼斯,) and of course the late lamented teacher Ma (马老师, you will be missed!) Why did the editors’ leave unsaid the ubiquity of Korean students? Well, I know that foreigners of different nationalities are spread all around the country, like peanut butter on a horribly malformed toast. There are many Kazakhis and Pakistanis in Xi’An, many Indians in Chengdu (studying Medicine,) and there is even a group of Polish students in Kunming, notoriously mistaken for Russians or Uyghurs, and decimated by the absolutely repugnant cuisine of the region. There is also a huge diaspora of barely legal economic immigrants from the U.S. and A., who came to Asia to participate in that abominable form of organized crime called Teaching English as a Foreign Language. But the Koreans? Seriously, they are ‘‘everywhere’’! I wish I owned a refrigerator, so I could tell my friends that I’m afraid of opening my fridge not to meet a Korean!

I remember a story of a school trip, told in my textbook. I don’t give a damn about the supposed destination of that school trip, as I’m pretty damn sure that particular adventure of the foreign students was merely a figment of the creators’ obscene imagination. As everyone knows, all touristic spots in Mainland China are exactly the same, the only difference is that some of them are overpriced, and the others are outrageously overpriced. The Chinese like to boast about their ancient civilization and splendid culture, about how they invented compass, gun powder, banknotes, wheel, fire and government corruption, well, so what if they did? All that cultural heritage and natural beauty that survived 66 years of communism, the Great Cultural Revolution and overexploitation of natural resources, is now turned into merchandise. Entrance tickets for most scenic spots are incredibly expensive, and people living in the vicinity of these attractions use every opportunity to drain the tourists’ money. The worst case of this phenomenon was probably the Huangguoshu Waterfall in Guizhou province, where the entrance tickets cost 160 rmb, and that didn’t even include transportation to the scenic area. To get to the waterfall, you could either take the overcrowded public bus (only running during high season,) the sightseeing bus (50 rmb/person!) or a cab for up to 60 rmb/person! Considering the fact that a normal salary in Guizhou province is about 2000 rmb a month, if you go sightseeing, you’d better be either a millionaire or out of your mind.

I just found the original blog post from 2010: [[Blog:Elefanto/100. W imię ponadczasowych idei|100. W imię ponadczasowych idei]].

Jakby tak dało radę, resztę mojego życia mógłbym spędzić w świecie podręczników do chińskiego. Po 45 lekcjach odnoszę wrażenie, że musi tam być naprawdę wspaniale. Wszyscy albo studiują na 北京语言学院 (pin. ''Běijīng Yǔyán Xuéyuàn'', Pekiński Instytut Językowy), albo są tam nauczycielami, albo Bohaterami Niezależnymi (tzw. Non-Player Character). Wszyscy 中国学生和留学生 (pin. ''Zhōngguó xuésheng hé liúxuéshēng'', studenci chińscy i z zagranicy) mieszkają w akademiku, jeżdżą na wycieczki na Mur Chiński, i zamiast w autokarze chomikować alkohol, oni chcą siedzieć koło profesora Bai albo profesora Ma. Na stołówce jedzą chińskie żarcie po psich cenach; a ich imprezy!
A Rough Translation:
If I had the right opportunity, I could spend the rest of my life in the world of Chinese textbooks. After 45 lessons I get the feeling that it must be a really wonderful place. Everyone either studies at 北京语言学院 (pin. ''Běijīng Yǔyán Xuéyuàn'', Beijing Language and Culture University,) or teaches there, or is an independent character, a so-called ''Non-Player Character''. All the students, both from China and from Overseas, live in the dormitory, go on trips to the Great Wall, and instead of smuggling alcohol in the coach, they prefer to seat next to Professor Bai or Professor Ma. In the school canteen, they can eat Chinese food, cheap as chips; but best of all are their parties!
In the times when my textbook was compiled, apparently the entrance tickets weren't so expensive. I wonder where these times went. I didn't go to any of the school trips Sichuan University offered to foreign students for free. I sometimes regret not participating in the free trip to Jiuzhaigou, where water is like the heavenliest shade of azure I would ever dare imagine, with a bunch of hot Koreans, in October, but I guess I had my reasons. I'm going back to Poland in around three weeks, and I don't think I'll go anywhere else. And there are many places I still want to go.

This world is pretty much doomed. I read in one of the e-mails from Avaaz that 2014 was the hottest year in history. If it’s not a heat wave that kills us, it will be something else, be it an alien invasion or the rising ocean. I would like to express my congratulations to humanity for being the stupidest and most dangerous species that ever appeared on the surface of this planet. I’m not afraid of death, and if humanity becomes extinct at some point, it will only be for the greater good of the Planet Earth. Thank you.