Just below my window, the workers who’ve been remodeling five floors of the building across the way are finally cleaning up the debris they’ve been tossing out of windows for the past three days. My curtain is closed, but I’m aware of their presence from the rumbling bulldozer they’re using to scoop up the rubbish and dumping into the back of a dump truck. Hopefully, this is a sign that they’ll move onto working on the teachers’ dorm rooms soon. But I know it’s probably not a priority for them, and I’m not likely to move out of the students’ dorm until just before the students return.
I don’t know how I missed it before, but I finally found the Walmart located at the nearby Wanda Plaza. I guess I must have walked right passed the unmarked entrance at least twice while wandering through the mall. I suppose I wasn’t looking for it because, according to Google Maps, there isn’t supposed to be a Walmart inside Wanda Plaza, but it should be across the street, right beside Carrefour; Google Maps fail.
I felt pretty happy about finding the secret Walmart, but they didn’t have the big can of coffee I wanted to buy. Instead, I bought a medium sized jar and one of creamer. I bought white sugar and brown sugar. I bought some seaweed snacky-snacks and some strawberry cream cookies. I also bought a couple of stainless steel forks with smiley faces on them. The last thing I picked and placed in my cart was a plastic container to put either sugar or oatmeal into. I haven’t decided which. Oh, and I bought a couple of salt/pepper shakers too. I think that’s all I bought at the secret Walmart.
It’s the 10th day of my new life in Shanghai, China. Although I’ve been to Shanghai a few times, everything here is quite unfamiliar to me; new neighborhood, new people, new school.
Although I haven’t been blogging, I have been writing about my experiences every day. It’s high time I begin transferring some of those daily journal entries over here for others to read.
As recently as April 28th, I was kind of a big deal; a big fish in a small pond. I was the only remaining foreign teacher at a high school whose main objective is preparing Chinese kids to study in western universities overseas. Every single student at that school knew my name, and about 90% of them would say “Hi!” as they passed me in the hallway. No matter how rubbish my day was, their greetings would always make me feel good. That’s long gone.
Now that I’m in exile, I’m no one, working nowhere, and I feel I’ve become practically invisible. Invisible is growing on me. I think I could get used to this. When I go back, I’ll be the littlest fish in the biggest of ponds, and I think that’s exactly what I need.
Unfortunately, the best advice I can give to a westerner planning to travel or move to China is this: Keep your mouth shut. No, I don’t mean breathe through your nose. I mean keep your critical opinions (and you will have many of them) to yourself. Nothing good will come from telling Chinese people what you see as wrong with their government, their environment, or their culture. Most of them are not ready to hear criticism of these things, even if they know you are right.
Instead, they will blame you, the messenger, even if the message is full of wisdom and truth. It won’t matter that your words come from a good place of concern and caring for the Chinese people. They will point their accusing fingers back at you, throwing every (obvious) flaw and criticism of America (and there are many) they can think of, in your face as though two wrongs make a right or somehow cancel each other out. They will use logical fallacies and motivated reasoning to make false equivalents between problems like China’s pollution and America’s presidential election and endemic racism.
So save your breath. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t speak your mind unless it’s 100% positive, non-critical flattery that reinforces the Chinese belief that their country is the center of the universe and soon will rise to power and dominance as America’s form of democracy falters and its influence around the world continues to decline.