T. I. C.
China can be exhausting and one random weekday night I took a much-needed break from the nightlife of the city and downloaded some movies from iTunes. Yes, this is an adventure blog, but sometimes, you just need a vacation from your vacation.
I queued up the movie Blood Diamond starring a Rhodesian-accented Leo DiCaprio and the great eyebrows of Jennifer Connelly. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s essentially about J-Cons work as a journalist to uncover the story behind the sale and transport of Blood Diamonds out of Sierra Leonne and her dependence on Leo for the story. Well that’s the secondary story I guess; the real story is Leo’s dependence on a fisherman to find a rare pink diamond he plans to sell and with the profits leave Africa. It’s all quite fantastic – African Civil War never looked sexier.
Regardless of tastefulness, Blood Diamond has two of the quotes re:journalism I’ve ever heard in a movie not really about journalism. Leo, suddenly realizing that J-Cons a journalist says, “I like to kissed before I get (screwed).” And later J-Cons responds to Leo’s sexual advances and desire to help her clear out the hotel mini-bar with, “I’m a print journalist, I already drank it.” Oh, those witty reporters…
However memorable those line might have been, director Edward Zwick wanted the audience to remember the line, “T.I.A. … This is Africa” a sort of understanding among those who live there that it’s broken yet beautiful country that ensnares its inhabitants. It’s essentially an ode to recognizing hopeless frustration.
Well, I say T.I.C.. For a country as massive and powerful as China there is a fragility to everything, a seething undercurrent that you can watch explode at bus stations and railway offices, or attempting to stand in-line for anything. The people are frustrated, and while they wear a face that is one of begrudging acceptance because of incalculable economic growth, I can tell they are all thinking that same thing as me: This is China.
In America we’re use to pursuing recourse against someone who’s wronged us; we get refunds, speak to managers, are politely given upgrades. In China service is never easy, it’s always about bargaining, getting ahead and finding the angle. Unhappy? Good riddance – there are no complaint boxes in China.
Something about verbalizing resignation to the powerlessness I felt in China gave me some comfort. I was less frustrated when in a hotel lobby I was being asked to pay an extra 600 yuan for a 3 yuan error, or having taxi meters shut off, or having every single food item I ordered come with an extra 14 ounces of vegetable oil. All I had to do was take a deep breath and say “This is China”.