This post has been long overdue! I wrote this when I got back, then had grand plans to upload it with a collage of all my ticket stubs from my vacation… but then life got in the way. So, much delayed, here is my last China post:
On the flight home, I reacquainted myself with Canadian culture by watching the imagineNATIVE reel on the Air Canada flight in addition to a slew of short Canadian films from the National Film Board. I quite enjoyed myself.
My plane arrived early, and I was on the platform for pick-up by 1:30am. Yehuda met me at the airport and drove me back to his apartment. Once home, he fixed me up a bowl of homemade chili and I gave him the souvenirs I’d bought for him in China. We then settled ourselves down in front of the television with a glass of red wine to watch a BBC production of a Shakespearean play before falling asleep around 4am in the morning.
I must say, jet-lag upon returning from a trip is far worse than going on vacation. I was pretty much incapable of doing anything productive for 3 days. However, on my first day back, I did manage to go see with Yehuda the two Edward Burtynsky exhibits that were up. His show was only on until Oct. 12 and I wanted to make sure that I saw it!
After seeing the show and dreaming about one day having an Edward Burtynsky piece on my wall (for a mere $25,000+ that is), Yehuda and I went to Aroma to sit on the patio and have a coffee. It was a beautiful autumn day: sunny, blue skies, the smell of crisp fallen leaves in the air. It wasn’t so bad to come home to this from palm tree weather!
Sitting in the car with Yehuda and looking out the window, what struck me most about coming home was understanding the true meaning of ‘standard of living.’ It was surprising to see that such a country like China with some of the best technology in the world, with all its factories, a strong export and manufacturing industry, and power had most of its people living in squalor, must worse off than Canada’s impoverished.
To see such poverty at such a large scale in an economic powerhouse like China was an eyeopening experience. We really do have it great in Canada – even if we’re living well below the poverty line. Yes, I may not have an iPad, a Mackage coat, or a pair of United Nude shoes, but do I have glass in my windows, safe water to drink, plumbing and utilities in my apartment with a rented room all to myself, access to clean public facilities and commercial buildings, an education, an identity card, government support programs and healthcare I can depend on, and come from a rural area that uses contemporary farming methods (where old women with permanently bent backs don’t need to go out everyday to tend to the crops with a machete).
For my first four days home, the sky was blue and sunny. For me, it was a great joy to experience that again. During my 13 days in China, I didn’t see one blue sky. The sky was always white and hazy with just a few glimpses of colour through the cloud – but never a true clear sky, even in the countryside. Either we had bad weather, or the pollution is that bad in China from all the factories. I suspect the latter.
Nicole told me that sometimes reverse culture shock is the greatest. I don’t think I had culture shock in China or coming home, but I do feel more grateful for what I have. I now understand the meaning of a ‘high standard of living’ and even though it may sound wishy-washy and patriotic, I do appreciate being Canadian so much more now. We’ve got it pretty damn good here.