China Diary

Day 27: Four Stages Of Isolation


After last night’s failure with trying to reach out for fellow humans, I woke up feeling cranky and melancholic. I love my job, I really do, but this is quite a sacrifice, not being able to go back home, not being able to have wife come over, not being able to see my kid or my parents. Or friends. Or anyone. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it again: I’ll never do a film this way again. Next time, at least in the agreement there needs to be a clause which determines frequent family travels and stuff. I mean, even prisoners get to meet their families, right?

Off to a bad start, that is. I went to the office and we had agreed a haircut at a nearby salon. My assistant Crystal said to take me there, but she was completely lost trying to find the place. The sun was scorching and I got crankier and crankier. While Crystal was searching for the barbershop, I decided I wanted a coffee.

I found a nice-enough looking café and asked for an ice coffee. What they did was they poured a glass full of tap water and splashed some espersso in it. Feeling wretched, I snapped totally. I grabbed my skateboard, cursed on the way out and left the coffee there on the counter. They tried to reach after me but I was already half a mile away. What really got me was the fact that even locals don’t drink the tap water here, because it’s basically poisonous shit – it contains sediments, rusts, bacteria, virus, chlorines, and some other heavy metals. Now, I love me some heavy metal, but preferably externally, enjoyed on a stage somewhere at German countryside with 80000 other metalheads – but not in my coffee, unboiled.

All this led me to remember that I’ve read somewhere that there are four stages of culture shock, and apparently I’m going through them, one by one.

First, is the Honeymoon stage. During the honeymoon, everything is awesome. When I first came to Beijing, I thought it’s absolutely amazing in all aspects: a city that feels like it belongs to the Beijingers, the vastness, the beauty, the history… During the Honeymoon stage, the culture shows only its’ positive side and if you’re lucky, you’ll be out of there before stage 2 sets in. That’s called the Frustration stage. That’s when things begin to irk you. Well, that’s basically what my whole blog has been about for the last few weeks. The homesickness sets in alongside the longing for the comforts of home.

What I’m waiting for is the third stage, the Adjustment stage. That’s when things start to settle, you start finding friends, understanding the culture more deeply and possibly even getting a hang of the language a bit. Well, no fear for the latter one in China, that I can say, but the rest, I believe will happen. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of of here before I get the chance to go through the fourth, and the last stage – the Acceptance. It’s pretty self-explanatory – you accept you are now among this culture, learn to live with it and life goes on as it always has, only some of your preferences have changed to fit the new culture better.

There’s a pretty good article for those wanting to read more here.

So, dear reader – and dear me, reading this years from now, take my complaining in the right context: I’m going through stage 2 and it’s shit, but it will pass. Then, I’ll probably never stop yapping how awesome China and Beijing is, so that’s another one you’ll have to bear from me in the future.

In the evening, I went to my local joint and had a delicious dinner, alone, again. I’m probably the only white guy who ever entered the establishment, and there’s always the same family there serving, but every time I walk in there – and I’ve been there at least ten times in the last month – they act like they’ve never met me before. I wonder what’s that about… But the food, the food is good. And decent priced.

 

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