China: Where People Do The Most On The Regular

I should preface this by saying I grew up in New Orleans, a city that dismisses schools for an entire week in February just so students, teachers and their families can go out and do the most. Under the bridge. Uptown on St. Charles. In the quarter. I have not only bore witness to all manner of extra happening on the streets of the lower nine, but also watched in amusement as the most broke out among the saved sitting in the pews off Freret Street.

I lived a great majority of my adult life in New York City, where people doing the most are in just as great supply as rodents. I have watched a woman carefully polish the nail of her sixth toe on the train. On my way to work, I used to pass an able bodied homeless man who lectured commuters about laziness and greed as he openly admitted he was pan handling so he could later buy a bag of weed and a six pack of beer.

I am no stranger to the most getting done. I am not struck with surprise when I see people going beyond just extra and taking it all the way to too damn much.

But, I had never been to China before this August, much less even remotely considered living here. I have witnessed so much extra just within the city of Shanghai that it has led me to hypothesize how our Chinese brethern go about planning their day. I envision a conversation that goes something like this:

Chinese Person #1: What should we do today?
Chinese Person #2: I dunno. I feel like we should do a lot.
Chinese Person #1: No, a lot…that is not enough.
Chinese Person #2: You are right; we should do more. Let’s do more today.
Chinese Person #1: This is still not sufficient. You know what we must do…
(Both look at each other with knowing eyes)
Chinese Person #1 and #2: The most. We must do the most.

And my observations thus far prove that the Chinese are focused on and committed to their daily agenda. They do not lay head to pillow until the most has gotten done.

Doing The Most On Top a Mountain

My friend and I went on a hike of Yellow Mountain. The gorgeous mountain is in Huangshan, a province about a 6-hour drive from Shanghai. While I was left speechless by the breathe-taking views of foggy clouds hanging lazily over the mountain peaks, I also found myself at a loss of words over all the unabashed ratchetness taking place on this mountain.

One of the tour guides had strapped an amplifier to his back. A microphone was attached to the portable amp. And so was a radio. As I was commenting on this view that was such flawless perfection it looked like a painting, my friend and I had to pause our conversation because the tour guide’s absolutely audible voice could be heard on the microphone screaming in Chinese to the people in his group. He sounded angry, but I had learned that’s just how the locals sound when they talk. I wondered why he needed the microphone to speak when his natural tone seemed to be screaming. I also wondered if turning off the music that he was playing on the amplifier would help him communicate better with his clients.

“Why does this experience need a soundtrack?” I asked my friend.
“Better yet,” she responded. “Why do we all have to hear this soundtrack? Maybe his group should’ve brought headphones if they needed to have musical accompaniment on this hike.”

And speaking of the people in the group…AsianJesusinHeaven, the number of pictures they were taking on the assortment of gigantic cameras they were carrying. If anyone has ever gone to a school dance at a black school in the 80s and 90s, you will remember the large white cloth that was airbrushed with some “exotic looking” locale and the theme of the dance (A Night in Paris!) in graffiti font. What you will also recall is how you and your friends posed for the photo in front the official backdrop for the dance. I want you to imagine the squatting, peace sign throwing, body slightly turned to the left with that one leg sticking out as you put on your “can’t tell me nothing” stare. Now, put some Chinese people in your image standing on the edge of a cliff next to a sign that reads: “Please do not stand on this edge because you could die.”

If it means risking your life, then it must be done. If we are going to check off DID THE MOST before we go to bed tonight, we will need to pose for these dozen pictures with no less than 6 different cameras on the edge of this mountain.

Doing the Most on a Flight

I am a sucker for a good flight deal. So, when I saw a ticket to Malaysia for the equivalent of $150 USD, I booked without looking too closely at the details. Once I did look closely, I discovered the outgoing flight was on China Southern Airlines. I had never flown a local airline in China since I had only been here for about two months when I took advantage of the flight deal. I told myself that the low price and the local flavor of the airline were probably not good signs, but nothing could be worse than the awfulness of Kenya Airways in Africa and Delta Airlines in America.

I was naive. I will not even begin to address the ratchetness that is China Southern Airlines because that is beside the point. (And I am flying them again tomorrow when I go to Bali so it would make me sort of a hypocritical hater to speak ill of them now).

But, the passengers.

It started with boarding. I was in the minority in more than just the obvious way. I actually brought a carry on sized bag to be stowed away in the overhead bin. EVERY OTHER GODDAMN PASSENGER brought all of their worldly possessions as carry on. They stuffed and forced their fake Dolce and Vitton suitcases into the bins of this sold out flight amidst angry-sounding flight attendants trying to reason with them. I was accustomed to one or two passengers trying to flout the carryon rule with a bag that was just a bit too large or two carryon sized bags instead of one (and if we are being honest, I had tried to get away with it once or twice myself). But, when the whole damn plane does it? When it’s only like 3 people looking awkwardly at each other as the passengers get up in their feelings when the flight attendants put their feet down and just start jacking their gigantic ass bags and almost throwing them out the door to the luggage people waiting to cart off the carry on bags that should have been checked luggage in the first place?

But, then when the plane was landing. AsianJesusinHeaven? Why, Lord? Just. Why?

I was coming out of my free wine-induced nap when I heard the pilot’s voice. We had been on the plane long enough for me to figure out that he was likely making his “we are beginning our descent into Kuala Lumpar” announcement so I began to put my tray table back into position and look for my shoes underneath the chair.

The other passengers did more than me. They got up from their seats and started pulling out their bags from the overhead bin. Given the drama that had happened before we even began to taxi on the runway, I really should not have been surprised. But, alas, I was.

I can feel the plane descending and there are multiple people standing up with their bags like we are sitting at the gate waiting for them to open the door of the plane.

Angry sounding flight attendants can be heard and occasionally, passengers respond with tones that are the most and facial expressions that are more than the most.

And I am just sitting there like: Who does this? And why? I answer myself quickly. The Chinese. Because they do the damn most.

Doing the Most in the Classroom

I consider myself a benevolent dictator when I am teaching. I do not have the energy nor can I sustain the disciplinarian stance long enough to be more than a fair, yet firm educator.

So, when I say to one of the students I am in charge of in the boarding program, “Sweetie, your room was late for breakfast again so you girls won’t be able to go see the drama club’s play during your free time tonight,” I expect a disappointed, “No, please, let us go and we will not be late again.” Maybe a prolonged attempt to get me to change the rule that applies to everyone in the dorm just this one time since it was a special thing they would have to miss.

So, when this 7th grade girl breaks out into a deep belly wail and does a slow body wall slide that ends with her on the floor, I am totally flummoxed.

“No, Ms. Kendrick, please Ms. Kendrick. Let us go. Please let us go.” I sit in my chair as this child reacts to a punishmnent I and several other teachers have administered this month alone as if she has been sentenced to a beheading. At one point, the usher board has to come over to her and put their arms around her, wipe off her face, help her off the floor, tell her it would be alright, Jesus would deliver her and other things in both Chinese and English.

It takes almost five minutes for her to get herself together. 10 minutes later she is apologizing to me for doing the most and saying she and her roommates would work harder to get themselves together in the morning.

I accept her apology because I have come to accept the culture for what it is.

People often expect me to be more taken aback by the super curiosity about my blackness in China, but I have been practicing to fix my face and look unmoved when I am super curious about the levels of extra that happen daily here. I can count on one hand the number of times I have felt super watched because I was so obviously not from here. I have lost count of the number of times I have actually shaken my head in amused awe as the Chinese checked off the latest ratchetness goal from their list, though.

5 Responses

  1. This was so funny and so well written, and I’m also glad I ended up in Korea, lbs.

  2. Hahaa! Hilarious. So good. Thank you.

  3. This story made me laugh so hard. Lol!

  4. The categories add just that extra hilarity!

  5. […] I wrote this post China: Where People Do The Most On The Regular, some of y’all shared your own stories of spending time in China and bearing witness to the […]

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