During the Long Weekend, which is a break between the two, four-week sessions of classes on this program, my group chose to go to the Yellow Mountains and other rural villages in the area. The Yellow Mountains, or 黄山 in Chinese, which are located in southern China, are the source of this magnificent paintings of mountain peaks just breaking the cloud layer: mystical mountains steeped in the fog of area’s long history. The sites were great; the food was delicious; and the pictures were even better.
These material possessions, however, were not the highlight of this trip. While staying at Hanzhou after a long day of traveling and sightseeing, our group decided to venture into the city to see what things it had offer. We stumbled upon a city square where it seemed the entire city was at, dancing and enjoying each other’s company. Parents were there with their children; couples were dancing together; and dance groups were practicing their moves. Despite the language gap, the locals were very welcoming to us Americans.
We exchanged dance moves. We all danced together, made new friends and took pictures together afterwards. It was a welcoming and family-like environment. I argue that if I had gone there on my own, in a city that I had never been to before, in a language I cannot fully speak, I still would not have felt lonely.
That is a testament to China’s culture. In the United States, you are expected to have a baseline level of happiness in all your interactions. Happiness is the natural state that Americans want to be in. That can make it seem ungenuine. In China, however, they are not fake with how they feel. Often times, when walking in public or dealing with their customer service, you can get a cold, or even rude, vibe. It is not that they are cold or rude, though. That is just how we normally feel too in those situations with strangers; they just are not afraid to show it. In China, people are realer and less afraid to show how they really feel.
This mentality make moments like dancing in the city square so much more authentic. You know they actually enjoy your presence; you can strip away any of the doubt and insecurity because you know they are expressing how they truly feel. And in that moment, it was a welcoming so pure, it can only be conveyed by dance.
I could get used to this place.