Barhu: Something called ignorance
I went from the place of the Buryat Mongolian family to Barhu, a small village between the cities Hulunbuir and Arxan. Somewhere near the forest. As the title mentions this might be one of the more serious articles in the funny adventure of Yuege. Riding gives me the opportunity to cross a lot of different places. Big cities, townships, small farm villages. And on the way I meet lots of people. So I get to know some of the most hostile people I ever met. Many appreciate the physical challenge, others encourage this kind of field research. Some are worried about the safety. And very seldom, I meet someone skeptical. Like here, in Barhu.
I stay in a small Inn of a Mongolian lady together with a bus driver. A funny guy who likes to talk a lot. The people are amazingly welcoming and invite me to have dinner with everybody. We enjoy some great home made dishes and talk about the life in the village. And as we start to drink beer, the bus driver shows more and more enthusiasm, that at some point turns into rudeness.
Talking about my current research in the field of China Studies, I propose to interview the talkative driver. But the guy suddenly responds:
“I won’t give you any interview since you don’t have any understanding of Chinese culture. And even if I gave you the answers then you wouldn’t understand it anyway. So it’s a waste for both of us. You should go back to the lectures.”
In order to proof this he starts to throw around with ancient Chinese cultural expressions trying to let the foreigner look stupid in front of the others on the table. Drawing comparisons to the handfull of famous foreigners residing in China since decades. And so I end this conversation, thank the family and leave that drunkard, not before telling the following:
I acknowledge that we as foreigners do have to learn a lot in order to understand China. If there even is only one understanding of this big country. Learning the language for just one or two semesters isn’t enough. A master program isn’t sufficient either to understand Chinese culture in its depth. BUT: It is a start! It is the first attempt to understand a culture that is different than your own. And I personally encourage everybody to take the step to learn about different cultures. Who goes abroad, leaves their familiar surroundings and takes the effort to adapt to a new environment.
I admit, many foreigners coming to China are here for economic interests and might complain about a lot of unnecessary things. But more and more are deeply interested in Chinese culture and that’s exactly the reason why many come here. Otherwise I could have clicked through this journey using Google Streetview.
Going on this journey does matter. It’s important to learn from the different people directly, not only the books. This is an experience you can’t make by sitting in lectures. It is something you have to experience yourself. A way of learning directly from the people. A benefit for the locals and the alien likewise. I believe we have a great way ahead of us, full of so called 中国通 (people who have a deep cultural understanding about China). So keep experiencing and go out there, have fun or even go by bike. In the end, I am even thankful for having met the bus driver. Wasn’t he the one that eventually encouraged to: Learn more?!