Chinese youth culture in southeastern China

Many of the local Chinese people in Yangshuo, those who speak English well or even just a little, are very curious about foreigners. If I was to believe the two disgruntled Aussie travelers I met my first night here, it's because half of them are spies on the hunt for troublemakers and dissidents. While of course that faction exists within China or any other country, I don't think it makes sense to treat everyone I meet as though they've got some hidden agenda just because they are asking me what I think about China and Taiwan, or September 11, or my thoughts on American culture, or Chinese culture, or Japanese culture, and did I know that Japan once invaded China?

When someone speaks only entry-level English, meaning it took maybe five or six or even seven attempts to pronounce a word well enough for me to understand the context of their question, it's not as though my answers to, "Should Taiwan be part of China?" can be any more controversial than using the question as an opportunity to teach them a new English word: complicated.

Last night I visited another rooftop bar in Yangshuo, and was somewhat surprised to learn that all three rooftop bars in town, all of which can be seen from one another, are owned by local Chinese people, not ex-pats. The crowd was probably three-quarters Chinese and one-quarter Westerners, with maybe half or fewer of the Westerners being American and the rest mostly European. The atmosphere was Western: Beirut (beer pong), rap music, breakdancing.

Similar to Russia, Korea and Taiwan, there has been curiosity about my tattoo: More than once I've been asked if it is fake, or told that it is fake, or that it looks different or scary, or that tattoos are dangerous. Or, So cool, so cool, followed by questions about what it is, or what inspired it, or what is this word in English (pointing at lighthouse, or grim reaper)?

Having politically sensitive conversations with such a dense language barrier is tiring. I had one such conversation for more than an hour, about Taiwan and September 11 and the military history between China and Japan, and although it was late and I wanted to go home, I was inspired by the level of effort being put forth, because I know it is a lot more difficult for the Chinese speaker than it is for me, so I stuck around until I literally could not keep my eyes open, but then I called it a night, only to return home and get chewed up by mosquitoes for the next six hours, before rising early to a steady and heavy downpour of rain outside.

Chinese breakdancers on rooftop in Yangshuo, southeastern China.

Chinese breakdancers on rooftop in Yangshuo, southeastern China.

Chinese breakdancers on rooftop in Yangshuo, southeastern China.

A couple of Chinese guys at the bar playing what appeared to be a Chinese version of the classic Street Fighter arcade game from the late 1980s.

The local beer in Yangshuo, China, and of the two breakdancers in the photos above.