Student - June 9, 2010

Isolated in China

While I was in China I really missed western culture and the feeling of freedom that I have in the Netherlands.

Noor de Laat
Who? Noor de Laat
What? Research on sprouting in tropical saplings
Where? Xishuangbanna, China
Why? For her final thesis for Forest and Nature Management at Wageningen University
For my research I measured plant characterisitics such as shade tolerance in young tropical trees. The trees were in the beautiful 900-hectare tropical garden at the research institute. After measuring I pruned the trees down to about three centimetres from the ground and watched to see whether they would sprout again. Some species sprouted more often and with more shoots than others. I wanted to know whether there was a relationship between the sprouting and the species and their characteristics.
While I was in China I really missed western culture and the feeling of freedom that I have in the Netherlands. I felt very isolated at times too. I've never experienced that before, although I have travelled a lot. Sometimes the cultural differences were hard to take, and sometimes they were hilarious. For example, the first time I sat down next to some Chinese students in the canteen at the institute, they immediately stood up and moved elsewhere. That was very strange.  I thought there must be something wrong with me, that I smelled bad or something. It got better after a while though. There were only very few foreign students and they probably had to get used to me.
 I also found it difficult that they hardly spoke English. A girl I was working with had bought a very pricey translation computer specially so she could communicate with me. But it produced nothing but nonsense: it had me saying things like 'there's a cricket in the lift'. The Chinese certainly work themselves into the ground: seven days a week from eight in the morning to eleven at night is not exceptional. And that was expected of me too. In the end I explained that I did want one day off a week.
Another thing is that everything is monitored in China. They don't have Facebook and half the search results on Google are censored.  I was constantly under surveillance myself too. Wherever I went I always had to sign in and out. It went really far when the ICT person installed spyware on my computer.
The Chinese burp a lot as a way of saying that the food was good. I still find myself doing it occasionally. I really have to control myself when I eat at home with my parents.'

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