Monday, June 08, 2009

Scenes From Qingdao Beaches, Part II

So what about all of that action around us that give Qingdao's beaches their Chinese characteristics? Here is a partial list of what we found distinctive...

Hardly anyone wears bathing suits. Most people come to the beach in jeans and full clothing. Invariably, the jeans get hiked up as the irresistible call of the water gets louder and louder.

There is no concept of the beach blanket. Apart from the four of us, everyone else was sitting or laying right on the sand. Many beach goers really enjoy covering themselves in sand and rubbing it all over their bodies.

There are way more men than women at the beach. It was hard to miss the male dominated crowd at the beaches we visited. There were groups of young and middle-aged men having fun rolling in the sand, digging holes, and flopping around in the surf. There were groups of older men, usually dressed only in bikinis and sporting deep tans, sitting around and chatting with one another.

Women at the beach are most often sitting under umbrellas. White skin, the paler the better, is seen as a sign of beauty among Chinese women.

There really isn't much in the way of food. There are some drink stands, but don't go to a Chinese beach expecting pizza, boardwalk fries, or anything like that.

You can rent speedboats! No, we didn't actually take advantage of the opportunity to have a driver whip us out into the open ocean, but it sure did look like fun. There are also a ton of hawkers roaming the beaches with cameras, offering to take photos at a price. At one point, a young guy came up to Desi and me, and used up one of his purchased pictures on these two old waiguoren.

The beachcombers are looking not for buried treasure, but for trash. The beach is full of people, strolling back and forth, collecting drink bottles, paper wrappers, and whatever other garbage is left in the sand by beach goers. One of these beachcombers, an older man, spent some time squatting next to us, asking questions, and generally watching what we were doing. When it comes to the Ballas, the people watching goes both ways! We are happy to be the watchers and the watched!

Speaking of being watched, once the word spread that the waiguoren can speak Chinese, a small crowd gathered around us. There were people from all over China, including Tibet and Harbin. There were a lot of questions about what life is like in the United States. This encounter really encapsulated the position we currently occupy between the society we come from and the society in which we live and work. We spent the day telling ordinary Chinese about America...And now we blog about the day so that average Americans can learn more about China. We think hard every day about how to do justice to both sides...Even at the beach!

~Steve

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