I guess I didn’t expect this. I knew a little about Jiujiang but not a lot. I guess I expected some kinda deteriorated town with poverty and a backwardness to it. I think this was perpetuated by this idea that “the West is best” and from the stories of Western expats who complain about everything related to China. And I think it’s also been perpetuated by people always telling me how lucky I am to be adopted and not have grown up in China.
So I arrived and expected something less than ideal. A place where I could see the living circumstances and hardships that would align with the idea that I was “saved.” And it’s far from that. I arrived about 8 at night and walked around my area and it’s like a mix of Hong Kong and Saigon.
It has these bright lights everywhere with big billboards. The streets are clean and large. But unlike those cities, this one is quiet. And you can see the stars.
The most common cars I see around here are Porsches, Range Rovers, and Mercedes Benz. There are city bikes everywhere. I’ve never seen this many bikes apart from in Amsterdam.
There are big streets but they are never busy or crowded because bikes and scooters seem to be most popular.
In fact, the city itself seems ordinary. It’s not filled with people like Saigon and Hong Kong, it just seems like Colorado Springs. Just a place of people, lots of families in particular.
There’s restaurants lining the streets and lots of little boutiques of clothes. The city feels nature centric though with parks everywhere, benches looking out to the lakes everywhere, little resting gardens everywhere.
I walked about two hours to Xunyang, that’s where the police found me, and it’s the shopping hub. There’s stores everywhere, little street vendors selling hot dogs and burgers, places like Adidas, McDonalds, KFC, Nike, etc.
There’s this part of me that walks around and thinks “this is a little boring.” It’s just another city.
Don’t get me wrong, there are differences. The place I’m staying at doesn’t have heat and you can’t drink the water in China. That’s not different from every other place I’ve been where there’s no drinkable tap water or AC/heat though.
The traffic police come out to the big intersections at rush hours and whistles at the scooters that try to zip through the lights.
The intersections have massive pedestrian blinkers that count down the seconds you have to wait or how long you have to pass, by far the most high tech blinkers.
This guy about my age walked into the park I was at with this golden retriever who went up to every person in the park and excitedly sniffed everyone’s shoes. He yelled at the dog when it started to go down the steps to the lake.
These two girls, maybe middle school aged, were walking on the sidewalk in front of me and just were skipping alone. One girls arm through the other. They were wearing these cute bedazzled flower winter boots with fake fur. Just a typical scene of happy girls.
I think you can tell it’s going through growing pains. There is construction everywhere for these new tall apartment buildings.
There are large blocks of torn down buildings that are empty for the moment.
And there are pocket of homeless people if you look closely but it doesn’t seem far off from Denver or Colorado Springs’ downtown areas.
I walked to Jiujiang University. I wanted to get this Jiujiang sports jacket that I’ve seen some kids wearing and I figured it was probably a university jacket. But it was closed which I expected since it’s only two days away from the New Year.
The campus opens with this really serene garden.
There’s statues and benches everywhere along with bridges and trees.
There’s two big lakes.
The university itself is small and seems a bit like a ghost town but nobody was there so I guess that’s what you’d expect. I thought this added decoration was cute.
I’m surprisingly neutral. It’s not really special, it’s not dramatically poor, it’s not vastly different or even very culturally different.
It’s different but it’s not shocking.
It’s just life.
It maybe has less privileges, less luxuries, but people seem happy here. I’ve seen so many families with angry parents, happy kids, crying babies, babies falling over. It’s just life.
I got this ice cream in a restaurant in a mall I stopped in. It’s sort of become a tradition to get some really good ice cream in each place.
So I was on the look out for ice cream. While I was here, there was this family next to me who had finished their meal and were playing a card game. I think one of the adults won the round because she excitedly yelled and the kids all moaned. It was just normal.
I think back to this article I read of Sara Dorow’s called “Why China?: Identifying Histories of Transnational Adoption”. It talked about a lot of things I had already picked up on. I’m not sure how to link it since I had to download a journal to read it but it was good, maybe even necessary for people who are considering adoption to read.
But a big one was that one of the ways adoption is sold to people is through the idea that you are saving someone or doing a charity.
Certainly there are more opportunities, better facilities, just more privilege to growing up in a Western country. Me being able to come back to China is proof of that.
But at the same time, there’s people in the US who need adopting because they are coming from bad situations. Yet it’s easier to sell the idea that China, India, Vietnam, Kenya, etc. need saving.
And I think the thing I’ve seen coming here is that life would have still gone on. Circumstances are different, privileges are different, infrastructure is different, the West tends to have more privilege for its citizens inherently. But I’ve seen families who look exactly the same as families in the U.S. Happy, healthy, and together.
I don’t have much of a point to this because Jiujiang has been pretty neutral to me.
It’s another city filled with mostly families and it’s growing a lot but it seems nice.
Here’s some of the food I’ve had. I’ve gone to McDonalds twice because it’s actually good for learning food in Mandarin since their menu is online. I can translate their menu and then go inside and order it in Mandarin.
This is some fruit cream puff pastry from a bakery.
团圆堡 Reunion burger. It’s part of this storyline of a shrimp reuniting with some kind of animal. It’s a cartoon story for the kids with a New Year theme food special. This is sausage, mushroom, and chicken with rice puff breading.
草莓鲜奶 Strawberry fresh milk. Just like a strawberry milkshake. Not from McDonalds, just a street cart.
幸胡堡 Lucky Hu burger. It’s shrimp and chicken with a black sesame bun.
This is just a Chinese sausage pastry from a bakery.
I got this my first night. I had no idea what it was when I ordered it. It just pointed at the menu and said this one.
It was just noodles with beef, bok choy, and carrots. Nothing too fancy, it’s a pretty standard dish.
I walked through about 30 miles of Jiujiang. I couldn’t figure out the bus system since it was all in Mandarin and I couldn’t use the bikes because it required a mobile number. So I just walked.
I’m working on my Mandarin. It’s not good, but they can see I’m trying and smile and try to help me. I think they at least appreciate the effort.
I had a lady come up and try talking to me when I was in line buying a bus ticket. I knew she was saying something about me and she was smiling. But I didn’t know exactly what she was saying about me and I just had to say 我不明白 (I don’t understand).
I felt bad because not that many people talk to me here and she seemed like she was trying to say something nice or interesting to me but I just couldn’t understand. That’s maybe been why Jiujiang has been not very emotionally resonant, I can’t really understand what’s going on, what anything says, what people are saying. I’m just alone here which isn’t bad but it doesn’t make for a very impactful trip.
I didn’t go to my orphanage obviously. It was $300 and I would have had to pick up these papers in Nanchang a month prior to my visit and it wasn’t going to work. It’s fine though, j tend to stay away from tours and stuff because I just like seeing things naturally and observing the everyday stuff.
Here’s some food I had at the airport. Nanyang chicken. It’s just chicken, potatoes, carrots, bok choy, and some other stuff in curry with rice. Good, kinda tasted like a pot pie with curry instead of gravy.