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CHINA | Wednesday, 5 November 2008 | Views [1452]

Lucy is my favorite person I've met here in Zhangzhou. Out of all of the students here at the college, she is one who really genuinely wants to become friends with me. I'm not just a novelty to her. She's friendly, intelligent, open minded and funny.

She's 21 and comes from a tiny village a few hours north of Zhangzhou city where her parents work as farmers. She's not from a wealthy or well educated family at all. But despite this, she speaks fantastic English AND (most importantly) she has a eagerness to learn about the world around her. She's not a traditional thinker; she believes in equality, choice and women's rights.

At lot of young Chinese women believe that they have to get married in order to have a good life. Sadly, many of them would be right because this world is still very male dominated and even in the west, (statically) women STILL get paid less than men. 

In China a lot of people still hold on to sexist old traditions and it's a vicious cycle because in many cases even if a woman is strong enough to break tradition and try getting a well paid and important job, she may not get there. In many parts of the world women are still seen as inferior.

I see so much strength and independence in Lucy and I hope she can become one of those women who do succeed. In this life, we must try and do what makes us happy. She told me that all she wants to do is to earn enough money to buy her parents a house. Isn't that sweet? How many people do you know who would say that?? Not many. She also said that she knows that it's a tradition, but she really does want to do it because it's a nice thing to do. She has a sense of duty to make sure her parents are looked after in their old age, just as they looked after her in her youth. 

So Lucy came to visit me yesterday and brought me some ginger tea and a packet of dried hawthorn berries, which was lovely of her. Especially considering she's a student with very little money!! We walked to a park here in the college and sat down to talk. She's very interested in what life is like in Australia, especially for young women and students.

The differences between our two cultures really stand out when it comes to something like a students social life. Not that Lucy doesn't have any friends, she has many, but the students here know nothing about the 'normal' social activities that would occupy the spare time of a student in Australia. Things like live music, pubs, art galleries, sport, cinemas, theaters etc. The main reason for this is an extreme lack of money. Most students and their parents have a very hard time paying the required fees, so students just cannot afford to have a social life.

The other reason for this, in my opinion is a left over from the time of Mao - a lack of youth culture. (This doesn't include the bigger cities however. I've heard Beijing has quite a large underground music scene. I'm only speaking about my experiences in Zhangzhou and surrounding areas, as I have nothing else to go on!). China is FILLED to the brim with traditional culture, but I have noticed an extreme lack of youth culture. Things that we in Australia (and in other western countries), and Sydney especially, take for granted. International musicians visit Sydney on a regular basis, we have theater, local live music, modern art etc. In the smaller cities of China don't have that. (Although I'm talking about cities with a similar population to Sydney.)

I asked Lucy what she does on her days off and she said she does nothing. Usually a student's spare time is spent either studying or hanging out with friends inside the college grounds. And these are just the people who are lucky enough to even GO TO college. Many people can't afford to send their children to school at all, let alone college!

Anyway, I really hope that one day I can return the kindness that Lucy has shown me, and show her around Sydney. She really is a cool chick. :)

Lucy, at the little tea place we visited.

Lucy, at the little tea place we visited.

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