It is all about them young’uns

Among all the changes and developments that happened recently, I could not imagine my 30th birthday would be really quiet and memorable at the same time. As it goes when you ‘hit a new milestone’ in life, a lot of people asked about my feelings. I like to think I must have at least defied expectations a little bit when I replied that I actually somewhat looked forward to it.

Especially in China, everyone looks a lot younger then they often are. I feel a lot of parents look way too young to be walking around with kids of their own. And it gets tricky when seeing older women to determine if they are a mother or grandmother already. Besides whitening, I think most people are very focused on staying youthful. Perhaps because of the polluted air, the fact that all photos (including official passport photos) get retouched or the ubiquity of plastic surgery commercials, there are many ways to be reminded of the fleetingness of your youth.

To be honest, when I see images of very old people (85 and over in my opinion) they do not seem really attractive or anything. At the same time, I imagine it must be nice to sort of leave all of the pressures of looks and appearances behind (provided you are not a celebrity).

Furthermore, looking at some of the other older people around me, especially now that I do not see that many people around my age due to quarantine anymore, I fully admire their peace with most things in life (except for the cleanliness of the place they live). For Chinese elderly, there is an added feat of general fitness that I also hope to keep up in my old age.

Having become 30, I already feel more comfortable in some ways with life and myself than the past 5 years. At the same time, though life passes really quickly (now especially), I feel I still have so many years to go (without too many real problems hopefully) before I will enter my ‘full retirement’. Well, for now I can already enjoy having that status for any future kids and teens I will meet. A good way to already get used to the idea at least.

Tourists with Chinese characteristics: golden groupies

It is spring and that only means 1 thing in China: flowers. Preferably cherry blossoms. Having spent my past weekend in one of the busiest places I could find to marvel at this wonder of nature, reminded me again of this kind of tourist.

Who?
Aunties and uncles, grannies and grandpas of around 45-50 and up. They almost exclusively travel together in large groups (25-35 people) because their children are busy (unless they belong to the fanatic families) and they can see highlights of 4 places in 4 days.

Where?
Anywhere that is only slightly famous is bound to be flooded by them. Headed by a guide with a flag, umbrella or originally decorated pole, they walk around unabashedly with their caps and snapping pictures of everything they see.

Why?
It is their time to shine! They probably worked hard and took care of everyone all their lives and finally can let it all go loose on a 5-day trip to Europe or by visiting famous spots all over China. They are still healthy, but also privileged (because older) and finally will have a chance to take pictures with shawls, stones and just all the beauty they can tolerate besides them.

Thoughts?
Auntie/granny: finally you are in the famous spot. First, I need a photo with the rock that says the attraction’s name. Then I need a photo with a shawl swaying in the wind. Then I am going to take this tree branch and pull it towards me so the flowers prettily frame my face. Next, I need to push to the front so I can get a photo next to the lake. I know I need to put my one leg before the other. Or my hand on my shoulder. Or both. It is so convenient to have a group guide me to all the important places I need to see.

Uncle/grandpa: okay, now that we are here I will take a photo of my wife with the rock. And then with a shawl. And then with the flowers. And at the lake. So glad she will do all the pushing and pulling for the spot. Next, we will take a picture together at the park. Making memories is very important. When I return to the Sunday park gatherings, we can show off all the places we have been. And no need to drive or look up anything ourselves. It is great to see so many attractions in such a short time.

My thoughts?
Group travelers rank medium to high on my irritation/frustration scale. The guide always blares out information that nobody pays attention to, even though they all have their ears plugged. This means when they step on your foot or push their elbow in your stomach, they also do not hear you gasping. Furthermore, their age, especially the 65+ ones, means it is socially unacceptable to push them back. They take full advantage of their ‘elderly privileges’ to push to the front or take up all the seats. They pull and push at the scenery to make it fit their photos and talk so loud that even I need to put in effort to communicate. But mostly, it is just that there are so many of them. It is the moment you realize that China is an aging society.