train station blues

The Spring Transport (春运) continues. The railway has moved waiting areas outside the station, and people with placards announce departures and lead travelers into the appropriate terminal. The place names — Chengdu, Wuhan, and Nanning — remind me how large the country and diverse Shenzhen’s immigrant population.

I also visited the Luohu Commercial Center, where the English spoken by the various shopkeepers caught my attention. It seemed as if copied out of a stereotype of Hong Kong movie because it was so standardized, “Missy, copy watch. Missy, DVD.” In English, speakers shared the same accent, vocabulary, grammar, and inflections despite the fact that they spoke different Chinese dialects and had different levels of formal education. Some spoke Cantonese, others Mandarin, still others conversed in Hakka and I think I heard Chaozhou language, but the English had smoothed out into something recognizably “Luohu”.

So, I’m thinking about the way that situations — like immigrating to Shenzhen or working at the Luohu Commercial Center, for example — mold us into expected types, making it easy for our diversity to be discounted because rendered superfluous. I’m also wondering how we train ourselves to see beyond expected type, not only when interacting with others, but also when presenting ourselves because the differences actually make us interesting.

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