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Chinese Youth Adores Madonna

Two pupils from Wolfsburg spent their holidays in Far Eastern Province

taken from: "Wolfsburger Nachrichten", 23/06/97

by Werner Appe


A school exchange between Germany, European countries and the USA is nothing special any more. Many young people nowadays very often know a lot of neighbouring countries. But that two boys fly to China during their holidays is still something extraordinary.

Matthias Orth and Stefan Sch¨ąttler of Ehmen had this luck already twice: Matthias' stepfather works in the centre of the Chinese automobile industry in Changchun at the cooperation FAW-VW.

Changchun lies 90 kms northeast of the chinese capital Beijing and is the capital of the province Jilin. From 1933 until 1945 the town was under the name Sinking - the capital of the Japan-dependent-state Mandschukuo. With more than 2 million inhabitants in the city and more million living in the surrounding area, the two young Wolfsburg boys could gain an impression of the variety of the people in the vast country in the Far East.

Matthias still attends school in Wolfsburg and visited his parents during the Easter holidays. As in the previous year he took his friend Stefan with him in the long plan journey - with somebody else you can simply have a more eventful and better time in a foreign country. In Beijing they stopped off, visited the "Large Wall" and the inner, formerly "forbidden" centre. The city with 6 million inhabitants offers already many buildings of western style and very modern discos with up-to-date pop music, as 16-ear-old Stefan Schuettler reports.

In Changchun the boys stayed in the house of Matthias' parents. Their young interpreter speaks English very well and has a good knowledge of German. Thus the boys quickly go in touch with Chinese young people.


"Communication was often difficult"

Stefan, who has already been to the USA and England, tells in a very positive way about his impressions and experiences in China. Communication was often difficult, though, because the English learnt at school by the young Chinese is hard to understand. Most of the time they were together with students of the local university colleges as well as with younger pupils. They were invited for dinner by their families and noticed that flats were in general a lot smaller than here in Germany. 50 to 60 m2 are high standard.

They were impressed by the Chinese mentality, their landness and politeness and theit wish to talk to the German pupils and to do a lot with them. 100 years ago the europeans were considered to be "White devils"; now they would perhaps be stared at because of their blond hair, but not in a hostile way, as Stefan points out.

Very often you could see the inhabitants in red and yellow track-suits, but the "Mao-look" seems to be out-of-date. You can see a lot of "Western-style-clothes". The Chinese cuisine cannot be compared with meals you can get in Chinese restaurants in Germany. In the families there is always one in the kitchen preparing the meals - often the better cooking father -,offering his guests and his family the meals in bowls, as the boy from Ehmen observed, who always enjoyed the food. Only fresh vegetables are taken. Therefore every morning the Chinese go shopping on the market. When they once went out to a restaurant where they ordered eel, it was shown to them alive and then killed and prepared before their eyes to prove its freshness.


"Every day playing basketball"

The boys' daily activities always turned around sports. In the mornings they went jogging in a huge park, as many Chinese do. Then they mostly played basketball - their favourite sport also at home - on the courts of some barracks; an din the afternoons they trained in the basketball club "Jilin Tigers" with about 40 young people.

The training methods are different from those in Germany, "but we could well keep up", said Stefan, who considered the training to be very good. Also table-tennis, a favourite sport in China, could be played by the Wolfsburg kids.

Whether football is played in Changchun, they couldn't say. There is a huge stadium, but apparently it is more used for political events. Since the Chinese youngsters always wanted to do a lot with their guests, they could also make friends with skaters. Once they wanted to go swimming, but found the entrance fee for the swimming pool of the five-star-hotel ""Shangri-La""far too expensive. In another hotel swimming-pool they didn't stay long, because they mistrusted the hygienic condition.

In the evenings they often went to discos. "As for the music, they are 3 years behind our charts", at least in Changchun. In 1996 "Go West" was top of the list, but apart from that everything is quite modern", Stefan tells us. The young Chinese adore popstars like Madonna and Michael Jackson. They often translate the English texts into Chinese. People dance a lot because not only the discjockey , but also dancing groups encourage the guests to dance along.

It was interesting to observe the traffic. Most sheets are in a terrible state, and there are hardly any traffic signs. Although people drive slowly, there are nevertheless quite a few slight accidents. It is worthwhile going by taxi. A trip of about 10 kms cost about one german mark only. In spite of that taxi drivers are regarded as rich people. There are no taxi headquarters, as Stefan reports.

Life in China is still relatively cheap. Their new friends have told them that it is no problem to live on 5 Yuan per day, which is about 1 german mark. Very expensive are of course imported goods like Nike-sports shoes.


"Experienced life in the country"

They also experienced life in the country. The villages are smaller than in Germany, and the houses of the farmers - in contrast to the sky-scrapers in big cities - are made of clay, wood and straw. Meals are cooked in huge pots, and the whole family sleeps in one big bed. The agricultural products are for their personal use. Farming is still the main thing in the country, as Stefan point out.

The three week-holiday passed by very quickly. The two boys made many slides. They have taken with them valuable impressions and experiences which are very different from those made during guided holiday tours, especially because they were among young people of their age.