A lesson learned

This picture will make sense in a minute...

I learned a lesson today, not the hard way, but it was nevertheless a reminder. This is China. Even with its often Western trappings, this country and culture can come and metaphorically stab you from behind at any minute.

One of my best memories from when I first started listening to the Harry Potter books on tape (now there’s a dated reference!) was the narration and voice work by Jim Dale. A talented actor, he absolutely spoiled the movies for me, as he made the books come alive in my imagination.

One of his best voices was that of Mad-Eye Moody, the slightly off-kilter auror. The characters most memorable quote, a phrase that the character repeated endlessly and Dale practically screamed, was this:


It’s a very apt mantra to keep in mind while in China. After dinner today, I went to one of the on-campus convenience stores where I regretfully buy my bottled water. After purchasing the bottle, I noticed that it was a bit dusty. Thinking this was not a big deal, as it is an open-air convenience store, I started to open the bottle.

But it was already open.

I said last post that 50% of the bottled water here is contaminated, and here’s a real example. The bottle had been refilled and then sold on campus. I know, this is a long post for such a short anecdote, but it threw me off guard because, well, it was on campus. But you can’t trust any product here. Anything could be fake. It shouldn’t have surprised me, as all of the drink sellers at the Great Wall collected our old bottles, most likely selling them refilled to unsuspecting tourists. I discarded the tainted beverage, not prepared to argue my case to the shopkeeper in Mandarin, and bought a carefully inspected bottle.

Water is the least of China’s counterfeit worries; whenever you spend a bill of large denomination, the cashier puts it through a scanner to make sure its real. There are reports of tourists being served fake alcohol, sometimes including anti-freeze, at some of even the most reputable bars. There are even stories of rat being served on the street, presented as either pork or beef. Those are some of the more unsettling examples, but they serve as a reminder of reality: This is China.

Constant vigilance.


About Jonathan Rice

Fulbright Fellow, Pitzer College alum, and communicator passionate about telling stories that make an impact.

Posted on 09/21/2011, in College, Pitzer in China - Fall 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Cant trust anything consumable made in china.

    • Thanks for the comment Jeyna! I’m beginning to fully get that sense. Just saw that a number of people died after restaurants started using contaminated cooking oil. I’ll just have to be careful….

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