Group work is crushing. My biggest fear in Uni is teamwork, because it is like a blind box and you never know what kind of teammates you will meet. Fortunately, I tried every possibility this semester. I had three presentations: the first pre had a total of eight or nine members, I don’t remember the exact number, because there were only three girls including me who actually did something. Other boys never participated in discussions and preparations. There were originally four members in my second pre group. In addition to me, there was one boy and two girls. Unfortunately, the two girls dropped out, so only one boy and I were left. By making excuses, procrastinating, being sick, he did not do anything and even disappeared before our presentation. I ended up completing the report alone. The last pre was between me and a girl. She was very serious with our work and really easy-going. We made great progress every time we met and didn’t feel tired. We completed all the work happily. Some teammates really hurt my hurt because they did not have a sense of responsibility at all. I was wondering how could they be so confident about the final work and their scores. Maybe there is always someone who need to do almost all the hard work, and they just get used to this. It is so similar to the normal situation in one’s career in our society. The one who works seriously will always get more tasks, and at the same time, his achievements must be shared with others. I’ve worked for 2 years and I have to say it is the truth. (I’m the person whose heart was broken in career.) Society is inherently unfair. Maybe some people just learned how to survive easily earlier. Maybe that’s why we have so many teamworks. Maybe it should change its name to „Who is the fool?“.
I started my half-month journey since Dec.24. In my plan I’m going to visit Berlin, Munich, Venice, Florence, Rome, Vatican, Milan, Luzern, Sachseln, Interlaken, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Gent, Antwerp, Brussels. Now I’m in Luxembourg and have completed my trip to most of the cities. It is the time to write down some feelings of this long trip.
Along the way, I took trains and buses, stayed in AirBnBs, and visited museums that cost almost nothing. What I saw is mainly the life of ordinary people. When I arrived in Berlin for the first time, my feeling was actually: Berlin deserves to be the capital of Germany! Berlin train station is decorated with glass and marble, which looks like a high-end shopping mall at first glance. There were crowds of people and the trains were busy rushing. Bremen’s train station really looks like an antique, while Berlin feels like it’s 2023. The next day, I visited the famous Berlin Wall. This is a sentence I saw in a history book 8 years ago, and now this short line of words became a reality before my eyes. I can easily jump back and forth on different sides of the wall. I don’t know how to describe this magical feeling. As I walked along the wall, I gradually felt the loneliness and decay deep in the city. The square was very deserted, with almost no people except for a large flock of crows soaring in the sky. Abandoned shopping carts and bicycles lied on the roadside, and occasionally a pigeon or two flied down to carve out food scraps on the road. However, the area around the Brandenburg Gate was once again crowded with tourists. Berlin is a city with a long history, part busy but part deserted. Then I took the train all the way south to Munich. The area near the train station is almost entirely populated by Turks, and Turkish restaurants are everywhere. Unlike people in the north who feel a certain distance from each other, people in Munich like to get together to sing and play, and seem to prefer communicating with others. There are obviously more young people here, and the urban buildings are even newer.
Then I took an overnight train to Venice. As a famous tourist city, Venice is still crowded with people even though it is the off-season. „Beware of Thieves“ signs are everywhere. I had to keep an eye on my luggage at all times and keep all my valuables on me. But the food in Italy is delicious and cheap. Even with the table fee, the price is almost half of that in Germany. I bought a cup of Espresso and Gelato everyday. The funny thing is that Italian will be so confused if you ask for a cup of „Latte“, because it means only pure milk without any coffee in it. There are also many Chinese people in Italy, and people there can enjoy very authentic traditional Chinese food with a good price. Florence is a very old city with so many masterpieces. The houses are in old styles and there are almost no modern-style buildings. The roads are very narrow and in many sections only one person can walk through at a time. People sang and held parties on the streets in the middle of the night, leaving broken glass bottles, beer cans, and garbage everywhere. But also there, you can see artists at every corner. And I had the best thin crust pizza ever in my life. Rome is very different, the roads are more open and cleaner than in Florence. The whole city is well planned. No wonder it is said that “all roads lead to Rome”. Rome is almost a city built on history. The whole city is filled with various cultural relics, which is dazzling. The Vatican is very small, and its museum take up a large part of it. Here you can admire various treasures, sculptures, and exquisite paintings from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece and Rome, and masterpieces from the Renaissance, especially Michelangelo’s „Genesis“. Rome’s leather goods are particularly rich and affordable, same for the artworks. However, where there are many tourists, there are also many scammers. My friend bought several printed watercolor paintings at a very high price. Things like this happened all the time. In Milan, someone put a handful of corn in her hand. After the pigeons flew over, we were surrounded by a group of black people and had to give them all the cash we had. Overall, Italy is great, but not a great place to travel alone. Its fascinating history and culture are contradictory to its somewhat speechless theft rate.
My next station is Switzerland. It was the most surprising of my whole trip because I didn’t want to go to this expensive place at first. Switzerland’s infrastructure is very modern, all the roads are clean and tidy, and importantly, cashless and cardless payments are available everywhere. The landscapes are as enchanting as wallpaper and the air is so fresh there. The railway system is very punctual and every train arrives and departs on time. Sitting on the panoramic train, you can have a panoramic view of the lakes and mountains along the way. Every day, I feel intense happiness. In Interlaken, we took a cruise to visit Lake Thun and climbed to the pure white First Peak. Many German parents brought their children to ski and play. Tourists from all over the world gathered together to celebrate successful skiing with lucky wine. Switzerland is so safe that if you put your phone on the table and leave it for a while, no one will take it away. My landlady never even locked the door. The only drawback of Switzerland is that good prices are too high. We paid a very high price for a cheese pot meal that was not tasty. There are no perfect choices in life. To live in such a paradise-like place, you have to endure loneliness and high prices. In a word, Switzerland is a great place for a vacation, and its beautiful scenery can wash away all your worries.
Then I came to France. The Christmas atmosphere in Strasbourg has not completely dissipated, but there were already far fewer tourists. This is perhaps the best place to balance secularity with beautiful surroundings. People there speak French and German, or even fluent English. French food is also very cheap and the portions are plentiful, I even did’nt finish it. Everyone’s face is filled with a satisfied smile. The landlady I met had a big dog and a cat, and lived alone in an apartment as warm as an oil painting. She is a music MV director and has her own studio, so she can control her time relatively freely. “Don’t go to Paris. It’s so dirty and unsafe! We French don’t like it either, hahaha.” She laughed away. „Where are you going tomorrow?“ „There is nothing interesting in Luxembourg. A boring place!“ She added.
A three-hour bus ride later, we arrived in Luxembourg. I must admit, Luxembourg is really boring and small. But Luxembourg’s happiness level is very high. All buses here are free, which is incredible. Except in Switzerland and Luxembourg, I see beggars on the streets all the time. Luxembourg is like a boring and small version of Switzerland. Walk a little further and you’ll reach the suburbs. It is sparsely populated and has a serious architectural style, as if it were in an industrial development zone.
The trip is coming to an end soon, and I have to return to Bremen, where the sun cannot be seen. And I have to face the railway strike again. Luckily, this will probably be my longest trip in a long time in the future. Whenever I feel that life is in trouble again, I can imagine the scenery along the way and the busy lives of different people, and I will definitely gain the courage to face it positively. When I see the world from a different perspective, many worries are no longer worries. Reading, learning, traveling and working. Living in this world run by people, no need to worry about food and clothing (which can be easily obtained with money), but pursue your goals and dreams. This is a magical and incredible thing in itself.
How time flies. 2024 will come after around 10 days.
When I was a kid, I once wrote an article about the future. I imagined that in 2024, people can shop online, take online classes at home, and drive flying cars. At that time, I would never have imagined that in the coming twenty years, two of them would actually become a reality step by step. I could not even imagine that COVID-19 would really force me to shop and study at home. The world is really magical. In 2023, ChatGPT was born. I don’t know how artificial intelligence will completely change our lives in the coming 2024，that anything can happen in an instant and everything is full of unknowns.
I have become the adult I expected as a child. I will be faced with a variety of new choices, and these choices may very well change my whole life. I don’t know how to deal with the world changing drastically. I feel more deeply that as an ordinary person, I am just a grain of sand in the tide of the times. I don’t know where I came from and I don’t know where I am going to. It seems that I have chosen my life, but in fact I am swaying forward step by step under the invisible control of society. I often think about the purpose of this life and often feel empty and meaningless.I know loneliness is the normal state of life. Communication between people is a kind of spiritual support, but it is also a cage of freedom.
Anthropology is such a broad concept to me. I gave up studying a so-called high-paying science major because I knew I wouldn’t love it. But choosing to study a seemingly illusory topic, especially today when artificial intelligence is so popular, is this really the right choice? Make money in pain or become impoverished in obedience, it’s a hard decision – choose your preference between the two Rotten Tomatoes. Even though I like culture, I still face many choices. For example, I love reading, but I don’t like writing papers. I like communicating with people, but I don’t like studying people’s behavior.
Being a human being is hard. While constantly thinking about life, we also have to constantly withstand severe beatings from society. For example, I just found out that a rental website fraudulently deducted 160 euros from my account, but I can’t get a refund because they wrote the subscription terms in mini translucent font on the Q&A page. I feel haggard because of these things every day, and I can only console myself that it’s good that I’m still alive. For example, every time I see the elder sitting in wheelchairs or pushing mopeds, I have to think about what the world will look like when we age and whether we will still get support at that time. Or, will we live to be their age?
It is not good to think too much. In this vast universe, everyone is so confused and at a loss. What we occupy is only a small fragment in the long history of the Milky Way, and it will always become a thing of the past before we have time to think about anything further. But I’m so grateful that I am thinking. If a tree can think, then it wouldn’t be bad to be a tree for the rest of my life.
Anyway, 2024 is coming.
09-50-M1-T2: Tutorium 2 zu „Einführung in die Ethnologie“ | Tutor: Ben Baumgarten | WiSe 2023 |6297282| Xiying Huang | Literaturliste
 Banton, Michael. Social Anthropology of Complex Societies. 1st ed., London: Routledge, 2013.
 Cole, John W. “Anthropology Comes Part-Way Home: Community Studies in Europe. Annual Review of Anthropology”, Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 6, 1977, pp. 349-378.
 Hannerz, Ulf. Exploring the City: Inquiries Toward an Urban Anthropology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.
 Herzfeld, Michael. Anthropology Through the Looking Glass: Critical Ethnography at the Margins of Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
 Howe, Leo. “Urban Anthropology: Trends in its Development since 1920.” The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 14, No. 1, Mar. 1990, pp. 37–66.
 Jackson, Peter. “Urban Ethnography.” Sensing the City: A Companion to Urban Anthropology. Ed. Anja Schwanhäußer. Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 2016. pp. 17-40.
 Nath, Suman. “Urban Anthropology.” Anthropology for Beginners, 29 Apr. 2021, http://sumananthromaterials.blogspot.com/2021/04/urban-anthropology.html.
 Pardo, Italo, and Giuliana B. Prato. Anthropology in the City: Methodology and Theory. 1st ed., London: Routledge, 2016.
09-50-M1-T2: Tutorium 2 zu „Einführung in die Ethnologie“ | Tutor: Ben Baumgarten | WiSe 2023 |6297282| Xiying Huang | Freitext
This is a small plastic transparent packaging bag, which is a 6 cm square, with a cute cartoon image of a yellow jelly bean. Let me name it Yellow Bean. Mr. Bean opens his mouth wide, showing eight teeth, as if he is going to swallow something. Obviously Mr. Bean has been used by his owner for several times. The adhesive strip on his back is almost non-sticky and is covered with dust and dirt. Two small pieces of transparent tape are both on the upper and lower sides of Mr. Bean, with still some white powder left on them, which seems to indicate that he was once fixed on the wall for decoration. His mouth is the best home for candy, chocolate, cookies, earrings or ornaments. Mr. Bean, or plastic bag, is an old friend to humans. There is a long story about his family.
In 1933, a chemical factory in England accidentally develops the most commonly used plastic – polyethylene, and it was the first time this compound had been synthesised into an industrially material. 32 years later, an engineer Sten Gustav Thulin designed the one-piece shopping bag and it was patented by the Swedish company Celloplast. The plastic bag quickly replaced cloth and paper bags in Europe. In 1979, plastic bags, which have successfully occupied 80% of the bag market, have been used across the world and especially in the United States. Companies that produce plastic bags have begun widely marketing their products, exaggerating the advantages of plastic bags over paper bags. From 1982, more and more stores switched to plastic bags, following the two major supermarket, Safeway and Kroger, and within just 10 years, plastic bags almost completely replaced paper bags and dominated the world of shopping bags. However, in 1997, Charles Moore, a navigator and researcher, discovered the Pacific Garbage Patch – Ocean circulation will accumulate a large amount of plastic garbage, which seriously threatens the survival of marine life. For example, plastic bags have killed large numbers of sea turtles who eat them by mistake. Therefore, since 2000, more and more countries have introduced “Plastic Bans”, implemented strict regulations on the use of plastic bags, and charged high taxes to protect the environment. Today, plastic bags have become a global environmental issue. On the one hand, humans have yet to find synthetics or any other materials to totally replace plastic. The advantages of plastic are obvious, such as being thin, stretchable, light-transmitting, water- and oil-proof, low-cost and durable. People cannot live without plastic and plastic bags. On the other hand, plastic bags cannot be degraded naturally and will cause serious pollution after being discarded. The protection of animals and the ecological environment is urgent to human beings.
“Wait! This is not my fault!” Mr. Bean suddenly talks to me.
“I’m born to be your best friend! I can help you to keep food clean.”
I am shocked, but he continues talking.
“But humans don’t want to be my friend forever, they use me only once or twice, then I’m abandoned. What can I do? No one is perfect! All my wish is just living a long life.”
That is true. We enjoy the convenience plastic bags bring us, but seldom consider their fate after being used.
“Hey, are you listening?”
“Yes, yes… I’m sorry for not thinking of your feelings before.”
“Well, it’s not late. Thank you for picking me out of so many stuffs. Thank you for choosing me out of my buddies. Maybe I’m the least valuable of them all. A gust of wind can blow me away…”
“No! You are so worthy! Even though you are the lightest and cheapest one among your buddies, you can do so many things they can’t. You are not afraid of dirt, water, and oil, you are so convenient to carry. You can protect all my little treasures like a soldier. And you are so cute that I knew I liked you the first time I saw you. Would you like to keep my ring in your big mouth?”
“No problem! But if one day you don’t need me anymore, remember to send me back to my brothers and sisters! I don’t want to be left in the nature and stay alone for hundreds of years…”
Mr. Bean eats my ring and runs into my bag. “Nice ring, but tastes bad.” He adds.
I am so glad to meet Mr. Bean. Even seemingly weak one has tremendous power to change the world. Just like our habit of reusing and recycling plastic bags. People and plastic are not in a hostile relationship. What we need to do is help each other. After getting help from plastic, it is our duty to help them return to their place of birth and realise their own value. Thank you to the plastic bags for their nearly a century of service to mankind. They are not demons, just misplaced. They are not trash; they are misplaced treasures. How to rationally use plastics and protect the environment is an issue of human. I know there will be one day, technology can help plastic bags coexist harmoniously with the environment.
On 11 November 2023, I was on holiday in Barcelona with my friend Yolanda. We had a great time at Barcelona Beach from 2pm to 4pm, and I made an observation for about an hour. It was a very warm sunny day, the temperature is more than 20 degrees, with no clouds in the sky, and the air smelled of salty sea water mixed with sunshine. The tide, like the breath of a man, rose and fell, rhythmically lapping the beach. One can hear the shrill cries of the seagulls and the fluttering of their wings. There were about 100 people present, comprising all age groups: children, young people, middle-aged and elderly, wearing T-shirts, shorts, skirts and dresses. Young people were the majority, followed by children. Most of them were tourists, speaking totally different languages of different countries. Others were locals, including vendors hawking drinks and beach mats.
Different groups of people each occupied a small area. So many young people sunbathing on mats, with their couples or friends. Some of them were using Tiktok to record their day, some were chatting, and some were helping their companions apply sunscreen. If they forget to bring a mat, they had to rent it from the vendors at a really high price. Beside me was a family, a mother with two children and two dogs. The mother leaned back leisurely on her bag, enjoying the view of the sea and occasionally shouting at her children to keep them from running into the waves. Her son and daughter were initially competing in digging in the sand, and when they got tired of playing this, they ran out into the tide and splashed each other, shouting happily to show their mum what they were doing. The mother took out her mobile phone from time to time to take pictures of her lovely children. Meanwhile, their big dogs certainly did not stay still, but ran freely along the shoreline, chasing seagulls and pigeons. When the owner called out their names, these two dogs even pretended not to hear them and continued to play and ran further away until they got tired of playing. Many tourists observed these two dogs and videotaped them, including me, of course.
As time passed, the beach became more and more crowded with tourists and locals. Drinks vendors brought in cocktails every five minutes, selling them to everyone who passed by. They sang unique songs for sale and tried to get everyone’s attention. There were even IT engineers who brought their computers to work, sipping cocktails while their fingers flew up and down, tapping out code. Elderly local couples also came for a walk along the beach, holding their hands tightly. They sometimes suddenly argued out loud, but most of the time they looked at each other with loving eyes and leaned on each other. When they got tired, they just sat on the stone fence on the beach to have a rest. Within just one hour, from the children to the old couples, I saw a snapshot of an ordinary person’s whole life — Life is very long, however, it can be highly summarised and glimpsed in the same space and time.
I try to analysis the reasons of their behaviours. For parents, the beach is a free outdoor spot and one of the best places to take their kids out on weekends to play and be close to nature. The beach is full of sunshine, which is good for the health of the kids. With endless sand, children can play freely for an entire afternoon and parents can relax themselves without spending extra energy to take care of them. The children are free to shout, run around and create their own sand buildings from their imagination, with bare feet and minimal clothing. After a week of daily education or work, it will be so nice to take such a breath and relax. Not only can family members enhance their relationship, but for couples and friends, the beach is also a great place to go on a date. Nature often makes people feel romantic. The link between man and nature is marvelous. Enjoying the sunrise and sunset with the one they love, feeling the sea breeze blowing, the stress in life will be swept away easily. The only thing left is freedom, love and the happiness of being born as a human being. For businessmen, weekends are the great time to make money, especially in places with lots of tourists. They are willing to sacrifice their time enjoying the nature to maximize their profits, for example, making drinks for thirsty people, renting out swimming gear, umbrellas, sunglasses and beach mats, selling souvenirs, and so on. I seem to have become an outsider in this observation. As a student who studies anthropology, I observed others and analysed their motives. But as a tourist, I took a lot of photos and made unforgettable memories at the beach. In fact, I also became part of the observations in the lives of other people.
In 2023, there are already more than 85 million people with disabilities in China. This means that for every dozen people, there is one person with a disability. That’s a very impressive ratio.
In most cities, public places are already equipped with barrier-free facilities, such as metro stations, railway stations and airports. However, despite the abundance of barrier-free facilities, it is still rare to see people with disabilities in real life. Due to the lack of attention paid to them in people’s daily lives, blind alleys are often blocked by obstacles, and this makes them even more afraid to go out. In some ways, people with disabilities are almost not in the same world as we are– even though physical illness is close at hand for everyone. China still needs to strengthen the protection of vulnerable groups, improve relevant policies and actively include them in compulsory education.
In the town I live in, I rarely see anyone in a wheelchair out on their own. In contrast, on my first day in Bremen, I saw no fewer than five mobility scooters, with users ranging from the young to the middle-aged and the elderly. They hardly needed any help getting on and off buses and trams, going to the supermarket, going to the post office and the bank to do their personal business, and even driving through the streets at great speed. At the university, I was even able to find ramps on different floors dedicated to wheelchairs that lead straight to the bathroom. These utilities are truly used in everyday life and with great frequency. The label disability is no longer a reason for people with disabilities to be stuck in their homes.
Living in two countries, the level of convenience in daily travelling is completely different. Although China’s economy is developing at a rapid pace, humanistic care still has a long way to go. It’s not just about developing the infrastructure, but also about changing attitudes and practical application. Many people are devastated after suffering a physical blow because family, friends and society, still hold more or less prejudice against them. In most cases, family members think they need to avoid the danger of travelling, friends think they can no longer travel in company, and society does not give them good psychological counselling and living accommodations. It is very worthwhile to learn how to build more service centres for the disabled to help them solve their psychological, living and employment problems.
Human beings are animals with dignity, and this dignity deserves the respect of the entire human society. When people are no longer confined by physical defects, the value of society becomes more prominent.
Actually I’ve been living in Bremen, or more exactly, in an unfamiliar environment for 50 days. This period is not a long time, but must be one of the greatest change in my life. I wrote nearly fifty emails and finally signed a contract for a suitable apartment within three days; I registered with the BSC and got my own tax ID number; I applied for a german bank card and finally got an IBAN; I went to IKEA to buy pans and bowls… Of course I also made a lot of mistakes, like I often took buses in the opposite direction, bought tickets repeatedly, could not figure out the bus or S-Bahn station, and got disconnected from the Internet because I took out my Chinese phone card, which was really annoying.
Life has never been so hard, but it has also never been so warm. I got help from a lot of warm-hearted people. When I arrived at Bremen Airport, I did not know that it costed one euro coin for using the luggage trolley. Fortunately, a lady offered to give me the coin so that I could move my three heavy luggages to the airport gate. The taxi driver helped me to carry the luggages to my Airbnb apartment. The landlady told me how to rent an apartment quickly and recommended Schwarzbrett Bremen to me– in fact I rented my apartment from it. Furthermore, she allowed to to keep my luggages in her private room when I had to move to another Airbnb room and even drove her car, sending me and all my luggages to the final apartment, helped me to carry all the things to the third floor, without charging me for fee. This kind lady also invited me to her garden afternoon tea. My neighbour agreed to share his WiFi with me when I did not have any Internet– I can not sign a WiFi contract because I do not have an ID card yet. I encountered so much kind people, and I don’t know how to express my gratitude to them.
I also try my best to help others. I helped a visually impaired old man find the correct bus door, helped my neighbour move the heavy trash bin, and helped a lost student at university to find her classroom (I don’t even know how I became a helper when I have a poor sense of direction haha)… I believe that kindness and love are conserved, and how much you give will be what you gain.
I gradually adapted to university life, from the orientation week, to course selection, to attending Seminar for the first time, and so on. I met so many friends from different countries and spoke different languages. Luckily all my teachers and friends accepted my poor German. By the way, I made a correct decision, choosing English as my second major, it really saves my life– Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. I know, everything is difficult at the very beginning. I have just reached the foot of a big mountain. Climbing up step by step, one day I will be able to see the beautiful sunrise at the mountain top.
Of course, life in Bremen is not perfect. When it comes to the things that disappoint me, they are mainly the cumbersome civil affairs, the always difficult task of receiving a delivery (Thank God I haven’t received my delivery for a month and a half), and the cold winter when I rarely see the sun. However, I like my current life very much. Although I sometimes feel tired, every day is fulfilling and meaningful.