A Long Way from Home
We saw only a tiny bit of the huge country (visiting Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Yunnan and Chinese Tibet) so my describing it is like the blind man who, after grabbing an elephant’s trunk, said that the elephant was just like a snake.
Still, I’ll risk some random reflections in an effort to solve the riddle that is China in fifteen days: We see very few Westerners, even in Hong Kong, so they’re still a novelty in many places; a billion and a half Chinese have no idea what my life is like; we cruise along an eight-lane highway watching women hack at a small plot of land with a grubbing hoe and men plow with oxen; a passerby is straight-faced, even stern, until you catch her eye and then she smiles broadly and uses her only English word “hallow”; a child squats and shits in the gutter of a busy city street (this is such a common practice that the children wear pants with slits in the crotch); and brightly lit stores sell things I had no idea what they were, even after I went in them; air pollution is unremarkable.
In Hong Kong, fighting jet lag which had its death grip on us, we found an English language tv station and caught the popular show of sportscaster Wang Dong who’s apparently very big in China.
There are construction and debris piles everywhere. Toddlers are tended by old people. This is understandable since most are only children (and only grandchildren) due to China’s policy of heavy fines for Han Chinese who have more than one child. Even so, todders play at the construction sites. They wander beside busy roads. Helmetless, they ride on the backs of motor scooters.
China appears to be an authoritarian state, but not a police state. There are fewer police in evidence that in the U.S. It appears that conformity and orderliness are imposed culturally and not from the top down. There are many tribes, languages and ancient grudges and suspicions. Nineteenth and Twentieth Century humiliations by European powers still rankle the Chinese.
In the rice terraces area, Zhang tribal women carry your luggage a half mile to the hilltop hotel on their backs in wicker baskets. Men will carry you in a litter chair, one at each end. They halfheartedly offered to take me and curiously seemed relieved when I declined.
Grateful to be hungry any time, it means you aren’t sick. But, the food is good and cheap as is the beer – $1.70 US for a large Tsingtao.
On a Li River cruise as lunch was being fixed at stern of boat:
Ed: “That’s kind of suspect.”
Canadian girl sitting across from us: “Everything in China’s kind of suspect.”
More random thoughts to follow.
But I digress. . .