Reflections on China Trip – Volume 4

Recollections of China continued… Various signs in Kunming airport men’s room (in English): “The civilization in the restroom determines the level of a nation’s civilization.” “Caution – slippery slope.” “Do not stamp on toilet seat.”  This last is due to, I suppose, a long ingrained habit of squatting. In the elevator of the Shangi-La Hotel in Guilin: 8 year old Chinese girl to me:  “Good morning.” Me, speaking very slowing:  “Your English is excellent.  Where are you from?” Chinese girl: “Toronto.” You can never forget you’re in China.  One minute you want to embrace it, breath it in, become one with it. The next minute you’re thinking, Lord, get me out of here. Other than the temples there are few old buildings. Most were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. It’s interesting to speculate what China would be like if Mao had been constrained. In all events, China is a wonderful place, full of surprises and wonder.  The people are gentle and kind though standoffish, but the slightest indication of interest is rewarded with a smile and a “hallow”.  In perhaps the most surreal experience of the trip, Debbie and I were waiting in line for security in the modern Guilin airport. Behind us was a large number of Chinese ladies, seemingly on a group tour.  One of them, a diminutive middle-aged lady, brushed against me when she sneaked up next to me so her friend could take a picture of the two of us. When I turned they looked apprehensive as if they’d been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.  I laughed and flashed the peace sign which in China means something like everything’s good.  This opened the flood gates of good will and laughter and we found ourselves caught up in an episode of Chinese amateur paparazzi.  Something like a dozen women, most of whom didn’t come up to my chest, snuggled up to Debbie or to me, one or two at a time, so that their friends could take a picture. This went on so long that I was afraid we were going to get in trouble with the security fellows who looked on stolidly but did nothing.  After a while the storm abated and we continued through security and to our gate.  If we ever saw any of those women again, I wouldn’t know; we were back in the standard Chinese mode of distancing ourselves but maybe our picture graces many a Chinese travel photo album. I can hear their friends now:  “Who, in God’s name, is that?” Ed with Chinese PrincessOne more China blog to follow. But I digress . . .

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