Friday, July 28, 2006

Up the Yangzi

The food was terrible. On the bus, I discovered that I had paid probably two hundred too much for this trip. My cabin is dismally cramped, and full, and has the worst bathroom I have seen in a long while. You have to pay extra to get onto the terrace. My Sprite cost as much as an American one. I ate my medicine, my bag worth of medicine, latter than I was supposed to. Yet then I sat down, I looked up to the few stars I could see, and I thought one thing, I am in China, cruising down the Yangzi river.
This long river, the third longest in the world (and literally the Long River in Chinese), was the main road for pioneers of China, both those Chinese finding their country and the foreign explorers who discovered this place with new eyes.
As easily as it can be to get corrupted by this people, to get jaded, there is something amazing. There is something unquestionably interesting about a culture so different from your own. Something memorable about this beautiful land full of complex and vast land.

PTI: I stopped writing that last entry when my friends that I met on the bus to the boat arrived. They were two French of architects, another (like my French studier of American Literature) was very positive on America, and hoped to live in New York. Talking to them was great. It was even better that we were on the oo, where during the Opium Wars French and American probably hung out on boat bows in quite a similar way.

As we talked we had some of those far typical "so rude you are not sure how he exists" Chinese guys next to us. There was a lot of hawking, a lot of trash thrown about, and there shirts were off almost instantly. The one that bothered me the most was the smoking directly next to me. I have found my ability to breathe through my nose in China is limited to pollution less areas. These include the Bamboo Sea, Emeishan, and out here in the middle of nowhere on the river that gets cancelled out almost immediately.
Last night,I went to bed in my tiny bunk cabin. My roommate, wanted to practice his English so he asked me the same set of questions the all Chinese people learn from three "How do you do?", "Where are you from?"m and so on. He was nice, but in all to Chinese manner he just yelled the questions despite his family trying to sleep in the top two bunks. Despite me answering very softly, he kept belting questions.
This morning there was much ado about nothing, everyone seemed to be getting up, so I got up. I figured it was sun rise, its 4:30 now and no sunrise. The problem is I have no idea when it will be. I assume some people would be out on the terrace (which I had to pay extra for by the way, but that is another complaint). In Emeishan we were up at five or so, now we are more East (but without a time zone change), so shouldn't it be soon?

PTI: For the zombie hunter in the crowd, Miranda, I think here would be good hunting territory. We just passed a weird peninsula or something with a few truly eerie lights on it and what appeared to be, best described as, writhing human beings. In the otherwise pitch black night, mad creepy. Also I hear weird chanting from the pitch black coast, yet that might be monks...or zombie monks.

A reason, having just consulted my badge, no one is out here is that maybe this place is not open. As, according to the hours, I cannot be out here yet. Which then begs the question why did people get up? and our little cabin boss even keep our door open? seemingly to keep us awake for something.
We are about to cruise into the port of some various city. And that fog horn would have definitely woken me up if I had not already been awake. Why do I spill crumbs on the deck and freak out a little, yet those around me throw peanut shells on the ground openly, or for that matter, spit in buses?

PTI: We are making a late not docking, although I have no idea why. However, some people finally came up here, and of course immediately start smoking.

There is a way to do this trip for something like eight days to Shanghai. That would be simply hell. My bathroom is unacceptably small for something like that. I am really glad I am on the faster one, despite having paid too much. I payed too much, by the way, because my stupid guide book said prices were standard, my price was the one in the book about, so I bought. Whereas my friends haggled for apparently a half an hour to get a class above me for less than I paid (though their room is identical to mine at least).

PTI: I think I heard a rooster, sun? All I know is after that sun is up, I am back to bed. I slept well, as I tend to in moving objects, last night, and I could use more of that in my life.

PTI: It was getting colder and I had given up on the sunrise being worth it, but as I was going back to the cabin we basically hit a five alarm emergency, except instead of a siren they used terrible light jazz. It was apparently time to get up and go back to the terrace. At the terrace I was blitzed with high speed Chinese explaining the mountain. Now I in the middle of the day.

We are on a little boat going through the "mini gorges," which I must say, are pretty sizable to be mini. The gorges really are quiet pretty, but we can barely stand this boat. The tour guide is absolutely terrible. It would be the equivilent if you got a hard core valley girl to do a cowboy auction, in Chinese. She uses this one annoying term 呢 which is typically used for the continuation of a question or idea. The problem is that she uses it every sentence.
The French guys asked what she was sayin, and I translated a section which was basically "look, something black 呢,it is very old 呢" now expand this over some four hours. She does not stop, she barely breathes, she just keeps going. I bonded with some sane Chinese tourists over how terrible her Chinese was. They too hated the Chinese tourist, a breed that makes American tourist look like the sweetest travelers on Earth. They retold stories of guides saying "don't touch this" and then watching every person pass by and touch it.
We bonded even more as we watched in disgust as a worker chucked an empty bottle into the river. This is your river buddy! This is your job, this is your life! I am going out of my way to refuse knick knacky free stuff shoved on me because I know it will end up in the trash or in my bag, begging me to be thrown away while guilt stops me. Yet this guy will just throw crap into the river the composes his livelihood. For a country with so much pride, how can China have so little social capital? If I can be apart of one change in this country, it very well may be that, true social capital. The government, the environment, the respect for others, all would change for the best tremendously if social capital really came to the hearts of the Chinese.
The French uys and myself are getting more than a little angry at some of the aspects of Chinese tourism. On this boat, we asked for how much to go into the nice area of the boat. A worker told us 150 for the three of us, noting the hand made furniture (which was clearly not hand made).
We asked him about getting the terrible crappy chairs out of the room (there were also cheap dollar store chairs in the nice room). I said this should be free of course. He said "no, no, no," and he pulled out a broken chair and said, "these chairs are very bad, they break easily, we can't have people break them, and then we have to buy them."
"Okay, well then we will give you .5 dollars for the three of us." For the record, we wanted these chairs to sit on the small part of the deck where the valley girl auction announcer was the quietest.
"No, no, no, we can't do that."
"Okay then."
Later he said we could pay a hundred to go to the captains room. I told him in one of my favorite grammatical patterns "Even a little interest towards this, I completely don't have. All we want are those little plastic chairs."
He said they were fifty for the three of us to take chairs out and sit on them in our little area. I pointed out that he himself said that they were "terrible and brake easy" how could they possibly be worth that.
I said if you went to the store, and you bought them, they should be like five yuan, how could they possible be rented at fifty for the three. At one point he said that they would cost at least fifty yuan to buy at a store. To this I started laughing so hard that he just left. What I said was bad, but what the French guys wanted to say but couldn't were a lot worse.
Really it was interesting to test the limits of his greed. To see how full of himself he was and his ability to dispense chairs (really we probably could have just gotten the chairs ourselves but I think the boat was already rocked enough). One of the things that bothers me is watching people, who are not beggars, come up to me and beg for money.
I see woman who are just standing there, and when they see me they run up to me and ask for money. When I say "no" they go back to standing there, not asking any Chinese people for money. These incidents are often in areas with Zegnas, Guccis and other stores I could never afford, yet she asks me rather than anyone else.
Well, enough griping and more praising. The mini gorges really are beautiful. Lots of those forms, great mountains. Now I guess they are playing a video, which although annoying, is nothing compared to the guide. We are sitting on the floor in the quiet area, leaning against the 2, and I think the two French guys are asleep. Pretty peaceful overall, and a nice break from the chaos that China has a tendency towards.

1 comment:

Smiranda said...

Wow, do you even realize how close to peril you probably were? If the zombie apocolypse started in China? There'd be no containing that sucker. It would be the end of the world as we know it.