So when you go to China you have to be careful. The number of people who told me this, especially Taiwanese, I could simply not count. So in China, I have been on a nonstop watch for pick pockets and shady figures. However I was not really sure what to look for.
Typically I keep two bags on me, my camera and my computer. My computer goes on one side, the camera on the other side, and the two make a cross across my chest. Its not to hard to lift and it always seemed safe. I keep my elbows or forearms propped on the top of the two bags, thinking that if anyone grabbed for my bag I would feel it.
The front of my camera bag has a little pocket with a broken zipper so it is half open. You have to lip the flap and then the pocket is basically open but synched at the top by my broken zipper.
So when I went to China...I was walking through Xi'an. I decided rather than see a sight I wanted to do a walk through Xi'an and compare it to Chinese cities as whole, an activity not as historically enlightening but still gives some cultural nuance. Furthermore, it involved seven less hours of buses.
I was walking away from the train station, on the main street to the center of town. This is a place where some tourists go, but not tons (most would take a bus or a taxi through this part of town). It was not a bad area of town by any means, but the commercial drag that dominates that line had not started yet.
At the time I did not have my big bag, for portability I was just using the camera bag and had the computer at home. Suddenly I felt someone digging into the pocket I described before, and in the way I assumed I would based on how I kept my arms. To my surprise, apparently I learned something in Kung Fu class, I knocked his arm away in the inward turn that we did a thousand times in class. As I did that, I turned to him and ended up standing facing the man, making it very clear that I knew what he tried to do, and based on the surprising gracefulness of me knocking away him, I think I looked rather dangerous and surely felt as such.
He was much taller than me, tall even by western standards. He wore dark glasses, a navy blue shirt and kaki pants. He had a pitted face, but was not profoundly ugly. His straight stance reminded me of a businessman, he had a good presence, and tried his best to pretend the obvious had not just happened. That said, he was clearly scared shitless of me.
My first thought actually was to hit him, based on his surprise and a crap load of adrenaline, I think I would have smacked him good. The second thought was get the police. The third thought was just start talking to him, like "does that normally work?"
In the end, and mind you this was all about a second, I compromised. I figured that all three of those plans lead to far too many invariable that provided a whole lot of risk and not too much reward. I took a step towards him, and slapped him hard on the back, not unlike I would imagine a Texan CEO would do to a new intern, and asked him "What the fuck are you doing?"
Of course he did not understand me, because I asked in English. This was actually a conscious decision, as I was not sure talking to him in Chinese would benefit my life. I did not especially want to hear some inane explanation. At the time I was actually listening to the often advertised Chinesepod. He said something to me that, without even having heard it, was clearly a bad excuse.
I said "fuck you" rather matter of fact, flipped him off, and walked off. I looked around a little for the police when I saw the guy was not taking off, however I decided it was just not worth it. It put too many things at risk, and he had just joined a group of guys. I was not sure I could explain it adequately and it was not worth making myself a target.
I walked on, he did not follow me. I was a bit full of adrenaline at this point and went to get a milk tea. After the normal "You really speak Chinese moments?" and "Where are you from?" One guy said "Your President Bush is terrible."
I said I agreed, but I didn't really like his government much either. He said, like many Chinese have said to me (their opinions are creepy uniform here, and that really bothers me), "Bush really likes those wars." I said "Yeah, I don't like him, and I think he has done to much fighting."
He said something like "Everyone else likes peace." This one got an adrenalined up me way ticked off. I said, "Well that's not really certain" (which sounds much better in Chinese), "your government is not exactly peaceful." From there I basically launched on a rant about Taiwan and that the Chinese government is far from peaceful. They called it an internal matter of course, and general party line crap. I gave it back just as much, emphasizing that domestic or not, it is insane to call that any form of peace.
The conversation was quick, and the milk tea was good. I actually had another milk tea today, apparently they like it with beans, and it tastes surprisingly good. In fact, I had one of the best milk teas I have ever had here, with beans, chocolate, and the normal pearls. I figured it would be too much, but it was very good.
Most of the day I walked the street, which is very consumeristic and interesting. It had real CD stores next to pirated stores. It had generic shoes next to Nike "authorized dealerships." I only really talked to one other person, and she was very very uncomfortable talking about my favorite conversations (awkward).
Tonight I am going to Beijing in the cheap section (not my choice). Outside of a lucky upgrade (you can sometimes buy upgrades). Which I am partially looking forward to, and partially dreading. I look forward to the language, but I hear the people are rude. I am also really afraid of some political fights and the crowds.