Remember the 11-day traffic jam in China 2 years ago? I wasn’t there — thank goodness — but I felt an ounce of fear last night that something similar would happen to me on my way from the airport in Guiyang to Huangping, where I am comfortably air-conditioned now. After 2 hours of racing (I’m talkin’ The Fast and the Furious) through the windy mountainous roads, we came to a halt. For the next 2 hours. By the time we were rolling again, it was already 8:30 pm and would be another 2 hours before dinner. Oh, what’s a 4-hour delay??
(Indiscreetly peeing roadside.)
We were dropped off at the side of a highway (the first time was at a fork in the road), walked through a toll booth with our luggage, only to be picked up by another manic driver who would fly us to dinner, and eventually to our hotel. We were going 60 on roads that would’ve been marked 20 in the US.
I am safe and sound in Huangping county now, where it’s humid and grey and surrounded by green hills. The majority of the population here are Miao, people from one of the largest ethnic minorities of China.
The locals are very friendly and don’t stare rudely (as they do in Beijing) at the American teacher in our group, a 70-something lady from Jersey who has been teaching English in various countries for over 32 years. But she happens to love Guizhou–its terrain, the Miao and Dong people–so here she is again to train local/rural English teachers on developing their own teaching methods, and I am here to assist.
Nothing spectacular has happened yet, but getting here was certainly half the fun–if you’re into adrenaline rushes from near-death fright.
**If you want to see beautiful photography of Guizhou, check out John Fanai’s site.**
Another highlight of my trip to Chongqing a couple of weeks ago was the boat ride along the cityscape. The port at which the boats are anchored is where two great rivers of China–Yangtze and Jialing–intersect.
The boats are quite extravagant, and so is the lady who runs the boat above.
My parents and I were tricked into paying more money for a fancier boat (should it be called something else? Yacht? Ship? Chitanic?). The smaller one docked next to ours looked far more exciting.
My family is Chinese, but we’re a gullible bunch and fall for tourist traps all the time. Oh well, so our boat had chandeliers and spiral staircases and 80 yuan kettles of tea, at least it was a peaceful cruise.
Irony, or perhaps I should use the term disparity, runs this country. Here’s just one example:
Can you guess which boat I was on?
I’ll give you a clue, I was not on the same boat as this lady who was cooking up a small storm. Though I would’ve gladly given her a hand if I got something delicious to eat in return. I’d do anything for food, except light the stove with a match–I’m afraid of fire.
Anyhow, it was a short ride up and down upstream Yangtze, but I had a pleasant journey.
There’s a Chinese tradition behind all that free lettuce (mentioned in yesterday’s post) that I learned today; when China was still very poor, lettuce was one of the few available vegetables people could eat during the wintertime. Now any kind of vegetable can grow, or be chemically produced, in the cold season but for older generations eating lettuce has become a wintertime tradition, for that’s all they had. Although, rather than calling it a tradition, I would say it is more of a habit since being restricted to lettuce wasn’t exactly by choice (though not all traditions are practiced by choice either…). Anyhow, now it makes sense to me why my neighborhood is handing out free lettuce–overproduction and contractors are just convenient excuses for keeping this tradition alive. Whatever, I’ll take it!
Another mystery I solved today was how window washers (aka Chinese Spidermen) do their job: they sit on wooden planks wound tightly to a rope which a lady at the bottom holds onto (for unknown reasons) from which they slowly descend! Brave souls; I commend you!
Something that still remains a mystery to me, however, is why there are so many old school thermoses parked by the bikes at this university, though they do add a nice touch of color to the campus.
I thought these things were “vintage” now. I’ve seen mini versions of them at stores sold along Maoist propaganda that has become part of the pop culture. It’s so hipster–Chinese style. I should stock up while I’m still young and relatively cool.
Two mysteries solved! Infinitely more to go.