Captain’s log 11

Captain’s log: Stardate – 02.11.05
> There is a less ‘nanny’-like approach to heath and safety here. On
> the whole the attitude is “You have been warned once, if you are
> injured, do not say that we did not tell you”. This attitude can
> be seen in road safety, where as a pedestrian, you must be vigilant
> when crossing he road at designated crossing areas. This is because
> a red light is merely a suggestion to stop. It can also be seen in
> building work, where the attitude is “if you can see and hear the
> commotion of a building site, then take extra precautions”. None of
> this ‘enclosed building site’ nonsense of the western worlds. This
> more practical approach to working and moving around people who are
> working leads to a society that is much more alert and more aware
> of their surroundings. It makes you fitter, or at least remain fit,
> as to be prepared for an occasion where you might need to step
> lively to get out of the way of a car or falling debris. I have
> seen old women working on the construction of their family homes with the rest of the family, carrying out tasks for which able bodied Westerners would check their health and safety manuals.
> Now there are some disadvantages I will grant you. I have seen lost
> limbs that do not look like birth defects, but maybe they did not
> heed the signs.
> One the whole I would say that the Chinese of all ages are much
> fitter than their Western counterparts. This is in part to do with
> with the fact that everyone exercises, and I do not mean in the gym. I
> mean on the side of the road, in parks, and standing in shops or
> hotel lobbies. They do not feel the need to buy the latest sports
> equipment or have shower facilities, they just start doing twists,
> thrusts and sit-ups in whatever they have on. But as I said, this
> is only part of the reason why they are fitter, another reason is
> the food they eat. Chinese food here is not the type of food that
> you get in a UK takeaway. It is generally steamed, boiled or
> lightly fried. It is not covered in batter, with extra sugar and
> full of preservatives. Here, fast food means food without the
> ceremony, not cheap food with no nutrition. As a result of this
> diet, I have lost an acceptable amount of weight, in conjunction
> with the usual ‘backpackers’ exercises’ ie lifting a 12.5kg rucksack
> every day and carrying it for a prolonged period of time, over vast distances.
> I got an email from a friend saying that bird flu is a major scare
> in the UK at the moment. This would not be believed in China, as
> ‘China Central TV’ or CCTV as it is abbreviated to ironically,
> gives constant updates on how China has stemmed the tide of bird
> flu and has everything under control. This is one of many bits of
> propaganda fed to the masses on a nightly basis. The propaganda
> has come in useful to provide some well chosen statistics to
> disgruntled tourists, complaining about China’s consumption levels.
> Only the other day China’s navy and airforce carried out maneouvres
> using live ammunition, and marveled in the success of the Red team
> over that of the Blue. But success would mean destroying tanks,
> barracks, ammunition dumps and command posts, as well as the death
> of the enemy troops, but we did not see those pictures in the news.
> The Chinese seem to like finding faces, images, and characteristics
> in rocks, be they in caves, stalagmite formations or on the side of
> a mountain face, eroded away over time; they will always say that it
> looks like a tree, roaring lion, or dancing dragon. This was
> recently demonstrated again on our trip up the Yi river. Why not
> just enjoy the formations for what they are, rather than adding
> characteristics to interest the tourists?
> Also on the boat trip up the Yi river was ‘Beijing Number 55 High
> School’ on a trip to Yangshuo. Their interaction with each other
> took me back to my own school days of needing to sit in the right
> place, with the right group and to maintain a certain level of
> ‘cool’ at all times, and of course wearing the right clothes. These
> teenagers were dressed in the height of affordable high school
> fashion. Their hair was immaculate, and constant grooming from
> other classmates was not uncommon, much like you would see with
> monkeys in a zoo. But where they seemed to make their statements
> was in the high-tech gadgetry around their necks and wrists that
> screamed that these kids were from the well-off city and not from a
> local fishing town school. Their demeanour suggested to me that they
> were also from ‘well-to-do’ families and they were not your average
> inner city kids.
> Whilst on the boat I offered a man some tea, just because I was
> pouring myself a cup and happened to have the pot in my hand. The
> man put both hands together in a praying fashion and bowed low at
> me; his friend did the same. I quickly established that offering
> tea to a stranger is a big deal, and accepting tea is essential
> unless you wish to offend. A woman was berated on the table behind
> me for not offering to refill Mairead’s cup, not because she was a
> tourist, but to return Mairead’s initial offer of tea.
> I can only hope that this comedy Chinese town of Yangshuo is not
> the future of China. Where people pander to the tourists to attract
> their business; where the prices of meals are outrageously inflated
> and where Chinese people lose a certain amount of dignity and self-
> respect that has been so prominently displayed throughout my trip
> so far.
> Equally it is the responsibility of the tourists to afford the
> people here the respect that they deserve, and usually demand.
> Today I saw an English woman indignantly expecting someone to carry
> the large, over-packed suitcases of herself and her husband, into the
> cheap hotel in which we are staying. The receptionist looked at
> the woman with bewilderment, then called into the street for a
> young woman who runs the art gallery next door to help them. She
> clearly screamed  back some sort of refusal, then a man came in
> and reluctantly assisted. We are staying in a cheap hotel, not the
> Ritz. I would have asked then tourists whether they packed the bags
> themselves, and if so, did they not expect to have to carry their
> own luggage, just before I turned my back on them. “If you pack it,
> you carry it”.
> Captain’s log: Stardate – 03.11.05
> Today was a good day. We got out and hired mountain bikes from the
> art gallery next to the hotel and headed off into the countryside.
> Our primary destination was a place called Moon Hill about 8km
> outside the main town, however as is always the case, it is the
> journey not just the destination that delights, as we passed some
> glorious scenery en route. We arrived at the foot of Moon Hill and
> were immediately pounced upon by a woman selling water. In her
> persistence, she verbally fought off other sellers and followed us
> up the hill, repeating over and over that it was very hot and I
> needed water. I have now learnt the Chinese for “I do not need
> water because I am a Black man”, well, what do they know. She then
> invited us to her home for lunch, and if the offer had been genuine and
> not a money spinning idea, I may have considered her offer. Instead
> we stayed at the top of the hill for a while then made our way
> down, and rode off on a random dirt pathway into the countryside.
> The main roads here are fine, but off road is very different. When
> you hire a bike you are always given a mountain bike as a matter of
> course, and you see why in the countryside. The pathways are not so
> much made of dirt as made of rocks, so you need your wits about
> you. We cycled for about 4.5 hours in a large ‘figure of eight’
> direction around the countryside, before heading back to the hotel
> to drop off the bikes. It was was good to get out of ‘comedy China
> Town’ for the day.
> After getting some rest we got dressed for the evening. and headed
> into the humid night to find the night market. There was an array
> of food from rat (yes I said Rat) to a full rack of ribs, but all
> far too expensive. I walked through the market disappointed that,
> even here, I could not find a slice of real China. It was only when
> I have up hope that we stumbled across a small place offering local
> food at local prices, made for and eaten by locals. I loved it,
> and it restored my faith that, even here, there is a touch of real
> life China.


~ by jeditopcat on 8 November, 2008.

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