Friday, November 15, 2013

Farewell China

I'm back connected to the websites that China's government controlled.  Thank you Vichenze for helping out with my blog posts and pictures.  Today I crossed the border into Vietnam from China, but not without looking back on some fond memories in that incredibly interesting country that has grown on me over the past week. I thought it would only be appropriate to compile a list of the things found in China that although they do wear on me over time, make it a unique place to cycle.

One picture taken and another camera is already out and ready for the next!

Paparazzi:  Every time I stop to eat, buy something, or stay at a hotel, I’m all of a sudden flooded by the paparazzi!  Everyone wants to take a picture with me! They really don’t even ask, rather they whip out their cell phone, hand it over to a friend and get those two fingers up to make the peace sign, and click away!  Oh how they love to show the peace sign!  I thought about charging per picture, but then again, I guess I do the same thing taking pictures, just not in such an intense manner!
He has to work on the smile part for the posing

Invasion of personal space: The locals always seem shocked to see me roll up, but are anxious to help me, especially when it comes to buying something or serving me food.  They oh and ah, snicker, and smile.  They get out their phone and before you know it, a few other locals appear to see the tourist.  They do the same, laugh, stare, converse, and call friends, and the next thing I know there are half a dozen people gathered around me examining my every movement, inspecting my bike and bags, and trying to talk with me in Chinese.  All I really wanted was some peace and quiet, a bit of down time from the road, but I guess that will have to wait until I get back to the saddle.

Anything and everything on the back of a bike!
Entertainment on the road: In Europe, I was alone on the roads a good amount of time, but in China, that was hardly the case.  There were bikes piled high with freshly picked vegetables or recycle cardboard, motor scooters with 4 or 5 passengers, and others with cages filled with chickens, ducks, or dogs.  Trucks drivers think they are in a sports car and drive way too fast honking continuously to let me know they are coming, and at any moment there can be head-on traffic in the shoulder that doesn’t want to obey the rules of the road. I invented the game, “Guess this vehicle and its load before it passes you…..” The smell (a truck full of pigs or a Chinese garbage truck take the cake for the most pungent smell), sound of the motor, or the type of honk, is key in determining which type of vehicle is about to whiz by.

This sign caught my attention after seeing so much garbage everywhere......
Road signs: I couldn’t read 99% of the road signs because the smaller the road the less English they used.  But the signs and adverts on the side of the road that were translated in English made for a good laugh, every now and again.  I saw my favorite advertisement for new condos in Dongxing, China today.  It said, “Pure land in the center of a busy city. Live like the wise”.  If you were wise, you’d be as far from that city as possible!

Pictionary and charades: I thought I was pretty creative with the pictures I drew, my gestures, pantomiming, and acting out in order to communicate.  I still don’t think the Chinese snore because they looked at me like I was crazy when I made the snoring sound and tilted my head trying to communicate that I wanted to find a hotel.  You don’t even want to know how I ended up gesturing for the toilet!

Unsolicited attention from men: I had my fair share of guys buying me drinks, food, and of course making other offers.  By my last day in China, my guard was up and I didn’t get myself into any sticky situations.  However, if my dating life after this trip is just as pathetic as it was before I left, I might have to come back to China where they seem to be crazy about me!

Imitation Everything:  No wonder there is no trust amongst the Chinese….you never know if you are getting the real deal or a fake.  You can find any name brand item here, anywhere!  I had to laugh every time I would see and authorized Apple retailer in the middle of a small Chinese village that didn’t even have a hotel!  

Entering Fangchenggang,....and I was worried about finding a hotel!

Small Towns: There is no such thing as a small town in this country.  In a town that isn’t even on Google maps, you can find apartment tower after apartment tower lining the main drag and new development on the horizon.  Scaffolding and construction is a common sight.  You ask a Chinese person how big a city is and they can’t tell you the exact population, but if it isn’t over a million people, it’s just a small “village”.  There are so many more cities and towns in China than those that appear on Google Maps.  I’d set off for my destination, not sure if the town would be big enough to have a hotel, and rolling in there would be skyscrapers and apartment towers.  I’ve learned never trust the size of the town on Google maps, at least not for China!

Hmm.....eeny, meenie, miny, moe....which will it be?

Ordering food:  I might as well have closed my eyes and just pointed to any random item on the menu because that is how I felt sometimes when I was asking for food.  On a good day, I could find someone eating what I wanted or they had a bunch of little dishes on display so I could make a pretty educated guess as to what I was getting.  For the less fortunate meals, well, it was just one big surprise placed before my eyes.  The most memorable meal was the other night when I decided to visit a supermarket for prepared food like I had done so often in Europe. I was craving cooked vegetables and saw big jars filled with them.  I got the attendant to fill a small container with the veggies and took them back to my room for dinner.  I was so excited I had managed to find what I was looking for,…..only to find out I had a bag full of strongly pickled vegetables, that were incredibly spicey!  I stuck to restaurants after that!

My exceptional Chinese hosts, fabulous cooks too!
What I will especially miss in China is the kind treatment I’ve received from random strangers.  A warm showers host who I didn’t even meet put me in touch with a few friends in Qinzhou, a city close to the Vietnam border.  I arrived at A lian’s house and she and her friends took such good care of me.  The group of girls gave me a good taste of what life is like in China, taking me shopping at the market, showing me how to make Chinese dumplings, going out to lunch, and teaching me about their culture.  The next day we even visited a primary school where her aunt had friends teaching and I was exposed to the local school system.  I had been on my own at that point for almost a week and I really appreciated the company and insight into this fascinating culture. I will miss these random acts of kindness, although I’m sure to continue to find thoughtful people enroute.  However, in China, where you struggle desperately to communicate, when someone offers you help in any way shape or form, it makes a world of a difference!

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