Published: August 25th 2006August 25th 2004
tiger leaping gorge
More than 2 years in China, and I still don't know what to make of it.
It's learning Mandarin and its unconquerable four tones, following the suggestions in my book to raise my eyebrows to the second tone, stamp my foot to the fourth, and dip my chin down then up with the third, attracting concerned looks at the Lazy Book Cafe in Dali as I hold a cup of coffee in one hand and book in the other, my head bobbing, foot stamping, eyebrows rising and falling.
It's meeting and hanging out with other travelers who got stuck in Dali. Like me. People from all walks of life, all just hanging out and putting their real lives on hold. Or were those days the real bits, with the jobs we all had to eventually return to, the escapes?
It's the little town in Guizhou, with the one dusty road running through it, a road coming from and going to Nowhere, and the sole market of four women selling the same 4 or 5 vegetables. It was this little town that saw my shame, the day I will never forget, the day I stood by while a man
on the square below my room first beat a dog, then set him on fire for a godless long time, and finally killed him, with a stick down its throat. All the while a little girl looked on, and the other villagers carried on with their day. The adrenalin that rises to the dog's skin while on fire makes the meat tastier, I was told. What could be running through a man's mind to so completely detach him from another being's howling pain? But then I think of the shrimp a waiter once brought over at a restaurant in Shanghai, four skewers' worth, their little legs and antennae pitifully waving about, until they were dunked in the hot pot before us. What kinds of things go through My head? Do the skewered boiled alive shrimp feel any less pain than the dog only because I couldn't hear their pain? I don't know.
And it is, now, Shanghai, concrete jungle, my home.
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