beneath the feet of chairman Mao

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April 12th 2009
Published: April 12th 2009
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I havent written anything on here for a long time and I realized I wrote the most while we were in India. This was not by coincidence obviously and after some quiet weeks there are new experiences popping up as we have reached China. Since leaving Ho Chi Minh City we have spent a few weeks in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. All of them safe, westernized, modern and with fairly good levels of English speaking residents. This meant relaxing times but not as many challenges or odd encounters. There were some run ins with snakes in a Kuala Lumpur city park and some dealings with chinese hostel owners in hong kong but mostly just sun, beaches, cheap shopping and so on...

Right now i am in a landscape of about 200 computerized chinese youth in te city of Guiyang. Another one of those huge cities that most of us have never heard of it is the main city in the Guingzhou province. It is the province most renowned for dog and rat eating by the way...this means that the village we started off in mostly saw us dining for about 1 yuan, chilli spiced noodles. anything meat looking just didnt seem like such a good idea. The idea for going to the little village of Shidong was all Ingrids as they were having a festival wihich was supposed to have dragon boats, buffalo fights and so on. To make a long story short going anywhere in china, let alone going anywhere you planned is not like anything else. The festival seemed to move dates and places in a way that the agencies that organized trips to it had no idea of when and where they were as it all changed. There is not just the thing of hardly anyone speaking any english what so ever, and i mean this literally. not badly pronounced or a few limited phrases, nothing as in nada. besides that making out any signs of anything in the countryside means reading their letters which is also above and beyond our non-existent chinese skills. finding the one hotel we knew about required finding the "letter" for hotel showing it to people and being pointed in one direction. after being pointed the other way we realized we must be close...

in the end we left there without buffaloes of dragon boats but having seen some of the less travelled and maybe more chinese parts of china.

Arriving to Guiyang has brought some interresting moments as well. The Peoples square in the center of the city sports the compulsory over sized Mao statue in front of the very communist looking Nationality Hotel. In front of the statue there was sunday night dancing as chinese men and women of all ages did choreographed group dancing. After having witnessed chinese attempts at break dancing a few hours earlier I must say that traditional things might be long lasting for a reason. Chinese break dancing was like thai discos. There is dancing and there is music but none of it seems to have anything to do with the other. In breakdancing the gymnastic part of it such as hand stands seemed to be what was thought important in a kung fu-ish variety of it. speaking of kung fu we also walked in to a chinese anger management moment as a young man was shouting and threattening an older man with a sharpened tree branch right in the middle of downtown. Although we should have been appaled it was hard not to feel like in the middle of a movie as his stick handling was very kung fu-ish as well.

The monumental figure of Mao is ever present, he is on all but the smallest bill for example but beneath him things are going on. This was shown as we noticed that the peoples square has not just eastern feeling dancing in front of it but a giant wall-mart beneath it. underground the square the most american and most commercialised thing imaginable had been built. Not what the chairman would have wanted. There were chinese touches to this wal mart though as there were live turtles, frogs and fish in miniature tanks to buy and take home for any festive meal. dried pigs heads might also be hard to find at your local american wal mart.

as i mentioned above china isnt the easiest place to get around and not likely to start off love affairs with its visitors at first sight like many countries in south east asia. it does have its charm though. big screen tvs showing nba basketball on the main square is a first and not a bad thing from my point of view, surreal but nice. the straight forwardness of the people is also interresting as is how they insist on starting off conversations in their own language. the again it is challenging sometimes and i can see why china is sometimes referred to aas the India of eastern Asia. The ideas of hygiene has definetly gone down compared to south east asia, as well as respecting personal space. There is also more loudness, scratching, spitting, nose picking, honking and staring.

To sum things up, as we all know India and China are protrayed as the hope of the global economy getting back on its feet. I have a sneaking feeling that this might not be such a good thing. China is not at all like India but there does seem like the common trait is to be a little more frank, loud, dirty, obnoxious and pushy than I think most of us would prefer to be the standard...or could it be that elbowing your way forward is the way to get ahead in the world?


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