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Published: July 26th 2009
It's hard to treat each place Fi and I visit in isolation. Impossible, really, for me anyway. So China is necessarily set in stark contrast to India, although that's not fair to either place.
I spend a lot of my time walking around trying to jive what I see, with what I read in the papers and books about these two places that, if you buy the media/demographic line, are going to have so much to do with where this world is heading for the next century or so. And only one of the two fits the raging global economic hard-on story we're fed day in and day out. Without a doubt China is in the throes of an economic and cultural revolution. I should capitalize that...Revolution! REVOLUTION!!!
India is however in the throes of something akin to a very nasty bowel movement. Chindia doesn't exist; not for a couple generations anyway. If you want to learn about the forces that are turning the rudder of China's enormous ship of state, then, as always, I suggest you get your butt on site and look around, and barring that, do a lot of reading. End of lecture. I could bloviate
about this nonsense for hours, but you're not here to be lectured, you're here to be entertained by Fi and Gabe's global shenanigans, so bring out the dancing bears!
The single photo I chose of the 600 some odd photos I took of the pandas in the Chengdu panda reserve gives you a little idea of what it's like to visit in person. I have quite a number of beautiful photos of pandas apparently resting in idyllic surrounds, but that view lies by omission. The park, like everything else in China, is constantly mobbed by Chinese (How dare they!). So while you do get very closeup and gorgeous views of pandas, you are also among the company of your 16,000 closest friends. That's not to say it's not a wonderful experience. The pandas exude a Buddhan calm, munching on their bamboo and questing for the perfect lounging position and it rubs off on the people. We've been in some big Chinese crowds by now, but those at the Panda reserve were very well behaved and I'm certain it was the pandas' influence on everyone. Hopefully we're not rubbing off on them in a similar way.
The pandas were
actually the last feature of this portion of China so a quick recap of where we've been goes like this. If you think of China as a T-bone steak, and you position the "T" so it's been turned 90 degrees clockwise, then we've been doing a loop from Hong Kong to Shanghai across that delicious meaty southern lobe. That was the plan anyway. We didn't make it to Shanghai on time. We're actually in Xi'an (home of the terra cotta warriors) right now waiting a week while our visas get renewed. Quit quibbling. Details, details.
The south is mountainous, hot, wet, and cultivated. If there are people around, then corn and rice and tobacco and squash and pumpkins and peaches and plums and pears and cabbages and pigs and cows and goats and chickens and every other scrumptuous living thing is growing at a tremendous rate and in great abundance. It's beautiful and medieval in its execution. The people are flabbergasted and friendly at the same time. In India, anyone with intact vocal cords (say 85% of people) warbles some sort of greeting at you if you're in sight. In China, it's only the children who have the balls
required to squeak "hello" before disappearing behind a door-frame. It's nice not to be hassled, but when Fi and I do our "We don't know what the hell is going on, please offer help," dance very few people respond. So much as look both ways before crossing a street in India and someone has offered you directions, a taxi, a minibus, a rental car, a massage, various sorts of drugs, spiritual guidance, and a meal. Not knowing exactly where you're going is an invitation to a whole raft of services. On the other hand, if Fi and I hold our guide book open, cross our eyes and stumble into traffic as if under the influence of particularly potent date-rape drugs, the Chinese still are reticent to offer assistance. Takes some getting used to.
Perhaps one reason the typical Chinese peasant farmer and his family aren't falling all over themselves to extract a couple yuan from our meager budget is that they themselves are not particulary needy. Not the, "You're so needy
; stop touching me!" Fi constantly assaults me with. They don't need our money. They're doing just fine. If it's not too oxymoronic to say; these are prosperous peasant
farmers. They're not on the brink of starvation. They're not one injury away from destitution, or one dry season removed from homelessness. And just to give one quick theory as to why, I'd have to say it's their respect and treatment of the ladies. Say what you will about the commies and their human rights record, but the instinct to treat everyone (not the elite) as equal and as having a responsibility to be productive members of their communities has led to an extremely modern and liberal treatment of women. So whole families do not hang by the thread of a single man's ability to care for his brood. The women aren't locked away and proscribed from participating in society in almost any fashion. So maybe that's why I constantly feel like I need the Chinese more than they need me. Don't be confused by geography. China and India may be neighbors on the map, but as little as they have in common, they might as well occupy each other's antipodes.
I said I wouldn't bloviate and then I went and did it; sorry about that. Other than thinking deep thoughts and looking at pandas, Fi and I spend
most of our time ticking off the tourist attractions in all the towns we visit and searching for opportunities to go hiking around the countryside. The most recent trek we went on was through Tiger Leaping Gorge which was really fanatastically beautiful. See the photo of Fi pretending to admire the gorge while she lazily catches her breath. It was supposed to be two days, but the map wasn't to scale and we ended up sleeping pretty much 15cm from the finish line. We could've easily knocked it out in a day. We're badass, be forewarned. This is actually valuable information. When we see any of you, loyal readers, Fi and I are going to try to get you to "go for a walk" with us. We will say it airily and flippantly. Do NOT fall for this. Our (prounounced MA-ee) aim is to crush you. We are going to drag you up the nearest steep hill/mountain at great speed and then act all surprised when you puke on your shoes. "What's the matter? Don't you go for walks?"
That's all for now folks. I've asked Fi to write a few words, but I wouldn't hold my breath if
I were you. Expect another entry in about a month. Hope you enjoyed this one.
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