Not without some difficulty, which CeCe will update you on, we are now beyond the borders of the People’s Republic, comfortably nestled in the hills and dirt cheap hotel rooms of Sapa, Vietnam. But before closing the books on the fourth month and thirteenth country of our adventure, I thought I’d commit a few words to electronic paper about our ultimate impressions of China. Most of what follows are just random observations that didn’t make it into my journal, but either were memorable on their own, or when compiled, will hopefully help me someday recall the essence of the country.
Perhaps what frustrated us most about the Chinese was their near complete inability to communicate extra-verbally. If it wasn’t spoken or written in perfect Mandarin, it wasn’t understood. Hand gestures to indicate direction, hunger, thirst, non-comprehension, our desire to buy a bus ticket, whatever, were almost always met with complete bewilderment or the typical blanket refusal. This starkly contrasted with pretty much every other place we’ve been. In particular, we fondly remember an old man in Shakrisabz, Uzbekistan, who spun us his entire life story and then some with sweeping gesticulations, a few shared words, and fervent emotion. Attribute this perceived Chinese deficiency to what you will (we have a few theories), but we won‘t miss it.
What I will miss is CCTV channel 5 and its near constant ping pong broadcasts, peppered with badminton and an occasional soccer game. However, doubles ping pong just doesn’t work as a spectator sport. There were also three channels dedicated to watching people play video games.
At first I enjoyed listening to all the caged songbirds on the streets of China’s cities. We even saw a few young men with eagles perched on their arms. Then we went hiking, in a few places, in total silence, and realized where all the birds were. I read in the New Yorker a few months ago that the Audubon Society is beginning to take hold in China’s east. It may be too late.
We tried to hold out, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the pirated CDs and DVDs. All seven seasons of The West Wing for $5? Who could say no? Merry Christmas, Ted!
I’m not sure I’ll ever fully recover from the shock of watching the extraction of teeth in the middle of the street during Dali’s weekly market. In fact, we saw a good bit of street-side medicine being practiced, and not all of it non-invasive. Ouch!
You surely have heard of the boom in car ownership and road construction in recent years in China. Have you paused to think how that impacts the quality of the driving?
The Chinese also have a fondness for absurdly cheesy wedding photos. We feel for you, Jacob!
And then there was the food… I think any cuisine that includes both bee larvae and dried fried yak meat, at the same restaurant for Pete’s sake, calls for its own post.