Monday, February 12, 2007

China Part 5: Going Native...

In the USA it is a throne, in China it is a doormat.
-One world, same object, two very different views.

One of the cleaner ones...

Window looking through shower to at toilet in our "five star" hotel.

There was no heat in the building. The furnace wasn't turned off or broken. There just wasn't any furnace to begin with. As the lady behind the desk explained, "This is southern China, nobody has heaters here". "Here" was Qing Yuan, a city an hour and fifty years north of Guangzhou. We were staying at the only "5-star" hotel in this city for three days while exploring Qing Yuan and Ying De, the cities of Mambowether's orphanage and birth.

This was a "Chinese-only" sort of city. I was pretty excited to be there as Guangzhou wasn't really exotic enough for me.

The hotel was "The Lilac Garden Hotel" and at first glance it was beautiful.
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But it was a hotel for Chinese people, not Americans. This meant there were sutble difference such as the rooms lacked drawers for your clothing, soap, towels, toilet paper, and light bulbs. According to our guide, if the hotel room had these things the Chinese guests would just steal them. The hotel itself would only serve food to Westerners in this lttle bar-like area and you didn't get a in what you got to eat. You'd sit down, they'd bring you a club sandwich, an orange juice, and a bill for 120 yuan (about ten bucks American). I already mentioned they had no heat even though the daytime highs were in the 40's.

Still, in comparasion to the conditions outside the hotel, at least we had running water (even if it wasn't hot).

The drive out Ying De was to me the highlight of our three weeks in China. It took us four hours over dirt roads and mountain switchbacks to get to this small city in the heart of China's sugarcane fields.

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Do you see the man dangling from the powerlines?

The place of mambowether's birth, Ying De City.

Trucks loaded with sugarcane.

Those trucks were about the only peice of of farm equipment not powered by human or water buffalo. Farming here was strictly medievel. Every few miles there would be a small sugar refinery spewing smoke and steam from a giant chimney as the sugar was extracted from the cane in huge pots of boiling water. The trucks would carry the cane from the field while kids on bicycles would race along side trying to snatch peices of the sweet cane. Public school ended at the fourth grade out here so there were plenty of kids running around free while their parents worked in the fields. I guess nine-year olds and machetes don't go together even in China...

We spent three days driving around the area. At lunch or supper we'd stop at some roadside diner and eat amazingly good food. I also amused myself with staring contests with the locals. Being on average two feet taller than most of them (uh, and white) I got a lot of stares. Not hostile or anything, just frank curiosity. According to our guide the people could not figure out where I was from or what I was doing there. They thought the guide and Misseswether were sisters and the driver was Misseswether's husband. The guide then gave me a great compliment by saying, "They didn't think I was an American because I wasn't fat and a smiled a lot." They couldn't figure out if I was a strange-looking Chinese person ("your nose confuses them") or a European of some sort. The "not fat" part made me feel good though, especially after having to buy bigger pants for the flight to China (don't want to strangle anything important down there!).

One of these things is not like the others...

Sadly, my memories of this trip are already fading. So much happened that it has all dissolved into wind-blown streamers of color in my mind. We took tons of pictures, but few are really worth putting up here. I think at this point I'll end my stories of China and leave you with just a few more pictures. Enjoy.

Have engine, will travel.

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Moving water the old fashioned way: an aquduct.

Why my life rocks!

Some botanical garden. Like I said, things are getting blurry...

The end of the journey begins.

Adventure. Excitement. A sadness of travels ended.


chris said...

thanks for sharing your life and adventures. Not just this post, but all of them. I look forward to reading it and it is much appreciated...tall smiley white guy!


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