Leaving on a Good Note

Xingping Travel Blog

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Yesterday was my last day in our dear People's Republic.  China gave me a run for my money, that's for sure.  I found it dirty, loud, inconvenient, uncomfortable, unpleasant, and IMMENSELY frustrating.  That being said, I had a really great time on the whole.  There is so much to see and do in that massive country, it was a constant whirlwind of activity.  I had good days (and not so good days) everywhere I went. 

Aside from being unable to stomach the politics and not always enjoying the food, I can see myself returning.  I'd like to see more of Western China, places like Kunming and Lijiang, that I didn't get to visit.  I keep telling myself I'll wrap it into a trip to Tibet and Nepal and India.  But that's another animal altogether.

The biggest impression (travel-wise) China has left on me is that it's INFINITELY more tolerable when there are others sharing your experience with you.  That's not to say you can't do China on your own, but it is SO different and SO difficult and SO frustrating that having others around who think and feel and perceive and speak and act the same way you do makes a WORLD of difference.  The stress and frustration become manageable, the situation becomes manageable, there is far more even-keeled thought and a balanced approach to things.  And miscommunications and cultural differences become comical, rather than jeopardizing your moment/day/stay.  If there was ever a country to have a travel buddy, China is it.  I finally figured that out about mid-way through (as I'm sure you've noticed) and have been far more open to linking up and touring places with people than I was before.
  And while I still enjoy (and prefer) to travel on my own, the days I buddied-up were the days I was able to enjoy more, because I was spared the extreme stress and frustration of having to deal with all the crap China throws at you on my own.  I almost felt as if my independence was taken away, and feeling dependent on others wasn't something I enjoyed.  I far prefer to be totally capable and efficient and at ease on my own.  But independence has never been a particularly strong Chinese sentiment, has it.

Anyway.  About my day.  I told Bill about the yummy vegetarian dumplings I snagged the night before, and that I wanted to go back and try other items on their menu.  Encouraged by the vegetarian options available (Bill's a vege too), he thought he'd give Chinese food a try and ordered "potatoes with vinegar.
"  I don't know about you, but if I'm in a country whose food I don't like/trust, "potatoes with vinegar" would not be my first choice in the experiment department.  True to form, they were advertised incorrectly, thanks to good ol' never reliable Chinglish.  It should have said "potatoes with chilies."  They came out orange and covered in chili seeds.  I tried a bit (not terrible, but far from good) and told him they were a bit spicy, and perhaps he should just try a small bite to be sure.  Apparently the man really embraces his experiments on their rare occasions, because he dug right in.  Took a huge mouthful.  And promptly yelped.  Yelped!  A grown man, yelping over spicy potatoes.  He was so miserable, and I'm sitting there DYING trying not to laugh so hard.
  And then my meal turned out to be shit too.  We were so bummed.  And here we had been so pumped!

We walked off our disappointing lunch by wandering a smaller part of the river that forks off to the east of the town.  Made friends with some water buffalo, got yelled at by various locals, accosted for more "hello! bamboo! bamboo!," and eventually wound our way back on the opposite bank, through the farmland we had walked through two days before.  We had a mellow afternoon, enjoying the warmer weather and not doing much, and for dinner went to a (western style) "Chinese" restaurant that actual Chinese people have nothing to do with.  We got our fried eggs and tomatoes, eggplant (sadly nowhere near as good as the eggplant in Beijing), and our touristy fried rice to boot.
  It was quite the feast.  From there we huffed it back to the hostel (the restaurant took WAY too long with everything) where I snatched up my bags and ran out the door, Bill trying (and failing) to keep up in his efforts to escort me to the bus.  We said our goodbyes and wished each other luck on our travels. 

Bill is about as unlike me as they come: always so happy-go-lucky and eager to strike up conversations with locals, always thrown that they can't understand him (EVERY time!), always handing out his cash at the first obscene price asked, always driving me totally crazy with his constant benevolence and niceness and goodwill.  Sometimes I wanted to smack him.  "Snap out of it! These people are being thieving jerks to you! Stand up for yourself!"  But we had a really good time.
  By the end of it, we were laughing our heads off with each other.  Yesterday and the day before we had an absolute blast, creating hilarious meanings for signs in Mandarin we couldn't understand, or guessing what exactly was being said about us when people muttered under their breath.  (What am I saying?? This is CHINA. People don't mutter. They scream. LOUDLY.)  From China, Bill is trekking through Laos for a couple weeks and then lounging on the beach in Phuket before flying home.  I wish him all the best.

As the bus pulled out of XingPing and headed for Yangshuo, a duo feeling of peace and excitement came over me.  The visible half of the moon was brilliantly shining, so bright and white.
  The karst peaks were peaceful black masses against the dark navy sky, still so beautiful and awesome, even in the dark.  I sat there, in this content zen-like state, thinking about how far I had come in China on a personal level.  I'd hated it, loathed it, dealt with it, enjoyed it.  I finally felt easier about dealing with the rude, inefficient, incompetent, thieving jerks, who constantly sought to one-up me, or screw me out of another yuan.  The hassles and headaches were the same, but I'd weathered them and learned how to deal with them and felt like I could finally take a step back and a deep breath and not let it get to me so much.  (China beats you down!)  And I'm sitting on the bus, watching the dark beautiful countryside roll by, and I'm ok with it all.  I finally felt like I had "hacked" it, for lack of a better word.  Like I could take it.  Go on, kick me again.  I'm going to kick you right back.  And then call you an assortment of four letter words.

As for the excitement, I couldn't wait to be back in the "free world."  The world of uncensored press and free speech and all the mindless social websites you can handle.  High-speed firewall-free internet, here I come!  And the FOOD.  Five weeks of heavy, greasy, oily, MSG-laden food and close to ten pounds later (how's that for a big ugly number?), I've given myself a pass in the food department for the next few days.  I want to eat ANYTHING but Chinese.  And sitting there, reflecting on things, being all zen and mellow and at peace with the world, you know I was mentally planning the feasting in store for Hong Kong.  Let's be serious.  It's imported wine and cheese from here on out.  Giddy UP.
domnicella says:
So far you're right about the food. What gives?? Everyone RAVES about the food here! Yesterday was gross and disappointing, to say the least. I need good food people! Get your act together!
Posted on: Nov 25, 2009
fransglobal says:
Keep on rockin' in the Free World! I agree with you about the politics-Hong Kong is like a huge breath of fresh air from the freedom of expression and the reading material available including internet sites.

Don't agree on the food though-there is such a huge variety in China, though wine and cheese parties are a bit thin on the ground alright.
Posted on: Nov 25, 2009
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photo by: domnicella