Shenanigans in China

Whenever I visit China, I develop multiple personality disorder.  I metamorphose from a respectfully polite Canadian to, well, quite frankly, a bit of an ass.  Things I would never consider saying or doing (for sake of basic decency and inhibitions), seem to come more than naturally (and obnoxiously) when I’m in China.  Yet, my dual nature is completely unbeknownst to me.  It is only realized when my (home-grown) Canadian partner shakes his head in disbelief at my outrageous shenanigans.  “But, what shenanigans?”, you ask? Well – have I got a story for you!

In SiChuan province, on the way to SongPan.
In SiChuan province, on the way to SongPan.

Imagine this:  You’re on a bus to a remote region in Southwestern China.  According to Lonely Planet, this short 1.5 hour bus ride is a scenic must, before arriving at a world-renowned national park, complete with autumn colors, gorgeous waterfalls and Tibetan mountain villages!  High in anticipation and excitement, you get up early (you hate getting up early), grab a good seat on the bus, and are ready to power ahead! The bus departs at 7:30am.  You expect to get there around 9am.

15 minutes into the bus ride, the driver has stopped and picked up three hitchhikers (who are now queued up at the front of the bus).  You’re not sure why they are there or how many more the driver plans to pick up – but hey – its just a mild delay, and with the amazing landscape outside, who really cares? (Plus, they are wearing cool Tibetan clothes).

Hitchhikers on the bus.
Hitchhikers on the bus.

Half an hour passes by.  It suddenly dawns on you that the bus is not moving, and has not been moving for quite awhile.  Your turn to your partner and ask “what the the heck is going on? Bad weather, you think? Poor road conditions? A bird in the windshield?”

No, no and no.

You both look around. Within seconds, you realize the culprit.
The Rock
The Rock

It is a rock.  No, no, not just any rock!!  A rock with a Chinese engraving of the current, geographical location!  Now you remember (from your previous trips to China) that Chinese people absolutely love taking photographs of rocks with Chinese characters on them.  In fact, in the mere presence of such a rock, the Chinese become completely oblivious to their surroundings.

In your case, a perfectly, well-functioning two-lane road, is … no longer.  For as far down the road as your eye can see, tour buses are lined all the way back.  Many buses have stopped to take their turn in getting to “the Rock”. The other vehicles (the ones not interested in the rock, i.e. private cars) have grown impatient and are heading down your lane, thus, making it impossible for your bus to move.

Buses lined up.
Buses lined up.

While you’ve never been a very patient person, after 50 minutes of immobility, you decide enough is enough.  Action must be taken!

Step 1: You complain loudly to the bus driver about how long you’ve all been stuck here for, making (you hope) a strong case for how the bus driver needs to push through. No reaction from the driver, though he makes a half-hearted attempt to compete against the other buses from the opposite direction.  The drivers from the other side are way more aggressive, leaving you exactly where you started (though now, you count 8 more buses who pass yours).

Step 2:  You complain loudly again. Only this time, giving (both true and false) details supporting your case.  “Oh come on, we’re only here for 1 day, we’ve got a tight schedule, our hotel is not going to hold our room if we’re late, yada, yada, yada.”  The driver seems to have no reaction at all (after all, you’re just a little Chinese girl with no seniority and breaking probably several hierarchy and power distance norms), though now your little outburst has got a few of the other passengers riled up. (Yahoo! Minor success!)

Step 3: In China, when in doubt, if yelling doesn’t work, use shame.  Here comes the climax of this little story. Out goes the Canadian politeness, and in comes you – a crazy little Asian girl who pounds on the bus window and yells at the people down there to “Stop being so selfish!! Think of other people for a change! Get your butts moving!” (in Mandarin, of course).

Ah…. finally! All of this ruckus gets the other people (who are visibly pissed but have not yet said anything) to finally speak up.  First, a young couple, then a middle age couple, and eventually, it is an old man who really hit the spot with the driver.

Well, there you have it.  I can’t say I’m “proud” of this, but if given the chance I will probably do it again.  Why? Because when so many people live in the same place, when a history of scarce resources and overpopulation led to a mentality that if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will, you take what you can get.  The funny thing – I complain about this ‘look out for yourself’ attitude all the time, yet find myself right smack-dab in the middle of it when I go back and visit China.

After our bus finally passes, my two-headed monster subsides.  I can feel my stress level decreasing.  I conclude the secret to traveling in China is this:

Get mad, fight your fights, but most importantly, let it go! Whereas my Chinese family members will get mad and fight it out, they also forget about it almost immediately after it happens.  Being a Chinese-Canadian for so long (where I apologize if people bump into me by accident), I can get mad and stay mad for hours, thereby sabotaging my own vacation.  Fortunately, in this story, I was able to get over myself and enjoy these amazing views….

sichuan 1698

sichuan 2032sichuan 2276

sichuan 2318

… that is, until someone butted in front of us in a 6 person lineup, 4am at the JiuZhaiGou airport.

Ah well! I guess all lessons must be learnt and relearnt.

One thought on “Shenanigans in China

  1. I love hearing your stories Helen! Sounds like you tend to have amazing adventures. I found your blog by accident through your website which I had revisited also by accident…

    -Tara (from karate!)

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