Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lost in Beijing!

I'd like to interrupt our usual travelogue here to make a quick comment about being a Western traveler in China. This morning I got separated from my group due to a passport-related mishap (now fixed and completely all my own doing; how do you say "boneheaded moron" in Chinese?) and I had to track them down later on my own. On the other side of town. With no cell phone. And completely unable to speak a word of Mandarin.


This is the point where I send a karmic shout-out to all the Chinese people I met this morning on my misadventure. While I didn't manage to find my party, I did spend a highly enjoyable morning talking to people, wandering through a neighborhood of art galleries (more on that in a later post) and traveling through the city. I took cabs, bought a book, enjoyed a drink at a cafe, asked for directions (!), and shared some laughs, all without more than "Hello" and "Thank you" in my vocabulary. (Okay, so I can speak two words of Mandarin -- but with what I'm sure is the world's worst accent.) I love these guys. The taxi driver got us lost and we still made it to the right neighborhood; the guys on the street that I asked for directions were a great help; the cops I asked for help were all friendly and also very helpful; the waiter in the restaurant even went so far to make gurgling noises with his mouth to try and ask if the water I asked for was still or sparkling. I didn't understand what he was up to until he actually delivered the water, but we both chuckled at the attempt to communicate.

For the most part, this has been my experience the whole time I've been here. I'm sure there are huge conflicts between our cultures that will take decades, if not centuries, to completely bridge, but speaking as one explorer in a strange new world, almost all of my experiences have been completely positive. As Dr. Coleman has put it several times while we've been here, it's shocking how at home it's possible to feel on the absolute other side of the planet.

In short, China's amazing and the people are great. Come to Beijing!


Victor said...

"boneheaded moron" in Chinese is "笨蛋" ( [ben,dan] ) :)
In fact that we often use these word in many different occasions.
Some times "笨蛋" is in commendatory, and some times it is derogatory.
Hah~~ Great Beijing !
Enjoy your trip :)

July 19, 2006 7:57 AM  

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