Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Alright, I know what's going through your head. "He thinks that he can just casually wander back after 2 months, and we'll resume our positions on the edge of our seats. Oh, it won't be that easy. He's going to have to grovel a bit." Hey, you have a right to be angry. I realize that the tales of my exploits are the most entertaining things ever, and that my writing style leaves you breathless and wondering how you could have ever even remotely questioned the existence of a benevolent God. I realize there are those of you who, for lack of anything else in your life, sit and reload my blog page over and over again, hoping that I updated in those critical milliseconds (you don't have to raise your hands, I know who you are). I don't have any excuses really, so I'll just assume that, yes, you will forgive me.

In truth, I'm fairly lazy. Plus, China has become so routine at this point that many things that would have had me rushing to my keyboard barely register now. "Oh...one of my students is wearing a t-shirt that actually says something sexually explicit. Ho hum." Even if they do show up as a gnat-sized blip on the radar, I tend to forget by the time class is out.

So, now I'm traveling again, which gives me some new perspectives on the country in which I live. And this time, it's the travelers, not the Chinese who are going to e exposed to my rapier wit and razor-sharp tongue. I'm in Chengdu again. It's quite a nice city, and I'm exploring some different parts of it. That's not the point of this, though. I'm staying at a backpacker's hostel, and it's one of those places that so desperately wants to be trendy- it encourages people to write messages on the walls, it provides DVDs, etc.- but the confusing this is that people actually seem to buy into it. One guy has been here for 4 months.

Sorry, got a bit unfocused, it's the travelers here who shall receive my scorn. You see, of all the trendy things I think this hostel is trying to do, it's the forced sense of camaraderie that galls me the most. Listen, just because you're in China and I'm in China doesn't mean that I will like you or want to talk to you. Maybe I'm just in a bad mood because people kept interrupting me while I was in the middle of reading, but the other annoying thing was that every conversation was basically the same. And no matter what, the conversation inevitably turns towards travel oneupsmanship (a game that I've taken to calling "Anywhere you have been I have been better"...and yes, I know that doesn't make sense)

Oh, so you've seen the Great Wall? Well I've been horse-trekking across Mongolia.
You've done the 3 Gorges river cruise? I'm going to cycle all the way to Tibet.
I've been to Vietnam.
I've been to India.
I can pack lighter than you.

They're like more athletic versions of music store geeks, with the constant need to find things more obscure to appreciate more than your average schmoe. People who've only done the big things are met with scorn. I actually took great delight in talking to these people, just because I have the G-bomb. "Oh yeah, I live in Guangzhou". You see, Guangzhou is like the backpacker's kryptonite. It's an ugly city, it's a commercial city, and there's nothing to do for travelers. There are some hills to climb, but that's about it. After I drop the G-bomb, you can see the look of disgust spread across their faces, and they kind of move away from me, lest they contract whatever congenital illness I have that moved me to live in such a deplorable city.

Now, the other problem with travelers in China are the long-term expats. There's an old saying about expats in China, they are one of two things. Either they have rejected the west, or the west has rejected them. The latter are annoyingly abundant. One such guy was Detroit. Detroit wasn't his real name, but you quickly learn to assign diminuitive and dismissive nicknames to people you don't like out here. I call him Detroit just because he couldn't go 4 sentences without referencing the fact that he was from Detroit. I know, I know, and if you call now, you can get my book on coming up with clever ways of referencing people you'll never see again.

Now, I could outline the various and sundry ways in which Detroit was a shrilly annoying waste of space, but he's not really important in and of himself. No, I'm only mentioning him because he represents so many foreigners here in China. I'm sad to say that Americans are particularly poorly represented. This poor representation may be accurate, but it's poor nonetheless.

I don't actually have as much to say on this guy as I thought. I'm actually going to head off for now, but I just thought I'd check back in with all the people out there. Maybe I'll talk about something happier?

Oh yeah, I also saw a baby panda.

1 comment:

Jeff Mather said...

Ha Ha Ha Ha!!

By the way, we saw tons of these travel snobs who wouldn't talk to us last summer in India . . . :)