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Barry from Australia is a questioning soul who looks at social issues from an alternative point of view and instead of asking, “Why?”, he asks “Why not?” He’s convinced that many of his previous incarnations were spent in China. He feels drawn to the people there; attracted by their rich culture and way of life. If given one wish from God, he’d reply, “I want everyone on Earth to be the same colour, speak the same language, and treat each other as they themselves would like to be treated.”
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My China Trip - Day 14 我的中国之行—第14天    

By Barry Pittman
5744 Views | 24 Comments | 6/8/2014 2:10:02 PM

I awoke late this morning, around 8.30am.  As usual, I was alone in my hotel room, having caught a cab back here late last night from Tina's place.  I’d noticed that some nights I was able to sleep well, yet other times like last night, I had difficulty dropping off, even though feeling dog tired.



The routine of my life here in Shawan was that I’d get up in my hotel room each morning, shower and get ready, then walk the two kms down to Tina’s apartment.  We’d stay together all day, including having meals, before I’d then leave her at 9.20 each evening.   For at this time, her daughter Wendy would arrive home from school in the three wheeled pedicab ridden by an older Chinese gentleman.  Then for just two yuan, this hard working driver would return me to my hotel.



As noted elsewhere however, I never felt comfortable in these pedicabs at night, due to their having nil lights or even reflectors.  Their colour was either brown, green or blue -  no light colours such as white or yellow -  so at night, I reckoned they were mobile death traps.



The previous evening however, at my appointed departure time, the pedicab was nowhere to be seen.



"No worries – I’m happy to walk", I'd told Tina as we stood in the street outside her apartment block.



"No Barry, maybe there are bad men out there, you could have trouble!"



She wouldn’t agree to me walking back to the hotel that late at night,  so reluctantly I then caught a proper four wheeled taxi.  The two kilometre walk back to my hotel room was a breeze to me however and on principle, I disliked being driven such a short distance.  But Tina knew her town, warts ‘n all,  so I deferred to her advice.  Maybe some human cockroaches did furtively materialise here at night, ready to rob unsuspecting mugs like me?  I was too new to the town to know one way or the other.  Tina’s caution however, unwelcomely reminded me that in any town, always there’ll be a small criminal element.  Not just in China, but everywhere.



As usual when in the taxi, the driver stopped two or three times for people on the side of the road, asking if they wanted to jump in and share the journey.  One of them opted to do this.  I’ve mentioned before that the sharing of cabs in this region appears to be de rigeur, a common occurrence that makes better sense than having just one person having a ride.



The hotel I’m staying in was a rather nice, three and a half star quality. I’d normally have said four star except for the leaky taps, the odd cockroach and the cleaning maids who bang on my door too early for my liking each morning!



To my relief, my hotel room has a normal pedestal type toilet.  Even though it’s not located with a street frontage, the blaring car horns from drivers outside wake me up like clockwork each morning.  Thanks so much, guys!



As with all places I’ve been to in China, one knows to never directly drink the tap water. It’s only to be used for either laundry, general house cleaning or showering.  One must only ever drink either bottled water or water that comes from the portable, stand alone water purifier units that are located in most decent hotel rooms.



About twenty or so channels are on the hotel TV set, nineteen of which are in Chinese. Basically the TV is useless to me.  The one English channel here runs a lot of soaps or other rubbish game shows, although it possibly may have an evening English news program.  I can’t be sure as on this trip I’ve watched virtually nil TV.  Tina never has it on at her place and she doesn’t allow daughter Wendy to watch it, insisting that she either studies or does homework.



It’s a real shame that Mandarin is one of the more difficult languages in the world to master.  This is because that not only are the words important, but the tone or inflection of how the word is used can be critical also.  Several times, I’ve asked folks who can speak both English as well as Mandarin,



“What’s the more difficult language to learn?”



On all occasions, they response has been “Mandarin”.



As far as eating goes, I’m currently having one main meal per day, around lunchtime.  In the mornings, I tend to eat only fruit or a few unsalted assorted nuts.  In the evenings, a few light bits and pieces of this or that are eaten.  I’m sure I’m losing weight here.



Yet physically I feel healthy and strong.  So much better than my last China trip when at this point of the trip back then, I was as sick as a mongrel dog, having caught a bad cold.  But on that last trip, I was catching many subway trains around the Shanghai, Suzhou and Nanjing areas.  In situations like these, you only need one ill person across the seat from you to sneeze and as quick as that, you also can become infected.  They say that mucus from a sneeze drifts up to three metres.



Another curiosity about China to me is the propensity for most folks here to have an afternoon nap, normally for half an hour or so. 



“Do you want to have a nap, Barry?” Tina religiously asks me every day.



“No thanks Tina, I’m not really tired!”



So she disappears to her bed every afternoon, tucks herself under the blankets and generally within five minutes, is lost to the world.  A life long habit apparently imbues folks with the ability to drop off into slumberland almost anytime they like.



One lesson I learnt from my last China trip was to bring my own particular brand of coffee that I prefer, together with a few packets of skim milk.  Being a coffee afficianado, I really missed my coffee last time.  Milk can be a little troublesome to procure, hence the recommendation to bring along life skim or full cream milk with you also.  Make sure you bring sufficient quantities to last the entire trip.  In my case, I’d brought four packets  -  6 kgs -  of milk powder with me, plus a full, medium sized can of coffee.



Other traveller’s tips are as follows.



If you like chewing gum, bring a few packets of your favorite flavour with you also.  I prefer either peppermint or spearmint.  In this town at least, they don’t sell these, one can only select from an admittedly interesting variety of fruit flavors such as watermelon, orange, strawberry or grape.  Probably banana too, if I looked hard enough!



Laundry powder is a handy item to carry also, plus a hair dryer to help dry your clothes in the hotel room after washing them.  I guess this may be an appropriate time to say why I always seem to be wearing a check patterned shirt.  I have two of these in fact, one black and one dark blue.  So either Tina or I washes one at the end of each day.  This is what hotel room bathroom sinks are good for.  This includes of course, washing underwear, socks and anything else that needs laundering.  Backpackers need to travel light, so taking more than two or three of any article of clothing is an unwanted luxury.



It’s Sunday here and Wendy has just returned from half a day of private English tuition from a local Filipino teacher.  She doesn’t have too long to relax however, as school starts at 6.00pm, finishing at 9.00pm.   You got it right – school kids in China have to go to school on Sunday nights!



This is on top of the normal long Monday to Friday school hours.  Wendy needs to leave home around seven each morning, arriving back home around 9.20pm each week day.



One night as Tina and I were having an evening stroll through Shawan, I suddenly noticed school kids everywhere.



“It must be nine o’clock,” Tina remarked nonchalantly.  It was so weird seeing multitudes of kids everywhere riding bicycles  -  none of which had any lights on them  - to their homes this late at night.  Western students have no idea how easy their school lives are in relation to Chinese students, who face very stiff competition if they wish to attend a decent university.  I’m told that which university you attend here can make a big difference to your later work opportunities.  The top ones in China are Peking and Tsinghua Universities, both located in Beijing, places no doubt where huge amounts of money are poured into by the national government as a matter of national pride.  Good on them.



“Why don’t any of the kid’s bicycles have lights, Tina?”



Maybe it costs money to buy batteries?”, was her casual reply.



This online Chinese dating process I was currently enmeshed in was teaching me more and more every day.  Not only was I learning heaps about  the ladies themselves, but important also, many aspects of fascinating Chinese culture.  My mind and way of thinking about so many things would never be quite the same again.



As far as Tina and I were concerned, things were going okay.  Readers can interpret this statement any way they wish.




今天早上,我起得比较晚,大约8点半才醒过来。跟通常一样,我一个人独自在宾馆房间里,昨晚很晚才从TINA那里坐的士回来的。我发现有些晚上我可以睡得很好,而有些时候却不行,就如昨晚,我很难入睡,虽然我觉得非常的累。



在沙湾,我的例行生活是,每天早上,我在宾馆房间里睡醒,冲凉准备,然后走两公里去TINA的公寓。一整天直到每天晚上9点20分我离开之前,我们都会在一起,包括一起吃饭。9点20分的时候她的女儿会坐着一个老人家踩的三轮车从学校回到家里来。然后,只要两块钱,这个勤劳的车夫又会把我送回到宾馆中去。





跟在其他地方我说过的一样,晚上我从来都不觉得坐这些三轮车会舒服。因为它们根本没车灯也没有反射灯。它们的颜色不是棕色,绿色就是蓝色,没有象白色或是黄色之类的比较浅的颜色。所以,我认为夜晚他们非常的危险。



然而,昨晚,在我约定离开的时候,却怎么也看不到三轮车。



 “不用担心,我会很开心的走回去的”我们在TINA的公寓区外面的街上等车的时候,我告诉跟TINA说。

 BARRY,不行,可能会有坏人,你可能有麻烦的”



她一点也不会同意让我夜晚走回宾馆去。所以,我非常不情愿的叫了一辆四轮的的士。然而,回宾馆的两公里路对我来说实在是太轻松了,而且原则上我可不喜欢这么一短段路也要坐车。但是,TINA了解她的镇子,所以,我得听她的建议。可能晚上真的会有坏人出没呢?出抢劫我这样一个毫不可疑的人的。这个小镇对于我来说还太陌生,我不会完全了解它的。然而,TINA的小心让我很不得不想起无论在哪个小镇上,总是会有犯罪的因素存在。不仅仅是在中国,而是在所有的地方。





跟以往一样,坐在的士里的时候,的士司机在路边停了两三次,问等车的人是否愿意上来一起坐车。他们中的一个人坐了上来。我之前就说过,在中国多人一起打的很受欢迎,很显然比一个人搭一部的士价格要便宜很多。



我所住的宾馆很好,是三星半级以上的标准。通常我会说是四星级的,因为水龙头总是滴水,而且每天早上,清洁工总是太早就来很大声的敲我的门。





让我感到非常轻松的是,它有坐式马桶。虽然宾馆坐落在不是临街的地方,每天早上,远处街上的司机们就是嘟嘟嘟的鸣响车喇叭把我叫醒。“真是太感谢了,伙计们。”





跟我所去过的中国的所有地方一样,大家都知道不要直接喝水龙头的水。这些水只是用来洗衣服,做卫生和冲凉的。人们只喝瓶装水或者是在大多数体面的宾馆里,经过独立的过滤器过滤过的水。





宾馆电视可以收到大约20个左右的频道,19个都是中文台。对于我来说基本上一点用都没有的。这里的唯一的英文频道却有太多的肥皂刷和其他垃圾一样的表演节目,虽然这也可能有英语晚间新闻这样的节目。我不能确认,因为在这趟旅程中我真的是一点电视都没看过。TINA从来不开电视,她也不让她女儿WENDY看电视,愿意她在家做作业或是学习。



非常让人难过的是中文实在是世界上最难掌握的语言之一。这是因为不仅仅单词很重要,而且音调和单词的使用方法也很重要。有好几次,我问几个朋友,他们可以同时讲英语和汉语。



 “哪种语言更难学一些?”

他们都说“汉语“



说到吃饭的时候,目前我每天只吃一餐主餐,在午饭时分。早餐,我趋向于只吃一些水果和一些没有腌制过的坚果。晚餐则就吃一些这样或那样简单的食物。我确信我在这里瘦了不多。



但是,身体上我自己感觉非常的健康和强壮。和上一次的旅程比起来好很多,上次旅程在这个时候,我就象一条混种狗一样虚弱,感冒得很严重。但是上次旅程,我在上海,苏州,南京这些地方坐了好多地铁。在这样的状况下,只要对面座位上的有一个病人,只要很快的对着你打个喷嚏,你都会被传染。人们说喷嚏里的粘液可在空中漂浮到三米以外呢。



对于中国,另外一个让我很好奇的事情时,这里的好多人都倾向于中午打个盹,通常一两个小时左右。





 “你想睡个午觉吗,BARRY?”每天TINA都会问我。



“不用,谢谢,TINA。我不累”



于是,每天下午,她都消失在她的床里,把自己卷在被单里,通常只在五分钟之内,她就会睡着了。一个长期的生活习惯会让人在任何时候都可以有能力进入梦乡。





在上次中国旅程中我学到的一件事是要带一些我自己喜欢的牌子的咖啡和一些小包的奶。做为一个咖啡迷恋者,上次旅程我真的好想念我的咖啡。买到牛奶会有一些困难。然后我的建议是,都带一些脱脂奶粉或全脂奶粉。确认你带够整个旅程的量。就我的情况来说,我会带整整6公斤的奶粉,和一罐中号咖啡。



其他的旅行建议如下:

如果你喜砍嚼口香糖的话,最后也带一些你最喜欢的口味。我会带薄荷味的。至少在这个小镇上,他们不卖这些,你只能在一些水果口味中选择,比如,西瓜,橙子,草莓,葡萄。如果我足够努力的找的话,可能也有香蕉味的。



洗衣粉也可以一带,外加一个吹风机,在宾馆房间洗完衣服就可以吹干你的衣服。我猜在这个合适的时候可以解释一下我为什么好象总穿着一件格子衬衫了。事实上,我有两件衬衫,一件黑色,一件深蓝色。每过完一天,无论我还是TINA都会洗衣服。宾馆的洗衣手盒就很合适洗衣服。当然这也包括洗衣内衣裤,袜子和其他一些必须的衣服。象我一样的背包客们需要轻装上阵,所以带多两三件其他的衣物都是奢侈的事情。





今天是星期天,WENDY刚从当地一个半天的菲律宾老师开的私人英文补习班那里回来。然后,她并没有太多放松的时间,因为学校晚上6点上课,9点下课。你猜对了—中国,学生们周日晚上要上课。





这可是在通常长长的周一到周五的学校时间之外的加上的。WEEDY需要每天早上7点离家上学,晚上9点20才回来。





一天晚上,当我和TINA晚上在沙湾散步的时候,我突然发现到处都是学生们。





 “肯定是9点了”TINA随意的说。真的好奇怪看到到处都是骑着单车的孩子们,在晚上9点的时候回家却没有人有带灯。西方的学生们可是一点都不知道跟中国的学生们比起来,他们的学校生活可是容易得多,舒服得多了。中国学生们如果想上一所好的大学,他们面临的可是非常激烈的竞争啊。我听说在中国上什么的大学对你以后的就业可是有着非常大的不同的影响的。在中国,最好的大学是北京大学和清华大学,这两所大学都在北京。毫无疑问,做为民族的自豪,国家政府会将大量的资金投在它们身上。它们是非常好的。



“为什么没有一个孩子打灯呢?”



“可能买电池太贵了吧。”她通常都这么回答。



我目前进行的中国网络交友进程每天都教会我好多东西,不仅仅是更多的了解了中国女人,更重要的也是,了解了让人神往的中国文化的方方面面。对很多事情的我的想法和我思考的方式都不再跟以前一样了。



对于我和TINA的关系,所以的事情都发展良好。读者可以自由地按自己的想法解读这句话。


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Comments
(Showing 1 to 10 of 24) 1 2 3 More...
#2014-06-28 21:32:09 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@Barry1
Seems like things are going OK for you and Tina ? Good on ya mate !
I was worried about you going there for only one woman, but you have proved me wrong as I really thought you had lost the plot!

I must pull you up on the travel things though (sorry)

1) You can buy a box of 'drinkable' Nescafe sachets that contain coffee, milk and sugar - all you need is boiling water
I have not had sugar in my coffee for over 30 years but I can drink this stuff as it's quite passable

2) I buy Wrigley's gum no problem!

3) Laundry powder ? You remember the slating you got for being a 'Tight-arse' and allowing Tina to pay for everything? Well I get my laundry done in the hotel. One-weeks clothes all washed, ironed and packed for about $20 !

As for studying - yes, it's tough there!
But with SO many people, I guess it is important to get good grades so you can get a job...not even a GOOD job..just a JOB!

As for BIKES - motor scooters etc - apparently they are ILLEGAL in China !

That's why they have no lights!

Funny that the POLICE use them - even though they are 'illegal' - lol

#2014-06-28 22:13:25 by Nekko @Nekko

@Barry1
Another interesting story from the you. I am impressed now that you finally sorted the money issue. I do not know what kind of work you do and the income you make, but to her you are the rich westerner with eyes like diner plates. Your words not mine.

In regards to the travel tips please allow me to add the following: I always carried with me a small bottle of hand sanitiser from Dettol. Kills the germs according to the label, which I found most useful after using a public toilet and other visiting public places.

Can you say something about the air pollution in the place you are. Is it good air?

You make the comment "As far as Tina and I were concerned, things were going okay."
As I said I have seen the photos and body language does not lie. I know the truth.

Barry as far as learning the language is concerned maybe I could give you some hints as to how to go about this if interested. You probably noticed that I am multilingual.

I have thought about learning Mandarin as well. I will have a crack at it and see how I go with this language. It is different to all the other languages. Even Japanese is easy in the pronunciation. My first wife was Japanese.

As to the afternoon nap, the Spanish also have siesta time. Everyone sleeps for a while. Even the dogs. My parents had a holiday house in Spain.

Barry, remember people will always remember how you make them feel. Stop scarring the children on the bus with your out of this world appearance. You will be a legend, no correction you are a legend in you own mind. I just had to laugh so hard at your description of yourself last time.............eyes like diner plates.

You are funny and witty. Keep this coming. Have you tried stripes in the shirt. Horizontal. Makes you look shorter. What do you think about this idea?
All the best to Tina and you.

#2014-06-28 23:58:34 by prana @prana

Yes, only came to China,

Before they can understand the some things.

Chinese There is a saying: Seeing is believing.

You have found your Tina, is already the biggest harvested.

Tina is right, it is best not to go out of a person.

The countryside the air is very good, but there are a lot of mosquitoes ......

Look forward to your good news.

是的,只有来到中国,

才可以了解到一些情况。

中国有句谚语说:眼见为实。

你找到了你的蒂娜,就已经是最大的收获了。

蒂娜说得对,最好不要一个人外出。

乡下的空气非常好,但是有很多的蚊子……

期待你们的好消息。

#2014-06-29 05:01:11 by anonymous10704 @anonymous10704

When Tina said "No Barry, maybe there are bad men out there, you could have trouble!"

I wonder if she was referring to people like me...the "simpering, weak kneed, cowering "Anonymous""!

#2014-06-29 05:07:12 by anonymous10705 @anonymous10705

Check out the lady's shoes in the second pic. They look like faded green. They could be some PLA/citizen militia issue. That's some history right there buddy! She looks about due for a new pair...

#2014-06-29 09:43:58 by Barry1 @Barry1

@prana

"Chinese There is a saying: Seeing is believing."

Thanks for your comments, Prana.

In English, we have a saying that's similar to the one you quoted. That is,

"Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see!"

But yes, the Chinese culture is full of wonderful things to see, ranging from the Buddhist temples through to interesting small farms along the roadside through to the noisy markets, where vendors are trying to sell their goods.

I am impressed by your English ability that is getting slowly better and better. To know two languages shows that youu are not only quite intelligent, but a hard worker as well.

Good on you, Prana! :)

#2014-06-29 15:44:16 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@prana
@Barry1
To be clear Prana, in English, at least in Canada and the United States, we also have the saying "Seeing is Believing", and it basically means that the only sure proof that something is real or is true, is seeing it with your own eyes.

#2014-06-29 16:11:06 by Barry1 @Barry1

@paulfox1

"I was worried about you going there for only one woman"

Strangely enough, I was not worried, Paul.

I was willing to throw the dice and accept whatever decision was made.

I tend to believe we all have a life blueprint.... a charting of our destinies, if you will.... so worrying about what may or may not occur was to me just a waste of time and energy.

You also said,

"You can buy a box of 'drinkable' Nescafe sachets that contain coffee, milk and sugar - all you need is boiling water"

Sorry Paul, but as an afficianado, I'm quite particular about the coffee that I drink. Most certainly, it's not this sweet tasting Nescafe that you mentioned, that's neither strong enough nor bitter enough for my tastes. Easier to bring your own, I reckon.

You said, "buy Wrigley's gum".

This would be fine except in Shawan where I was, no such product was sold. Just a lot of fruit flavoured gums, like grape, orange or watermelon.

You said, "One-weeks clothes all washed"

Remember Paul, this was a back packing trip for me. I didn't have enough clothes for more than a few days. I was travelling light and free.

You also said,

"As for BIKES - motor scooters etc - apparently they are ILLEGAL in China"

I find this hard to believe, surely? Because there are MILLIONS of them!

Thanks for the comments, Paul.

#2014-06-29 16:26:20 by Barry1 @Barry1

@Nekko

"Another interesting story from you"

Thanks Nekko, you're one of the six readers who enjoy what I write. Great stuff.

You also said,

"I always carried with me a small bottle of hand sanitiser from Dettol."

This is great advice. I also carried a can of disinfectant spray - every hotel room I stayed in, I'd spray the sheets, pillow cases, light switches, remote controls, toilet areas - just to be safe.

"Can you say something about the air pollution in the place you are. Is it good air?"

Sadly the air in Shawan is not good. Even though it's a rural town, it's surrounded by industry - factories. Some of the chimneys are continually belching out smoke. What a shame.

"body language does not lie. I know the truth."

The truth sometimes can be akin to unpeeling an onion, Nekko. Layer upon layer.... some of them slightly different to the one before. The main question though is - what will the bottom line, FINAL layer look like? :^)

"as far as learning the language is concerned maybe I could give you some hints as to how to go about this if interested"

Yes, I'd be interested in this, Nekko. I know you speak two languages already, having been born in a European country.

"I have thought about learning Mandarin as well."

A smart friend of mine gave me the following website, for anyone wishing to learn Mandarin. I'm still thinking about this.

http://www.rocketlanguages.com/chinese/

"You are funny and witty. Keep this coming. Have you tried stripes in the shirt."

I personally don't mind looking tall. The main reason is because I am! I'd prefer to look down on someone rather than up to them, after all. Thanks anyway, Nekko.

Cheers mate. (y)

#2014-06-29 16:49:18 by Barry1 @Barry1

@anonymous10704

"I wonder if she was referring to people like me...the "simpering, weak kneed, cowering "Anonymous""

Yes, my belief is that if someone is to be highly critical of someone else on the forums or blogs, they should do it in a man to man fashion, not hide behind an anonymous tag.

You should realise also that it takes a lot of time and effort to write multiple blog articles. Then to have an "anonymous" person come on and take a few cheap shots, being quite rude to you, is in my mind unacceptable.

More especially so when the derisory comments are based on what the person THINKS is happening from simply reading an abridged story, rather than what they know for sure is occurring.

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