"These are not the foreign tourists you're looking for" - a star wars theme post

Well, after nearly 7 weeks in China, I admit, there are certain things I'm beginning to look
fwd to about coming home... Well, not things, per se, but more... routine, home, that sort
of thing. I'm a sucker for routine, really, the kind where you know where you'll be living
tomorrow, that you can get a comfortable breakfast every day, and not having to *always* ask
where you are and how to get places... yeah, I admit, I'm looking forward to that.
I'd also be looking forward to cooler weather except that I hear from my mom that Ottawa's
being its usual humid icky self and feeling like 40C with the humidity, so while it won't be
worse than it is here, it certainly isn't getting much better. Did I mention that I love and
will miss terribly Vancouver's weather? We shall see how Halifax treats me, I suppose, soon
enough. =)
In other news, Garrett and I have decided on a couple of good phrases to sum up this trip,
and one of them seems appropriate for discussion today, for no particular reason other than
I damn well feel like it.
"These are not the foreign tourists you're looking for..." (use appropriate Jedi hand
motions, of course)
Man, I wish I had Jedi powers - perhaps that could also fix the subtitles to the copy of
episode3 they have at the hostel here, which we realized about 5 minutes into wandering into
the lounge, was subtitled with the lines from the movie The Piano. It was rather interesting
seeing Yoda say things like "For the love of Barbara Allen" and "do you play the piano?",
nevermind Anakin's line (roughly translated in my broken mandarin) "you're very pretty"
being subtitled with something about the cost of land ownership.
Oh, and better yet, the Piano is a shorter film. So the subtitles loop. Anakin gets all
burned up shouting about piano keys again too. It's pretty hilarious, actually.
Anyway, this is all a large detour from my point - I wish I had Jedi powers. That might stop
us from getting constantly hassled everywhere we go: "do you want to go here? do you want to
buy this? do you have a hotel room? eat here! buy a map! bamboo boat? want to rent a
Egads, those last two were pretty much all we heard for 7 days in Yangshuo. "Bamboo boat!
Bicycle! Bicycle!" It gets old REALLY fast, let me tell you, and no one seems to get
deterred when you say "Bu yao" (I don't want), or even when you say things like "Wo yi jing
you le" (I already have one). Some people are nice enough about it, express a little
surprise that I speak decent mandarin, laugh, and move on. Fine, that's all well and good. I
have no problems with you trying to advertise a product or service. But some people don't
know when to give up.
WE ARE NOT THE FOREIGN TOURISTS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. You are not going to make a sale today.
I'm usually pretty tolerant of it, and G and I have figured out that this might be largely
because I can understand the language, so at least I can get more out of the respective
seller than their two phrases of the English language -- at least I can appreciate the deal
they offer, and legitimately turn it down or not. I get when they explain things, like the
woman who followed us for 20 minutes on a bicycle -- I got that we didn't have to pay her
anything; rather she operated on commission, to try and get us to go to see the Banyan tree
LOOKING FOR. Following us on a bicycle for many kms will not help you.
Plus, they don't quite know how stubborn I am. Friends of mine from high school may recall a
certain incident where I stubbornly refused to go see star wars ep1, I think not for any
particular reason, but more because everyone was pushing me to do so.
I never said I was ALWAYS reasonable. Just most of the time. Somethings just push my buttons
though, and once you hit the stubborn switch, there ain't no going back. Unless there's
something inherently practical about it, I suppose. Practicality does tend to win, no matter
my stubborn inclinations.
Anyway... ramble ramble... Other aspects of travelling here, while looking conspicuously
foreign (read: white), occasionally include fun with discriminatory pricing, but, for the
most part, that doesn't bug me too too much, since tourist pricing is necessarily a rip in
any country... But every so often, someone pushes that idea too far too.
Last night, G and I had dinner at a little place just around the corner, nothing
spectacular, but reasonable enough -- some fried green veg, some bamboo and pork, some rice,
some tea. But while we sat and ate, some guy sits down at the next table and starts going on
and on about how foreigners should be paying more than chinese nationals - and not just
voicing a little wee opinion, but being really asinine about the whole business, his only
real fact in the whole lot being that the US dollar is worth a lot more than the chinese
dollar (though his numbers could use some tweaking too, his Y40 = $1-2 USD is a far reaching
exaggeration, with the approximate conversion these days being about 6:1=yuan:CDN$). I can't
explain it, exactly, but his attitude towards the whole thing just rubbed me the wrong way -
I held off on translating the rant for G til we'd left the restaurant, I admit, since I
figured that if the guy was enough of an ass to tick me off, me being the good cop of the
two of us, G was hardly going to be one to smile and nod about it. The only good side of the
whole business, though, was that it made me like the old man who owned the restaurant more.
As the ass went on with his rant about how he shouldn't have to pay what we pay, the
restauranteur responded with such comments as "that's a Y4 beer - he pays Y4 for it, and so
do you", and when we paid, was nice enough to break down the bill dish by dish and comment
that he wasn't overcharging us - that everyone pays the same.
Granted, I don't know that he'd necessarily have been as nice about it if he hadn't known in
advance that I spoke chinese, and thus, likely understood the entire debate (the ass reacted
sort of funny when he realized I spoke mandarin - seemed a bit taken aback by it...
jackass). But I'd like to think that he was just a decent sort of character, with a
reasonable sense of fairness to him. I like to think the best of people, even though I'm not
always the most trusting sort, until circumstances make me cynical about them.
I think I'll leave off there today - I know I haven't written much in a while; I've been
catching up on a bit of a backlog on paper, but mostly, I've just been living more than
writing, which I think is perhaps good for the soul. =)
I leave you with the following two surreal notes, however;
(1) today, I bought a hanging painting/wall scroll... from a man hooked up to an IV drip at
the back of his little store. It was a little weird.
(2) yesterday, during lunch, I played translator, as usual, but this time not for Garrett.
Rather, I helped a random chinese guy write an English text message to his girlfriend. 'Why
haven't you called?''I'm thinking of you' etc. etc. He'd write in Chinese, I'd clarify what
he meant, and I'd write on his cell phone. I felt like a very unsophisticated Cyrano, as it
were, except for the fact that I wasn't pining over his girlfriend... Minor plot snag, I
suppose. All told, it was quite the odd experience, but he was really quite thankful, and
gave us his phone number if ever we need help while we're in China.
And on that note, I say again what I've said before -- damn, I'm REALLY glad I speak the
language, even if it is really broken and requires me to often ask "what do you mean by
that?"... Still, it'd be a very very different experience without it, and hopefully, by the
next time I come back this ways (I've still got the whole West of china saved for trip #2 -
and yes, I'm quite serious about that), I'll be reasonably fluent, and be able to read a
little more too. This illiteracy kick of mine drives me crazy at times.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Oh my goodness, HOW much money would I pay to watch Ep.III with the Piano subtitles? Sooo much. If I had money that is.

Hee-larious post.