Monday, October 20, 2008

hipness in yangshuo

Yangshuo is the Moab, Utah or the Jackson, Wyoming of China. These gateway towns are hip, filled with dreadlocked climbers and their dirty backpacks, and are surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery. For the first two, the draw is Arches and Yellowstone, and here it is the Li and Yulong rivers and the karst peaks that jut out of the otherwise flat land of this southwestern province. For some, the sight of westerners at all in this fairly remote area of China is too much to bear; with their hideous visage of unkempt northface pants and designer hiking boots.  For others, including us, the sight of westerners only makes obvious what is inherent in many "remote" areas here, the effects of globalization - of America Brand consumerism and greed - are everywhere, and cannot be avoided.  Many purists say that Yangshuo is not the 'real China,' but I think they are looking for something that doesn't exist, and are actually offended to see some mainstream middle-aged American white couple making it to somewhere that was -up until then - making them feel radical and wildly adventurous.  Alex and I make no claims of grandeur and purity, so we can be okay with beautiful scenery, Heineken's and pizza for dinner, and American breakfast. So we did, and enjoyed ourselves.

One night, when enjoying some local beer at a great cafe with great music, we were approached by a 9 year old boy who asked us if he could practice his English with us.  Well, we were skeptical at first, reading about people who want to "practice English" by asking you to buy things. So, we asked him a few questions and he seemed legit, so we invited him to sit with us. We sat for the greater part of an hour discussing pokemon and American movies and his parents' jobs and how much he likes knowing English.  He gave us some (what he considered simple) 'math problems,' which were actually super Chinese-esque riddles for us to solve. Like, if you have 8 eggs, and one of them weighs more than all the other 7 separately, and each of those other 7 weigh the same, and you can only use the scale 2 times, how do you weigh the eggs (in any combination) to find out which one is the heaviest egg. Yeah, we failed to figure this one out.  In any case, this theme of adorable and earnest children has been repeating itself. I am once again taken aback by the joy of conversation, and once again (as in Morocco, Ecuador) it is with a child. They have less of a filter to guard against the wrong words, so they tell you exactly what they know. Like our friend Joe says, "Chinese video games are horrible."

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