Lanzhou -- Tue, Jul 26, 2005
As I have mentioned earlier -- when we stop for drinks, food, really anything -- a crowd of 20 or more usually forms within minutes. The type of crowd varies: there is the staring type with little interaction like I am some sort of facinating creature from outer space; there is the aggressive/non-communicative type pushing to touch the bike, pinch the tires, play with the computer while not asking or saying a word; and then there is the questioning type. Sometimes its a progression, they start out staring, then a brave soul sends out a question -- usually one of six.
I have become very good at answering the six questions. There are sometimes others but I just have to shrug and say I don't understand. But the six questions -- I know them well:
It usually starts with (1) Where are you from? America I smile. They smile too. They like America. They don't like Japan...
Then after the obligatory compliment of my Chinese and my canned response of yes I speak a little but very poorly they may ask (2) Are you a student? Nope, not a student; I am a teacher, I say proudly. It's fun to be a 24-year old university professor. They love teachers in China so its a good gig to have.
Ah, a teacher they ponder -- still warming up, not wanting to be too intrusive they might ask (3) How old are you? Twenty-four I say. They nod and say yes, I thought you were 20-something.
Now things are comfortable they think. It's time to ask what I really want to know (4) How much money does your bike cost / how much do you make / how much does the trip cost? Hum, it was a present I don't know or how much do you think / not sure, you? / don't know -- if its a taxi driver, I might humor him with a response -- but never the bike question, they would think I'm crazy that I have a bike that costs more than they make in a year.
Ok that's good in all, you don't want to talk about money, but what about your love live, (5) Do you have a girl friend? Nope.
And then we can close it all with an easy one (6) Do you like China? My answer: China is very good. Chinese people are very, very good. And I mean it!
Huge winds today -- coming into Lanzhou there was a cloud of dust/pollution swarming overhead. Looking forward to sand storms ;) Are they kind of like tornadoes but with sand? I've never seen a tornado but I want to...
We got on the highway (even though we weren't supposed to) and cut off 50km from our route into Lanzhou. Went through some great tunnels. Lanzhou is cool. Surrounded by mountains.
Crossing my fingers that I can get a new visa tomorrow -- say a prayer for me, if not I might have to go back to Shijiazhuang or Hong Kong, not fun.