Sunday, November 4, 2012


The ship’s loudspeaker started blaring at 6AM in Chinese, imploring passengers to come to breakfast and get ready for disembarkment for some land tour. Our guide had previously warned us that these excursions were a miss, as most of the original temples etc along the river are reconstructions as the originals are now 185 feet under water.  The shrieking Chinese now changed to instrumental versions of the Beauty and the Beast theme song and Hotel California. Desperate to stop the noise and Eagles ballad butchery, I turned off every switch in the room to no avail.
So far every hotel (and apparently ship state) room in China has this wacky bedside console circa 1950 with knobs controlling every appliance. Maybe this is how the government controls the nation? Unfortunately no bed shakers like you see in the movies...

This is Ground Control to Major Wong...

Sleep now evaded me and I ‘enjoyed’ a delightful breakfast of protein bar sans coffee under the blankets with other Disney movie earworms ringing in my head.
Met the group at 10 in the lobby so we could witness the entrance to the second gorge together. The first we had experienced the previous evening just before nightfall. These gorges on the river look very much like pics of Newfoundland  and Scandinavian fjords, which I hope to one day also visit.

Pagoda, Yangtze River

After enjoying the scenery for a couple hours from the windswept deck, we made our way to the buffet lunch. Again no coffee, diet cola or salad but sufficient choice for Chinese food.
By this time in the trip, Chinese food is losing its charm- there’s only so much variety in a stir fry!

First Gorge- Yangtze River

After lunch I retired to my room to catch up on my journal writing. I opened my curtains to reveal a beautiful view of the passing scenery and the bright sunshine streaming in made for a cosy and inspiring perch for the afternoon.
Needing to wake up and stretch my legs before supper, I imbibed an exorbiantly-overpriced cappuccino from the lounge before joining Helen and David who were sunning on the top foredeck. They had wisely hung a few of their laundry items on the lounge chairs to get the sun and wind, while mine dripped dismally in the shower.

Wushan Bridge- Yangtze River

I tried to investigate the possible negative effects of the Dam ( relocation of thousands of people, loss of historical sites, possible negative environmental impacts etc ) with our guide, but that was a non-starter discussion. Beyond noting that China’s growth has outstripped the Dam’s expected ability to produce 100% of electricity requirements by 90%, he was not forthcoming on the subject, and just repeated its engineering success and job production. Many subjects are taboo in this country, especially politics and government controlled institutions obviously, but I have discovered it is also a key component of the larger Chinese culture overall, to ‘keep face’ by not discussing anything in negative terms.
What might be construed as negative is simply not displayed or discussed or at least, completely minimized it by focusing only on the positive aspects, if any exist. This displays itself not just in the bigger  subjects but in  mundane personal interactions like where mistakes I made rock climbing or when purchasing items at a store are overly-downplayed and apologized for, so as not to allow me to ‘lose face’.  While I like the spirit of this idea of accentuating the positive, it comes off to me and my travelling companions as somewhat deliberate dishonesty. We value truth, the whole truth, even the brutal truth as a fundamental pillar of our culture and interpersonal comportment. It is one of the biggest cultural contrasts I have discovered on my travels here.

Third Gorge- Yangtze River

After another unsatisfyingly-similar dinner buffet experience, Suzanne and I joined the crowd in the lounge for the evening entertainment.
That chiefly consisted of us watching a man in the front row enthusiastically and incessantly picking his nose and wiping it on his chair, but also the scheduled show of costumed kitchen staff performing native dances combined with largely untalented Chinese tourists doing karaoke.
After the half-hearted waving fan dance finale, we retired for the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment