Yep, you guessed it! I’m on the road again! I’m heading to Hainan, a little island off the southern coast of China! I’ll add more this post soon. I’m in a rush to get up to date!
It may actually be impossible for me to ever really get a pure, untainted impression of what life in China is like. Why? Well, to borrow a concept from the Dictionary of Scientific Experiment Phrases Applicable to Jamaicans in China: “I skew the results.”
I found this example of the use of the phrase on the web:
“If you add too much of a redox indicator you end up changing the equilibrium of the main reactants and skew the results..”
*A redox indicator (also called an oxidation-reduction indicator) is a substance that undergoes a definite color change at a specific electrode potential.(how appropriate, eee?)
I get a very skewed perception of people’s behavior as I walk the streets of China. Very few people are acting normally once they see me. I hate to belabor the point (if you’ve been following the journey from the beginning), which I’ve covered at length here (download the free ebook), but in certain quarters, my very presence changes the natural equilibrium of the main reactants, and skews the results.
Entire groups of people, families, tourists and little children stop what they’re doing, stare, point, turn around as I pass, point some more, quip amongst themselves, giggle, (some will turn and follow me for a while), when I walk by. Strangers ask to take their photo with me. People (men and women, uninvited, at least the men) reach out to touch me as I walk by.
Like a redox indicator, there’s just too much of a visual difference when contrasted with the everyday norm. It’s a bit of challenge for me to disappear into the crowd. I’m working on it, though.
Now, this is different from the familiar Observer Effect.
No, this is no ordinary observer effect, this is an observer effect on steroids (or MSG), where those being observed become themselves fascinated observers of the observer! So, I’m taking photos of them taking photos of me taking photos of them!
Of the people I meet, I get a uniquely friendly, foreigner-curious sampling of people and those who aren’t nervous about testing out their English-speaking abilities.
Many people have told me, “You’re my first foreign friend!” One woman saw me and her first words to me were, “Can I be your friend?”
Being the first foreign friend puts me in a unique position. For example, I’m learning things that tourists never learn, and that only transplants will ever know about life, living, learning, working, dating, marrying and more in China. I’m hearing things that people might not say among familiar Chinese ears. For example, did you know that most single girls are–um, well, why don’t I just save that for another post…..or the book!
On the other hand, as a first foreign friend, I’m sure there are many things I am NOT being told. As a foreigner, I’m sure there is some degree of “put your best foot forward for the visitor” going on.
So, with that said, knowing my prime directive and the questions I ask, my stance on non-judgement, and the fact that I’m skewing the sample, I’ll (finally) attempt to answer some of YOUR questions about being Jamaican in China (and Laos).
If you haven’t heard all the hoopla, (I didn’t, as I’m a little out of touch with what’s happening in the US), there was a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” that’s causing quite a stir. You can check it out here: CLICK TO VIEW ARTICLE.
Guess what? The article’s author, Amy Chua, mentions JAMAICANS very early in the piece….(aren’t you MORE curious now?)
CAVEAT #2: THE NON-JUDGMENTAL PERCEIVER
So, the second thing to know about my answers to your questions about life in China is that I’m very careful about how I interpret what I see, and how I phrase what I say about life in China. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is INTP (Introvert, Intuiter, Thinker, Perceiver) In contrast to its opposite type, which would be an ESFJ (Extrovert, Senser, Feeler, Judger; Look it up!!) I tend to perceive and observe without judging–at least, I make the effort. I live by the belief that there is no good or bad except believing makes it so.
For instance, it’s tempting to see smokers and smoking and think “bad,” or to see certain behavior and want to attach judgement-laden words to them. If you and I were talking about life in China, you might often hear me use the phrase “what we might refer to as [fill in the blank]” For instance, I might say something like “I’ve noticed that in the subways in Beijing, there’s a lot of what we might refer to as pushy behavior.” I do this to separate the words I use to describe the behavior (i.e. “pushy”), from any judgement you might believe I am making about the behavior itself.
I’ve had interesting conversations with people who are visiting China, but who are unable to step outside of their predominant paradigm. Everything from vehicular traffic, personal habits, communication styles, dating expectations, to gender roles provides a never-ending, fun exercise in how to observe without judgement, how to see things as others who are not raised within a western paradigm might see them. The more you know about how people think, how the system works, the more that certain behavior makes sense given the new paradigm. Of course, I’m not saying anything remarkably profound here, but you’ll have a difficult time really understanding certain aspects of life in China if you are not aware of to what degree your own observations and expectations are flavored by a foreign (non-Chinese) paradigm.
Of course, I have my own pet peeves. Inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke is one of them. As much as I realize that the choice to smoke and the percentage of smokers in a country are functions of many things including politics, economy, health education, cultural norms, gender roles, etc., the distress I feel when I am forced to inhale it does not lessen with that realization.
However, I’m here in China with my own agenda and on my own dime and time. I’m not working a job, so I have the freedom to pick up and leave if the smoking or the (cold) weather becomes unbearable.
So, anyway, my point is simply that I strive to be non-judgmental in my observations of life in China.
Went to a wedding reception the other day.
This man is handing out cigarettes.
You can never have too many. (A spare, in case one goes out, I imagine) 🙂
And, before entering the hotel for the reception, you can get candy and….cigarettes.
JIC=Jamaican in China!
Yes, I’m still in Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China! As the voting phase of the Jamaica Blog Awards draws to a close, I slowly return to regular posts. The purpose of “What’s Jamaican in China All About?” is intended to answer the many questions I receive about life in China.
However, before I answer, consider the following disclaimers as you attempt to understand my blog and the eventual answers.
CAVEAT #1: COULD I LIVE HERE?
Let him beware that the underlying question that permeates all my travels is “could I live here?” Given the natural things that are important to me (warm weather, sunshine, clean air, access to organic fruits and vegetables), the societal things (friendly people), as well as the household amenities (a kitchen and internet access), I make an overall assessment and arrive at a yep or nope.
If it passes the “Yep Test” and the majority of my wants and wishes are to my liking, I unpack, hang out for a while, and explore.
That’s one of the reasons I stay in a place for a few months. It takes time for the pall of the visitor paradigm to wear off and for the real rhyme, reason and rhythm of the region to take hold. And, as I’ve said before (and which some are tired of hearing), I’m not a tourist. A hotel is an unnatural setting. If I can get a real apartment, that makes it even better. That way, I can observe the comings and goings of regular folk. Watch how business is done, how quickly products and services are delivered, learn what the REAL price of things are, gender roles and dating rituals, something beyond the quick, superficial view of things you get through temporary eyes and with your boarding pass still in hand.
The comings and goings as seen from my third floor apartment
Recently, after reading one of my blog posts, a friend asked me, “What are you trying to accomplish?”
I was grateful for the question. It made me stop and think of a good answer. But before I explore and share that answer with you, I feel I must insert a few caveats, preambles, disclaimers, forewords, parentheticals (is that a word or a waltism?) and footnotes to establish the ground rules and a basis for mutual understanding.
So, what is Jamaican In China all about?
First, as a writer, it is simply the latest phase of my creative expression.
Second, it can be a travel log of sorts, exposing people to new places in a way and from a perspective they may not otherwise have the opportunity. I’ve been told that my blog offers a vicarious travel experience for the stay-cation (stay at home vacation) lifestyle.
Third, as the Passion Profit coach it is the latest manifestation of a lifestyle blog intended to show people one option to choose from and emulate. I’ve announced that my theme for 2011 is going to be “Reclaim Your Power. Break Free. Live True to Your Self!” In addition to its entertainment value, I’d like to think this blog can help people break free. How? By
1. Showing different realities, and
2. Dispelling myths
SHOWING DIFFERENT REALITIES
I am Jamaican. I am in China. I am vegan. I am a minimalist. This is not the typical prism through which travel is experienced. (I have other predilections and peeves that define who I am, but I’ll save those for later.)
One of the things I’m aware that this blog is able to do is teach as well as entertain. Many people, myself included, have and had certain ideas of what China is all about. I don’t pretend to have a handle on a complete answer after only a few months here, but I do know that simply by being here, I am able to dispel certain ideas and misconceptions people have about China, its people and possibilities.
A few months ago, I wrote a facebook post where I threatened jokingly that I would hold my next blog post hostage until people spread the word about my blog to help me increase my subscriber list. A friend wrote back about my choice of (hostage taking/ransom) tactics, “…that’s what happens when you live in a communist country!” For those of us outside of China, that might be a humorous statement, but it does give some insight into what people perceive life in China to be like.
So, with that said, over the course of the next few posts, I’ll share my developing answer to my friend’s original question and many of the questions you’ve emailed to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) about what I’ve learned about China, and what I’ve come to learn about being Jamaican in China! Stay tuned!
The following was seen on an electric circuit box on the 2nd floor of a local supermarket here in Jinghong.
Yes, boys and girls. The word for today is “damgerous.” It means “Dammit, it’s dangerous!” or “Damn Dangerous!” as in “Caution, this circuit box is damn dangerous!” An example of the ever-efficient Chinese approach to unnecessary English verbosity.
(Now then, being the stickler for correct English that I is, I would do a disservice to my exceptional Jamaican education, and would furthermore be remiss if I didn’t point out that the correct spelling of the word damn is “D-A-M-N.” If used as a modifier, it would be D-A-M-N-E-D, as in: “He’s a damned Jamaican!” which, in itself is a damned silly statement, since everyone knows Jamaicans are not damned, but are, in fact, blessed and highly favored. Or, as we say in Jamaica, “we a God-blessed pickney!” But, I digress. Enjoy the word of the day!)
I’ve been holding off on making a new post for a very specific reason which I’ll explain in a short while! 🙂 Meanwhile, for those of you who are asking: YES! I’m still Jamaican in China! Here’s a little something to whet your appetite until the next post!
And, if you’re new to my adventures, you can check out Who is Walt? to say hello! And, since it seems the voting is still going on, don’t forget to vote for me for “Best Overseas Jamaican Blog” in the Jamaica Blog Awards
On December 8, 2010, at approximately 10:20am, Walt F.J. Goodridge became the first Jamaican to cross from Laos into China!
It all started innocently enough with an early morning rise to catch my 7:30am tuk tuk ride to the bus station. As this would be the last time I would have unrestricted access to Facebook (as well as Youtube, Twitter, Blogspot and other subversive US media), I penned a special goodbye to my facebook friends which read:
A COUNTRY WITHOUT FACEBOOK??
“Please note: effectively immediately (upon boarding the bus from Laos to China), I will no longer have access to Facebook. My email–email@example.com–will be the ONLY way to reach me.
I know this is difficult to imagine for those who are now among the facebook-addicted, but when I’m in China, and I type facebook.com into my browser, unlike you, I get a blank screen with an error message.
That means I cannot see wall posts. I cannot reply to messages. I cannot reply to any of your friends’ friend requests. I cannot effectively poke or be poked.
Of course, there are ways around the block they call “The Great Firewall of China,”, but these aren’t dependable and functionality is limited.
So, when thoughts/conversations arise on why I haven’t responded to people’s friend requests or comments (“I thought you said he was a nice guy!” or “How rude! I asked him a question and he just ignored me!”) Remember the following (please rehearse now:) “That’s right. I remember. Walt cannot read this. He’s in China, the country without Facebook.” “
And with that, I was on my way to check out of the Zuela Guesthouse in Luang Namtha, Laos. The tuk tuk would pick me up at Minority Restaurant, so I would have a chance to say a final goodbye to Vanxai.
Vanxai Inyasone, owner of Minority Restaurant. Check out the website to meet his wife and staff.
After a short tuk tuk ride to the station, the bus to Jinghong arrives, passengers board, and we’re soon on our way!
at the bus station. “Hope this helpful stranger gives me back my camera before the bus pulls out.”
We drive for about 1.5 hours… We arrive at the Laos Immigration departure station, and get quickly processed through and, as I did when entering Laos a few days earlier, walked the few meters separating the two nations’ border crossings toward the Xishuangbanna, China Immigration center, so I could speed up the process.
And then, it happened.
On December 8, 2010, at approximately 10:20am, I became the first Jamaican citizen to attempt to cross from Laos into China!
I know this because the border agents told me so. And soon, everyone else on the bus would know it, too, because since the border agents had never seen or processed a Jamaican passport ever before at this port, the processing of my re-entry into China delayed the entire bus load of people for almost an hour! Yes, a bus load of Lao, Chinese, two Americans, and an (equally annoyed) bus driver were camped outside in the parking lot waiting for the border agents to do whatever it is that border agents do when they encounter a passport they’ve never seen before.
Wait a moment, please. Please have a seat. I will go upstairs.
Meanwhile, I got a chance to practice my Mandarin with the agents who were waiting with me. (Always willing to educate border guards to learn more about Jamaica than Usain Bolt!)
As time dragged on, however, I realized that I had to do something. This could turn into an overnight trip. I was already feeling bad about delaying the other travelers, so, when the bus driver edged ever closer to the immigration checkpoint, and started giving me an encouraging sign to go upstairs to where the agent had taken my passport, I was in agreement with him and headed upstairs to put a little pressure on the process.
I started wandering around the second floor of the Immigration Center peeking into each open door to find the lady agent who had disappeared with my passport.
Soon, another guard spotted me in the (official/restricted) area, and approached me. I communicated to him that my passport was being held up in a process, and I pointed down to the waiting bus driver and passengers some of whom had gathered at the Immigration exit area to see what the delay was.
“Do not worry,” the guard said, “the bus will wait for you.”
“I know they’ll wait. That’s just it. I don’t WANT them to have to wait. The whole bus is being delayed because of something that I know has nothing to do with the authenticity of my paperwork–since my passport is valid, and I have my valid entry-permit, but most likely has to do with the administrative stuff in YOUR computer system.”
(Of course, that’s what I WOULD HAVE said had I been able to speak fluently in Putonghua. Instead, I just said, <<“I know.”>>
Soon, the young lady agent who had been scrolling through microfiche for that hour saw me outside her door, and came outside. The guard communicated to her the delayed bus situation, and, quite agreeable, she told me she would photocopy my passport and continue what it is she needed to do while she let me go through the immigration processing.
I retrieved my passport from her, headed quickly downstairs, and, whoaaaa! I then encountered a long line of passengers from another incoming bus who were attempting to go through Immigration. Not wanting to wait any longer, I called to a guard and asked (signs and gestures) if he could assist.
He understood my intentions and told me to go to the front of the line, and then explained to the waiting queue (I imagine that’s what he said) that I was to be next on line.
“You go first.”
NOTE: Um, by the way, as one of the guards told me earlier, there’s no photo-taking allowed inside the immigration area. I have no idea how those last two photos got into my blog post! Wikileaks?
One rubber stamp later, I was out the door and–along with the driver and few other passengers by my side–heading towards the parking lot and back on the bus. To tell you the truth, no one on the bus really seemed that perturbed, but I didn’t like delaying the “3-hour-trip-that-takes-6-hours” bus ride any more than it had to be delayed!
So, please make note of this new bit of international Jamaica-China-Laos foreign-relations trivia. Here it is, again, in case you missed it: On December 8, 2010, at approximately 10:20am, Walt F.J. Goodridge became the first Jamaican passport-holder to SUCCESSFULLY cross from Laos into China! (There may be a test later, or it may come in handy for a “Jeopardy” or “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” question. Pay attention, and you won’t need to use one of your lifelines!)
So, about an hour later, we’re on our way! Over hill and dale. Ever northward through scenic southern China….
scenic southern China
Back to Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China!
Back “home” in Jinghong! What’s that, you ask? Ha! THAT’S nothing! Wait until I show you a photo of FOUR people on a moped! You think I’m kidding?
So, by now, I’ve established a daily routine…
Up at about 5am to work on the computer until sunrise.
At the computer
Head out to the market
Luang Namtha Morning Market
Watch puppies and monkeys playing…
“Which way did ‘e go? Which way did ‘e go? This little chimp is making a monkey out of me!”
Make new friends…
Tik, from Minority Restaurant on her way to evening English class.
More cycling on Day 7
Cycling and sunning
Photo opps to remind myself I was in Laos
Eat at Minority Restaurant.
Big Noodles & Vegetables (2) Fried veggie spring rolls, (3) Tofu Soup
But, I’ve also started to talk with Minority Restaurant owner, Vanxai about Jamaica, about Saipan, about Laos, about America, and about the tourism industry in Luang Namtha. I offer to update the webpage for the restaurant a bit to make it a bit more appealing, and give a few tips on places to promote the restaurant on the web.
Introducing Vanxai to HappyCow.net
He also teaches me about the eco-tourism/adventure business and we agree to keep in touch upon my return to Jinghong.
Make sure you go Kayaking with Vanxai. That’s his passion!
Tomorrow morning, I return to China!
Soooooooo….I’m in Luang Namtha, Laos. NOTE: Since you may not be inclined to do the research yourself, I’ve invited the prototypical, documentary-style, voiceover man to over-dub a few excerpts from wikitravel.org as well as the namtha-river-expericence-laos.com website for today’s episode. see text in blue.Okay, narrator, you’re up!
Luang Namtha lies on the banks of the Nam Tha river, and the meaning of the name is “The area (luang) around the Tha river (nam Tha)”.[Wikipedia]
Now, that I’m here…What to do. What to do.
The international award-winning Nam Ha Ecotourism Project was established in 2000 as the first community-based ecotourism project in Laos. …. organize community-base ecotourism-forest trekking, Hiking, Kayaking, Rafting, Biking, River trips and Village home-stays-designed to produce economic benefits for local people, protect cultural heritage and raise funds for environmental conservation. [namtha-river-expericence-laos.com]
So, let’s see. I could go trekking. Luang Namtha is known for its trekking adventures. I could do a 1, 2 or 3-day trek.
No. I like to be on my own clock. Maybe next time.
I could go whitewater rafting. I did that once many years ago with some college friends. It was fun. Been there. Done that.
I could rent a moped and go out on my own and see the countryside. Now that’s appealing, except, it’s a bit noisy, and based on the way I like to travel, it’s a bit cumbersome.
Waitaminit! I know! Just at the street entrance to Zuela Guesthouse, I saw some bicycles for rent. It’s only 10,000 kip/day to rent one.
Now, 10,000 of anything is a lot of things, but that’s about $1.20US. I can deal with that. It’s quiet, easy to maneuver, plus I can get some exercise and work up a sweat, and an appetite. And, I’ll still be contributing to the local economy! Yep. cycling through Laos. That’s the ticket!
I’ll head north out of Namtha towards Muangsing.
Luang Namtha is a mountainous province, located in northwestern Laos bordering Myanmar (Burma) and China with 5 districts (Namtha, Muang Sing, Vieng Phoukha, Muang Long and Nalea) and a total land area of 9,325 square kilometers. The population in 2005 was about 152,285 people or some 16 people per square kilometer. [namtha-river-expericence-laos.com
Lush vegetation, clean air….
Dam. That’s a lot of water. (get it?)
These kids’ bicycle chain had come off and gotten wedged between the gear and the wheel. I pulled it free for them while they stared and pointed at me. What? Haven’t you ever seen a Jamaican in Laos before?
Most people in Luang Namtha live in small rural villages and practice agriculture as their main occupation. There are over 17 ethnic minority groups in the province, making it perhaps the most ethnically diverse place in the entire country. [namtha-river-expericence-laos.com]
Forget the glass house in the desert. My new dream home is a wooden summer retreat in the mountains of northern Laos.
Ended up riding 30 kilometers….15 out
….and 15 back
Luang Namtha province has a wide range of guesthouses. With the prospects of getting more tourists with the new No.3 Road and the upgraded international airport, many new guesthouses have been built in recent times and new hotels are being planned in the center of Luang Namtha town. in Luang Namtha Province there are about 73 hotels and guesthouses with 951 beds and 144 restaurants. [namtha-river-expericence-laos.com
And, speaking of restaurants, after a day of cycling, there’s nothing better than to replenish the nutrients than with a Minority Restaurant Happy Meal!
Fried rice with vegetables….(I’ve found it a challenge to get brown rice at restaurants, so white will have to do this time)
I think I had a third dish, but I really got into it and forgot to have it pose for a photo.
To do my part to make life more pleasant for vegan nomads as well as the restaurateurs who serve them, I tweaked the Wikitravel.org mention of Vanxai’s Minority Restaurant and added a link to his website. Check it out at: http://wikitravel.org/en/Luang_Namtha
You know what? I haven’t been in a sauna since leaving Saipan. And you know what else? I’ve never had a professional massage.
It’s something I had wanted to do in Beijing, Kunming and Jinghong, but just never got around to finding a location. Well, here in Laos I found one.
There’s an Herbal Massage and Sauna spot located on the same lot as Minority Restaurant. So, since I’m here, there’s no need to put it off any longer!
So today’s agenda is simple:
Sit in the sun.
‘Laxin’ in Laos
Get a massage.
Yes, I do have a photo of me getting the massage, but you’ll have to be a member of my extra-extra-EXTRA special mailing list to see it.
Do the sauna.
The sauna room is constructed of bamboo. It’s a little hut that sits atop some wood columns. Out back, behind the sauna hut, there’s a huge pot sitting over a fire, with a hollow bamboo pipe positioned to direct the herbal steam into the hut. It gets pretty hot in there. Dare I say “oppressive!”
The sauna engine room out back
No Minority Restaurant today since today was one of those days I didn’t eat. The sauna shop opens for business at 4:00pm each day. I kept an empty stomach all day in preparation for the massage and sauna. They finished squeezing and boiling me at about 7-ish, which is too late in the day for me to eat.
I’ll eat tomorrow.