China seems to have selective communism, although that that is communism is pretty out there. Mom's fascinated by the whole "one-child rule" and asks about it often. Apparently, if you're pregnant with your second child and can't afford to bribe the government, soldiers will come in the dead of night and forcibly take you to have an abortion. The government regulates ALL newspapers, as news should inspire and encourage the people. Oh, in America, we like our news to inform the people. All judges and juries are for show, while a government central committee really decides the fates of criminals, with firing squad death penalty given to murderers, drug dealers, and bank robbers. Guilin, the town I'n in now, has a population of 500,000 and an average of 33 criminals are put to death here every year. I spent a month selling cheap joints in college. Had I done so here, I'd be tied to a pole and exectued.
The thing about being in some tiny fishing town in the middle of nowhere, with my baggage at it's maximum, means I can't shop and explore what interests me and get massages. I'm actually forced to learn about the country I'm in. Apparently, this is why most people travel in the first place. Turns out, it's kinda interesting. I don't really want to pontificate in some pseudo-intellectual diatribe about why China is so backwards and our way of doing things is much better, but quite frankly, it is. Communism has never worked, even selective communism as they have here, and I can see why. Sure, there's free enterprise, but it's found through bribery and exploitation of the poor and uneduated. The fact of the matter is, no one is truly free to say what they want or live how they please. Women lack all power, and while most work, they earn far less than their male counterparts. True in America as well, obviously, but the gap is dramatically wider here. It's shocking and sad, particularly as America and China do so much business. Why can't we smoke Cuban cigars but purchase Coke produced here? It doesn't make sense, and while I have no idea what it's like to live in Cuba, it can't be any worse than China.
And now, for my judgemental commentary on the past 24 hours...Last night, we passed up the "Forest Gump Restaurant" and hit some joint that had both Western and Eastern food, pleasing everyone. Alex and I headed back to the hotel to watch Olympic weightlifting, while mom and dad walked around and shopped. We awoke this moring to meet Mr. Yen in the lobby to head off to our Li River Cruise. Occasionally, Mr. Yen's cell rings, and mom and I can't seem to stiffle giigles as he's chosen "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as his ringtone.
At the docks, we're hustled onto one of several huge, old, ferry-type boats, the Westerners being separated from the Chinese tourists. Apparently, the Chinese tourists pay half-price. We were on a boat with a bunch of Italians, who sucked down Marlboro's like there was no tomorrow. The boat ride was pretty spectacular, and Mr. Yen hid himself well. Occasionally, he'd show up to point out to strangely shaped hill, and we'd all pretend to see the lion or steamboat or pumpkin he'd point out. A few hours into the ride, we had a buffet lunch of disgusting Chinese food and french fries. I knew the food was inedible, as we could see it being prepared on the other tourist boats that flanked us. The kitchens, you see, were open decks at the back of each boat. A fishing raft would pull up and hand over live fish, which the "chef" would then grab and bang against the floor of the ferry until the fish was nearly dead. I decided to pass on most of the buffet, especially considering my recent bout with parasitic SARS.
The boats docked in the early afternoon in Yangshou, an even tinier fishing villiage packed with hikers and climbers, here for the mountaineering. It truly looked like Southeast Asia, which is essentially, where we are. I bought a communist t-shirt and drinkable water. After wandering around Yangshou, we drove the hour back to the hotel quizzing Mr. Yen on all things Chinese.
"We make-uh much lice here."
"Oh yes." says dad. "We make rice in California too." A pause. "But not as much as you make here."
Mom lost it. No shit dad. This is China. My father is famous for stating or asking the bizarre, in the interest of appearing informed or interested. His last famous quote occured 3 years ago, while on safari in South Africa. In the middle of the bush, guided by Jerome, the Matt Damon-esque safari guide I'm still waiting for to come and whisk me away, we stop to observe hippos in a small pool of water. "Now Jerome," says dad, "What's the difference between Rhinoceros' and Hippopotomous'?"
About the same as cats and dogs, dad.
Finally back at the hotel, we're being taken to some Chinese minority dance show this evening. Tomorrow, we leave at the break of dawn, literally, on a plane for Canton, where we then take a train to Hong Kong. Thus, I should be in Hong Kong by tomorrow afternoon, on a real computer which might be able to post these blogs. Hong Kong is still considered a foreign country by the Chinese and thus, we must spend our remaining yuen before tomorrow afternoon. Considering I have about 25 yuen left ($3), I don't think that'll be a problem.