Experiencing China

'Experiencing China' is about ordinary life in China and the wealing and dealing of a Dutchman in the Middle Kingdom. Marc works for DuoArts Consultancy and the Empowerment Foundation, travelling between the Netherlands and China.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Zaogao travelling!

Last weekend I had to travel to Shandong for business. A Chinese friend of mine and partner in an EF (Empowerment Foundation) project, was opening his 'Better Life' school. Because of EF's involvement I acted as a foreign representative and had to speech.

Happy clappy! 

It all sounds pritty straight forward. Just go to Shandong and open the school. But in China travelling is more complex. It turned out to be one of the most streneous experiences I had in China.

What happened? Because in Beijing we (I was travelling with a Dutch teacher) were cheated by the taxidriver, who set us off at Beijing West Railway Station instead of Beijing Railway Station, we missed our 12.30 pm train. The next morning we already had to be in Dongping!!! What to do? First to get the money back. In China you can cancel your trip just a few minutes before the train actually leaves and get your money back. So I did. Then try to get the first train available. This was the 7 o'clock am train to the capital city of Shandong, Jinan. In this I also succeeded.

But then my friend called me and said the activities were already starting at 8 o'clock the next morning. When taking the 7 o'clock train to Jinan, we would arrive in the afternoon. In other words, too late! "Take a taxi", he said. I said: "a what!?". After an hour negotiating with the taxidriver we four, that is the taxidriver, the Dutch teacher, me and a security officer hit the road for Shandong. It would take us about seven hours. Although, that's what we thought.

About the security officer... He joined us just because the taxidriver wouldn't drive if he wasn't protected from us, two barbarians who happen to go to Shandong.

Driving at night was so very facinating! At night only trucks hit the road. Unlike in Europe and the US, the truck are overloaded and sometimes even loaded not straight, and the drivers drive for too long without having a rest. Being in a taxi between these monster like grey croughing and heavenly breathing machines was like a surrealist scifi movie. Because I don't fall asleep often when seated, I was able to 'study' Chinese truck behavior till 9 o'clock am when suddenly we had to stop because of a traffic jam.

After 3.5 hours we were able to drive again. A terrible accident had happened. Two truckdrivers had fallen asleep. One drove to the other lane and frontally bumped into another truck, the other one hit, when turning left or right, another truck he didn't see coming. We were not prepared for this... no sleep (to prepair for next morning), no water, no food, and the sun was scorching!


After driving for 12 hours, we arrived in Dongping, where a welcoming band and some nicely dressed up ladies had been waiting for us for a long time. Me and my companion stepped out of the taxi, hungry, thirsty, tired, not able to have a shower and a decent shaving, walked towards the microphone and gave our respectively speeches. Before having a dinner, we first visited the school to inspect it, and only after that we had lunch (YEAH!!!!!).

Shandong is well known in China for its heavy drinking. It's not about the nice taste but about the obligation to show respect to each other by finishing your glass at once (Gambei = bottoms up). I did it as expected. After lunch we finally got to our hotel. After arrival I laid down on the bed and fall asleep for about three hours waking up ill. I had a stomachache which lasted for a week. It was not the food or the drinking. It was a combination of stress, fatique, the heath (it is currently around the 30 Centigrade = 86 Fahrenheit), and some problems with my stomach already before the trip. So, zaogao travelling, which means terrible travelling!

At the school 

However, not to my positive nature... I am very proud of being able to communicate with the Chinese, because in the countryside you cannot use English. Moreover, I think I am very capable to display proper Chinese behavior, even under 'zaogao' conditions! And... it makes excellent writing for a blog.



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