Sunday, April 23, 2006

A little story for your Sunday morning (North America edition)

In four plus months of traveling in Asia, I thought nothing could faze me anymore. Watching your meal be slaughtered in front of you, drinking local moonshine and not going blind, surviving the "freestyle driving" of just about every Asian bus/moto/tuk-tuk driver, random 1-2 hour delays for no particular reason and taking a step of faith into a steady stream of traffic knowing that people will just move around you. All of this after a while just becomes another day at the office (which hopefully will make a day at the office look pretty damn tame in about 5 months or so).

Then we took the mini-bus up to Qiaotou to go hike Tiger Leaping Gorge. A normal mini-bus ride; a full bus and people smoking here and there. We stopped about 20 minutes from our destination to fill up on gas. This particular stop was unique in that it included filling up the spare gas jug and placing it next to me in the aisle of the mini-bus. No problem, despite the gas soaked rag sticking out of it and the fumes coming at me like a French cheese.

This is where it got good. We start up and started heading down the road to Qiaotou. I happen to glance across the row and find that the Chinese man on the other side of the aisle is lighting a cigarette. After my mind envisions a big budget movie explosion, I quickly point this out to Becca and we both start yelling at him (not really any words, just yelling and gestures including an outstanding hand motion "boom" on my part). The other four foreigners figure out what we're getting antsy about and join in.

The Chinese fellow is able to finally figure out our worried faces and hand gestures and in an act of attempted reconciliation motions that he'll hold his cigarette out the window when he's not smoking. Obviously not a science major, this guy. After a lot more yelling, the driver finally turns around and says something to the guy to get him to throw it out (the window thankfully) and despite the fact that there was definitely a "let's just appease the stupid foreigners" vibe to it we were finally appeased.

Explosive experience narrowly avoided, about 5 minutes later we pick up someone on the side of the road and no less than 30 seconds later he's lighting up while sitting in the aisle. The whole process begins again and he actually yells back a bit before the driver once again convinces him to put it out. 5 minutes later he says something to the driver and gets out. And stays on the side of the road. Evidently he was willing to wait for a smoking mini-van. Fine by me.

I can't decide whether to chalk this one up to stupid hillbillies, Darwinism at work, a Chinese thing or just people who never were taught basic science. Either way Becca and I were VERY happy to get our butts off that bus pronto.

Just when you think you've got a part of the world figured out or at the very least understood, it surprises you yet again...


No comments: