What George Orwell can teach you about China

555 Again!!!! I am in the situation where no one can tell me anything. I have cycled over 800 km by route of some of the tallest mountains in China and blocked by a police checkpoint from entering the province of Sichuan by way of Se Da city. Minutes before I watched as a small bus of white tourists with guide passed unnoticed, but as soon as I pedaled closer I was stopped and told to use an alternate route. Another 150 km detour!!

I am now beginning to feel that Chinese tour guides no longer tell one where to go but rather where not to go. There is no information online or from the police department and every time I ask whether or not I can go to a certain place the answer is ” I don’t know”. In some ways I understand, if it were written somewhere that certain cities are forbidden to tourists China would be admitting that there is a problem. Ignorance is strength.

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Large Buddhist Stupa in rural Qinghai

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A long climb

I spent a few days teaching English in a rural orphanage at the Qinghai/Sichuan border. Wandering the streets looking for a place to stay I met the local English teacher who invited me to stay in his room and be a guest of the orphanage for a few days. I quickly learned that privacy and personal possessions are socialized in Tibetan culture as I returned one morning to find that my friend had opened my bag and was using my computer. He smiled and then asked me how to use my I-pod.

The bathroom consists of one deep hole in the ground, no stall, just a roof overhead. On several occasions while using I would look over to see someone standing a few feet away waiting for me to wipe. The mountainous rural villages in southern Qinghai are predominantly Buddhist, with a Tibetan majority. It is quite common for me to find that no one speaks Mandarin, and that I have to resort to asking adolescents to translate. Hospitality is unsurpassed though and I am often invited for tea and Sampa by complete strangers. On one occasion a friendly man gave me a few pounds of Sampa flour, sugar, yak butter and milk curds refusing any form of payment.

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One of my favorite students

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Small Tibetan village

It is quite shocking to observe the complete lack of hygiene. Each morning I watch as chamber pots are tossed on the sidewalk, men and women spitting everywhere (even inside supermarkets and banks), and children with slits in the back of their pants re-leaving themselves throughout.

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Sichuan countryside

I have finally descended to an elevation of about 12,000 feet, and have been in the province of Sichuan now for 2 days. For the first time in 2 weeks I am cycling passed trees, and waking in the morning to the sounds of birds. Nights are so warm that I find myself waking and taking off excessive clothes! On to central Sichuan.

One thought on “What George Orwell can teach you about China

  1. Wow! You have such determination Julian. I think I would be so frustrated. It must make you appreciate what your dad must have gone through so many years ago. Thank you again for keeping us posted and sharing such great photos. I love the one of your favorite student. May you stay healthy, strong and safe and may Esperanza take you where you need to go.

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