Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hezuo to Langmusi 

Pretty big load for a pretty small lady. She and her husband are hauling rocks. Big rocks. Must be some project they are doing at their house. there is a road project right in front of their place, and they are taking advantage of it to grab the biggest rocks. So why would this slight little lady allow her husband to burden her with all the heavy hauling? It's obvious if you think about it. These are very big rocks. There is no way you can carry them in your hands. But her husband can lift them. Not easily--I watched him. But he can do it. There is no way in the world that she could lift them. She doesn't have enough upper body strength for that. But if he places them on her, she can carry one at a time, walking very slowly. Not like a backpack. That would break her back. But if she bends over, she can carry one at a time, with all the weight on her legs. So he can lift them but he cannot carry them (because no human being could), and she can carry them (on her back, not in her hands) but not lift them.

Got to Langmusi this afternoon. Last night I spent the night in Hezuo. This is because the bus from Lanzhou to Hezuo gets to Hezuo after the last bus to Langmusi has left. When I got off the bus in Hezuo yesterday, I went to the hotel I had stayed at three years ago, which has some backpacker places. But the hotel is closed down for a major remodeling operation. So I found one next to it run by a bunch of Tibetans. At first they told me that the rooms were 300 a night, but when they saw my reaction, they told me they also had some for 200. The room they showed me looked pretty nice--had a wooden hot tub in the room. I told them I would take it, since there is no youth hostel in Hezuo. I put my bag in the room and was on the way down to register when the boss came up to us. He told me that I had to leave. No foreigners in this place. I remonstrated a little, but not very much, because I knew it was fruitless. In China, it's not a case of the manager not liking foreigners. It's more like he has been threatened with a lot of trouble if he is caught with foreigners in his hotel. This is true to some extent all over China, because hotels must be specially licensed to take foreigners. On my first trip to China in 2001, the hotel I stayed in had a big bronze plaque on the wall by the front desk that said, ALIENS AND OVERSEAS CHINESE MAY LODGE.

But in the Tibetan areas, I think it is even more restrictive. I just cannot imagine that a hotel run by Tibetans would be allowed to take foreigners (except in Langmusi, which is the tourist area). So I went to the place recommended as a last resort in the Lonely Planet. When I got there, the lady at the desk told me all their rooms were full. I had gotten that kind of treatment the last time I was in Hezuo, too. That time, I was a bit suspicious, because the bus station in Lanzhou had refused to sell me a ticket to Hezuo, so I had assumed that it was probably just that many hotels had been told not to house foreigners. But this lady seemed to be sincerely trying to find a place for me. She told me that there just wasn't anything in town. Of course, I knew otherwise. Good thing I had taken the trouble to find that other place instead of coming directly to this place. I told her that I had just been to a place that had plenty of rooms.

One thing seemed clear. The Gannan Fandian is licensed to handle foreigners. And the place was obviously seriously occupied with some sort of conference. Officials were coming in from all the place in big Toyota Landcruisers. I finally decided to go to the police, which wasn't hard, because the place was crawling with cops. I told the cops my story, and they said that all the hotels were full. But I repeated my experience at the Tibetan Hotel. The officer told me to wait there. Magically, he was able to come up with a room.

Later last evening, a police officer showed up at my room. I have been in China for eight years, and I have never met a cop who speaks English, but they all know one sentence perfectly: CAN YOU SPEAK CHINESE? I told him that I could a little. My Mandarin is not great, but I can get by. He asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was going to Langmusi. He told me that they recognized that foreigners like the Langmusi area. So he didn't seem to have a problem with that. But he was quite direct in talking about what I would be allowed to do while I was in Hezuo. He wrote out on a piece of paper the basic procedure for getting tickets at the bus stop, then coming back to the hotel. He presented it as a way of being helpful, but it was also quite clear that he was telling me exactly what I would be allowed to do, and that I should leave town as soon as possible. Fine with me. I was on the 7 o'clock bus out of Hezuo this morning.

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