Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I was talking to Rebekah, who happened to be staying at the youth hostel, and she said she was going with a group who had leased a car to one of the scenic sites not far from Langmusi. She said they still had open seats and asked me if I wanted to join. I had been thinking of going there anyway, so the idea of being able to join a group that had already been organized sounded like a good idea. I decided to go along with them. We got in the van when it came, and I was preparing for the ride, when the driver said he could not take me. Not sure what the deal is, but he told me that he faced a 10,000 RMB fine if he was caught with a foreigner in his van. In this case, I really don't know if it is related to the Tibetan thing (foreigners in Tibetan areas), or if it is just that he was not licensed to carry foreigners.

To be truthful, it didn't hurt my feelings any. The opportunities you pass up are sometimes as significant as the things you decide to do. I don't see as much as some other tourists--the list of sites around here that I have never seen is quite long. But I am a lot freer than some tourists I've seen, who exhaust themselves trying to see every event, and miss the most beautiful parts of the surrounding mountain country. You wouldn't believe, for example, how many tourists I've met who have busied themselves trying to see every Buddhist site in Langmusi, but have never even heard of the Namo Gorge. Maybe I should be glad. The Namo Gorge would be full of people if everyone had the same priorities I do.

I have been talking the past few days with a retired American systems analyst who has just come through Pakistan. Notwithstanding all the bad press Pakistan has been getting, I have heard from several sources that the common people are really friendly. I asked her about this. She said, "Oh, yes. I'm having culture shock in China not having everyone I meet invite me in for tea." I'm sure that's partly because she doesn't speak English, and that is a real problem in the mountains of western China, but not a problem in Pakistan. I have had several people invite me in for tea, but that is because I greet them in Mandarin and start chatting with them.

I told the American lady I was interested in going to Afghanistan, and had considered going into Afghanistan by way of Pakistan, because I have felt that I might have trouble getting done what I want to accomplish in Afghanistan without a Pakistan connection. But the lady told me it would probably be easier for me to get a visa to Afghanistan than Pakistan. She's probably right, because about a year ago, I stopped by the Afghan embassy in Beijing. The place was closing early because of Ramadan, but I managed to catch one of the embassy staff coming out and told her what I was planning. As we were talking, the consul came out in his car and the staff lady flagged him down. I talked with him very briefly, and he seemed like he might be ready to hand me a six month visa. It's just a different attitude. Afghanistan really wants American (and other foreign) help.

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