Post # 97 Xiaogan
Day 111 620 days to go. Distance: today 0km total 6749km. It’s 9.30pm Tuesday 20/3/2012 Xiaogan.We’ve entered crane country. There’s crane nests dotted across the bare trees and they are seriously big. They look allot like a stork’s nest which Ive seen previous in Europe. With all the trees bare they so stand out on the horizon and so we were crane nest spotting from the bus today. Loved it what industrious clever engineers they are. I even spotted one gliding above the treetops a distance away but it was unmistakable with a huge wing span and legs dangling. Hopefully Ill see many more over the next days and will get a picture to share. I met a buddy today, Luo Giang Long. We were literally pulling into Wuhan and he said ‘hello where are you from?’ It had been a 3 hour bus trip and my first thought was what a shame we could have been chatting. But then again I was semi conscious drifting in and out of a beautiful sleep between gazing at the crane nests and dribbling down my scarf. He helped me get Rube off the bus and collect my baggage then invited me to lunch as he knew a place with great food. Dining with a local at a local I’m there!!!
We made up for any time lost on the bus and ate our way through the next five hours. I hope I can remember all the very cool stuff we spoke about. He took me to an eatery his shout. There’s all these vendors selling local tastes so you go about selecting what you want and pay for it at the end using like a charge card they give on entry. We were outside main meal times so had no problem getting a spot but at Breaky, lunch and dinner its packed. He and his wife are regulars and check out a flick across the road afterwards when in Wuhan. They otherwise live another day’s bus ride away but I can’t remember the name.
Luo Giang Long is 37 years old and been in the Navy for 20 years. He’s a lieutenant in charge of 30 others and I think is an aircraft mechanic. However currently he’s studying IT at university care of the Navy. It’s a four year course and him and his wife are very excited as its given them the chance to have a child. She is due in 2 months and he hopes for a girl. The firecrackers and fireworks is an ongoing tradition in China to scare off any dragons. Despite being an icon of strength the dragon may eat you and the fireworks keeps folk safe if any hungry dragons are lurking for flame grilled Chinese chow mein. Boys and girls can join a defence force at 17. Only the poor join as it opens up education and career options they don’t otherwise have. However while serving they cant leave the country. Luo Giang Long would like to travel but has no opportunity whilst serving. He had to sit and be in the top 10% of an entrance exam to university however he wants his child to have more opportunities in life and that was his motivation. His said that this is the main motivation for Chinese in general to create a better life for thier child. They don’t wear or use any firearms as you only bare arms if at war. He’s shot only 4 times in his 20 years service. The purpose of the army is for protection only, a standing philosphy introduced by the woman emperor Wu Zetian (625-705). A strength in numbers approach to defence is why China is over populated. An emporer along the way wanted lots of people to enlist if China was attacked so encouraged folk to populate. Hence the one child policy to try reduce population growth. Wuhan alone has 20million people and the mass and urban sprawl of this city is to be seen to be appreciated. But most people live in rural China and are very poor. Education is very valued given the opportunity. A child going to a rural school can sit an entrance exam to quality for university paid by the government but must only the top 2% are given this chance. Children start pre-school at four. Once at middle school hours are from 6.30am to 9.30pm 7 days. Children are given 3 meals and study very hard for the opportunity to be educated and have a better life. He hasnt spoken English since school but did a great job and got better during our time spent. He’s clearly a smart lad. He said I should come back to China to teach English as there are not enough English teachers.
Chinese life is very much about food and they spend 30% of their time eating and/or preparing food. He said he grew up very poor and was often hungry and wants so much more for his child. His granfather was in the army and three of his boys joined the arm except his father who became a farmer. It was aonly 20 years ago that marriages were mostly arranged and most folk shared a roof with their extended family. There’s so much more we spoke about. He described Chinese generosity as a tradition rather than politness and explained that if folk dont help it will usually be because they dont understand what you need. Apparently some rich Chinese may be more about making more money then giving but that most people are naturally warm and generous. I reasuured him that this has certainly been my experience todate and that if he and his family ever do travel to Australia I hope they receive the same kindness. Im sure Ill remember more stuff over the next days so Ill pop this into the posts as I go.
This morning I arranged a taxi ride for me and Rube to the Jingzhou Bus station. Im sooo glad I did it this way. Even by taxi I couldnt see how we were going to get across the bridge into town as only the expressway lead onto the bridge. This was the problem yesterday so all sorted. Plus the taxi man did all the logistics for me at the bust station and helped me onto the bus with Rube. She got the whole back seat section on the bus so we didnt mind that in the least. It was about 5.00pm and Luo Qiang Long suggested I get a train or bus to the next town to avoid finding my way out of Wuhan. Great suggestion as it turned out. It took an hour for the bus to get out of the city and navigating that myself would have been a days event. We tried at the train station first but Rube would arrive 3 days after me – LIKE HELL!!!!! ‘We stick together!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ Off to the bus station and was pulling out of Wuhan on the 6.30pm bus arriving Xiaogan an hour later. We found a hotel easy enough around the bus stop and popped out straight away to send the spot message. This attracted a group of men also staying at the hotel. What is it with men and maps. I just watched and laughed on the inside as they pawed the map reading out the names along the route to Beijing with such genuine interest and enthusiasm for our travel. It remains a pleasure and honour to he here. Just quietly I do hope foreigners travelling in Australia experience the same level of generosity we have over the last months. If you do come across foreign travellers in your day to day be sure to at least say hello and offer your assistance. You dont have to have them round for dinner but unconditional help goes a long long way when youre a long long way from home. Talk soon x