Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 4: Shi Fu Attack!

Minxi and I had planned to stay in Xin Du for about 3 days.  I was happy to do so.  It was peaceful there and everyone seemed determined to feed me to death.  This is not a bad way to die really.

Unfortunately, the Spring Festival had just gotten over and Baba got concerned that we were not going to be able to find space on a bus back to Shenzhen.  It's a work town and everyone who'd come streaming out of it at the beginning of the festival was now streaming back.  While Minxi and I were breakfasting on  grilled pork and greens, Baba sent Minxi's eldest brother off to find us a bus.  So, after a little more that 30 hours in my new hometown, we found ourselves back on the bus, loaded with food and gifts, headed first to Gaungzhou, then to Shenzhen and back across the border into Hong Kong.   It was maybe the longest day ever.

Good by Xindu.  I like being your honky.  I'll come back soon!

The first part of the journey was fine.  We traveled on a small road that passed through a lot of villages.  We passed dozens of small markets, little sawmills, a brick factory that stretched literally for miles, and as we approached Guangzhou, hundred of duck farms stretched out in a long valley.  It was a beautiful day and I got to practice my "through bus window" photography skills.

Typical Street Market in the town of God Knows Where.

Rice Patties

After reviewing my pictures, Minxi announced that, next time we travel, she'll take the pictures, I can write in the blog.

Things started getting hectic for us when we changed buses in Guangzhou.  The bus terminal was about the size of a small mall.

One wing of the Guangzhou bus terminal

Guangzhou is the capital of Guangxi province and pretty much every one was headed through the terminal that day.  There were a lot of different carriers and a lot of different kinds of buses.  There were a half dozen different desks selling tickets to places as far away as Beijing and Tibet.  Minxi asked around and found us a bus that we thought was headed directly to the border crossing in Shenzhen.  It wasn't.  We were on the cross town bus that stopped every few blocks along a dangerously overcrowded highway between the two cities.   It was astounding.  There were cops directing traffic at intersections between four lane and six lane roads, pedestrians and mopeds among cars moving 30 and 40 miles an hour, and bus stops that looked to me very much like clover leaf off ramps on highways.

The real problem was the driver.  In Mandarin Chinese, a shifu is any trade's man.  Cab drivers, water heater repair men, telephone installers, are all called shifu.  The shifu in charge of our bus was, I think someone who gave up serial killing when he discovered how much more damage he could do as a bus driver.  He sped, braked, cursed the other drivers, yelled at potential passengers out the bus door, failed to come to a complete stop while people were boarding, and just generally acted like a dangerous fool. His driving was so bad that people, that's plural, were barfing into little plastic bags (provided by the bus company) at regular intervals.  It took us about four hours to go 60 kilometers and it was pretty much hell.  I learned something important about how China works.  

That whole ride, all of us terrified for our lives, Minxi, miserable, trying not to vomit (she clutched a little bag the whole last hour,) no one ever stood up and said, "You need to slow the F*** down!"

I asked Minxi several times if she wanted to say something to him or wanted me to say something to him.  "No." she said, each time. "He's the shifu."

Even though he was a terrible driver, and these people were physically ill from the way he was throwing the bus around, no one felt it was right to criticize him.  They all sat there and took it.  In China rank and title are very important.  Minxi and I didn't want to leave Xindu but we did because Baba got concerned about bus seats.  The Shifu needed to be tranquilized but no one said anything because he was the shifu.  

I really admire Chinese culture.  They handle huge populations of people with good heart and happy smiles.  The culture isn't violent and there is an amazing cooperativeness.  It's a great culture but it works because you don't question the Shifu or the baba.  People in authority are in authority.  End of story.

We ended up on a local bus driven by a sane person in Guangzhou and made our way back onto the Hong Kong MTR in the dark of the night.  There was a white haired old man on the MTR.  I don't know where he was going or what he was doing, but he had a box that was way to big for him.  I helped him move it.  He looked surprised but then gave me a thumbs up.   He didn't speak any English It was the last time someone looked surprised to see my western face.

By the time we got to the hotel we were both exhausted, Minxi was sick, and I was in no fair mood.  The counter lady made the mistake of trying to argue with us over the room price.  Hmmm.  I didn't say anything I regret.  I'm older and wiser than I used to be but we moved down the street to the Angel Guest house in Chung King Masion.  We would stay there for the rest of our trip.  Exhausted beyond words and with heads spinning, Minxi and I crashed into the bed like a city bus crashing through a flower cart. 

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