How do you ask for BoRics in Mandarin?
The funny thing about travel is that often the most mundane things can be an adventure within itself. It had been six weeks since my last haircut and I was getting a little bit shaggy. I was little bit nervous because of the language barrier but I figured they couldn't screw my hair up too much. The worse case scenario was that I had a baseball camp that I could wear for the next week if things didn't work out well. I walked into the barbershop and there was no one who spoke any English and the signs didn't clearly delineate the price. I hope this is not an expensive place.
Before I could figure out the cost, I was whisked into a chair for a shampoo and head message by the woman who greeted me when I walked into the salon. There were other customers in the store and I could tell that everyone was talking about me. Oh this is going to be expensive. After the shampoo, I was taken to an overly dramatic stylist. I showed the stylist through gestures the length I wanted cut off and the style that I wanted. The scissors started to cut and hair was flying everywhere. Oh, boy this is not going to work out well.
At one point he kept asking me a question and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what he was saying. I thought he was angry because he stormed off only to return with a phone. I put the receiver to my ear and said, "Hello?" The person on the line spoke English and said that my stylist wanted to know if he could dye my hair to get rid of the gray. "He thinks you you will look much better and look much younger." I tried to explain how I liked my salt and pepper hair but they kept asking, "Don't you want to look young again?" Again? Again? I look young now. You are on the phone so how do you know what I look like? Many things were racing through my mind but I very meekly told the person on the phone, "No, thank you."
In the end, the haircut looked good. We were able to manage without understanding each other. After the cut, I was given a second shampoo and head message. Now the million dollar question-well hopefully not a million dollars- but what was this going to cost me? The woman at the cashier told me that I owed 28RMB. 28 RMB? 28 RMB? A smile came across my face because that my friends is equivalent to four American dollars.
Buddhist Pilgram is a Jackie Chan Fan
On my way down from my hike to Mt. Emei, I met a Buddhist pilgram that was decsending the mountain as well. Because we were headed down the path that was surrounded by monkeys it made sense for us to walk together. Safety in numbers. Neither of us knew each other's language but we appreciated each others company. He was walking in the traditional earth tone robes that you find Buddhist monks wearing in that part of China. The hike was long and it was a hot day. Later on the hike, I looked over and he was in a t-shirt. I don't know what I expected from a Buddhist devotee but I was amused by his Jackie Chan t-shirt.
Detained by Chinese Immigration
On my way to Hong Kong through the city of Shenzhen, I was stopped by the Chinese Immigration. It was a routine stop between countries that I had made many times before. Technically, I wasn't going to another country because Hong Kong is now an Administrative Region of China. Though Hong Kong has different requirements than mainland China, I wasn't concerned because I had the difficult to obtain multiple entry Chinese Visa. I stood in the line for foreign passport holders and presented my passport to the man behind the counter. He looked at the passport a number of times and ran it through the system. He had a perplexed look on his face. Perhaps, he was wondering why I don't dye my hair black to hide the gray. Maybe it was gas. Soon his supervisor was over to his station and they were discussing my passport. At points they would stop and just stare at me. The supervisor motioned to me to follow him. He took me to another section of the immigration station.
This can't be good. Ok, what could be wrong here? I didn't over stay my visa. I am sure I had a sixty day multiple entry visa. I don't need a visa to get into Hong Kong. I did have a multiple entry visa, right?
Now-- there were three people reviewing my passport. They would talk amongst themselves and then look up at me. Every once and awhile one of them would shake their head. Eventually a woman came up and asked if I had any other identification. I showed her my credit cards but she wanted another form of picture ID. I explained to her that it was stolen when I was pick-pocketed in Spain. This of course made them even more suspicious. I asked what was wrong with the passport and she replied that I didn't look like my picture.
I started to laugh. I assured them it was me but that I had lost fifty pounds since the picture was taken. I could tell that one of the immigration officials was still skeptical while the woman who spoke English was amused. She took great interest in how I lost the weight. I regaled her on my running regimen and my nine months of travel while her two colleagues kept looking at the passport and then at me, Eventually, they became bored with me and let me through immigration. Now-- I know when I walk through immigration to puff out my cheeks and my stomach and hope that they let me through!
Hey! Are you following me?
It is common to bump into the same people a few times during a trip. Most countries have a tourist trail that people follow to see the sites and the cities of interest. When I was in Beijing, I shared a room with a British couple, Ross and Becky. Little did I know that we would see each other in three different cities after that. We ended up staying in the same hostels in Xi'an, Chengdu and Mt. Emei and even hiked to Mt. Emei's peak with one another.
"Oh Canada! My Home and Native Land."
I had a great discussion with a European woman one night at a bar near my hostel. I should have been wary of her from the beginning because the Bush Administration had deemed her country, in the lead up to the war in Iraq, as one of the stalwarts of "Old Europe." She was surprised when she found out I was American. "I usually don't like talking to Americans. They are really full of themselves but you are not like that. You are pretty cool. It is almost like you are Canadian." I think there was a compliment in there somewhere. It might have been wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma. Needles to say, if anyone has an extra Roots shirt and a maple leaf patch for my backpack, I would greatly appreciate it.