#11 - Meet Mr. Chen
April 20, 2002
Meet Mr. Chen, or Allen as we call him.
He is our guide for the next three weeks while we traverse China.
"A Guide?!?", you ask. Yes, well, we haven't
had a guide up until this point in the junglerunner trip, but
we are obliged to have one for our drive through China by the
Chinese government. You see, although foreign tourists
may now travel China independently, driving your own car through
China is a different matter. At first we were very apprehensive
about having an unknown person in the car, but Allen is turning
out to be invaluable (and likeable!).
is 27 years old, is married, and has a 2-year old little girl
(about whom he delights in telling us). Originally a middle-school
teacher in history, his chosen degree at University, he switched
to tourism upon relocating to Beijing. We imagine there
is probably much more money in tourism than in teaching given
how much money the tourist attractions in China have been costing
us so far (wow is China expensive - who would've thought!).
Far from simply sitting in the car and making sure we don't
get into trouble, Allen explains some of the sights we are seeing
(if he has knowledge of the particular site), translates for
us (few Chinese speak English outside of the main cities), makes
sure we drive in the right direction (most street signs are
written in indecipherable Chinese), gets us lost anyway (but
then finds us again), makes sure we aren't ordering dog meat
or intestines at restaurants (eeeeew!), and gets us discounts
on hotels, food, and tourist attractions. He also patiently
answers some of the "politically sensitive" questions
we have about Falun Gong, Tianammen Square, the One-Child policy,
state run banks, economics, you name it (we are rather inquisitive,
as you can well imagine).
Allen in the car, we are becoming very spoilt. It is nice
to be able to get along so easily in a completely different
culture and language. This is a new experience for us,
since normally we have to mime our way through most everything
when in non-English speaking countries. Right before we
enter Tibet, we will have another guide taking Allen's place,
so we will be spoiled until we reach Nepal. But since we really
can't post anything about China until we leave it (for reasons
we'll explain later), we will give you an update on the
China portion of our trip in about 3 weeks. In the meantime...let
me just say that we are enjoying the Northern Chinese food immensely
and hope to go on diets when we hit (mainly) vegetarian India.