20 June 2008
If I Had Scooter
The truth is, I did have a scooter. I bought it the summer after my junior year in college for $1200 including shipping. It arrived in an enormous crate. I installed the brake pads and speedometer, screwed on the front wheel and even filled the battery with acid before charging it. Three weeks later it was stolen – chained to a fence – from the parking garage of my University in broad daylight. Man those were three great weeks.
Needless to say, the opportunity to cruise the streets on what appeared to be the exact same scooter was all too appealing, especially with the pain in tail bone still lingering from the day before. For $18 Lianne and I got our very own two-wheeled, gas-powered wonder for the entire day! In fact, we did the same thing the following day. While the details of our big adventure are at times mundane, we covered 250 miles in two days and visited a dozen or so surrounding towns and villages. From main highways to dirt roads, ferries to suspension bridges, we cruised the mean streets of Southern China in style.
Once again it felt like we had been thrown back in time. Family farms were chugging along like they seemingly did 100 years ago. Rice was being tended too, Oxen were cooling down in the streams (the sun was shining bright both days) and kids were playing in the fields. It could not have been more fascinating and really got me thinking about the idea of happiness. Many would see the way of life in this part of China as old, boring and depressing but I got none of that from our experiences. Families seemed intact, people warm and friendly. Meanwhile, I have been having existential crisis as a result of overexposure to the world and it’s incredible ups and downs. Who then is necessarily happier, and who are we in the west or in the modern world to a) judge a seemingly simpler way of life b) try and bring our complexity to this way of life and c) assume that our way is better?
They say the more you know the more you want to know, but that just leads to more questions that don’t have answers. Taking the opposite approach, the less you know the less you want to know, leading to fewer questions. Isn’t it questions that leave us feeling uncertain? Well then, fewer questions, you could posit, lead to an abundance of answers and in turn, contentment.
That said, there is still one question that I do need to answer for anyone and everyone. A rolling suitcase in China should cost no more than 100 kuai (roughly $13) even if it does have a “Samsonite” label on it. Post purchasing (and complexity adding) Lianne needed a suitcase, so we hit the shops, ready to bargain as we usually do in Shanghai. Seller gives outrageous price (for a bag like this, 200 kuai). Buyer gives outrageously low price (for a bag like this, 50 kuai). Seller and buyer do big dance, both aware that said bag will be sold for 100 kuai in approximately 4 minutes and 6 to 10 price exchanges. Here in Yanghsuo, however, the sellers have apparently been hit by the crazy stick. Every store we went into the insane girl, assuming we were fools, started at over 700 kuai for the same rolling suitcase! That’s $100. You could get a real one for that in the USA. Needless to say, I HATE being overtly taken advantage of so after giving these thieves a piece of my mind I vowed to let everyone know that a carry-on rolling suitcase purchased in China should not cost more than 100 kuai. Period.
Oh, and don’t buy anything from Nadine in store 23 on West Road in Yangshuo. Not nice. Not nice at all.