“Apart from Mao Zedong, the only god here is the letter M. All Chinese care about is money and the amount it’s taking to make their country a success. There’s not much culture around, although it is increasing in some areas.” That’s what I overheard the warden of the hostel I stayed at say to some of his unassuming guests.
Considering that most of China is taken up with big cement projects: buildings, more expressways; heavy industrial demands such as coal-fired power stations emitting carbon round the clock; this international corporation, that international business cashing in, I suppose it is true. However, this is not to say that a lot of Chinese folk are not down-to-earth, friendly or helpful.
The sad thing is most of them live in towns and villages that are drab characterless affairs typifying constructs that look like toy building blocks. It certainly was a boring featureless journey; difficult to find the inspiration connected to travel, apart from looking out of the window at a few dumpy limestone mountains. More interesting happenings took place inside the vehicle itself.
Chinese men smoke as though they wanted to be a stack of chimneys. I opened the vents to blow away the air-heavy nicotine. They did not seem to be working above the middle section. A woman occupying a top bunk had to vigorously wave away the smoke.
Chinese can easily lapse into a, who can shout at each other the loudest, contest. The two drivers verged on this volume. To remonstrate a question, they rarely say “eh” or “oh.” It’s always “ahh!!” and the a sound is sharply voiced. It just happens to be different from the way Westerners communicate, but the sharpness can grate on you. One of the drivers just did it all the more.
They picked up a young guy at the side of the road. He was dressed in a bright red jacket, denims, cream-coloured jersey; a casual or laid-back type. Besides becoming instantly comradely with the drivers, they shared and lit-up their cigarettes filling the front of the bus with smoke-fumes. In exchange for the lift he helped some passengers, the bus dropped off before it got to Nanning, by getting their luggage out of the bay and assisting some of them onto a local bus.