So this man with a clip board showed up in my room, and said something in Chinese that I understood to mean I should come with him. Now that the 3 others in the room disappeared without anything left behind, did they also want me to move to another room, instead of leaving me having a single use of bunk-bed room? He took me down the hall way, up the stairs to the one level up, or the 3rd level, down the hall with rooms on both sides, just like our level below, and turned to one door, checked on the board for something, and took us back to one door that we just passed, and knocked. Opening the door, we found a room, similar to mine, already full. No spare bed. Odd.
He started talking to the young girl in the group of people. After they conversed for a while, she talked to me, in English. That was the first time somebody said something in English since I boarded the boat.
Miss Singaporean Traveller was the only person on the boat who could speak both Mandarin and English. The guy with clipboard was the tour conductor, who wanted to ask me whether I wanted to take part in the optional tour the morning after, a walk to the City of Ghosts. There was an additional charge, but lots of people seem to be going, so I decided to come along.
The Three Gorges dam is one of the largest man-made structure of the modern era that had such a wide-spread impact. The river’s water level went up so much that villages and farms had to be abandoned and relocated to higher up the hill (which then became just above the shore level). The City of Ghosts used to be an amusement park for children, but I guess they prefer scary movies and video games these days…
The couple who I found together with in the same room at the beginning – they had moved to the room at the head of the boat. It turned out that they worked together in a bank, and not related.
And this is who I thought was his son. We shared the room, but he spent practically all waking hours eating in their room. But really, there was nothing else to do, but eat and drink.
Then this family, the room mates of Miss Singaporean Traveler, are the ones I spent my time on the boat eating and drinking with. They were from the region just to the west of where we were, and that region was apparently known for drinking and eating spicy/sour food. I had a first-hand experience in both. Remember I told you I used to not drink for several years? And I was not really a drinker to start with even before that? Well, that was challenged, I can tell you…
The problem was they never let me pay! I was not good at this at all. I grew up being told not to fight over money. So I am really uncomfortable playing the game of pushing money into each other’s hand to pay your share, or push somebody aside to pay first. I don’t find it graceful and I am not good at finding the right timing to pay before the others do.
And I even get snack put in my hand up in their room. You did not think I am full? This is a culture of hospitality. It is a beautiful thing, but again, maybe I am more comfortable with a less structured culture? Maybe slightly more open and relaxed communication rather than doing a lot to keep up the face.
Oh, I learned a new expression here. 乾杯（干杯 in Chinese）, is an expression used in Japanese, and originated in Chinese. Literally it means ‘dry cup’, but in Japan it just literally ‘cheers’, a word used out of formality. But here in China, it still retains the original connotation. So by saying this, you are asking everyone to “Let’s empty our glasses. Bottoms up!” Which is not something you want to say every few minutes when the drink is 50% plus strong. So what do you say? You say :
Another thing I learned – you don’t just drink at your own pace. You all sync the timing with which you bring the glass to your mouth. Of course, how much you put down your throat depends so the speed with which one finishes drink still varies though you take a sip at the same frequency. So if you want to drink, you lift up the glass, look around everyone for agreement to have another sip, and say “Hao jiu ba!”and sip.
And there is this sole single girl from Guangxi. Of course I’d go up and offer a few photos for her. We chatted with her saying this in Chinese, me replying in English, then using hand-written communication. That worked out with a lot of people. They seem surprised that some people can read your language and cannot pronounce it, far less hear it spoken. But that’s just the way it is, especially when the characters are not that different from how they are used in my native language of Japanese, though pronunciation is almost completely different.
So there were some interesting characters on the boat. Everyone was nice. Everyone offered me some food. And yet, none, except for our friend Miss Singaporean Traveler, spoke English. So such was my 3 days on the boat.
Oh, by the way, there was some view too. It would have been far more spectacular before the dam and I remember seeing it on TV in my younger years and regret not taking an opportunity before the dam, but regrets never come first. That’s just another reminder to myself that I should live my life to the best I can while I can.
At the dam, our Three Gorges tour ended. We looked at it from different angles, appreciated the scale of the structure, but that was that.
I was hoping to travel half way to Nanjing to stay in some old walled city, but it was dark by the time the bus got into YiChang. I decided to get a room in the same hotel as the family (Miss Singapore Traveler took the return boat to go bak to Chongqing before traveling on, so I was with the family without translator now). It was a spacious room, a modern hotel comfort I had for the first time since I left Chiang Mai…
Finally, it was my turn to buy the family a meal. I told them it was on me, and we ordered a lot of authentic spicy food that our family chef (the father) approved. It seems that every time they eat, they make sure there is plenty of food. Here’s how much is plenty, for the four of us.
When the morning came, I said good bye to the family who were already awake and knocked on my door to make sure I did not sleep in, and I took a taxi to the station.