Thursday, October 14, 2010

Once Upon a Time in Gansu Province

Gunther is a vegetarian, and I wonder if that explains why he is in China and not at home in Germany. When I ask, however, he tells me he’s here among the sand dunes in Dunhuang to learn about traditional Chinese medicine.

Gunther tells me a lot of things; for a guy who is not speaking his native language, he talks a lot. Some of his stories are strange, like the one about the time he broke the veggie faith, ate some pork, and immediately became afflicted with what he calls “hot stomach.” That meal ended when Gunther found himself compelled to leave the table and run into the nearby hills, stripping off clothing as he went, “because I had taken on the characteristics of the pig I’d just eaten.”

Our conversation turns from food woes to the ways traveling in China can try your patience. I ask how he copes with common frustrations like being overcharged, or lied to by ticket vendors.

“In those situations," he says, "You can let it go without saying anything, and then you have nothing.” I nod, thinking of the times when nothing is exactly what I had to show for whole afternoons spent at train stations.

“Or, you can make a scene and try to get your way. But you’ll probably still have nothing." He pauses.

“And now, you’re angry.”

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