Part 2: Strawberry flavoured Ice-Cream (West Street\Zhuhai)
“We can't forbid people to do these thing. We can only ask people do these thing as less as possible”
I am constantly distracted by the thought of Ice-cream. In true addict fashion, I seek my next fix, my eyes pink with a strong fixation. I desire nothing else but Strawberry flavoured Ice-Cream. I love strawberry ice-cream of any kind. No other artificial flavour compares. One of my life goals is to traverse the earth and sample every strawberry flavoured Iced-Cream known to humans. Then I will do it all over again to try the new ones and so on until I die and come back and try new ones again. And so my lives will revolve around Strawberry Ice-Cream, at strategically placed vantage points, ready to take my R10, here, somewhere between mountains in South China, a small region and a town called Yangshuo. People have been in this area for ages, and so has Ice-Cream. An early written record chronicles a kind of frozen yoghurt which was made here for kings during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) (<---- Accuracy is of this is debatable). Somewhere in the late 19th century some Europeans decided to add eggs to the mix and about hundred or so years later that version made its way over here. In a big way.
I take a moment to salute capitalism and continue to indulge in a melting cone.
I see a young boy playing with a balloon. I am tempted to pop it with my cigarette. Instead I buy another ice cream and another pack of 8's from his father. I do a silly kind of bow and feel a little out of place. People don't seem to bow here anymore. Did they ever? People do it in Korea, don't they? I figure I'd help bring it back in south China. I look up from the cone, I see people selling things, some rather aggressively. It makes me a little nervous so I smoke and think about buying more Ice-Cream. Ice-Cream are like cigarettes, they provide a moment of indulgence and a time to think. Two cones are enough. I haven't had breakfast yet. The sugar is good, it keeps me going through this consumer frenzy
I make an escape. I am sitting in 'Cafe Too' and it is quiet. Books everywhere and an impressive Danielle Steel collection to my right. Winter is holding on and it's still cold outside. Rain should fall any minute now, the temperature is moderate to cold. It is usually the same this time of year. No marked difference from last year. Business is quiet. It is the low-end of the tourist cycle but the New Year celebration is approaching which should bring in lots of people. I order the English breakfast. It is a mighty fine heart attack consisting of two brightly fried orange eggs, a decent helping of bacon, two pieces of toast, french fries, an orange juice, and cup of tea ( Earl Gray with milk and sugar please). I grab a copy of Fahrenheit 9/11 and read for a while. I smell the burning of charcoal in heated pots. I manage to prop the book so that I can read and eat at the same time. I dip the fries into the yolk and finish it off with a sip of Earl Gray. I ask permission to light a cigarette. OF course, this is China. Everyone smokes. Nobody cares. I love this, sitting here, eating an English Breakfast in China, it makes me feel like a right foreign devil.
Outside the window it is not quite West Street but Xie Jie is more than a street now. It is a state of mind of all people who come to do business in Yangshuo. The government is good to businesses here. And the people are good, they are not greedy rats. Business is run by local people and by people from all over the country and beyond. There is an atmosphere of prosperity here. People come here to make it. People have freedom. The surroundings give them that freedom. People have dreams in their eyes. Everyone is trying to create their own little heaven.
I order a Green Tea and continue to dream further. It rains heavily. Philip plays cards on the computer. I continue to read Fahrenheit 9/11. This is funny information. What do I know? Not much, it seems. It just seems too logical. I want to ignore it but I am compelled by it. I stop reading. I think of Zhuhai – the romantic city. Pretty much as south of China as you can get. The ocean, the hidden villages and the barbeque restaurants. I think of garlic snails. I think of playing dice. Zhuhai is a perfect example of change and adaptability to modern financial climates. It used to be a fishing village, now completely transformed into a large metropolis. I mentioned this to Simon, the vice principle – he laughed at me and said no, this is a small city. Some people say it is the cleanest city in China. This may be so – but I've seen some ugly rivers and dirty streets in Zhuhai.
In a city like Zhuhai, you are immediately tempted to spend all your money beacause at those prices, it feels like you're never going to run out of money. I buy a pack of Marlboro lights for 15¥ roughly R15 of my beloved country's money. I decide to have some MacDonalds. It's quick and easy and after a month of eating only Chinese food, I feel the need to change things up a bit. Surprisingly, the food you receive looks exactly like the food you see on the picture. I squint my eyes and take a mental picture. I then begin to eat so fast I nearly choke. Within minutes I'm done and my stomach feels a little shit. I walk out and see two Western women. I wonder what they must think of me. The sun burns brightly and there are many people. Up goes the umbrella. I wander in the general direction of the bus-stop twisting and turning through different lanes of the grid, basking in the shade. Tempted to buy movies and 16-bit video games. I think about writing down all the kinds of shops I see but I realise I can't figure out what most of them specialise in.
A 40-minute bus ride later and I'm sitting at my favourite stinky bbq restaurant writing this. It really does stink here, like this area is a point of convergence for the village drainage system. I see the ocean and wonder about environmental pollution. I wouldn't be surprised if this sewage was pumped out to sea. But I shouldn't be so cynical. It's okay, if you concentrate hard enough you can pretend it's not there. And it does come in waves. So there are some stinkless moments. Like life in many ways.
I resist the previous train of thought and open a packet of potato chips. Many Chinese people I have met are familiar with the Forrest Gump line, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.” I made up my own version and it goes like this: “Life is like a Chinese wrapper, no matter what picture is displayed on the packet, you are bound to get something completely different.”
They haven't officially opened and I'm waiting for Andy to return from work so we can talk shit and joke around. In meantime the sun is still up and I read “Dharma Bums” - I write down some phrases
“One man practising kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls”
“Light a fire, fight a liar, what's the difference in existence?”
“A watermelon seed, produces a need, large and juicy, such autocracy”
Back in Cafe Too I remember this. I remember waiting in the sun, drinking a cold beer. I remember the dice, the basketball and the chicken. Here I am again, just about ready to leave. Zai Jian. See you later. Wăn fán hěn hăo chi. The dinner was delicious. Come back soon.