The Big Questions

Beautiful Rebgong county - upper Gu-chu (Longwu He) valley

This may become somewhat whiny. Forgive me; I’m in that kind of mood.

The other day, Brooke and I were casually talking to our waiban when we casually broached the subject of motorcycles.

A rather beautiful hike I discovered this past weekend. Access would have been easier with a moto, though...

This subject has been a touchy one since this summer, when Brooke was brought in to the county police station, and, faced with local witnesses who recounted all of her moto-assisted adventures over the past year (yes, we are that noticeable here), was forced to agree to a new ban on foreigners riding motorcycles within the prefecture. Since then, Brooke’s somewhat shiny, new-used motorcycle has been sitting forlornly in the courtyard. We eventually resolved to talk to the police again, this time with money in hand (“medical insurance”, as motorcycling is so dangerous).

But when I talked to my waiban about the idea, he said that we didn’t need to talk to the police. If the headmaster agreed, he said, we were on our way.

The headmaster most definitely did not agree. “It’s so dangerous!” he said, while facing a street regularly plied by motorcyclists of all ages and dispositions, from screaming babies to pokerfaced monks to grizzled leatherfaced men older than John McCain. “You’ll get hurt,” he said, putting his arm around my back in a friendly manner. “That’s a ridiculous idea.”

forest! trees!

And that was that. Which got me wondering: Why for real are we not allowed to ride motorcycles?

Which in turn got me wondering about some other big questions, such as:

  • Why are locals here allowed to leave “big conveniences” and “little conveniences” wherever they want – anywhere from the middle of the street to a stairwell into a recessed shop to the wall of our building?
  • Why are we (the foreigners) not allowed to do the same without attracting police attention?
  • Why is it considered permissible (even good) to put tendons, cartilage, etc. in local meat baozi?
  • Why do store owners from whom I’ve previously bought many an item stare at me like a martian every goddamn time I walk into their store?
  • Who in their right minds liberally festoons a sacred statue of the goddess Tara with tubular neon lights? And why do the lights circle around the statue counter-clockwise – the wrong way? They should be doing the kora clockwise like everyone else.
  • Why can we have either water or electricity, but rarely both at once?
  • Since when is it allowable to have class on Saturday and Sunday? My students started referring to the weekend as a singular day in their journals; I marked it incorrect and pluralized their “day” in red ink – until I realized they were absolutely right on the money.
  • Why can’t Rebgong have ONE good street food stall? Just a place that serves 煎饼 or something of the like. Just one.
  • Why can’t school administrators inform us of things before they happen?
  • Why can’t we buy cheese and non-HuangHe beer in Rebgong?
  • Why do there have to be so many subdialects of Amdo? I just want to learn one pronunciation, goddamit!
  • Why do my students, after night class in the library, leave everything from apple cores to 瓜子 (seeds) to used gum all over the room, yet if made aware of the mess, ashamedly clean the room to beyond-pristine condition in seconds?
  • Why can’t the school supplement their single massive outdoor latrine with a subsidiary facility? The school is really starting to stink.
  • Why can’t the school build a shower room? The students are starting to stink pretty badly, too.
  • Why can’t we all just get along?

snowy gorge in Rebgong

And, lastly, to reiterate everything said: Why can’t we ride motorcycles?

valley above Shib'sha

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2 Responses to The Big Questions

  1. walt says:

    because: you have eyes like dog, are too tall, and can’t possibly speak our language.

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