Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why Did I Have To Buy That Soda!?

Arriving at the base of Moon Hill, we were greeted by what one guide book describes as a "gaggle" of drink sellers. Imagine the scenario. We pedal up to the entrance, and are quickly surrounded by half a dozen or so older women, each with a styrofoam cooler strapped over her shoulders.

Three of these women decided to make the ascent up to the summit with us. The others, for their part, chose to stay behind, presumably to wait for the next group of unsuspecting waiguoren.

All went smoothly, until we reached a resting point near the summit about twenty minutes later. At that point, the coolers opened up, and out came three cans of Coke. Our escorts, of course, wanted to know if we would buy these drinks from them. Duo shao qian?, I inquired. Shi kuai qian, came the answer.

"Not bad," I thought. Ten renminbi for three cans of Coke. "OK...I'll take 'em!"

WRONG ANSWER!

Turns out it was ten kuai for ONE can of Coke. Having already drawn out a ten kuai note, I plopped it down and grabbed one of the cans.

SECOND MISTAKE!

This action set off a furious debate among the women over whose soda I had just purchased. I'm not kidding when I say that the next half hour epitomized the China of today. On the one hand, you had the beauty and culture that comes with thousands of years of human experience and thought. (The Yangshuo area is really one of the most scenic and historic places we have ever been.) On the other hand, you had the noise and chaos of the ever emerging market economy. (In this case, a fight over the equivalent of a dollar fifty.)

I'd like to say I learned some lesson...But, as you'll see later, this was not the last "street fight" I caused with my good intentions...

~Steve

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