on the weekend i visited canberra, for one of Fred Smith’s farewell gigs.
(he is leaving the country).
there i re-met a bloke who has travelled fairly widely.
he had two tales of converstations he had in china, and one from gana.

i will relay them to you, because they just floored me.

Iain started off sayig that he went to a 6 hour ‘opera’ in china. he said, you know, i tried. afterwards he was talking to a chinese musician, who plays their traditional classical music. Iain, who is quite frank, taunted this bloke, sayig that it wasn’t really opera, was it? wasn’t really singing? perhaps not even serious. “i mean, it’s just ‘KChaWWeeeEEEEE-chah!!!’ and “BOING” on a gong thing, isn’t it?”

this man looked and Iain and said, “Aw, I feel very sorry for you. You have perhaps 400 years of continuous culture. We have more than 3,000 years of culture. We are beyond form. We are past entertaining.”

Iain went on to say, “Actually, I’ve had several people tell me that they felt sorry for me. Once I was in Gana, travelling, and got talking to this fisherman. This man said to Iain, “I feel very sorry for you. If I had made all that money, and if I had two months to do with whatever I wisehd, I would spend the time here with my family. I would stay home. Why would I want to travel across the world. What is wrong with your home…?”

and finally, in china again, on a train from Shanghai. Iain said that his impression was that very few people in Shanghai spoke english, so he would greet people in cantonese, but he didn’t know enough to have a conversation. so after that it would just be a few ‘thankyou’s and ‘excuse me’s.

one morning he got up, and got out the things he had prepared – a little thermos of tea, and a small parcel of food. he sat in the train writing in his little book. the man beside him spoke: “You are a very civilised man. You are a clean man. You are an organised man.” I think this was gobsmacking enough for Iain. Then the man went on, “But you do not know the family life. How old are you?” Iain was 34 at the time. The man said, “It is nearly too late!”

Iain was floored by this, but agreed with the man. Also, Iain had been raised in boarding school, so in fact he hadn’t even really known ‘family life’ as a child. so he wondered just what this chinese man was picking up on…