A JW Adventuress Sends Tips From China
King is a San Francisco-based travel and technology writer who
travelled through China on her motorcycle. She has been featured
on TV and radio, in print and online magazines, and speaks on
travel, technology, self-publishing, and writing. We asked her
to provide our readers with some of her female-friendly tips about
travelling through China. Carla writes...
women are well treated...
In general people in China
are very supportive and give me the thumbs up when they figure
out what I'm doing. Now they think that American
women can all fix engines and tromp
around the world all by themselves
without a second thought.
There's no criminal element
to fear here. Getting held-up or raped or murdered doesn't cross
my mind. Getting stuck on a desert road with the camels and an
overheated motorcycle engine does. But there's always some kind
soul who will stop. I was resting the other day and a trucker
stopped to see if I needed the bike trucked to the next town.
Maybe one day foreigners won't be so exotic but I say get in on
it here before we become ho-hum. I've given rides to a couple
of stuck truckers already. They just can't believe it when they
see I'm a foreign woman and are so delighted. And I have a guide
to the next town!
women become honorary men...
I've met a lot of really
smart women here, mostly English teachers. They are familiar with
the West via literature, and are anxious to practice the language
and to ask about fact versus myth. Also as a Western women I have
been privy to the mens' world, (as in Africa, sort of the "honorary
man"). While the women cook and clean, you're invited to drink
beer and play cards...or you can go help cook which is always
fun. It's up to you. The women think it's a gas when you "ooh
and ahh" over making noodles. Really quite a talent to us but
very mundane to them.
The best advice I could
give about visiting China so far is don't be shy! If you want
to take a picture, go up and babble in English to them and most
of the time they will proudly pose, by themselves or with the
food they're cooking or their cool motorbike or whatever. They
are so proud of their children, too. I was surreptitiously taking
a photo of a little boy asleep on a donkey cart full of hay and
got busted by the parents. I thought they'd be angry but they
just turned the cart so that the boy was in the light for a better
picture. They're probably still bragging about how the foreigner
thought their child was so beautiful. (He was!) The Chinese are
really loud and boisterous and their concept of personal space
is very different from ours. So if you talk loudly and make big
movements and laugh and just do what you normally do in a bigger
way you will get along great!
Bring photos of your family.
Bring two phrasebooks, one
to refer to and one to let them look through. When I return to
China I'll bring lots of tiny phrasebooks and other little books
in dual-language English/Chinese to give as gifts. There's a bookstore
in San Francisco that sells them, in the Chinatown area, and I've
also seen some at the foreign language bookstores here.
I will also bring a blazer
and some nicer shoes. I had a bus driver ask my new Chinese friend
why I dressed so badly. (I was wearing black jeans and a black
top and black shoes, and they were a bit dusty.) I claimed it
was because of the motorcycle, but they hoe fields in navy blazers
here. (Their clothes might be ripped to shreds but they're still
"dressed" ). Just a jacket would do, and some semi-prissy shoes.
All the women wear platform sandals with really thick nude stockings,
sometimes only sock stockings. It's dirty here so there are no
bare toes showing, ever.
Practical things? Tampons,
pads, individually wrapped wipes, a ton of those little packets
of tissue (there seems to be a shortage of toilet paper here),
and a couple of pairs of gloves -- thin dress gloves. Many women
here wear them. You can buy them here in the department stores
along with shoe brushes and polish. I'm really not a clean freak
but these are the things I've become self-conscious about.
And, oh yes. They do the
tea thing in a big way here. So if you need it, bring coffee!
It doesn't exist in the country except in little coffee/sugar/cream
people are the best...
The only thing I've been
unhappy about is the tendency to be too crowded sometimes. It's
frightening to have a hundred people watching you eat. There's
no air and it's just weird. I've learned to stop in places with
a lot of older people around. They never let a crowd start. I've
had many a snack in a darkened little shop on a stool with three
or four old people watching me, not letting anyone else into the
store. Reminds me of visiting my grandparents in the Blue Ridge
mountains, with all the old guys sitting around the potbellied
stove at the corner store. Very charming, and sweet. They've been
giving me tastes of things... little pastries, a pickle mixture.
Read up on what these people have been through in the past 60
years and you'll realize why they can empathize.
Women's Words on China....
I'm not sure how differently
I'd be treated if I were a man in China. I think I'd be drinking
a lot more beer with the guys. Women are lucky, we can drink beer
with the guys and beg off if we're not feeling like making a contest
(Source: Excerpt from Carla Kings Travel Journal - Spring 1998
At the Beijing Hospital
of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 97% of the doctors are females.
Since the end of the Cultural Revolution more and more women are
demanding that they be treated by females.
(Source: She Healers East and West, Evelyn Hannon, 1990)