October 17, 2006

Who are these people that I am with? What happened to the glorious days of my crew from the Trans-Mongolian railroad? Is this
some kind of cruel joke? Is someone just trying to drive in the point of how painful American travelers can be???

Welcome to my second day of my Panda Bear tour. It started yesterday at the hotel in Beijing when we left to go to the airport to fly
to Chengdu. I have to admit that all seemed nice and dandy at that point. The only main issue I was having at that point was the
zebra-print pants, huge fanny pack and tennis shoes with two huge Velcro strips (a la 20 years ago) that the girl I am sharing a
room with was wearing.

It wouldn’t be until we landed in Chengdu that I would realize what I was dealing with. And why Americans are often looked down
upon by others when on the road…

My traveling companions’ first request? Not to go to the hotel to check-in. Not to hear about what there was to see in Chengdu. But
to head directly to McDonald’s. Yes, that was all they were concerned with.

October 22, 2006

For the past week I have seen a lot of behavior and have heard a lot of comments that make me appear to be wise beyond my years
(as the person closest in age to me is ten years older than I am).

I would like to think I haven’t changed at all since my trip started (I am sure that many don’t necessarily view this as a good thing).
I definitely have more thoughts and opinions about things. But I…as a person…remain virtually unchanged. I realize that by venting
about this I
may come across as an elitist traveling snob. And you know what? I’m okay with that as long as I never get lumped into
a category with people like this.

See. Not much has changed at all. I still have the capacity to be a bit b*tchy and definitely not very tolerant of ignorant people. All of
this being said…I guess you can throw judgmental into the mix, too.

Now I am going to reference some of the comments and behavior that I have been forced to put up with (though I did opt out of the
last group meal – that was already paid for – in order to have some time for myself)…

    “I used to feel bad about being picky. But then I thought ‘I’m from America, the best country in the world. I’m allowed to be

    We were at a restaurant and many different dishes were put on the table. One of the men (who was a grandfather and had
    some traveling under his belt) was trying to figure out if a certain meat was chicken or pork. It really made no difference as he
    ate both of those meats. He asked a waitress and she couldn’t understand him. Keep in mind we were in the mountains of the
    Wolong Reserve. Nobody is going to understand a question like that. Instead of dropping it, he then started clucking like a
    chicken and snorting like a pig in attempts that she would understand that. The table thought this was the funniest thing. He
    thought this was the funniest thing. The waitress and I were the only ones not laughing.

    Somebody bought souvenir panda stamps from the gift shop. One guy asked (seriously) “Are they American stamps?”

    In the morning, the group would put peanut butter and jelly on the Lazy Susan during breakfast while overly criticizing the
    Chinese buffet that was provided. They talked about doing the same during lunch. Were these people trying to be as
    obnoxious as possible?

    At breakfast one morning one of the guys said “When are they going to understand the Western concept of scrambled eggs?”
    to which I had to remind him “Well, we are in the East…” Let’s face it…we were in the Wolong mountains. The fact that they
    had hard-boiled eggs was lucky for us.

    Almost half of the people acted as if they had never seen Chinese food in their life. Considering everybody was from an area
    that possessed an NBA team, I’m assuming that everybody was in somewhat close proximity to Chinese restaurants.

    About six days into the trip, most of them were saying that they were ready to go home.

    There is major chopstick etiquette in Asia. You aren't even supposed to hold chopsticks while chatting. Well, one of the men
    thought it was appropriate...at a restaurant, no less...to use the chopsticks as walrus tusks. Have these people ever been let
    out in public before this trip???

    We had a guy named Jimmy pick us up from the Shanghai airport and take us to our hotel. I loved Jimmy. He was laid-back,
    no-nonsense and didn’t treat us like a ‘tour group’. I might have been the only person who felt this way because I know that
    my roommate, in particular, wanted her hand held the entire time in Shanghai and I think it bothered her that Jimmy wasn’t
    there to do that. On the second day, one of the women said to me “Jimmy didn’t tell us about the beggars on the street…”
    Um…let’s see. We are in a city of about 16 million people (give or take a couple million as I forget the actual figure). Did you
    really think there weren’t going to be any homeless people???

I now understand why people can’t stand Americans they meet when on the road. I actually shouldn’t use the word ‘meet’. It’s
more like the Americans that they ‘come across’. These people loved making their appearance known. As if it was cool to outwardly
complain about things. I have also learned that everybody knows an ‘American accent’ when they hear one.

You know…the more I think about it, maybe it’s a good thing that so many Americans don’t possess a passport. As I told a friend
who just experienced these types when he got to Europe, the U.S. really needs to issue some sort of test when somebody turns in
paperwork for a passport. A test that shows that they are capable of walking around and don’t need to talk above a certain decibel
level. A test that shows they are capable of learning a couple words of the language of the country that they are in.

Basically, a test that would deem them worthy of being a representation of America.
Painful Panda People...
Back to China.