January 31, 2011

A Confusion of Tongues

I arrived in Lijiang at night. My journey through China's beautiful Yunnan province would begin here. In the dark, the maze of alleys of the old town is quite difficult to navigate. My travel buddy Matt and I had a hard time locating our hostel. After several rounds through the cobblestone paths, we kept returning to the same central square. Matt is so fluent in the Chinese language that poems have been written about his mastery of the Middle Kingdom's mother tongue. He meandered into the darkness to ask for directions or go look for a toilet. I did not know whether he had continued onwards or would retrieve me first. After he had been gone for several minutes, I decided to look for the hostel myself. Miscommunication had separated us and our phone batteries were running low.

With the assistance of my sharp mind and befuddled expression, I was passed on from local to local until I ended up in an unmarked domicile. The madam in charge ushered me in and confirmed I was at the correct location. I called Matt to tell him that I had either found our hostel or a whorehouse. He was in a foul mood, back near the town square. The madam went to retrieve him while I stayed behind and enjoyed the company of her silent assistant. Once my friend arrived at the hostel and verified that it was not a brothel, he expressed great frustration about the fact that I had found the place first without speaking a single word of Chinese.


"Language is the dress of thought." ~ Samuel Johnson