China Travelogue-18: O, Canada and the train to Kunming

Posted in Travel at 3:13 by RjZ

It’s a little silly, but almost every time I want to refer to my fellow citizens, or the country of the United States of America in this blog, I use something like “U.S. Americans,” or “the States.” What I rarely do is just say “Americans.” America is a continent, two of them, actually, and in spite of the, now fairly accepted slang for the States as “America,” I’ve heard now and again that other Americans, like Mexicans and Canadians find that annoying. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ve probably not even noticed and I am probably just wasting my time and having my writing come out even more awkward.

Americans, ahem, U.S. Americans, often have a similar question mark in their brains when they see the, sometimes large Canadian flags on the backpacks of fellow North American travelers. No one that I know has any grudge against our friendly neighbor to the north, but what’s with the giant maple leaf?

Night Train Guilin to Kunming

We met our new traveling companions in our train compartment on our way to Kunming. Their backpacks were already stowed, so only after we asked each other where everyone was from did we learn that these two very charming ladies were Canadian. It was a wonderful conversation for hours and hours. They shared food and alcohol with us (remember we came empty handed) and we all shared stories of what we’d already seen in China and what our thoughts were so far.

One of the best things about traveling isn’t the locals that you meet, it’s the fellow tourists. Nearly always, if you meet a couple of folks with backpacks staying in the same cheap hotels as you are, you have something in common. We’re all people who value seeing the world even though we may barely have enough money to afford it (otherwise, wouldn’t we be traveling a bit more luxuriously?) We’re all people who don’t mind a little hardship and getting a bit dirty, but let’s face it, we’re also well educated enough and rich enough to have even this much time on our hands.

At one point in our long meandering conversations I asked about the whole maple leafs-everywhere thing. My operating theory: are you so concerned that people might think you’re a U.S. American from your accent that you want to nip that in the bud? I never got a very straight answer. They smiled and laughed and said that really it is something older people did more than younger ones. It’s not that they’re opposed to the U.S. but rather proud of being Canadians and want people to know (which, is a nice way of saying exactly what I said.) “I don’t do that!” they both explained quickly. One laughed at her older brother and his backpack flag. The other was living in Taiwan and just didn’t feel so patriotic regardless.

They accused U.S. Americans of being equally patriotic, but I insisted that I had just about never seen a U.S. flag on someone’s back pack (I ought to get one!) and that sure, there are those who bleed red, white, and blue, have red-neck accents and well, basically stay home. I personally know a few of these–they see no reason to leave their great country in the first place. Fact is, though, everywhere I’ve ever been I’ve met these people–in their own country!

All very fascinating but eventually we had to get some sleep if we were going to be fresh and make it to our flight to LiJiang the next morning after arriving in Kunming. We were flying Deer Airlines. It was an easy choice, as one of the airlines was called “Lucky Airlines” which probably sounds great in Chinese, but gives me pause.

The next morning we were packing our things as we were getting to read to leave the train. Across from me, one of our new Canadian friends bent over at the waist to retrieve her pack from underneath the seat. There was no flag on her pack; it’s true. As she bent down though, her shirt rode up a bit and revealed a sexy tattoo just below her waistline in the small of her back. A red Canadian maple leaf. Yeah, younger Canadians don’t do the patch on the backpack anymore…

Train Ticket, Guilin to Kunming over night, “soft sleeper”: 433 RMB

1 Comment »

  1. erin said,

    June 21, 2010 at 23:26

    the maple leaf back tat is hilarous!

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