(writing) My travelling experiences to the western world

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cnHans
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04 Jan 2012, 11:19 pm

I'm not sure if it's the right section to post, if not, please help me to move this.

My nationality is Chinese. I'm always seen as a different person, and my travelling experiences might make me more different. Due to the decent financial status of my family, I have been to so many places in the world in such a young age. I enjoyed so much privilege and still enjoying it, to the extent that I already began to lose material desires. I fear I am not yet deserved of those, because my own contribution to the world is almost as empty as a blank paper.

I don't know how to define such an article. "fragments of memoir" if you like. One intention to write this is exactly because my memory is losing each week. I am afraid that if I still do not write it down I will lose it forever, and that would be pitiful. I am going to share interesting and noticeable life events encountered during those trips, with my experiences and opinions, in a series (I'm sorry I'm not good at writing scenery so you won't see much). Some stories might be funny, but don't expect them to be as awesome as a novel. Since it's already few years after some trips it's hard to recall some details, and Chinese writing and English writing are different. I am still practicing the latter. However, I'm happy if you can tell me how to improve it. If you think it's a nice "report" I am already fairly satisfied. :lol:

Trips:
2006 winter: Europe (Italy, France, Germany)
2007 summer: Oceania (Australia and New Zealand)
2009(?) winter: Saipan
2010 fall to present: Lawrence, Kansas

Brief routes of European tour:
Rome
Florence
Venice
Milan
Lucerne
Engelberg Mountain
Paris
Luxembourg
Frankfurt



cnHans
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04 Jan 2012, 11:52 pm

Beijing airport

In 2006 winter, I was 18 and have just finished my first semester in college. That is one of my most successful semesters ever and I found my grade on the top of the class, the only time so far in my lifetime. My parents said to me that they decided to bring me together on a trip to Europe, as a reward of my good grades. I was ecstatic. It's like a dream come true!

Thinking in retrospect, it's possible that my parents might have already planned the trip despite my college grades. But, saying it as an "award" is a common strategy of parents, perhaps especially Chinese parents, to further encourage their children. I was also not aware at that time that this trip would mark the beginning of my series of long trips to the west.

We were going to meet our travel groups of "Kaiser" Travel Agency in Beijing airport first. Such way of travelling is popular in China, and it's much harder to step into the West without a travel agency, due to large amount of visa procedures. We soon found our travel group as well as our team leader. This group is not much different than all the other groups I would encounter in next few years. It has all the characteristic of a commercial group, full of middle-aged adults, interested much more on foreign goods than foreign culture and scenery.

I was always imagining an ideal travelling group in my mind at those years. It should be constituted by the peers of me, all highly cultured and knowledgeable, so that I can have a good time talking freely while enjoy the trip at the same time. Unfortunately, this kind of group still only exists in my imagination so far.

However, I found the guide, our team leader, is also a person different to the others. He had a clear voice, with bright eyes, confident movements. We call him Mr.Cao.



Last edited by cnHans on 06 Jan 2012, 7:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

cnHans
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05 Jan 2012, 6:58 am

The flight to Europe
The flight that took us from China to Europe was from Lufthansa company. It was also one of my most comfortable air travel so far. Perhaps it is only because I almost never experienced international flights before (the domestic planes are no doubt very narrow and dull), and such experience was repeated many times in the following years until I totally got bored.

One trivial event happened on the airplane blowed hard on my self-confidence in speaking English. One waitress warmly asked me what should I drink. I had a glance at the serving table and found a white liquid that I could not tell it's water or some other drinks like sprite. I answered with an absent mind: "The white one, please." Unfortunately, the waitress clearly did not understand and she started filling my bottle with a white wine. It took the efforts of all people around me to stop her doing that and gave me a bottle of water instead.

I learned to speak more cautiously and accurately ever since. Sometimes I hesitate 2 minutes to speak out one simple sentence. Maybe it's an unecessary behaviour only driven by my perfectionism. It does not always work. Sometimes it makes situations even more confusing.

The trouble at Frankfurt
Our first stop was not Rome but Frankfurt, because we needed to change a plane there. Another security check was also required. Anyone who have been to it know that was a slow and painful progress. It could be worse if someone got into trouble. This time the whole queue stalled and I clearly saw an argument ahead.

I saw a young couple of our group arguing with the German airport officials. The reason they were stopped seemed to be that they carried too much liquids that exceeded the limitation, and all the rest would be confiscated. The problem was they bought too many perfumes at Beijing airport. Even until today I still cannot understand why they need to carry so many expensive perfumes to Europe. What I only know is they would soon began to regret on this.

The man of the couple quarreled anxiously with a incredibly fluent English. I still envy that after two years in America. Soon he was further aided by our team leader, who could speak German. But both languages were not enough to "impress" the German official, who remains firm and stubborn. In order to let all of us pass, perfumes worth thousands of Euro were confiscated and thus made contribution to the German economy.

Few months later, one of my professors in China told us in a class that she once encountered a similar situation at Japan. She pretended to be totally confused and could not understand anything. The Japanese let her pass after running out of ideas.

It is not always wise to make full use of talents. Especially foreign language.



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05 Jan 2012, 4:57 pm

This seems like a good thing to do, and I think this is a good forum to write it in.


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cnHans
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05 Jan 2012, 11:20 pm

Arriving Rome
It was dusk when the flight nearly arrived Rome. I saw a large area of water outside the narrow window of the airplane, reflecting the fading sunlight. Like many air travelers, perhaps especially people like me, I can't help assuming if it was a famous place I know. I assumed it was the Tiber. It had a higher possibility to be the Tyrrhenian Sea, or some water areas I could not think about completely. But I still assumed that I saw the Tiber, the river that gave birth to the Ancient Rome, because I won't have another chance to see it during this trip.

Another great surprise followed after we step out of the plane. We directly stepped out of the airport without any checks, security or identity related, Like in a railway station. My parents even did not aware of that before I reminded them, and soon they felt surprised too. I don't know if it is because we had already landed in a EURO country, or Italian airports are all like this, or we just met an extraordinary good luck that day.

We were soon escorted to a Chinese restaurant to have dinner. We all understood and expected it. If everybody of all Chinese tourists demand a western meal at every dinner, the travel agency would definitely bankrupt, because the meal plans were covered in the overall fees, which was only slightly more than 1,000 dollars. I will later mention how they will use extra ways to make more money besides choosing a cheaper restaurants with cheaper foods. However, what we did not expect was Chinese restaurants would be such a terrible experience soon after.

To make it more extraordinary that day was the eve of the Chinese Spring Festival. According to the tradition we should be at home surrounded by our kin and friends. But that would be a noisy environment too. It seemed clear that many people that joined this group was tired of this, and decided to rebel against the tradition once at that time. So we had a Eve dinner at an unknown Chinese restaurant in Rome.

I joked with a pretty nice mood :"We traveled from the imperial city of China (Beijing) to the imperial city of the West!“ But few responded and even fewer seemed to care.



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06 Jan 2012, 7:19 am

Rome
The journey around the city of Rome was during the second day.

We first marched to Vatican to see Basilica di San Pietro, then the Grand Colosseum in the afternoon. Neither of them gave me the most impressions, though it's true the Basilica was indeed the biggest church I have ever seen.

We saw a flag while on the way to Vatican. It was the flag of Kuomintang or Republic of China, or just Taiwan if you prefer. Blue sky and white sun was its pattern. Our team leader soon discovered our suspicious gazes on it (As you know, Chinese government did not acknowledge Taiwan as a country) and explained that the Vatican City was one of the few countries in the world who did not have any diplomatic relationship with People's Republic of China, while having relationships with Taiwan. Upon hearing that, the gaze of the group members on the flag soon began to be filled with bitterness. Some started photoing it as if the camera had the power to shot it down.

It is not the only time I found other travelers having patriotic emotions. I will mention a lot more later. However, many Chinese seem to behave fairly patriotic, so it's wise to be careful on the related topics when dealing with them.

I did not seem to have any emotions at that time. First I did not think I should concern on the Holy See's diplomacy. It should be on their own. Another reason is perhaps I found the weather of that day really very nice, making that flag not looking to be annoying at all. The weather gave me a perfect first impression to the west. For a Changsha resident like me, I got used of scorching and damp summer, and freezing yet somber winter. That day in Rome is cool, with the air fresh and filled with beautiful clouds. For my standard, if everyday is like that, I don't think paradise has any differences.

But soon the ideal weather was broken. A thunderstorm came and we soon dispersed and sheltered ourselves inside or behind buildings around the basilica. It stopped and came again when we are visiting the Colosseum, thus ruining the entire plan. "That should be the so called "Mediterranean weather" in our geography textbooks." I told to myself.

It was impossible to keep looking on the famous sites under a rain so heavily, so my eyes turned on things more "ordinary". I saw rains and streams flowing over the marble grounds of Rome. Marble grounds! Augustus proudly claimed that he turned Rome from a city built by stones to a city built by marbles. He would be even more proud if he know that today's Rome still have marble roads. I soon found even most of the sewer covers at Rome were marked with the alphabet "SPQR", means "The senate and people of Rome" if my memory is correct.

Not just me, every group member began to report to the team leader, Mr. Cao, that they had found many old buildings. "True," Mr.Cao agreed, "Even the Caracalla Public Baths were nearly 2,000 years ago. The Italian people clearly valued highly on their historic sites and did their best to protect them." But his comment soon turned into lamentation:

"We always claim that we have 5,000 years' history. Italians (Romans) have only around 2,500 years, but they could provide such original building with that much long time. How about us? I think a building preserved for 500 years is already good enough in China, like the Forbidden Palace (note: 600 years)"

I agree with what he said. It is true that many of our old buildings were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution as well as the "economic development" recent years. In a "modern" metropolis of China like Shanghai and Guangzhou, you could find almost nothing besides skyscrapers. There is one thing more serious than that. How could we proudly claim ourselves to be a highly "cultural" and "traditional" nation if we are actually so eager for short term benefits?

I was also attracted by a statue of Caesar. I have saw that face and gesture thousands of times in history books, but I'm still happy to find the original. This is perhaps what Mr.Cao said the real meaning of travelling. Who did never see Eiffel Tower on television? But to be personally at the original site is another thing. The picture of that statue is still saved in my page of Facebook.



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06 Jan 2012, 6:40 pm

I think you're right about the airport security checks, travel within the Euro countries is usually hassle-free. It's interesting what you said about having to go to a Chinese restaurant. Do you think that the people in your group would naturally prefer to eat there anyway? It's certainly a stereotype of the English that we go to other countries and immediately look for the most English food...

From what I've heard the Italians have not historically been that caring of their historical sites, maybe until fairly recently. In a lot of places in Europe it has been common practice to strip the stones from old buildings to use in new ones, so a lot of Roman works ended up demolished that way. :?


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06 Jan 2012, 7:42 pm

You are very lucky to have the wealth to travel. Traveling the world has been my dream but my family works very hard and never will have the money to travel anywhere.

I hate the capitalist system for that. People can work very hard and hardly earn enough money to pay the bills.
The upper and upper middle class get to travel the world. Oh well, that's capitalism for you.

Very nice writing although I am a bit envious of the wealthy.


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cnHans
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06 Jan 2012, 10:40 pm

Ambivalence:
You are probably right. A lot of what I saw was possibly the result of recent year protections and "redone"s, but giving you a fairly old impression. But I think Italy indeed have a lot of old buildings, at least it was what I heard one reason why they lost heavily on a recent earthquake. However, for Chinese like our guide it might already be very remarkable since our countries' changes in recent years were much more distinctive.
It's true that Chinese people won't get used to western food too. But it seems at that time those group members mostly want to try something new other than they did everyday (so was the reason they chose to travel on Spring Festival). The travel agencies also seemed to have chosen the cheapest food in those restaurants as possible and another aspect turned restaurants into a disaster as I will explain later.

artrat:
I understand your feelings, and that's one of the reason I used such kind of "preface". But the cost of those trips might not be so outrageously expensive. Maybe because the competition of that business is fierce in China. The fee handed to travel agency in the Europe tour was between 1-2,000 dollars, although many of us spent lots of extra costs. That is why they have the privilege to choose restaurants and hotels and our movements were confined and could not be away with the group most times. In comparison, the grad college study in America cost me the most among those trips, at least ten times of that in one year.
The guide Mr.Cao clearly despises capitalist-like merchants. The struggle between him and them reminds me even some famous novels. I'm sure it would be an interesting part.

Thanks for your replies. :)



Last edited by cnHans on 07 Jan 2012, 12:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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07 Jan 2012, 12:27 am

The great story teller
After our trip in Rome we were going to drive north by our bus. It was a long drive so our team leader Mr.Cao started introducing himself and performed us a awesome story.

Mr Cao worked few years in Germany at that time already, and before that he once served as an announcer in a provincial radio channel. Finally I knew why he had such a clear and beautiful voice. His skill was then completely illustrated by telling his stories.

He told us the story of Ancient Rome. Started from the legends of the female wolf and the founders of Rome, he then covered Punic Wars, Marius and Sula, Caesar and Pompey, until Octavius finally claimed himself the title of Augustus. It was so great that if you ask me to do the same thing, I probably still won't be able after 5 years. Such a grand story is already so hard to make logic cohesive in oral narration, but he did well, let alone he made the whole process very fluent, and again with a clear and beautiful voice, so that almost all people in the bus could understand and enjoy.

Not surprisingly, his story contained some popular myths, for example, he attributed Hannibal's victories in Italy to his "legendary elephant legions". Overall, his story was a masterpiece in terms of tales, a tale in terms of history. However, it's understandable because he was after all, telling a tale, instead of serious history.

I was so young and naive at that time. I don't know why would I getting so serious on such a wonderful story, and it really should not be a stuff to be serious with. Perhaps it's because of my Asperger-like behaviors (I was suspected of having that by friends but not yet started any diagnosis). Perhaps the story itself was so good, attracting me so much to make me serious enough. Usually I won't comment on anything that I do not interested in.

Montecatini Terme
When I was obsessed with the story, our bused arrived at a small town called Montecatini, to rest all of us there one night. I am amazed that I can still recall the name of such a small place. Maybe it's because of my asperger-like characteristics, maybe it's because it's so close to the name of Monte Cassino --- somewhere southern of Rome instead of northern that Allies and Germans had a bitter fight there during World War II. But if it's because of the latter reason, it makes me more like an aspie.

I soon found Mr. Cao and said I wanted to say something over his stories. He agreed. Certainly he had no reason to refuse!

I started pointing out his historical errors in his Roman story, including the "elephant legions" one. I insisted that Hannibal actually relied on cavalry in combat and he in fact lost most his elephants while crossing the Alps. That was definitely true. But would that be what he wanted to know? I guess not after I was a bit more matured.

There was a slight trace of annoyance appeared in Mr. Cao's face, but he soon managed to control and hide it. It was soon replaced or overwhelmed by expressions of impression and amazement. "Your son really knows so much! He must have read many books!" He turned to my father just beside me.

"No, he's just a nerd." My father countered. It is typical for Chinese parents, maybe just on the contrary of American parents. Instead of direct encourage, Chinese parents would prefer to point out children's disadvantages, hoping to stimulate them to do better by discouraging them. Because people sometimes remember embarrassments much longer than glories. "No, he really knows much, and that won't be bad for him." Mr. Cao insisted on praising me. Then he started asking me from what kind of mediums that I got those knowledge.

I then spoke a lot of nonsense, even mentioning the BBC news. When I remembered that, I expressed how sad I was to see Milan lost to Liverpool in Champions League Finals 2005 in BBC news.

"Your son still acted more like a high school student rather than a college one." Mr. Cao finally found a chance to counterattack my criticisms. Also seemed to be a slight worry on me if I would going to be too much different to the others.

At Mountcatini, I also found the smallest bed I ever seen in my life so far in the hotel. I wondered if it was simply re-equipped from message beds, to fill the high amount of needs of Chinese tourists. However, I did not expect the service there to be perfect at the first place so I was still not annoyed.



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07 Jan 2012, 11:49 pm

Florence
We only stayed for an afternoon in Florence and quickly move on again.

My memory on Florence was limited, perhaps thanks to the local guide, who failed to introduce effectively and drew too much attention on himself instead of the scenery. In fact, I met 3 local guides in Italy, each one for Rome, Florence and Venice respectively. All of them seem to be Chinese who resides in Italy. I will only discuss here, because their styles are simply too similar.

The speed of their voices are incredibly fast, like a machine gun. I don't know if that's because they had been living in Italian speaking context for so long. I heard Italian commentators broadcasting soccer games, and the speed of them is exactly like those three guides.

The advantage is, that saves time, definitely. They can finish introducing someplace with only 1 minute that others will need perhaps 5. But compared to Mr. Cao, they did not seem to care if their audiences understood them or not. They were harder to understand because they were too fast, but they never seemed to be aware of this themselves. They seemed just want to finish their job, and did not care about quality and effects.

For example, he led us to the former residence of Dante Alighieri and started pouring words:" Here is the former residence of Dante.... (*&&*&*^%*(" I'm sorry that I simply lost all the rest.

I like Dante, however. (some of you in this section might be even more interested) Not only because he was the harbinger of the Renaissance, as well as his great imagination in his work Inferno. His obsession of love was also remarkable. As many might know that he wrote his former lover into his works as a protagonist, and I knew a classic scene that when he met his old lover the last time in his life time, he simply touched his heart from far away with a desperate face (I forget who drew that picture, but that's great). I think it's the best expression better than thousands of words and the loudest crying, and I will say, this is exactly the humanity that him and many other renaissance writers called for.

This building was much narrower than I previously imagined. It's not much to my surprise either because I heard Dante was never very wealthy during his lifetime. I wondered if he was not the only owner of that house because of the space was such narrowly. (Perhaps the guide already told but I lost all of them) However, their names would be forgotten and we only knew that was Dante's former residence. Such is the privilege of a celebrity.

A frantic escape
We had another dinner at another Chinese restaurant in Firenze. But things soon went wrong this time.

We saw a great mess of leftover meals, and there seem to be not one clean table that is left. The waiters and waitress started busy cleaning and our team leader, Mr. Cao had a apologetic smile. He explained to us that two travelling groups had chosen the same place for eating and they have just finished. We sat down with suspicious glances but soon started eating.

Only around half an hour later, Mr. Cao rushed into us as if something very emergent happened. "I'm sorry, but I heard another two travelling groups are coming to this place. It's better to finish up faster because they certainly won't happy to see themselves waiting."

Upon hearing that, everybody was motivated and stimulated. They certaily did not want to see another two travelling groups eating together with them too. There were at least 10 people in one table and you can imagine the result if everyone started taking as much food as possible. Soon there was virtually nothing left, while I had not have one taste on at least half of the meals being served.

When we were leaving, the other two groups had just arrived. The situation became we wanted to rush out and they wanted to rush in. If there were western people things might be better, but it's not our custom for both sides to let others pass first. Well, it took everybody of us some efforts to break out from a stream of people until we reached our bus. Everybody had an extremely relieving expression as if they should not be there to eat dinner at first place.

I began to understand something. So many touring groups from China all chose the same restaurant. But why?



cnHans
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09 Jan 2012, 10:33 am

The trip to Venice
After leaving Florence, we continued our drive north, and spent another night at Padova. The next place to visit was Venice.

The dinner incidence at Florence combined with tense travelling schedule making the complaints over the trip itself began to rise. Mr. Cao appeased us by promising a seafood dinner at Venice. However, he also expressed that the hardships during a travel is unavoidable. "Actually, I think you should expect that travelling would contain a lot of hardships. For many ways, it's more of a torture than a pleasure. If you only want pleasure it's better to choose the resorts. The enjoyment of travelling came from the combination of sweet and bitterness."

It's definitely a good statement, but it also seemed clear, that by saying this, he was trying to let us forget that tight and exhausting travelling schedule was a typical characteristic of travel agencies.

However, it might not work if Mr.Cao encourage us instead by saying what we are going to view next, because for many Chinese people, the foreign names still looked like gibberish. While staying at Padova, an old man in our group raised an incredible question to Mr. Cao:

"Mr. Guide, are we going to a place called 'Hawaii' tomorrow?" Mr. Cao replied directly without much patience. "It's Venice, sir, Ve-ni-ce!" Everybody laughed even louder after he replied.

There were many things that worth noticing in Venice.

I could say a lot on how I had deep feelings, that Venice, once the richest city of the Western Europe at Middle Ages, became so shabby and declined as it looked that day;
I could say a lot on how I feel travelling the city's "streets" with a boat Gondola, and how "romantic" that seems;
I could say a lot how I feel pitiful that I did not have too much interests and knowledge over Middle Age Europe at that time, or I might have much more to say on the Ponte dei Sospiri (The bridge of sighs) in the city, as well as the doge's palace.
I could say a lot on the highest population density I ever observed in the West at Plazza San Marco, and how we enjoyed some seafood there.

But the most impression I had was on the typical Italian humors that I encountered while at Venice.

Before we entered the boats, I saw many distinctive clothes and pants to be sold. The pants had the patterns of “Che“ Guevara and Benito Mussolini. I suppose those are for the leftists and rightists, respectively, or exactly on the contrary, for them to mock each other.

One couple in our group chose a pair of clothes, which will make them looks like wearing nothing, because the body parts, including genitas that are supposed to cover, were "already" drawn on the clothes. It's artistic no doubt. But considering that couple had a daughter (instead of son) and Chinese's conservative tradition, I appreciate their open-mindedness and sense of humor fairly much. It's the first time I began to appreciate other members of the group.

The most interesting part came when we visit a handicraft shop (glass? or pottery? I can't remember very exactly). The owner could speak Chinese, very fluently. That's already a surprise. But what's more surprising was when he started his own way of merchandise using Chinese.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please choose a best work of here and give it to your mothers. Choose a second-rate work to give to your mother-in-laws. Why? Because you only have one mother, but not necessarily only one mother-in-law."

The laughter we broke out was loud and exceeded the fun made by the old man yesterday. Some even started clapping, partly for the appreciation of the joke, partly for he could express this joke in Chinese.

Thinking in retrospect, the shop owner might already prepared this, especially Chinese language, in order for the Chinese tourists to buy more. But I think that humor expressed might be universal.



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10 Jan 2012, 9:41 am

Milan

"Milan, Milan, solo con te; Milan, Milan, sempre per te..."

No matter you even know this song or not, this song is very well-known in China, as well as the soccer team it represented, A.C. Milan. It might be a little hard to for Europeans and Americans to understand, but the city of Milan means to so much Chinese soccer fans, especially those born in 1980s. The city of Milan itself contained two most popular soccer clubs in China: A.C. Milan and its neighbor rival F.C. Internazionale, because of the long tradition of Italian Serie A broadcasting in China.

As an old fan of A.C. Milan, I can't help start singing this song while our bus was slowing moving into the highways approaching Milan. Nobody besides my parents seem to understand what I was doing (my parents heard me sing it and introduce it many times), because most of them are either middle-aged or too young. Even for Mr. Cao, I think, he might have more impression of Milan on fashion clothes instead of soccer.

Few hours of limited free roaming were given to us this time. We can spent an afternoon near the Plazza del Duomo, before moving into the bus again to leave Italy and continue our travel to Switzerland.

So I don't have the opportunity to hear Mr. Cao to introduce anything of Milan this time. But this is good for me. I have planned to buy something related to Milan that worth memorial meanings, and this schedule made it a perfect chance. However, it took me much time to figure out it's better to buy a scarf with Milan's trademark and where to buy it. During this time the sky was growing dark, so I started worrying.

At an obscure-looking stall markets, instead of big store buildings, I finally find what I want. On the contrary to my eagerness to get it regardless of prices, my parents wanted to move on visiting other stalls for the best bargain. So I was forced to leave the first stall. I was so worried that I would totally lost the chance. I cried at the stall owner:

"We will be back! I'm a 10-year Serie A fan in China and I value your stock as a treasure."

That's one of my quote that I regret the most. I actually lied to him, even if I said in English at that time and he might not understand. In fact we found another stall that sold the same thing with a cheaper price. So we bought the Milan scarf from the second stall and never returned to the first one. I did not expect that. I just hope the first stall owner wasn't waiting for me because of my words.

Anyways, I got the stuff I want, and I was happy. The mentality of football fans toward their favored team, at least in China, is very much comparable to some fanatic fans who are crazy for the entertainment stars. The commonplace is both of them would do anything for what they loved, even if the famous team/star did not even knew them.

I did not know at that time that Plazza del Duomo was actually a popular place for soccer fans to get together. So it's not hard to find some soccer related memorial objects in some small stalls just around it. Just few months later, on May 2007, A.C. Milan won the European Champions Cup, and fans gathered at Duomo and had a grand celebration. During that trip I paid attention to the soccer news too and I was happy that Milan secured an away draw against Celtic at Glasgow, and had an advantage on their road to the champions.



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17 Jan 2012, 9:03 pm

The Italian Driver

From all the western places I visited, Italy is perhaps the country with most squalor, and most shabby infrastructures. But I think I have the best impression on the tour of Italy. Perhaps because in Italy we saw many noticeable sites, especially with historical meanings. Perhaps it reminds me of China itself so much. Italian people gave me good impressions too, especially the bus driver of us, who is an Italian.

Italians always gave people an lively and bohemian impression. Our team leader Mr.Cao also gave us a joke about Italians and Germans. A German mocks an Italian that God created Germans with his best effort and Italians with a casual attitude. The Italians gave a classy counterattack: The god created Germans with the shape of devils while created Italians with the shape of itself. (No offence to people of both nationality meant.)

However our driver, named Bruno, is a little different to that common stereotype. He had a German rigorousness. He seldom talk while driving and always stare the road in front. As a result, the bus was handled very well, and sudden brakes were almost eliminated. That is the attitude that I appreciate too.

One of the reason he looks silent might be that Mr. Cao communicated with him in English. (Mr Cao seemed to know English and German but not Italian.) Bruno could speak English, but understandably, not well. Another joke was told by Mr. Cao on his proficiency of English. One day Bruno discussed with him something he did not like. Cao agreed and said, "I don't like it either." It seems so simple but Bruno failed to understand, and replied "Pardon?" couple of times. Finally Cao replied "I don't like it, too!" instead, and Bruno finally understood.

Everybody can be silent after get used to a talking context that need many repetitions I suppose. Especially for the Aspies that are usually considered "introvert".

However, it's true that Bruno did not like to get involved into long time arguments.

One day he noticed the messy condition of the window glasses around me. I have an asperger-like habit to stick to the glasses very closely while sitting on the bus, as if it could makes me see the scenery more "clearly". For a long time the glass will become a mess with fogs. He then broke me while I was obsessed in my own thinking: "Do you like this window?"

I understood it very easily but I soon lost all my nerves like a typical aspie. I don't know what to say at all except for repeating:" I'm really sorry, I don't mean..." I was expecting a hard discipline, but the conversion ended shortly. He seem to have said he forgive me if I really like that glass. Perhaps he was able to understood my habit.

Another time was at Paris. When Mr.Cao left us for free time some of us wanted to get into the bus earlier than the assembly time, and ask me to negotiate with him. At first he refused me. But soon he opened the door of the bus, just the opposite of what he said. Maybe he realized he might need to deal with more (and more troublesome) people other than me.

People like him because his not "typical Italian". But I think if he's more typical Italian (like that Venetian shopkeeper I mentioned) that journey might be of more fun.