Few 2022 thoughts from Friendship Rd
Hello from the Other side of the Wall, Dear Readers, I've been wanting to write a word or two about the year 2022 for a while now, but it wasn't until I had my mobile phone fried by a faulty charger and lost access to VPN for a couple of days, that I suddenly felt a strong urge to share my feelings with the world. Being caged up with covid BS for. 3 years is one thing, but not being able to reach out beyond the Wall at one's convenience is something quite different. So here I am. 2022 started out pretty slow, as China not only kept thinking that complete isolation is a totally legit way to achieve world dominance in the 21st century (or, as a matter of fact, any century until now), but also kept fuelling the covid hysteria and some die-hard anti-foreign sentiments. Travelling anywhere outside the province was virtually impossible, and even within Guizhou the "recommendation" for most Chinese people was to stay where they live and not move too much. Strangely enough these "recommendations" never seem to apply to the rich and well-connected, but hey I already knew that. And although I'm neither, I do have the benefit of being a foreigner, and a cheeky one at that, so I ended up renting a car and spending the Spring Festival driving around snow-covered Guizhou.
It was quite a sight, all these perma-green mountains hidden under a thin layer of white. This was the first time I'd seen it happen in my 6 years here, and I know it's a rare occurrence, as when I told my Chinese friends that I was going to drive while it was snowing, they pretty much thought I'm being suicidal. I'm not being funny - half of the roads in Guizhou were closed, and we had to take a huge detour to get to Zhenyuan because of some 2 mm of "snow" on the road. Suffice to say I saw cars with chains on wheels and terror in the drivers' faces. Zhenyuan looked like an abandoned town. Once a major tourist town fully of rowdy crowds, pubs, karaoke bars, street food and what else all night long, it was one of the first places in the province to get the taste of the ingenious covid policies. What it smelled like was bankruptcy and crisis, but luckily it still had one of the best Sour Soup Fish places I know in Guizhou. Fate has it that I tend to visit Zhenyuan almost every year, so I'm hoping it will fare better next time I'm there in 2023. Not much could be said about the Spring 2022 - covid hysteria kept raging on, now doubled with new fears of ultimate lockdowns like the one in Shanghai around Feb 2022. I couldn't even properly organise any charity event for Guiyang stray cats, as people were reluctant to attend any form of public gatherings and such. I went to Libo by car for the Labour holiday I think, only to find it half empty (May 1-5 is normally one of the biggest and busiest holidays in China). I can't say I wasn't happy - I hate crowds, and China is such a bad fit for that if you can only travel during bank holiday. It's going to be the only thing I'll miss about covid times.
When I got to Libo I wasn't even able to purchase the ticket, as due to some regulations the system now only accepted Chinese ID cards - so I got one for free, being greeted as the first foreigner to visit the place since the breakout of 2019. I saw all those cool spots there, and drove further into the mountains to na nature reserve which was called - I believe - Maolan. Lovely place, I really like it there. Yet it all felt a bit bleak, compared to previous years when I had been able to see places like Gobi Desert, Qinghai, tropical forests of Xishuangbanna and so on. As much as I absolutely love Guizhou, it would have felt so much better to simply have a *choice*. I didn't complain though - most of my friends "couldn't" even leave GY or wherever they were at, most of the time. I put the word in brackets, because of course they could, but they were either too scared of their boss, losing a job (unlikely to happen?), or hell knows what. Either way, for me personally two tiny Guizhou excursions in the first half of the year didn't quite do the job, so I started trying to figure out if I can do better during the summer break. Then I ended up getting a motorbike (Gurren!) and going to Tibet in the same month. After something like this you know the rest of your year is just going to be a constant journey downhill from the heights of serotonin-fuelled ecstasy to the bogs of all thats mediocre and mundane. In the end it wasn't quite so - Gurren brought a completely new perspective into everything I do, and towards the end of the year new challenges appeared, in the form of the stray cat shelter. It's worth mentioning that during all this time my relationship with Guiyang itself felt a bit strained, to say at least. - some crazy and ugly modernisation projects going on, people being rude, racist and hysteric due to the covid and anti-foreigner propaganda, the gnawing feeling of - let's call it by its name - imprisonment not only in the city itself but in the entire country... 'Okay, so if you don't like it, why don't you just leave, like many other foreigners did?' Now: One - I never said, I didn't like Guiyang, all my complaints were with BS going on all the way up there and unfortunately impacting everyone's lives more than it should. Two - you don't just leave somewhere that's you know your home and heart is. I had, and have things to do here, and three - I'm not a quitter. For better or worse. What matter is that now I'm writing to you from a better Guiyang - one, that has woken up from the stupor of fear, and is once again a place I'd given my heart to. All that resolve was to be tested mercilessly in October 2022 - in the month of the Lockdown of Guiyang. I never really got around writing how absolutely idiotic, pointless, and cruel it was, and perhaps it's better this way - after all I don't want to soil this space with something as tasteless and fully devoid of grace and artistry as politics, and it would have to come that at some point of my ramblings. What I'd like to write about more is my journey to Tibet (which was probably covered by countless laowais in the past, but hey, perhaps not in covid times!) and my awesome adventures with Gurren. All this will have to wait until next time, though, as I still have some reading and gaming on the agenda tonight, and my eyes already feel as if they're going to melt. Thank you for bearing with me, Dear Readers, and see you soon! Love, Lao Guiyang PS: Cover photo is from some old neighbourhood around a forest park near Baiyun. First find on m desktop other than cat photos, so it'll do!