I found a restful place to stay at the Saga Youth Hostel in Beijing. Of course, it looks just like every other youth hostel in the world but the staff are genuinely kind and the bed is relatively cheap. The travellers here are the usual lot of troopers, and I made friends with a few [...]
I found a restful place to stay at the Saga Youth Hostel in Beijing. Of course, it looks just like every other youth hostel in the world but the staff are genuinely kind and the bed is relatively cheap. The travellers here are the usual lot of troopers, and I made friends with a few of them. I began studying Spanish again and my room just happens to be full of Spainards. So this works out fine. I was sitting on my bunk studying last night when I got to a Spanish word that I did not know. So I asked the Spanish traveller in the bunk next to mine only to find out that he was sitting over there studying English. The International Youth Hostel is perhaps the best place to learn language. Potentially far better than the University, as I have come to find out.
I have also befriended a Japanese kid from Kyoto who has been living in the hostel for the past five months studying Chinese. I lived for a few months in Kyoto in early 2004, so we had a little geography discussion about the city. We were talking of how one can live really well in China one night when he said something to the effect of, “China is great, good food, cheap rooms,” and something that sounded like, “good pussy.” I did not really believe that he said what I thought, so I just went on talking without acknowledging it. But as our conversation wore on I mentioned something of Japanese “bussiness trips” to SE Asia- meaning prostitution tours. He said a little excitedly, “yes, I like “business trips,” I have been on a few to China.” I laughed. I guess he really did mean pussy. Prostitution is interesting in Japan. It is thoroughly a part of the culture. There does not seem to be much shame or guilt involved in prostition. In a rescent survey (don’t have the source, was told in a University lecture) it was found that 40% of teenage Japanese girls said that they would have sex with somebody for money. I had an ex-prostitute friend in Kyoto that was an apprentice in a tattoo studio who would joke about her days in the industry of the night all the time. “I finally quit my “fucking” job,” she said one day. She now works at Mister Donut. If one is from the Burakumin (untouchable) caste or are Korean in Japan there are not many other options.
It is funny how systematic travel quickly becomes, how routines arise out of a life that is absolutely contrary to routine of any kind. To keep nurtured on the road takes a little effort so I began a little routine that will help get all of my essentials daily. It is simple. I make sure that I eat at least 1 dairy product, 1 meat, 1 poultry, 1 fruit, and 1 vegetable daily. This sets the bases of my nutrition, and anything else that I, invariably, consume on top of this is even more benificial. This is just a way to make sure that my food is well rounded, as it is sometimes easy to slip into eating foods that have similar nutritional values while tramping. For example, in Patagonia I think that I unintentionally lived solely on cheese, eggs, and tuna fish sandwiches for months and months on end. It was cheap, readily avalible, and cheese and tuna is easy to carry. But I became severely disharmonized from this diet. So much so that I am still recovering from it.
This takes me to discussing routine and work while travelling. Long term travel is not about just visiting the wonderful places of the world to assuage one’s lazziness and lack of motivation. Well, I guess it surely could be, but I do not think that I would want to keep this up for too long. But rather it is deeply concentrated work. To misquote Conrad’s Marlow in Heart of Darkness, “I have never cared too much for work. But rather I am more interested in The Work of constructing the makeup of character.” This is not nearly the quote, but that is how I remember it while I read the book for the first time while on Manabi coast of Equador. To counter laziness and softness I find myself taking pleasure in actively engaging the small activities of the day. I always do a little laundry everyday (in the shower usually), I excercise (push-ups, sit-ups, martial arts excercises, stretches), meditate, write on this travelogue, have to care for my basic necessities in a very direct and ever present manner (find food, find lodging, companionship), and I study languages. This is the work of travel, when it is satisfied I can then venture out on walks and do the recreational activities of travel. I feel that this work can be equatable to anyother profession out there. Although it is mostly personal cultivation rather than societal infrastructural work, I do believe that there may be some deeper inter-personal aspects of this cultivation. I can not even begin to talk of the many times that I have been completely amused, taught, and enlightened by other travellers. The sage’s work is still for the benifit of all of society, and I have met a few sages just out wandering the planet- going everywhere, yet staying still. An aged, long white bearded lifetime traveller in the Amazon taught me the value of undercutting the ego and realizing how stupid one really is, A man in the woods of Pennsylvania taught me that one can live simply and carry out crazy ideas, “kiddo,” he told me one day, “you will be alright; you like to eat berries,” An anthropologist on the Lao border gave me a deeper sense of confidence when he just sat and listened to me talk. A widley travelled, desireless Harvard University scholar (he had the degrees but no intention to utalyze them) gave my wanderlust full flight in Ecuador when he said to me, “you are young, there is everything under the sun out there.” I have found that there is, and the advice of these real sages have set the foundations of the road that I have come to travel. Their self cultivation has had an impact on me, and my path was significantly altered because of their teachings.