Ben Oostdam story # 185


In 1983, I finally got to go to China!

I told Pacific Delight Tours that I wanted to take their Three Gorges Tour but would refuse to pay the single supplement:
instead, they could put me in the same room with whosoever they wanted. . .
Lee They obliged and put me with the tour leader, a Californian Chinese, named Lee.
All day long he was most polite and obliging, but in the evening he relaxed, took a drink and started bitching, glad to have at least one captive audience.

This was a strange group, consisting of two half-dozens, myself as number 13, and Lee.

The first
half dozen
consisted of
a Chinese doctor
from Hawaii
and most of
his family: wife
and 4 daughters-
at least 2 of
them gorgeous.

The youngest was about 14,
quite cute and smart
but with a wide open mouth
full of retainer.
Her name was Sonya.
She was learning Chinese,
and only her mother was
fluent in that language,
while father and the other
three daughters knew even
less Chinese than I did.

The other half dozen were an elderly couple, the Browns, from Sarasota, FL: one evening aboard our riverboat, the man, Adam, addressed me in fluent Dutch. Another couple was the Lippschitzes from New York, quite sophisticated and artistic. Then there were the two sturdy ladies, a mother and daughter, both teachers.

Everything went fine - with minor exceptions to follow - till we reached Wuhan; the night before, Lee complained about the Browns who were too old to travel and were bound to get an accident soon. The next day, in the Park, one of the gorgeous daughters caught up to me out of breath: they had been walking behind Lee when all of a sudden they saw his one leg twist like a reed and he fell down wioth a broken broken ankle . . . sardonic? We saw him carried off efficiently to the Wuhan Hospital by a uniformed ambulance team, then deliberated as to what we were to do next.
At each destination, we had been assigned a Chinese guide, but the Wuhan guide had left a bit early so we were on our own. Old Adam Brown proposed that we continue the tour, but Fred Lippschitz favored staying together and waiting for our tour guide. I agreed with Adam and we decided that we would travel on to Beijng later that day as per schedule. I was elected party chief, probably because I slept in the same room as Lee. While we got through to Bejing safely, Wuhan experienced a very bad rainstorm and flood which completely isolated the hospital for three days, so that we never saw Lee again.

An earlier "incident" should be put on record, too: On the day we were to visit the famous Gezoubha Dam, predecessor of the Three Gorges Dam Project, and already one of the World's largest power generating facilities, there was another bad rainstorm.

The tour guide took us past the Dam's raceway but it was too rough to get out so he decided to take us to the dam's model and museum. We were shuttled into the lobby underneath giant umbrellas which had a tendency to blow open. Here was the inevitable reception with tea and a long speeech by the director, who apologized profusely that the model could not be shown because of a .... power failure. Struck by the humor of the situation, I joked that I had come all the way from Europe (no, not America) just to see this dam and model ... and the day was saved when the little "dragon lady", as the Chinese called the daughter with her retainer, offered to let us use the flashlight she carried with her in her pocket book. Thus we were shown the model after all, by the scant light of the tiny flashlight of someone I predicted on the spot was going to be instrumental in US-Chinese-European international cooperation one day! Let me know when, Sonya!
Three Gorges Probe - BLO fecit 20060831a - stories