[These "Travel Notes" are just raw brain-dumps, collected whenever I had a chance to sit down and type during the trip. See December's various topics for more reader-friendly post-trip writing.]
Sun Nov 7: Yow. Reminds me of taking LSD, you'd go on a big trip and have lots of overwhelming experiences, but nobody was in your head but you, you were on your own. I'm very happy, and also blown away.
Biggest shocker may be the air quality. Arriving in late afternoon there was more auto exhaust than I'd hoped, but... you know how it is to step off a plane in San Francisco and feel that soft gentle air? Kunming is the only other place I've gotten the same feeling. Amazing.
It's definitely the PRC and not Hong Kong... tiled sidewalks, lots of casual street businesses & relaxation, scooters everywhere, horns honking "I'm here! I'm here! I'm heeeeeeere!" Teenage boys standing in the middle of airport exits, slowing the taxi enough to toss handbills for massage parlors in the window... daredevils jumping fences to cross in the middle of the block... overladen bicycle porters... giant stores for Cartier and Louis Vitton... a poor person with a bicycle hauling a charcoal grill of roasted sweet potatoes. To exit into the airport lobby you have to pass touts blocking your way offering gypsy taxicab services, right in sight of the real taxi queue and many police. My cabbie did the usual routine of pretending not to understand where the hotel was, even though Google Maps was in both English and Chinese, and the hotel's printed webpage had the address in both languages.
(Aside: It's astounding that Expedia and the rest of the global reservation services still don't include printed maps in the local taxi drivers' language. Most hotels already have them printed up as cards, "Please take me to" so-and-so. Even if you can figure out the location on your own, most cabbies need a Voice Of Authority before believing the hotel exists... it's death to show them a page with mostly English on it. The travel services focus on convincing the purchase of a reservation, not on what the purchaser of that reservation will obviously need in order to use it. Some day they'll fix this, but I wonder how many customers they screw over, month after month after month.... :(
My hotel, Green Lake View, is a large building, in a cosmopolitan part of town, usually handling domestic tour groups... a lone westerner with a big grin caused a bit of a costernation, but they handled it with aplomb, conferencing with Assistant Managers and Shift Managers and all. I was still sort of thinking in Cantonese, catching myself from going "duo jie", and hadn't wired my Mandarin check-in rituals... they went for it in English. I love seeing the pride in a smalltown person's eyes when they deal successfully with an international transaction. They're doing better than I can do. :)
Sunday afternoon, and local weddings are in progress at the hotel... wreaths everywhere, crowds of proudly-dressed people waiting and talking, multiple photo sessions of the bride and groom, sweets to pass out, young'uns running about meeting cousins. Lovely. I went upstairs and did a quick unpack, then down to get oriented to the city before the light faded.
I get a thrill out of being dropped in a strange town with maps and compass to figure things out. Kunming is built on a ring model, not a grid... some streets do run north-south and east-west, but others run to the northwest, some to the southwest, lots of odd angles, unusual compass headings, easy to get turned around. But I took my bearings, got some visual landmarks, and set out to build a mental map.
First task was Green Lake, northwest of the city center, near my hotel. This was a gas! Sunday afternoon and many people strolling about... lots and lots of musicians, with erhu and pipa, banjo and guitar, side-flute and gourd-flute, Chinese Opera and oh-I'm-so-miserable pop tunes, all hanging out by the water having fun. The lake itself reminded me of Houhai Park in northwest Beijing, with willows on the shore and hyacinths in the water, teahouses and restaurants all around. But the level of cultural activity was more like Tiantan Park in Beijing, with many people expressing themselves with friends, lots of chaotic cacophony as people did their thing. Can't wait to check it out in the morning.
Many of the lakeside stalls held Tibetan goods... they're relatively nearby, and there's a lot of cross-cultural influence here. Almost felt like I was shopping on Haight Street.... ;-)
Speaking of Haight Street, the tribes of the nearby Golden Triangle gave us the bong, although I think they use it more for the local tobacco (introduced by the British) than for cannabis (which is native, and used for clothing, but apparently rarely smoked for recreational purposes). I've seen lots of gorgeous large wooden bongs already, and even learned that people carry them in a sack over their back, like a tennis racket or a musical instrument. One elder gent, listening to a musical jam, dumped his bong water in the lake before putting it in his backsack and walking his granddaughter back home. Totally groovy.
I was thrilled to see my first example of women using gorgeous minority dress as daily working garb... Sani, I think they were, although I really don't know my tribes yet. Lots of white/blue/red beadwork on the headdress, primary colors on the tunic... it's a point of pride, the heritage, and one of the big reasons I came here. It's not a schtick, it's something they maintain, a definition of self by the definition of the group.
A walk around Green Lake completely exceeded my expectations. But the sun was setting, and I wanted to get a bearing on the center of town. Went back to the hotel, got flashlight and scarf, and figured out how to get to the Golden Horse and Jade Chicken Gates....
... but first I needed some food. Had some yogurt and juice in the morning, then some cashews and an airplane meal on the way in. With the mile-plus-high altitude I had to take things easy and pace myself.
Across the street I saw "The Brothers Jiang" restaurant, which I recognized from Martin Yan's sleeper "Hidden China" documentary on KQED. To get there was a bit of an adventure, with an underground thoroughfare that looked like bumper cars gone wild and which I can't do justice at the moment, but get there I did.
The food-ordering process often stymies me. Knowing what food is available and what I want is one thing... figuring out the social conventions to get it quite another. In this case I knew they had Crossing The Bridge Rice Noodles, and I could read enough of the menu to figure out I wanted the chicken version, so I told the cashier "Sorry, this is my first time here, and I really don't know the procedure. How would I get some chicken noodles?" The young clerk took me under her wing, and she called a boy waiter to sit me down and set me up, joining a table of strangers in the busy ground-floor level. So much more functional than when I was in Hong Kong.... ;-)
Crossing-the-Bridge noodles seem related to Pho, but with a side-trip to Shabu-Shabu. They bring you a large bowl of exceptionally hot broth, covered with a thin layer of oil to keep the heat in. Then there's a plate of thinly-sliced raw pork, some raw chicken, some greens, a bowl of scallions and herbs, a raw quail egg, other seasonings, and a big heaping of noodles. You put the meat into the broth first, stir it, let it cook... add the noodles, then later the greens... season it up, dig in, spit the bones on the table (or, in my case, a plate). The broth was excellent, one of the best I've ever had. The rice noodles had a wheat-like texture, more satisfying than any rice noodle I've had in San Francisco. A big bowl, yet it went down fast... hydrated, carbohydrated and proteinified, I set forth for the center of town.
It usually takes me a couple of miles walking to figure out the scale of a town... what types of distances a map really conveys. In this case, Kunming seems tractable, foot-friendly. Go down Ren Ming Zhong Lu (Peoples' Street, Middle) until you hit the big commercial center, turn south until Porsche storefronts turn to Pickle street stalls, and you're golden. I saw sausages, preserved hams, fermented vegetables of every description... foot massagers, neck massagers, fortune tellers of various philosophies, and more... tofu sellers, dried-fish sellers, vendors of Yunnan-grown coffee... and I wasn't even really looking around yet. There's a night-market scene at the city center that I have to get into more deeply tomorrow.
But going south there are three ornate Chinese gates, one at the north, and just below it one facing east, and one facing west... the gate of the Golden Horse, and the gate of the Jade Chicken, whose history escapes me at the moment. I wanted to pack a pipe there, but went just a little bit further south, still seeking Yunnanese pipe tobacco, and... scored.
I probably got overcharged, at 65RMB for what appears to be a two-ounce tin, but I can bargain another day. One of the major tobacco-growing regions in China is Yuxi, a few hours south of Kunming. Most is made into cigarettes. But the bong guys need a fix too. This is a finely ribbon-cut Virginia type of tobacco, and although it looked to me like it would be acrid and burn hot, it's actually mellow, sweet, and soft. An amazing smoke. The label says it's one of the "18 oddities" of Yunnan... but there's no website. ;) I'm impressed, but don't know enough, and need to learn more.
Pipe packed and lit, a walk further northwest up Dong Feng Xi Lu (east wind west road), to try to find the Kundu Night Market, and its associated bar street, on the way back to my hotel. I'm not sure I found it. When I think "night market" I think of something like Shihlin night market in Taipei, with tons of snacks. But the sense I got tonight was that this was a regional odd-goods market which is slowly shifting into a more lucrative bar trade, for college students who have more money than study time. First impression indeterminate. I'll need to learn more....
And that's pretty much the theme for the day... fascinating, but I need to learn more. Kunming hasn't always been a part of China, but it has a history which predates much of China, judging by hominid bones and dinosaur bones and bronze works and more. I had a wonderful time today, impressed by the climate, the vibrancy, the street scene. I could have done with a little less wanton car-honking, but I want to learn more.... ;-)
Tue Nov 9: I was too tired to write yesterday, and really am too tired to write today, but I want to catch up before I fall behind.
No Internet connection... like the Hong Kong hotel, this one in Kunming gives me an IP address, but says "Limited or no network connectivity". Might be because I'm using Windows 7 instead of XP? Who knows. When I'm up to negotiating with the staff I'll try it face-to-face. (In Hong Kong I used the hotel lobby's WiFi.)
Language is difficult. I'm in a Chinese tourist hotel, rather than a more international hotel. (Thanks a bunch, again, Expedia... and printed guidebooks are 'way behind growth here.) I tried to locate some of the international hotels elsewhere in town today, but failed. Tried to find the bus station to see if I could schedule a trip to Dali, but failed. With a real net connection I could cope, but without, I feel like half a person.
Language itself is okay, considering the fatigue... I'm able to read signs much better than on previous trips, and have had a few successful language interactions. But I'm also unable to bring up some of the stuff I know when I need it. Somewhere between acceptable and disappointing.
Why the fatigue? Part is because I'm walking a lot, at least eight miles a day, exploring the neighborhoods. In San Francisco I rarely schedule so many heavy-walking days in a row. A larger part is because walking is so expensive here... many many people walking, meandering, imposing extra costs on others. The scooter/bike/ebike scene is killer too... every time an electric bike silently whooshes up from behind a foot from my elbow feels like adding another half-mile. Cars at intersections have that Chinese trait of "I'm bigger than you so you shouldn't have been where I now want to go," which would be a little less intolerable if they let us know where they wanted to go with turn signals. And then there's cars on sidewalks... you can always tell the young man who has his first fancy car, because he'll park it across the sidewalk, unreasonably blocking the way. The honking... should be taxed. The problem is unevenly distributed -- many people have awareness and empathy. Some people have deep, deep inadequacies, and try to make up for it by insisting on themselves first.
Sleep isn't right. Some days I've stayed up late and gotten out early. Last night some business guy in the room next door got in at midnight and started yelling into his phone. (Take a clue from the ladies, big fella... you don't need to yell just because they're far away.) Between naps and partial sleep I'm not sure how much sleep I'm really getting, and probably need deep sleep to integrate all I'm learning. Short sleep atop stress can lead to opportunistic infections, which I really wish to avoid. Knife's edge.
Nutrition is also indeterminate. The last few years I've been eating less, and here I've been trying to nibble through the day. But it's hard to tell how many calories, how much protein I'm actually getting. Some mornings it's fruit juice, some mornings it's fruit drink... some mornings it's yogurt, some mornings it's yogurt-inspired beverage... trying new brands to find the richest ones. Noodles are readily available, but the protein content varies. Meat snacks are also readily available, but not all skewer stalls seem sanitary. Thinking of splurging tonight on a real sitdown restaurant near Green Lake.
Bottom line is I'm really pushing myself, simultaneously on activities, environmental stress, diet and sleep.
What have I been doing? Yesterday I found a bookstore and discovered I already had one of the better bus maps... figured it out and managed to take it out to the 2009 Horticultural Expo towards the northeast. The bus route had changed due to subway construction on the north/south axis of town, and building construction added many streets that were not on the map. Turned out it stopped at Golden Temple, just beyond the Expo. This is a beautiful tall hill, lots of old trees and buildings, and many stairs to climb. Up top were droves of retirees knitting and playing cards and walking around, who had taken cars or other vehicles to the top of the hill. Took an overhead-cable car down to the Expo, which was weird in a forgotten-Worlds-Fair kind of way... each country still had staffers there in costume for photograph-posing, and they didn't have much to do on a Monday. Took another bus back downtown and walked cross-town to the hotel. Laid down for a nap that lasted three hours, got up and made a juice/yogurt/beer run to the convenience store, then came back and crashed for good, until Mr. Loudmouth started at midnight.
Today I visited the Yunnan Provincial Museum, which had Dian bronzes on one floor, Yunnan culture on another. Superficial exhibit, but about really important stuff... the Kunming area was home to an early advanced civilization which had disappeared pretty much entirely until relics started being dug up in the 1950s. Their bronze work is startling for being of everyday life... hunting and warring and weaving and knitting and crop-selling and music and actually looks rather modern... not the stuff you'd expect from the time just before Christ. Then a walk to the south railway station which, like all railway stations in China is total sensory overload.
I'm downgrading my whole itinerary... just too difficult to negotiate things. I had been thinking of taking a six-hour bus ride south, on the west side of Dian Lake, to Jianshui and the Confucian Temple, staying overnight in the Zhu Family Garden, before heading north on the other side of the lake to reach Shilin Stone Forest, prefrerably for early-morning or late-afternoon exploration, after Tour Group Peak Hours. I'm close to chalking off the Xishuangbanna leg of the trip, because it requires one air flight from Lijiang and then a second to Kunming. Thinking of just spending a few extra days in Kunming, Dali and Lijiang, takes things a little easier than I had hoped, due to the costs of discovery and negotiation. Whether I can get a reliable Internet connection may make the difference. Let me go downstairs and see if _they_ can get it to work....
Update on Internet access: Just before going downstairs I followed the old Tech Support adage: "Does the problem persist after you restart the system?" Sure enough, that fixed it. Those durn computers..... ;-)
Wed Nov 10: Big adventure of the day was negotiating a bus to the outskirts of town... dealing with ambiguity, playing Orienteering Detective.
And right now I'm typing this at an outdoor bar alongside Green Lake, bright neon all over this side of the street, dark water and trees just across the road, six-year-old kids yelling as they play chasing games with each other, the owner of the pipe-gourd shop across the street playing a very mellow tune. Not too busy here, but still a lot of life.
I wanted to reach the Yunnan Minorities Museum, down on the shores of the large Dian Lake to the south. I knew that the #24 and #44 bus went there, at least when two of my guidebooks were written, and that they had a terminus at the Kunming South Railroad Station. But the Station is big, and terribly crowded, and it was iffy whether I'd be able to connect.
Walked down through the part they called "Old Town", which now seems to be at least half torn down for newer buildings. Got some flatbread pancakes, puffy and chewy, from a street stall whose owner regarded me with a mite of suspicion. Was hoping for some Yunnan Coffee (yes, a major crop), but failed to score. Figured out a bus to get to the station, 'cause I knew I'd be walking more later in the day. (The buses in Kunming are a little intimidating, and awful diesel-y, but startling frequent, and regularly packed. Bus stops are clearly marked and list all routes which stop there, as well as their subsequent stops. Costs only one yuan, flat-rate... less than a quarter in US coin.)
Got off at the station, and despite the signs at street stops, found no signs at the station. After half-an-hour or so I got the idea that the #24 and #44 didn't stop where I was let off, and with a little detective work and a helpful map, I moved on over to where a stop oughta be, and sure enough it was. Had my compass and a map as I craned to look at street signs, checked with the driver whether this stop was the museum, and again, sure enough it was.
(Interruption: Just got served some amazing "Old Kunming Fried Rice" at this beer patio near Green Lake... short-grain rice, with what tasted and chewed like millet, although I couldn't find any little round yellow balls in the mix. Preserved vegetables (the killer mystery ingredient!), chiles, oil, and what tasted to be a Fermented Tofu paste. On the side there was a pickled black bean mix. Really, really enjoyed it.)
Yunnan is the northern part of a whole mountainous territory extending down south into Laos, Burma, the Shan State, and over into Tibet. The count is of 22 different ethnic groups here (although a lot may depend on how you count), 26 languages (with many sub-dialects), and an amazing 22 different writing systems in use. The land itself and the remote nature is one factor in such diversity, but there's also a strong ethnic identity where people are proud to keep their own traditions alive. There's the pull of modernity and homogenization into the dominant Han culture, and it's hard to say how this will play over time, but right now it's an amazing melting pot where every ingredient still has its own strong flavor.
And, to their credit, the CCCP has explicitly called out for preservation of these minority cultures, even as it strives to improve the integration and opportunities for the people. There are scholarships and studies and cultural museums both out here and in Beijing. (During the 60th anniversary celebrations I was impressed by how the minority cultures took a central place in the ornamentation of Tiananmen Square.)
This Nationalities Museum in Kunming is sort of ground zero for an overview of the various cultures in the region. There are seven main exhibits, covering everyday tooling (agriculture, hunting, etc), architecture (stonework, log buildings from the northwest, bamboo buildings from the southeast, clay buildings from the eastern mountains), masks (diverse but didn't press my buttons), musical instruments (ancient shengs, the ancestor of the accordion! plus flutes and drums and jaw harps), writing systems and media, the obligatory CCCP photo ops... the one that touched me most was on textiles, though, and I hope to do this up in a subsequent post.
There's also a Yunnan Minorities Village nearby, which I did not visit... seemed to be a Showtime kind of thing, not my style. The Museum took up most of my day, and I was glad I went.
Negotiated a different bus back (it was easier to find the bus stop ;) ... hoofed it north from the bus stop through a food street and a Jiang Brothers noodle chain (they're very gracious in dealing with newbie foreigners)... some beef skewers just south of Gold Horse Silver Chicken Square... back up for a gander through Kunda Bar Street but nothing moved me... wash up in the hotel, then up to Green Lake.
The day was challenging... lots of noise, diesel fumes on the thoroughfares, a few honest smiles with people but no real communication. Biggest surprise may have been the amount of new construction and teardown/reconstruction going on south of the city, to the lake... I knew there were building binges on the coast and in Chongqing, but there's a lot going on in Kunming too. Very many young children being carted around, a new generation arriving. It can be draining to deal with so much energy, but I think the planet is lucky to have it.
Thu Nov 11: Short day... stress, lack of sleep, cold weather and risk of a cold... spent most of the day sleeping.
In the morning I went to the Kunming Zoo, just northeast of Green Lake. The weather was cold and cloudy however, with a bit more wind. I wasn't dressed for it. Walked through quickly, but cut it short, to get back to the hotel room.
Kunming Zoo is said to be one of the top ten zoos in China. The parts I saw were very pretty, multi-level, lots of trees and paths. A forlorn amusement park, lots of young kids on class outing. One traditional-style building had neighborhood musicians, singers and dancers playing traditional tunes, sat for awhile and listened, mutual smiles.
Baboons, Golden Tamarinds (I think), other assorted monkeys... 30-ish Chinese guy walking up to the cage and grunting and challenging the monkeys. Draw your own conclusions.
I was hoping to find the Lesser Red Panda, the Firefox. I think I did see their area in the park, but did not see them. Would have liked to have gotten some photos for the Mozilla folks, but considering the colder weather and how prejudiced they sometimes are, I didn't pursue it. Tried, though.
On the way into the zoo there's the area's largest Buddhist temple. You can tell by the shops selling incense and other offerings out front. Fortunetellers, monks in robes of various colors, beggars with deformed limbs sitting on the sidewalk, a cup in front. Words cannot express....
Cut out of the zoo early, grabbed some pepper beef and tofu soup at a restaurant, got back into the hotel room by 2pm. Slept. Woke every few hours, puttered on computer, but mostly slept. Got up to pack towards 6am. Sixteen hours of nothing but intermittent rest.
I felt a cold coming on, and had certainly been exposed to lots of infection vectors. Besides that I knew I was stressed... poor sleeping, lots of walking, and maybe most importantly the unseeing aggression of drivers honking, pedestrians swerving in, motorobikes in near misses, all the things that make you feel less like a person.
So I slept. Had the first real dream sequences I can remember for awhile too... connected dreams. For awhile I was in SF, where the landlord had sublet part of my apartment to a lefty government proselytizer... then I was crosstown trying to get back, somehow lost my shoes, trying to avoid the big crowd of a sports event due to let out... short description of all that is I was dispossesed, trying to find my center... apt metaphor for the day. Then another sequence of connected dreams, where I met an old friend, who had turned blind, and she needed help to get back to her place, fainting spells and walking in front of traffic and more.
I'm typing this on a bus, a 5-6 hour trip from Kunming to Dali, in the front seat, behind the driver. The high-speed roadway is much emptier of traffic than were the streets of Kunming. Weaving between ranges of hills... river to our right... agricultural fields on both sides... terraced fields of rice and other crops... stacks of field corn hanging under eaves to dry, wheat stacked in cones in fields, rows and rows and rows... large hand-barrows in fields awaiting loading... car broken by side of highway, four people scurrying to fix it... people standing on the roadway waiting for something... houses of cinderblock, and brick, and white plaster, and wooden beams... paintings of dinosuars and mushrooms and birds and much more on sides of buildings, Bai style, my first exposure... older woman with waterbuckets on a shoulder-pole, coming back from the nearest market... oxen, burros, and horses too... multiple flocks of small black goats, clambering on hillsides, chased into line by eager dogs... climbing into mountainsides, switching back through tunnels, high bridges straddling the way. Bus trip to Dali, not to be missed.
Surprised to see roadway signs in both Chinese and pinyin, as well as text in straight English. "Don't driver tiredly" is my favorite, with a stick drawing of a ZZZing guy about to take off into space. Very easy to read distances, in kilometers, with little markers along the road.
o First night I arrived in Kunming I heard amplified singers on the street, sixteen floors below. Sounded pretty bad, as amplified singers usually do. When I got out to the street I saw there was a girl, perhaps 13 years old, singing into a mic to a Music-Minus-One kind of backing, a basket for tips in front. Off-key, but full of pathos. When I came back an hour or so later she was packing up, and looked sad. I tip affecting street musicians in San Francisco, but resist while on the road. In this case I've been wrung-out ever since, thinking of her. What is her life, what are her hopes, that she sees the glamour of singing her soul, in the street, and is rebuffed? We've got to fight to create more opportunities for her, and for those who follow.
o Seen a lot of young boys playing with western-style yoyos. Not the Chinese Diabolo kind -- the Duncan Yo-Yo kind. Pretty good too, lots of string-catching tricks. No idea how that stuff got out here, hopskipping the coastal areas.
o I know there are radio stations here... seen ads for them on the street, found Internet citations in San Francisco. Haven't been able to pick them up yet. I get the sense that talk shows and Modern Adult Sounds are the big things, but man, it would be great to find actual stations of locally-produced music. (Taiwan's Tainan is one of the few cities I've found with a distinct aural radio "sound"... I had first heard SW China's Miao and Yi music from David Mayer's wonderful "World Music" show Wednesday mornings on KPFA-Berkely back in the 1980s.)
o I've been to two Kunming museums where Korean tour groups have passed through... did a little eavesdropping to check, and a friendly "Anyong hasseyo" from one of the grandmas confirmed it. I've also been startled to see a few shop signs, in different parts of town, with Korean syllabary. Most of the museum signage is in Simplified Chinese and English, and one exhibit also had Japanese script, but I haven't happened to hear any spoken Japanese yet. No idea what it all means. (And although I've seen people of European descent in some of the tourist spots and in the university area, I've usually been the only non-Asian in most of the places I pass through here... makes me feel warm'n'fuzzy to have an obvious excuse for being an outsider. ;)
o Mobile devices still seem mostly voice and text. Noticed peple spending a lot of time waiting for a friend, getting a call, waiting some more... shouldn't there be an app that keeps track of your friends' location and lets you message them asynchronously instead? We've adapted pretty quickly to mobile voice once it became available, but aren't there more efficient ways to achieve our actual goals...?
o Shiny cars... new, lots of status. The horn-honking seems to be from only a minority of drivers, even though the volume would give you the impression everyone's doing it. The newcar-ownership syndrome also gives rise to a perceptible arrogance in their use, pushing through people, blocking roadways. Related: lack of understanding of basic sanitation such as uncovered coughs, nose-picking, eye-scratching. Seems connected somehow. I'd guess it would take at least a generation for these (generally) young males to wise up. PITA in the meantime.
o The wealth-disparity is still unsettling. Lexus and Cartier shops, older people picking through garbage on the street. I think this will also wise up with time, just as environmental quality will almost certainly improve. Heartbreaking in the meantime, though.
o They say the girls are prettiest in Chongqing, but I think Yunnan may have them beat. There's some made-up glamour girls, but I've seen lots of just regular girls with no makeup whose natural beauty takes my breath away. May be the mountain air...?
o I still get a kick out of casually pulling hundred-dollar bills for a meal. Only about $15 US, and you get change back too. Gotta live it up while we can.... ;-)
o Trick of the trade... to signal for a bill, just draw a little rectangle in the air with two outstretched forefingers. Seems to be understood everywhere I've gone, this side of the Pacific.
o There's a certain arrogance to many of the 30-something males. I've seen it before, on previous trips, but it still bothers me. Their in-group is more important than responding to the moment... easy to shoulder aside people who are not of the group, quick to take umbrage when the shouldering-aside is returned. I've been in cabs with female taxidrivers who honk a bit too much, but it's not like the males, hawking and spitting and speaking too loud.