Lost In Translation (And Also Lost In Hangzhou)

You've never been lost until you've been lost in China. After three hours on the train, we arrived this morning in Hangzhou---a place we'd only decided to visit because a man we'd met in a bar the night before we left Singapore called it "the St. Tropez of China," which, um, it's totally not---and promptly got on a bus going completely the wrong way.

And so we got lost. Oh my god, we got so incredibly lost, more lost than I've ever been in my life, more lost than you've ever been in your life, and have you ever been lost while carrying 40 pounds on your back in 95 degree weather? Think of the last time you got lost, and whether you had to resort to making elaborate theatrical gestures for "bus," "map," "flower market," and "intersection" in order to find some way out of your own personal hell. Although I've picked up a little basic Mandarin--in fact, I recently added the words for "how much is it?" "excuse me," and "toilet" to my already incredibly powerful arsenal of "hello!" "thank you!" and "internet bar"---my Chinese vocabulary does not extend particularly far. It does not extend, for example, to SWEET CRACKER SANDWICH, WHERE THE HELL IS THIS GODDAMN YOUTH HOSTEL ALREADY.

And while we were lost, we were so tired! And so hungry! So hungry, in fact, that we contemplated splitting the last Mentos, before Sean sensibly acquiesced and gave it to me. We trudged around this bloody lake---which admittedly, was inredibly pretty once we started riding bikes around it later in the day--searching and searching for somewhere to dump our bags or someone to ask where we might dump them. When a little girl started tugging at Sean's arm and following us along the street, I whipped around with "NO, FOR THE EIGHTY FIFTH TIME, WE DON'T WANT A BAG OR A WATCH!" on the tip of my tongue, until I saw that she was actually saying something else.

"Can we take a picture of you?" she kept asking. "Can we take our picture with you? Please, can we?" Sean and I looked at each other and nodded in bemusement---a picture with us? Really? Why?---and were promptly joined by seven or eight other kids who surrounded us on all sides, smiling and laughing as someone handed a nearby security guard a digital camera and we all said cheese. Well, I said cheese; everyone else probably said "big white sweaty tourists! Awesome!"

We finally found the youth hostel, and this, Internet, is where you will be proud of me. For I am now officially roughing it. Not because of the youth hostel itself, you see, which is actually pretty nice---with a courtyard! and kittens! and laundry! and a bar!---but because of where I'm going to sleep tonight. While we stayed in Shanghai, we had a private room with a sweet little en-suite bathroom. We justified this because it was about $20 a night, and because---all together now---we were still easing into it. But when we (finally) arrived at the Hangzhou International Youth Hostel this afternoon, they told us we could have a private room, which was also about $20, or a place in an eight-bunk dorm--a MIXED dorm!---for about $4.40 each. Sean looked at me, shrugged, and said "up to you," convinced that I would opt for the private room (more space to store my lip glosses or something, OH SHUT UP, I BROUGHT ONE) and instead I surprised everyone---myself included---and said "oh, the eight-bunk dorm is fine."

And it was fine in theory, yes. It was fine until I walked in, saw every other bunk taken, and realized that I'd be sleeping in a room with SIX BOYS. The room already smells like feet. And also of really disgusting aftershave, but how do you remedy that? Is it rude to ask to open the window? And what if they snore? (Because they will.) And how am I to walk to the shower tomorrow morning? And where do I get dressed? And what if they all start talking after lights-out, and suddenly I'm stuck in a conversation about carburetors and jock itch and things I know nothing about?

I guess we'll find out. Still, though, I'd like it to go down on record right this moment, for whoever's keeping score: as of today, I am now an official backpacker. One who's sweaty, tired, and ridiculously awful at trying to gesture "flower market," yes, but a real backpacker all the same. Let's all applaud.

Aug 07, 2006

I do applaud you - getting lost, learning a new language, sharing a dorm room? You're totally the epitome of a backpacker now. Especially because you only brought ONE lipgloss.

Aug 07, 2006

Wow... so jealous of your adventures! You're really brave to be out there doing this...

I have to admit, though, that the story I'm the most jealous of? Your previous post about the dancing housewives. Man, do I wish I'd seen that in person! I'm going to out my inner nerd and say that it reminds me of a scene from that musical episode of Buffy...

Inner nerd now retreating back to her cave...

Aug 07, 2006

So glad you found your way back to safety... too bad it comes with the smell of boy feet (backpacker boy feet at that...sheesh!) Glad, too, that you did make your way to the internet bar, so we can share in both your misery and your triumph. Hope your access time comes with a side of cold beer. Or two. Or however many you need to overcome the sights and smells that surely await you in the (all male) mixed dorm room. Good luck with that.

Aug 07, 2006

the mixed room always seems like such a good idea until the ratio of boy:girl is not in your favour...i still remember the interesting experience of the first night i spent in a mixed dorm with two (rather lovely) irish guys, my sister, and too many pairs of smelly boy sandals for comfort.

but it's all part of the experience - and it does make a good story afterwards! or, in fact, during.

Aug 08, 2006

Perhaps you should do a Google search on 'jock itch' while you are in the opium den Internet cafe. Then you can be already to join in the conversation tonight.

Think you are supercool for sharing a dorm!


Aug 08, 2006

Oh my Lord, you make me laugh out loud!!! I can't remember how I stumbled upon your blog, but boy! I am having so much fun!!! You have a hilarious way of describing everything! Good luck with your Asian adventure!

Liberal Banana
Aug 08, 2006

These are great stories, I look forward to the many more that you'll share (god willin' and the creek don't rise, as I've heard people actually say in the south).

Aug 08, 2006

Not only do I applaud you but I would give you a standing ovation if I weren't so lazy. I would have opted for the private room hands down! You are now really roughing it and I hope tonight you get to rest even though there will be mass amounts of snoring.

Aug 08, 2006

(Claps loudly, stomps feet, whistles) "Go Holly! You don't want to know about exactly what. makes. that. smell....We salute you... for being a backpacker." However...you've still got to do one thing...stop shaving your legs/armpits - THAT, m'dear, is what makes a backpacker. Trust me here, my parents and a load of my friends? Hard-core backpackers. Wait till they start with the "21 gun salutes" in the middle of the night - I'm sure it will make for lovely blog fodder.

Thank you for the updates! As I've said in my links, I read your entries (silently) in a beautiful, posh English accent, and that seems to make them even more funny. Can't wait to see the pictures!

Mary Dawn
Aug 08, 2006

sweet cracker sandwich! i'm so living vicariously through you this summer!

Aug 08, 2006

i have so been there! the unfortunate "multi share". watch out for the mandals, of which there will be many, and also eau de toomuchlynx. many, many boys fall prey to that one.

you will get really good at mouth-breathing, all the time.

Aug 08, 2006

Good luck sharing with all those boys - you're very brave!

Aug 08, 2006

You are a better woman than I for many reasons - but mainly that you can casually toss out the words 'mixed dorm room' 'jock itch' and 'one lip gloss' and still have your sense of humour fully intact and still be ready for your next adventure. I would have bolted into the private room as fast as my tired feet could carry me to avoid conversations of jock itch and the stench of backpacker feet. Am thrilled that you have internet access as I do enjoy reading your blog and adventures.

Bring on more NBB in Asia!

Aug 08, 2006

I love love love re-living all these Asia adventures through you. Please do keep shaving your legs though! I think you're can't be initiated in the real back-packer world until you vomitted and diareahed (?) all over yourself, in one of those squad "toilets" (nothing more than a hole in the ground) while the person in front of you has forgotton to re-fill the water bucket. I can't wait to hear about your next adventure.

Aug 08, 2006

Hazzah! An official backpacker. I am thrilled for you guys -- and LOVE the pictures. That one of you looking out the window on the train is particularly lovely.

Hope you survive the night with the boymates. Hopefully they will be as slumbing giants? Who are not afraid of hygene and deodorant?

Aug 08, 2006

Oh, Liberal Banana, I've actually said that before! Heh, I sort of surprised myself after it came out of my mouth...

Holly, this post reminds me of my trip around Ireland when I was 18--for the most part the hostels were very clean and private, but one of the places was just a big room with bunkbeds all over and many, many German boys with a much lower modesty level than my own. I'll tell ya, if my experience serves as any warning you probably won't see them too concerned about getting to and from the showers in the morning!

Aug 08, 2006

I would have gone for the private room, and the realization that makes me officially a "fussy old lady." (And then I would have proceeded to pick up head lice or impetigo from the sheets in the private room...)

Isn`t it funny how awful your surroundings seem when you`re LOST? You could be in paradise, but it would look like hell.

Aug 08, 2006

"But it is precisely at such moments that we begin to become worthy..."

- Madame de Tourvel
Dangerous Liaisons

Aug 13, 2006

I definitely applaud you! Wow. And if they start talking about jock itch, then I'm hoping you won't understand them.....did you bring any perfume with you? Body splash? Smelly shampoo that you can form into a foam and spray everywhere? Good luck!

Aug 15, 2006

Very happy that you have an interesting experience in China—my homeland. I also love traveling but I have never gone abroad, it is really a pity. I love your photos especially the one you three boat on the lake. You all look so delightful and comfortable, an exciting scenery! Congratulations!

Aug 21, 2006

I'm coming in on the comments a little late, because I was getting lost on a vacation of my own... although NOTHING compared with this. I have, literally, no sense of direction, so I get lost quite a bit... but there was this one time when I got lost hiking, and I actually thought I might die... or at least have to spend the night sleeping out in the woods of Maryland. And considering the supposed Blair Witch lives in Maryland, that would probably have meant death, or at the very least, the loss of all my teeth. I also once got hopelessly lost in Venice, until finally a police officer who spoke about 2 words of english was kind enough to escort me and my friend back to the train station. Which was about 2 blocks away from where we'd been wandering for hours.