you're reading...

China 38: Money lenders and My Fair Lady

Copyright Elaine Canham, 2015

Copyright Elaine Canham, 2015

(continuing my 1985 diary of a trip to China and Tibet)

The train pulls in to Kunming just after 7.30 am. Cheryl’s waiting for me at the barrier, and it is so good to see her. We get a bus to the hotel; the old rugger scrum again, but when we get bashed in the mad scramble to get on, I find I can bash back twice as hard with my pack.

She and Elspeth have pushed the boat out and got a three-bed room with a bath (12 kwai each). Breakfast is fried eggs, toast and coffee and I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. Hannah from New York, who I was with in Tibet, is here. She wants to go to Shanghai, but all the planes are booked for a week and she doesn’t want to spend three days on a train. Cheryl goes with her to the CAAC office to see if this is true or if they just can’t be bothered to take her, but they are adamant. No seats.

They are equally tough in my case. We’re flying to Nanning on the way to Hainan Dao (it means literally, South Sea Island) and Cheryl and Elspeth can pay in Renminbi with their student cards, but the office won’t accept my card. The woman behind the counter will not believe I’m a student – no matter how often I tell her my name is Chrysanthemum Wang. Which is sharp of her, but it means I have to pay in FEC, foreign exchange currency. Which is a pain. It means I’m going to have to find a moneylender and go in for a bit of swift mental arithmetic.

I go back to the hotel and change a travellers’ cheque, then I go out in the street and collar a likely looking  lad on the corner with a bike.  Why do all money-lenders have bikes? (Monumentally stupid question, ed. Just look at all the police strolling about, and ask yourself why you are down a side street with three of the guy’s mates on look-out  duty).  I change my money with him at a rate of 1.6 into renminbi, and then nip back into the hotel and change it back into FEC with a lad from Sheffield at the rate of 1.4. Total economic madness. But we’ve all made something, and we’re all happy. Except possibly the Central Bank of China, but I don’t know them personally, so it doesn’t bother me. Although how the whole system doesn’t collapse when everybody seems to be winning, I don’t know.

Suppertime is a bit of a disappointment. Practically everthing on the menu is off, so we have a very small meal. We go back to the hotel and eat fried goat’s cheese, which is all they have (and very nice). The bar has a tape player, so I put on Frankie Goes To Hollywood, but the bar staff don’t like this at all and switch it off. But then, when I just laugh and take it away, they tell me to put it back on. They can be such odd people.

Hannah and I go for a walk and discover that we both grew up listening to My Fair Lady. Within seconds we are prancing down the street singing, ‘All I want is a room somewhere’. Hannah’s attempt at a Cockney accent is hysterical and she thinks much the same of my rendition of ‘ahhooOOoodenit be luvverly.’  We are bent over, breathless with laughter,  8,000 miles from home, being carefully skirted by Chinese people who stare at us rather warily. Maybe we have gone loopy. Maybe after all these weeks, the songs of Lerner and Loewe have finally done for us. But who cares, when there’s two of you to sing?

(I apologise for the quality of my pictures at the moment. I’ve had to get a new scanner and the operating system is still waiting to be decoded by Alan Turing).

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


20 thoughts on “China 38: Money lenders and My Fair Lady

  1. Good work with the money lenders! Very savvy.

    Posted by Nolsie | April 26, 2015, 11:22 am
    • You get expert very quickly when you’re in that situation! But when I was reading it over before I posted I had to work it out slowly on my fingers to make sure it was right.

      Posted by elainecanham | April 26, 2015, 11:52 am
  2. I am loving this, Elaine. Your comment about the airline still rings true today! ‘Can I post this gift to my mother in law?’ ‘No.’ ‘Can I get my health insurance card?’ ‘No.’ It goes on and on…. Love the three days on a train to Shanghai, too. Bullet trains have been a revolution. X

    Posted by Sue Brattle | April 26, 2015, 3:55 am
  3. Dancing down the street and singing–reminds me of when “I was young and used to be”–free and happy. I don’t know whether I would have felt like that in a country so different from my home country (the UK). I, too, am glad you’re back to posting–I missed you.

    Posted by Vivra Beene | April 25, 2015, 8:24 pm
  4. This blog is one of my favourite things – that and raindrops on roses.

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | April 25, 2015, 6:25 pm
  5. thanks for this window into a time and place I’d never have known otherwise.

    Posted by billgncs | April 25, 2015, 5:58 pm
  6. Wonderful to see you back. I don’t know how you’ve managed so long with erratic eating and food supply. I can picture you two in the street singing and giggling for all you’re worth. I’m sure it felt lov-er-lly!

    Posted by Let's CUT the Crap! | April 25, 2015, 4:09 pm
  7. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I love the way you write!!!!! 🙂 and my 4 year old daughter is learning all about my fair lady- she loves the ‘bed song’ (I could have danced all night) lol so cool 🙂

    Posted by 5cheekymonkeys | April 25, 2015, 3:37 pm
    • Yes I love that song too. But I always get the words wrong: I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night and still had room for more. Still, it means the same!

      Posted by elainecanham | April 25, 2015, 5:00 pm
    • Haha, yes it still means the same, such a beautiful song!

      Posted by 5cheekymonkeys | April 26, 2015, 8:38 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow on Bloglovin

Follow me on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: