D22: 子长→安定 - Me China Red - CycleBlaze

April 9, 2021

D22: 子长→安定

Checking out this morning I discovered that the hotel which the police mediated me into going to instead of my original choice also doesn't have "foreigner" as an option on their computer registration.

The first time that happened to me was in 2016, with Leslie, somewhere in rural Hebei to the north and west of Beijing. Mostly I just remember that the program was very very badly written, cause despite foreigners not being an option, it let me save us English named people with too short ID numbers anyways.

The second time that happened to me was in 2018, just a bit north of here, on the first of the two nights I spent in Inner Mongolia. That was also a rather clusterfucky bit of badly implemented programming that acknowledged the existence of non-Mainland citizens from places like Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong but not from the rest of the world. I remember being decidedly displeased that the police kept coming to my room and knocking on the door about "just one more thing", thus letting all the heat out again, but I just couldn't be angry at them given that they saluted me every time I opened the door.

The third time that happened to me was in 2019, on the south coast of Guangdong just a bit west of Hong Kong in the sort of town that had kind of been important back before there were expressways but hadn't really seen much of anything in terms of local development since Reform and Opening-Up started in 1976. 

Provided that you don't count Android apps—either Yan'an's app that registered foreigners and Chinese from the same menu or the app last year in Guangxi which didn't like foreigners (and which led to the police troubleshooting the hotel owner through downloading and installing a different app from the App Store)—last night was the fourth, and this morning the fifth.

And yet, unlike all the previous times involving computers, this wasn't a 10 year old machine running XP. Nope, it was the new shiny replacement for the old broken down buggy software that had been around before. Because I'd stayed in Zichang three years ago—because I'd stayed at the hotel that really really didn't want me last night—I can confidently and authoritatively state, they used to have a foreigner option here; but, now they don't; it's weird¹.

If I were in that town I passed a day or three out of Xi'an that had the aeronautics research center and the airport with all the signs about ABSOLUTELY NOT TAKING PHOTOS of SECRETS, it would maybe make sense. But I'm not there, I'm here.  Whether or not it's named in memoriam for a famous general (who died during the Chinese Civil War), Zichang isn't exactly the kind of place that has top secret military stuff, or top secret stuff, or top stuff, or stuff really. They're still working on plumbing around here.

Handicapped Toilet
Heart 0 Comment 0

There is literally no reason for them to have a special version of the system made for them that excludes foreigners. Especially not when the new system in their parent city is so foreigner inclusive as to not even relegate me to my own separate part of the program. But, apparently, they do; and, since all my forthcoming "Talking to Authority about Zichang" is going to be done in the context² of making Exit & Entry lady really really really regret being an ass to me, I won't have any good way to segue into asking.

I start my morning with a very profitable trip to the local bike shop to pick up a battery powered headlight, top up my tires, and get road info. Also, to lollygag. With the way sites I want to visit, geography, and the weather line up, I know I'm not going any farther than one town just to the north of here. So, there's no point in my hurrying along when there's a local to explain to me the proper way of eating Distinctive Regional Snack Food.

When I finally leave, the sky is an ugly gray that's spitting rain drops at me but not actually raining. I delay some more with a video appreciating the history of a completely ordinary and uninteresting concrete bridge (made interesting by the lengthy faux historic dedication stone in a purpose built pavilion), but eventually I have to be on the road.

It's a good time to be taking this road. The surveyors have been by, the trees are getting moved, but the roadworks haven't actually started yet and the various buildings slated to be demolished as the road is widened from country lane to tertiary national road are all still standing.

Knowing how much I'd been looking forward to revisiting the Zhongshan Grottoes, I'm surprised to say it but I enjoyed the late 20th and early 21st century ephemera of the Road a great deal more. The art is still mind-blowing but they haven't fixed the still broken lights in the three years since I was here last, and the guy who unlocks the Grottoes just for me is a hoverer who doesn't want me taking photos.

I get a call from someone that might have been Exit & Entry lady while I'm at the Grottoes. I thought it sounded like a high pitched male voice rather than a low pitched female one but it's also unwilling to tell me "unnecessary" details like her name, also calls up the nebulous concept of "Chinese American friendship" as a reason for why I should let this go, and, after telling me that I don't "understand China", ends the phone call on the note that "filing complaints isn't nice". 

If—perhaps—this person hadn't started the phone call by asking me where I am, where I'm going, when I'll be leaving; if—perhaps—they'd grasped the very basic concept of "I can't tell you the name of a place I'm not at yet" when asking five times in a row for the name of tonight's hotel³, maybe (maybe) I'd have been a little less put out by getting called. Instead, I'm rather pleased to smugly state that filing a complaint is not just something I take great pleasure in doing, but it's also my duty. 

The man who opened the Grottoes for me is a little weirded out that I was being called by the Public Security Bureau and a lotta weirded out that I had—during the seven and a half minutes I spent on the phone with them—argued with them. 

My flat toned unwilling cooperation during the first part of the call, that was okay, that was normal, that's just what you do if ever Public Security contacts you. But, my joyously making not particularly veiled threats? My asking for names? That's not normal at all, and I rather got the impression that it made him uncomfortable. I might be projecting though. He might have just been bored, or waiting for me to leave so he could go to the bathroom.

Anding Town and Anding Fort are another two or three kilometers past the Grottoes. I sped run my way through three years ago and regretted my missing the opportunity to explore ever since. Now, it's being repaired or "repaired" and, even knowing that I didn't have the time, I regret even more what I missed for it now being gone. 

There's still a little bit of old left but mostly it's been replaced with what I refer to as "Ye Olde". Lots of complete reconstructions using faux historical techniques over top concrete and rebar. Give it another four or five years and the hope that it will actually mature into a tourist site and it might be interesting. Right now though, it's definitely not.

¹ You can tell how much time I've recently spent translating by how much punctuation my English sentences have. They love really really long sentences made up of dozens of linked clauses.

² Guess who has been doing policy documents recently? I had to actually debate with myself over using this phrase or "under the backdrop".

³ In a town known to have a singular hotel, you'd think the first four times I said "I'll be staying in Town Name" and "at the only hotel in Town Name" would have been enough.

Today's ride: 25 km (16 miles)
Total: 831 km (516 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0