division of labour

we seem to have established a rather specialised division of labour in this little travelling tag team of ours. i’m not quite sure how it happened, but it’s kind of like the assignments you get in the army – they’re jobs which play to our strengths and are essential to the continued running and success of the group effort.

for instance, jonno has become the de facto communications specialist. in spite of my general aptitude for many other languages, mandarin just stymies me. i suck at chinese – it just *will not* stick in my head. I can practice a phrase over and over, but the minute i close the book it just flies out of my brain. j, on the other hand, has easily picked up several key phrases and can conduct most basic exchanges without resorting to (my method of) pointing. we may both get there in the end, but there’s no doubt that j’s method is a lot more sophisticated.

j is also the “smoother” – whenever winning smile or a friendly personality is needed to ease the way, (or calm my ruffled feathers) j is the man. and, as he is the “communicator” and “smoother”, he is also largely the payor (payee??).

(j has another secret specialty – rapmaster and lyricist extraordinaire. anyone who rhymes “datong” with “bong”… well, i’ll let him tell you about that later.)

me – my speciality is primary navigator. i’m the one who makes sense of the maps, remembers how to get back to the hostel after we’ve wandered off course, and just generally keeps us pointed in the right direction. j is pretty hopeless at orientation, even on his home turf. so i get us from point a to point b, (usually) safely. I am also the budget manager and general accountant. every day, i tot up the sums of income (none) and expenditure (lots) and track the finances down to the last wu jiao. it’s more in my nature to be anal about money (read: i am a stingy cheapskate) so i do the fiscal dirty work.

i am also, it turns out, the “hardass in charge of not getting ripped off”. My radar for fraud and extortion are so finely tuned from my nyc days that it takes only the hint of some dodgy dealing for me to go on the attack. and i am not. nice. i got all up in tha face and cursed out the cab driver who tried to take us for a ride. i walked out of the restaurant that overcharged us without a single iota of guilt. i was downright nasty to the “tour guides” that tried to tail us all along the great wall. i confronted the ticket agent who sold us the most expensive entrance fare. and i straight-armed the child beggar who was clinging to my pants. (okay, i’m not proud of that one, but they grab on to you and cling to your leg for three blocks!) when people try to fleece me, out of my hard earned money, i feel no compunctions about being assertive (if somewhat less than polite). anyway, more on that later, as it’s a topic worthy of a whole post unto itself.

we’re currently in flight to kunming – a large expenditure which i approved because it will save us 3 days travel time in getting to tiger leaping gorge. and when we get there, the way our division of labour breaks down, i’ll invariably be the one who directs us from the airport to the hostel, and j will invariably be checking us in and finding out the pertinent info about the bus schedule, menu, etc.

and just *let* the taxi driver try to rip us off…

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