This post was first published back in 2017.
I had written this into Baidu Translate, switched it into Chinese, and showed it to a rather bewildered bus station employee. She smiled and nodded, and then started rattling off something in Chinese. I replied with 对不起，我的中文很真不好 Duìbùqǐ, wǒ de zhōngwén hěn zhēn bù hǎo (I am sorry, my Chinese is really bad). She smiled, nodded, and left me alone.
When you wander around like I do, you sometimes get this sense of bewilderment from the locals. Who is this foreigner? And why is he here, of all places? Is he lost? He has to be! There is no reason for him to be here! Typically, this attitude pops up more in far flung places. It never happens in downtown Xinbei or Nandajie, because, well, the locals tend to expect foreigners to be there — not in a place like Huangtu 黄土镇.
Technically, I was not really even in Changzhou anymore. Huangtu is actually part of Jiangyin. However, I had taken the 215 bus from Hohai University and I rode it to its terminus. It had passed Dinosaur Park, and then it turned and eventually crossed over the city line. Jiangyin / Huangtu is part of Wuxi, so technically, you could say I took the bus to Wuxi today. The idea was to to get off and explore the area.
Turns out, there wasn’t much to see. The 215’s end of the line is in an really obscure corner of Huangtu. So, I just walked down the road and bought a pack of smokes and returned to the bus station. I did notice one thing.
There was a guy out here who set up a bee apiary, and the bees were all over the place.
I don’t know if the guy was selling honey. If he was, he picked a silly location because literally there is no traffic out here. For some reason and by random association, the following two lines of a Pablo Neruda poem leaped into my imagination:
Where can a blind man live
who is pursued by bees?
Donde puede vivir un ciego
a quien persiguen las abejas?
–Translation by William O’Daly
Neruda never answers that question, either. It comes from his The Book of Questions. The whole poetry collection is just a long list of surreal and unanswerable inquiries. I made a mental note to see if this volume was on Kindle, later. At the moment, however, I was happy to note that, A) I was not blind, and B) I was not being pursued by bees, yet. Nobody wants to be pursued by bees, and that includes me. I also realized I should definitely leave before that happens. So, I got back on the bus once it was ready to go.
I also noticed that once the bus cruised back into Xinbei proper, the bus didn’t go in a reverse route of what had taken me to Mister Beekeeper’s apiary. I eventually learned that the 215 is a circular — not linear — route. Because, it eventually passed where I originally boarded, Hohai University.
I later learned that the Neruda’s weird little tome was not on Kindle, but somebody scanned their copy as a PDF. Kudos to whoever did that!