• Barbara Murphy-Shannon

China Day 4 -Yangshou - Goodbye Randy

Updated: Nov 26, 2021



All the lights came on and the blaring music was back. It was bright and loud.


"WHAT THE HELL!" It's 4 am!


So, I crawled out of my box and went to the bathroom. There was a long line as usual. Boy did I need a cup of coffee. Hot chance in China. I guess I would be happy with tea if I could get it.


We all filed out of the boat down this old wooden ramp onto the dock. The harbor was filled with Sampan boats. Some had their sails up that looked like a butterfly wing and others were low in the water being propelled by a single, long sculling oar called a yuloh.


Now to find the bus going to Yangshou. Sounds easy, well it’s not. Everything is written in Chinese.


We asked for help and finally, someone was able to help us. We waited and watch as people would arrive staggering under the weight of canvas bags, gunnysacks, cardboard cartons, bedding, and the odd slab of raw meat, sometimes all swinging together from bamboo shoulder poles.


Our Bus arrived at 6 am. It was old, smelly, and very cramped. It left at 6:30 am and we drove and drove and drove. I slept some but it was hard being so cramped together. No leg room, no room, smoky…Did I mention this was The World Glamour Tour.


The trip was scheduled to take 7 hours but it took more like 10 hours.


“OMG…I have to pee so bad”


I kept waiting to go to the toilet thinking we’d get there soon. I was dying but I just couldn’t go at any of the stops so-called “bathrooms.” They were disgusting and I just couldn’t do it.


The bus sucked all except I met a sweet Chinese girl.


Me, Sheila and her Father arriving at Yangshou, Sanpan boats,Yangshou hotel, bike ride in the countryside of Yangshou
Photos by Barbara Murphy-Shannon 1985

I think her name was Sheila. It’s hard to know if I’m pronouncing it right. The Chinese language has 10 tones and it’s a very difficult language to learn.


At one of our stops along the way she ran and got me a cup of tea.


“How Sweet, thank you,” I said to Sheila.


“Xie Xie” Sheila said back and one of the only words I knew meant “thank you.”


She smiled back at me. She must have noticed I was having a difficult time.


She spoke very little English and I only know 2-3 words in Chinese.


I used a China conversation book to try to have a conversation. She’s very pretty and traveling with her father. When we arrive at Yangshou we all took photos together. She gave me her address in Guilin.


How sweet, maybe I’ll visit her.


We said good-bye and she was off.


Now to find a hotel. We found a hotel that had dorm room-style accommodations for foreigners. It was 5-Y each = 1.50-2.00. Cheap but you get what you pay for.


The room had no heat and it’s pretty cold. They do give you a big thick blanket… thank god!. No hot showers. You fill up a bucket with hot water and wash up. Rub-a-dub-dub! Three men in a tub. I wish…no make it a jacuzzi. A girl can dream.


When I was walking back from my so-called bath I saw either a rat or a mouse running down the hall. They say they’re all over China. I tried to not freak out and just pretend like I didn’t see it.


As I relaxed on my bed I started to think about how at first I didn’t like Bob. Seeing him act so childish with his brother in Thailand turned me off completely. I can’t date a pussy.


But after being with Bob in Hong Kong for a few days I have realized what a nice person he is. I always have fun with him. He’s like me, in that he’ll always go out of his way for me. He’s very gentle, kind, and easy to talk to.


When I get back to Hong Kong maybe I’ll stay and spend Chinese New Year with him. I figure I might as well stick around for it since I’m here. I’ll just have to wait and see. I hope nothing has changed by the time I get back. I’ve been thinking about John too but it doesn’t hurt as much or I’m not missing him as much.


I think when I get to Europe instead of traveling with Rick and Beth as planned, I’ll keep traveling alone. I’m not interested in being a third wheel and they will want to be alone together too after being separated since last October when Beth and I started this around the world journey.


Plus, if you take someone with you traveling, you bring your world along. If you go by yourself, then you are just there exposed to the world you’re in and the interaction is strange and often more surprising. But then other times I wish someone special was with me and we were experiencing everything together. I know it’s good for me that I am alone and getting to know me again but I also miss companionship.


I didn’t sleep very well. The beds are as hard as a rock and the pillow sucks. I woke up about 7:30 am and got up. I wanted to go sight-seeing on my own without Randy. He’s a nice guy but I just needed my space.


I rented a bike and rode around town and took a long ride in the countryside. China has only been open to foreigners for the last five years and most of the people have never seen a foreigner. The locals would stare at me as I rode by with my blonde hair and white skin. I just smiled back. The children would run alongside me saying “hello” in English and laughing. I’m sure it’s the only word of English they know.


Everyone was either walking or riding a bike, lots of bikes and you rarely saw a car or truck go by. The countryside is very beautiful and famous for its karst hills and rivers. Rising sharply at odd angles, limestone peaks look like giant teeth growing out of the green plain. On top of the hills, you can see tiered towered pagodas and Buddhist temples. It feels like you’re in a painting.


I arrived back in town and had lunch at a little food stale on the street. Bob, an older man from California who I met at dinner last night joined me for lunch. He’s teaching English to children in Shanghai. He mentioned he was leaving for Guilin this afternoon. I didn’t see much more to do in Yangshou so I decided to go with him. I told Randy my idea but he said he wanted to stay in Yangshou.


“Maybe I’ll see you in Beijing,” I said.

“I can’t believe you’re leaving so soon,” cried Randy.


He didn’t seem mad more disappointed.

We said our goodbyes and promised to write to each other.


I’m on this journey of self-discovery and I can’t put other people’s happiness or agenda above mine. When you're a “people pleaser” in a relationship you think you’re doing the right thing by putting them always first but all it does is suck the life right out of you. You make decisions based on their needs and wants and you slowly start to disappear. My abusive ex-husband told me what to eat, what to wear, who I could talk to, who I should vote for, what I should do for work, how often I should workout, and what gave me pleasure. It was a slow death of my being. I felt like a walking zombie. I didn’t recognize me anymore and honestly neither did anyone else.


I know she’s out there. I know I will find her. I must find her…


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This is a true story that chronicles my rebellious journey when I was 24 years old backpacking around the world looking for solace after the end of an abusive marriage (ok to escape). An intensely graphic and heartfelt memoir of self-discovery is about how getting lost can be where you belong, how traveling to new cultures and meeting new people helps you heal (they don't judge), find your voice and remember who you really are and want to be. It is certain to inspire anyone who has ever woken up in a life they don’t want to be in. Many life lessons and some bad decisions (sorry Mom) along the way. Buckle in! It's going to be a bumpy ride.

xoxo, Barbara