The Kiwi Goat Farmer, Panzer Major and Captain America
16.10.2015 34 °C
We all bring our cultural heritage to which ever part of the world we travel. We are as often defined by where we come from, in the eyes of others well before they even get a chance to know and understand. These preexisting ideas and stereotypes often create the need for us to look for behaviours that will re-enforce the preconceptions.
Australians are known for being brash and loud or humorous, "disrespectful" or forthright, wild or know how to have a good time. Whichever adjective is chosen to describe Australian's often says more about the observer than the observed. In my previous employment (oops, I still can't say that yet officially) we received feedback in a very French way, i.e.. not directly, that "in Paris, they have trouble understanding you". It turned out that, in spite of operating in over 30 countries around the World at that time, it was little old Australia, where the French could least comprehend what we said.
Our accent, combined with speed of our speech and topped off by the use of colloquial's, slang and humour, added up to a potent mix whereby a Frenchman, and in fact many people around the World, would look blankly at you after you had asked them a question. Of course, with time people start to tune in and look past the accent, speed and slang to hear the content and recognise that maybe these Aussies aren't a bunch of halfwits. Unfortunately some stop at the first part and never reach the second (especially the Poms).
So stereotypes exist, we all have them, as do generalisations. And I am about to deliver on each and seek no forgiveness for doing so, aside from the fact that, in admitting I'm doing it, if you are offended by them, then sorry but too bad. The International collection represented on the Bamboo Road is a great example of these stereotypes. The largest contingent is a group of Canadians, all representing the Ootdoors Type, some Africans, tough men who can wrangle a Rhino in their sleep, a Swede descended form true Viking stock, and an assortment of English.
The English carry their air of superiority in most cases knowingly, and those who don't are well described as been "lovely". Then that brings us to our main protagonists.
As the Bamboo Road had begun in ShangHai the original participants had developed the opportunity to work on the pecking order. From all reports there was some early tension between Phil "The Goat Farmer from Timaru" (with apologies to Gordon Bray), and George "The German Panzer Major". Both well over 60 these 2 gents are amazing athletes who can power a bike all day long. The first couple of days saw some stellar battles between them to see who held the upper hand. Germany one day, NZ (or should I say the Anzacs) the next. Until finally they achieved somewhat of a truce, with the Kiwi "allowing" the German to win, but occasionally putting him to the sword just to let him know that it was still possible.
With our arrival in Hong Kong, the Group effectively doubled. A new retinue of nations with an addition from the USA. Tom is a father of 4 and grandfather of 1, involved in real estate and kind hearted. He ensured he got to meet everyone and hear their story. Little did we know, the was a motive.
The morning of our ride departure in LuDing arrived and we all congregated in the foyer. As the lift swung open, the band struck up the star spangled banner and out strode Captain America. Replete in the Stars and Stripes, with a touching remembrance to our "Honor the Fallen" across the back. This attire would look splendid in any part of America, but in the World's largest Communist country? "Tom, do you think thats a good idea?". "Why?", he answered. A brief history lesson of America's role in Vietnam and Laos was met with a bemused expression which belied a sense of history.
As we departed it soon became clear that the previously arranged pecking order had a new challenger. As Captain America sped to the from and put on surge after surge the Kiwi and the German were not pleased. The unholy alliance had to work together to smash this American upstart. You could imagine the same sort of looks when the Yanks finally decided to join in the war, and the thrust and parry of the previous years suddenly had to develop a whole new rhythm. Mind you, the French probably didn't care, whomever was ahead in the moment seemed to have their support.
And so, over the next couple of days, the Kiwi and The German had to work hard to put him in his place, and, yet, Captain America still drags himself off the canvas every day. Over dinner it was suggested that maybe he didn't have to push so hard, to which he responded, "A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do." To which, Danie "Marathon Man" from South Africa said, "No Tom, Boys will be boys".
As a post script, 2 mornings ago Tom appeared in a new jersey, Cambodia. Proudly asking, "How's this?", he was surprised at the response, don't wear that near the Thai Border.
God Bless America