In the People’s Republic of China, if you want to photograph cultural relics (like a statue or a mural in a temple), you will almost always need a permission from the authorities (1 good thing, 4 nice people, 1 bad thing, and a possible solution to a problem).
So for that reason, I armed myself with my introductory letter from Beijing Film Academy and stepped into the halls of the Cultural Relics Department of Gansu 甘肃省文物局 today:
Corridor upon corridor, hallway upon hallway:
When I finally found the right door, there was a dude playing a computer card game, and the room smelled of stale cigarette smoke.
I received a cup of hot water and was told to wait until a couple of minutes later an apparently more important dude entered the room and gave me the limpest of all handshakes.
He heard me out and looked at my papers, and as I was speaking, I could already sense that all hope was lost.
First they said they weren’t responsible for this kind of matter. Being a foreigner, I should have rather asked in Beijing. As I insisted, they told me to wait again. Then they came up with a chart stating that I indeed could take pictures, but that I would have to pay a handling fee between 500rmb and 1200rmb for each photograph I took.
It only needed a couple of minutes to shake heads and utter excuses, thus ending all negotiations, then exchange another limp handshake and evacuate me from the building.
But I had taken something with me:
My own personal paper cup from the Cultural Relics Department of Gansu – a souvenir that I decided to keep!
Well well, what do you know – I didn’t have to go too far to find something that I didn’t need a permission to photograph:
Beautiful! Might put that on a postcard and send it to the folks at the Department.
Or this one:
Stunning, just stunning…
These sights are even more fun when put into contrast with the glitzer and the bling-bling of the tall buildings and the shopping malls:
Eight floors packed with all kinds of luxury things that 80% of the population can’t afford in the first place – but go there and try to find shoelaces long enough for a pair of trekking boots… no way!
Mad as I was, I decided to do something good for myself and send home a few pieces of warm clothing that I hoped I wouldn’t need anymore during the summer:
Together with the packaging and the memorial paper cup, this amounted to a total of 874 grams.
Almost 1kg shed off the total weight on my back, yaay!
Change of subject: you’re probably wondering about the effects of the earthquake on this area.
Two days after it happened, life seems pretty normal around here actually.
“I could feel it, the ground and everything was shaking,” the shopkeeper downstairs from my hotel had told me and pointed to the bottles on the shelves: “but almost nothing fell over!”
The buildings and the streets, even the insane traffic looked totally normal:
But I did notice one thing:
People in a grocery store, staring silently at the news on the TV screens…