I once used to have a teacher whose last name was Xie 谢. He held class on Thursdays, and we called him Teacher Xie 谢老师.
Teacher Xie, though a gifted cinematographer and a household name in the Beijing advertisement industry, seemed like a very angry young man. His favorite words during class were “Fuck! 我肏!” and “Badass! 牛屄!” (a combination of the characters for “cow 牛” and “cunt 屄”, interestingly forming a slang expression that is best translated into something like “badass” or “awesome”). He stayed with us for a semester, then he got busted on national TV for doing narcotics.
But it’s a different Teacher Xie I was going to talk to you about today.
This is Xie Jianguang 谢建光 from Ningbo 宁波, a place not too far from Shanghai.
I chose to call him Teacher Xie – because he is a true master of walking.
…while certain others run around whining about this and that, and taking sassy pictures with digital cameras, this good man has been walking around China ever since 1983, quietly and modestly.
“I’ve been everywhere” Teacher Xie says and swirls his arms around – then he laughs: “and I’ve eaten just about everything.”
He stopped carrying a backpack at some point during the nineties. That’s when he got Linda:
Wanna know something funny? Linda didn’t even have a name until today.
“What’s the name of that cart of yours?” I had asked, and Teacher Xie had looked at me in surprise: “Does it have to have a name?”
Why of course! Any good vessel required a good name!
Teacher Xie thought for a while, then he said: “can you pick a name for me? Maybe something from your country?”
I took a closer look at the cart, examining its body…
…and its interior:
It had to be a girl’s name of course…
I thought of plump bodies and round smiling faces, of friendliness and good health. I thought of milk and butter and eggs and bread, and I thought of wooden interiors capturing the warmth and protecting it…
Teacher Xie wanted to know what the name meant, and when I told him that I had thought of a Big Swedish Mama he laughed and asked me to write it down for him.
Teacher Xie is not a tall man:
But he’s a big man at heart, who has been trying to spread his ideals of nuclear disarmament and environmental protection wherever he goes.
More facts about Teacher Xie, he:
– is 49 years old.
– lights the next cigarette with the last one.
– comes from the countryside.
– has only done 5 years of elementary school.
– has spoken in universities on numerous occasions during his travels.
– has a liking for German philosophy, especially Nietzsche and Kant.
– doesn’t believe in any religion, but likes to study them.
– got lost for several weeks in the plains of Inner Mongolia once, living on wild herbs and river water.
– wants to stop walking when he is 65, then retire and find a nice lady to settle down with.
– thinks that tomorrow might just be the day he will meet that special lady and stop walking.
– gets money from friends and supporters, helps out as a carpenter whenever he needs quick cash.
– has lost his both his index fingers while working as a carpenter.
– calls himself “the biggest fool under the sun 天下第一疯”
…and he always has a valuable piece of advice:
“Listen, lad” Teacher Xie told me when we had dinner that night outside of a restaurant, “just try not to be too foolish. Of course you want to walk all the way home, and I respect that. Hey, I’d be the first to go with you if there was a chance that I could ever get the visa! But you German people just have to learn how to be a bit more flexible!
What are you going to do when you reach the Tianshan 天山 mountain range in the west of Xinjiang this winter, when it’s -30°C out there and you just can’t walk across? You’re going to have to find another way then, maybe even take a car or something.
Just remember: you’ve set the rules by yourself, and you’re always free to change them.
You can’t put yourself in danger. And try not to take too long! The way I see it, your girl is going to wait for you for a while, but nobody can wait forever. What if you finally make it home after five years, and she has already run off with someone else? – So you think you’re so awesome for walking all the way and sticking to your principles, but what good is that? It ain’t shit!!” he says, and then he laughs, leaning back, lighting another cigarette.
We took another picture with Teacher Xie’s shades on:
“Man, I just look so cool, don’t I?”
He said and laughed.