Now I know.
Now I know that when you’re visiting a communist compound deep in the heart of China, you shouldn’t wander. It doesn’t matter if the grounds are lush and inviting. It doesn’t matter if the guards clearly saw you arrive with the your company’s delegation. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the West and you assume you have protections. It doesn’t matter that you have this open-mouthed, couldn’t-harm-a-fly goofball look to you as you saunter the grounds.
Now I know.
Disregard the fact everyone seems friendly enough. Disreard the fact you hear hundreds of men singing nearby and would love to investigate (and in that case, didn’t). You are a visitor from another country. You don’t stroll. You don’t investigate. You should just be happy that you’re experiencing something (visiting a communist compound) you never could’ve predicted six months earlier. You should stand there, stay put and appreciate the moment.
A couple weeks ago, I did not stay put.
I had come to China on business. During the trip, my bosses had several meetings with the Chinese leadership in Chongqing (both parties are planning to do some good things that will help a lot of people of China). I was more or less a fly on the wall. In the course of the meetings, we ended up at this compound. And because I wasn’t in that meeting, I had time to kill.
So, yes, with time to kill, I did go for a stroll. I don’t think I ventured too far, but in retrospect, after telling my bosses (and my family) that I had gone for a walk and even wanted to explore further, I realize I should’ve stayed closer to the area where we had arrived. I guess you just don’t go for adventurous strolls on communist compounds, especially when you’re a visiting American. Luckily, I didn’t have to learn that lesson the hard way.