A fellow passenger on the relatively small cruise ship, the Victoria Katrina, insists he saw a dead body floating among the filth in China's legendary Yangtze River as we wind along this rapidly rising waterway that fuels the gigantic Three Gorges Dam.
This massive building project is a source of pride to millions of Chinese and of heart break and controversy to millions more in China and around the world.
He insists that when he texted a friend back in Canada with this bizarre news, his first text gets through but a second text, containing more details, keeps showing up garbled and missing words on his buddy's cell phone back home. Other passengers tell me that when they were watching a CNN report critical of China's Olympic effort - aren't they all? - the TV image is suddenly replaced by a "No Signal" message until a new story comes up on the screen.
Such is the unease that surrounds China's efforts to open itself to the world while still uncertain it wants to accept the scrutiny. As the days pile up on this China journey I'm a little surprised by the relatively light military presence, of course, try telling that to a jailed human rights protester. But, I've been to Eastern Bloc Communist countries before the fall where soldiers were used as police and every intersection featured armed military. That's not the case so far here and I've found many Chinese that I speak with - not all of course -ready to talk frankly about everything from Chairman Mao to Tibet and the Three Gorges Dam.
It's quite amazing to speak with someone who refers to herself as the "extra child," the second baby born under a One Child doctrine - they call it the Family Planning programme here - and who can speak of the Cultural Revolution - "A tragic mistake" - as family history.
Many young Chinese that I speak with are clearly proud of their now booming - for some - country, while prepared to admit things are far from perfect. They definitely resent western finger pointing and I can see their issues with our belatedly green consciousness developed conveniently after our own post-World War II boom that was driven, in part, by ecologically ravaging our own, then developing countries and, in North America by the oppression of Natives and blacks. Imagine the 50s, 60s and 70s all rolled into 10 years and you start to see the amazing scope and speed of China's transformation.
I'm not here to defend the Three Gorges Dam but again, young Chinese who I speak with who have been displaced by the flooding to accommodate the rising river cite the hundreds of thousands who have been killed over the years as a result of the once shallow river's flooding of the formerly sprawling low-lying lands and their desire to find an energy cleaner than coal to fuel their thirst for western style-energy consumption.
"I used to sleep in the same house as my parents with no prospect of an apartment," someone tells me of her life in her now flooded village. "When I was moved to the new city, my husband and I got a three bedroom apartment with two bathrooms. I like that very much."
I ask how her grandmother likes the change?
"In China, our grandparents live with the families so when we left our village, she moved with my parents to their new apartment in the new town. She didn't complain but after about three months she started crying all the time and really couldn't stop. Finally we moved her in with an uncle who lives in a smaller town but I don't think she'll ever be happy with the change."
I ask her if there were any protests at the time?
She thinks for a minute, puts her hand over her heart and says "Maybe here."
Canada and the U.S. have had their own Three Gorges - including James Bay and, more comparably, with the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the late-50s and early-60s, a "Let's Chase Prosperity" move that saw dozens of towns and thousands of acres flooded and many people relocated in the interests of feeding a rapidly expanding economy.
My own family, who lived in out port communities in Joey Smallwood's Newfoundland, was uprooted and their way of lives destroyed along with thousands of other fellow Newfs to make way for a "modern" version of the Rock with devastating consequences.
Like I said, I'm not justifying the ecological mushroom cloud that is the Three Gorges but you can see, looking at our recent history, how young Chinese might find it galling for us to point fingers at them as they try to find a way to meet the growing consumer needs and desires of a population of 1.3 billion people hungry for "a better way of life."