Parental Adventures in China, Part I
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
351Trip End Ongoing
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On October 8, 1971 as a waxing gibbous moon crossed the eastern horizon in Gemini, I was born, from my parents Ed and Jean. They changed my diapers, listened to me cry, taught me writing and 'rithmatic, and forced me to eat cooked carrots (I hid them under the table).
Now they worry about my survival as I travel around (which can be annoying but, perhaps, a natural biological function of being parents: "you're not going to Nepal, are you!?).
Really, they shouldn't worry any more than if I was sitting around watching television in Denver, Colorado. Let me give it a name: in Denver, I could easily get electrocuted while changing channels, for example. Or a truck could run me down while I was crossing the street to get a Slurpee. Or perhaps I would choke on a slice of Dominoes Pizza, as the crust is always hard to swallow. After that, luckily, there are plenty of things to do in Denver when you're dead, buckwheat, as Lora would know: boat drinks for everyone.
My thoughts are to keep my nose clean and don't get stung by bees on the ass and everything will be jake.
Some thoughts from other people:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
No pain here, no dull empty hours, no fear of the past, no fear of the future. These blessed mountains are so compactly filled with God's beauty, no petty personal hope or experience has room to be. Drinking this champagne water is pure pleasure, so is breathing the living air, and every movement of limbs is pleasure.
~John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra.
Be not a slave of your own past
Plunge into the sublime seas,
Dive deep, and swim far,
So you shall come back
With self respect
With new power
With an advanced experience
That shall explain
~Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Perhaps realizing that I had no intention of returning to America anytime soon (and because I wanted them to visit and they wanted to see me), they flew to China, staying for a few days with Kevin, Karen, and Nate in Hong Kong then meeting me in Kunming on the 19th of May. Thanks to all of them for hosting my folks and also, thanks Nate for the Origami--you're getting good.
All began well.
They had vowed not to eat eggs or chicken on this trip, fearing the bird flu. Our first meal--Cross-bridge Noodles--something mom wanted to try because it was a specialty of Kunming, not knowing anything else about it except that it was noodles (what about that confounded bridge?). The dish arrived: strips of raw meats, raw egg, and undescribed items and a big bowl of chicken broth. The waiter scraped the raw meats and whatnot into the broth: "no...no..no egg," my parents cringed. I ate their eggs and got them a couple of beers.
"All you need to know is how to say 'beer' and 'another one'" dad said.
We stayed at the Green Lake Hotel (*****--"fancy with elegant flowers and a touch of class") and wandered around the big city and the nearby Golden Temple. They enjoyed the Golden Temple: "the most authentic thing I've seen in China," said mom, on her second visit to China. Dad liked it too, after getting blessed by a Taoist monk and getting a jade yin-yang to wear around his neck. With Taoism, there is no need to convert, you simply are, and that is the way.
A five hour bus ride later and we were in Dali, land of the Bai people, fake coins, cormorant fishing, the Cangshan Mountain, good food, and Chongsheng Monastery. We stayed next to Chongsheng Monastery at the Santa Yuan Hotel--San Ta, as in three pagodas, not the big bearded man from the melting north pole.
On our first evening, we walked around the three pagodas and the monastery, recently rebuilt after being "destroyed by fire" during the Cultural Revolution. Prior to the Revolution, Chongsheng Monastery was considered the capitol of Buddhism. The rebuilt structure, with its ornate statues of Buddha and other icons housed in golden-tiled temples, fit its prior glory, although a lack of practicing monks was apparent (they were probably sliced to pieces around the time of the "fire"). The rebuilding was likely more for tourism than to promote Buddhism in Dali, although I'd like the government to prove this wrong.
"Impressive," said dad.
"With the setting, it's more striking than the Forbidden City," said mom.
In town, we ate stir-fry, fish from Lake Erhai, and other Chinese dishes from the little mom and pop restaurants. We also toured the city, visiting the ancient city walls, the small streets, and the shops full of local crafts.
Outside of town, we explored the Cangshan Mountains, taking a cable car to 8400 feet. From there, dad and I hiked to 8,800 feet along a trail while mom relaxed, after all, we were in no hurry to do anything.
We also hired a guide and white breadloaf van to tour the fertile farmlands and villages around Erhai Lake.
First stop: Shaping Market.
At Shaping Market, the saleswomen were ready for tourists, with plenty of coins, knick-knacks, and old embroidery for foreigners to buy. "I no good at business. You tell me price," one woman said. I think she was perfectly good at business.
Second stop: tie dyeing.
Inside a courtyard, a couple of men with rubber gloves cinched around their biceps poured dyes into hot vats, soaked fabrics in dye, and hung the clothing and tablecloths to dry, creating a hanging rainbow.
Third stop: Bai dancing, music, and three teas.
Dad is neither a fan of Chinese music nor of tea, but he survived as Bai dancers moved on stage and recreated their cultural heritage to music. "Pinching the bride" was a favorite scene: "doesn't seem she's enjoying getting pinched."
"The people here are beautiful," said mom.
Fourth stop: Cormorant fishing
Later in the afternoon, we went Cormorant fishing. On the way, we met villagers and mom gave yellow smiley face stickers to the kids as well as the cormorant fisherman and an elderly woman. At the fisherman's houseboat, our fisherman friend, yellow smiley face sticker on his third eye chakra, loaded the cormorants onto the sides of the boat and we rowed our way into the water in a smaller boat.
As the well-trained cormorants dove into the water and came up with fish, dad called out: "he's got one!" After a little fishing, we all put the cormorants on our heads and arms to pose for photographs.
The next day, we drove to Lijiang by bus, watching a terrible Tibetan-Chinese kung-fu movie as we switchbacked our way along mountain pastures, swerved between vehicles ("oh my goodness!"), and cruised next to newly-planted rice fields.
After eating cross-bridge noodles, holding Cormorants, visiting Chinese toilets, hiking in the mountains, and riding in various forms of transportation, Ed and Jean were warming more and more to southwestern China.
"It's not as remote as I thought."
"The food is excellent."
Slowly the barriers were being broken, a few words of Chinese learned, challenges met, words of Emerson followed. It was fun to watch. But more adventures lay ahead...
Regards to Ethan Coen and Raymond Chandler
Where I stayed