Saturday, July 19, 2008

Part One of Official Account

We just returned from the very place my brother and I tried so hard to dig to when we were children. While we were there we ate twenty-two meals served on turntables, took over three hundred photographs, bought fifty-three souvenirs, saw eighteen temples and pagodas, ate thirty(ish) questionable items, went through five locks, and experienced our first typhoon. We flew on thirteen planes, (or as I count them twenty-six take-offs and landings), rode on five boats, eight busses, and one train.
Upon arriving in Beijing, we met our young Program Director, Guo Wei (pronounced “Go ‘way”). He said we could call him Frank. His English was very good, and in spite of a couple of “Junior Moments” he took good care of us for the next twenty-three days.
Beijing was on its best behavior for the coming Olympics. They are cleaning things up and building around the clock. They had even started their “Half the vehicles” program by the time we arrived. On even days the cars with even license plates are allowed to drive and the “odds” on odd days. We were seeing half of the cars in Beijing? I could not fathom how there could possibly be twice as many cars on the roads. They simply couldn’t fit. Even with half of the usual cars on the road, getting around the city was an alarming event and I was glad to be in a big bus.
First we went to Tiananmen Square, which is the size of 160 football fields, and I know everyone has seen it on TV. There were no tanks this time. Next we swam on over to the Forbidden City. (The temperature was only about 86 degrees but the humidity was about a hundred and six, so it felt like we swam everywhere.) The Forbidden City was the living space of the last two emperors and was built before Columbus ever thought about making his bumbling voyage to Not-Quite-India. It was the home of over 19,000 people. The rest of the millions of people in China didn’t get to go in. We learned that if someone accidentally ventured in they were unceremoniously beheaded. If anyone wore the color yellow they met the same fate. Yellow was the emperor’s color. It was good to be the emperor.
After a lunch of slimy green stuff, bean curd, rice, and black fungus (not kidding), we went on a tour of the “hutong,” which means “alley.” We traveled through these alleys, in a caravan of pedicabs, which are rickshaws, only they are pulled by a bicycle that some poor soul pedals for a few yuan. It was a great way to see how everyone used to live, and many people still do. We stopped to have tea with a sweet lady that the tour company pays to have “guests” for tea. We asked her many obnoxious and personal questions, which she politely answered through our guide. We gave our peddler a big tip because he had to work extra hard for the two of us!
Those of you who know me, know that I have trouble with those “introduce yourselves” gatherings. Something comes over me. I have tried to rid myself of certain anti-social impulses for over half a century and no one should be surprised that at dinner that night I introduced myself as Jezebel Jones and told them I was a retired pole dancer. I couldn’t help it. Retired schoolmarm is just boring. I made a point to behave myself for the rest of the three weeks and didn’t embarrass my sister too many more times.
As our first day in China ended, I began to have questions. Why were the people of a civilization that has been around for so long still so superstitious? Their society began with the Shang Dynasty in 1600 BC. That is sixteen HUNDRED years before the birth of Jesus Christ! You’d think they’d gotten over the bad luck idea by now.
But no.
They put their hopes and wishes on red ribbons and hang them on their doors for all to see, because if it isn’t on the door it probably won’t happen. They make their walkways crooked so demons can’t find their way to their homes, since demons can only walk in a straight line. They make their thresholds high for the same reason. Why on earth are they afraid of a demon so clumsy that it would be unable to step over an eight inch board and so stupid that a crooked sidewalk would confuse it? Chinese people don’t point at the moon nor do they live in houses with the front door facing north because both are bad luck. If a baby cries, it means there’s a ghost in the room. Also they don’t go straight home from a funeral because they believe the ghost will follow them home! These are only a few of their superstitions.
The number eight is so lucky that people will pay a million dollars to get the number as one of the numbers on their license plate! As a matter of fact, a guy in Hong Kong paid several million to get the single digit 8 on his plate.
Another question: people drive as if traffic rules are just a suggestion so why are there no dented cars? We saw people dangerously close to crashing their cars or running over a pedestrian every fifteen seconds, every time we were on the road, yet all of the cars are shiny and new! They have carefully drawn lines on the roads to indicate the presence of lanes, yet everyone drives all over the road. They’ll even drive on the sidewalk if someone else is already in their lane. An oncoming car even TRADED lanes with our bus once. What makes the authorities think they are going to follow the odd-even plan? Ah, I am suddenly beginning to understand why the roads were packed with cars. Why do the Rule Makers think they will follow the odd-even rule when they don’t even follow the lane rule?
Actually all rules and laws are ignored. We attended a show one night and there were signs posted all over the place indicating that there was no photography of any kind allowed. All through the program, flash cameras went off around the auditorium like fireflies on steroids. Nobody did a thing about it. Perhaps there are just too many people to keep any sort of order. There is an underlying, gleeful, teeming chaos all over the country.
As my brother-in-law, John suggested, we had better keep on being friends with them because there are so many of them that if each one had a chopstick and came after us they could poke our eye out pletty click and each one of us could become a one-eyed slave to 4,311 Chinese people. That’s just about how we are outnumbered.
Fortunately the people of China are happy and good-natured now that they have the booming tourist economy and the Olympic event keeping them busy making changes that will benefit them for years to come.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We are waiting for our brains to slip back into the confines of our skulls. We do not plan to get back on an airplane for about a decade.
The fit Lynn threw in San Francisco International, (and she admits it was one of her finest) got Barb a new outdoor cooker and it's getting Lynn a new Mac.
The dogs were happy to see us. (De-De-Dee)
The garden continues to grow.
We are finally finished waking up in the middle of the night wondering where we are.
Our experience has altered our consciousness.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Real China

Thank god they sent us to Guillen last. It is a beautiful southern city of rice farms, water buffalo, Karsts and scenery. It looked like the China scenery you see in pictures. It was also very old China with the best hawkers we've seen so far. They would paddle their boats furiously up to the ship and attach somehow then hang on with one hand while they held up plastic jade buddahs and screamed at us. An adorable little boy followed John with a flower to sell and then hit him when he wouldn't buy. The potties were puddly pee to step in . No kidding. We are throwing our shoes away. Ann, you were right about our "cruise". Esp the lunch. Bleh. Then we had our next delayed flight to HK. Night and day. Back to civilization or familiarity. We rode the ferry and went to Victoria Peak etc today.
We are on the 20th floor of a nice hotel right in the middle of everthing. This is really the first rain we have had since the typhoon. Rucky we are. Tomorrow we are going street crawling and shopping with our special HK monies instead of the tour to the countryside tomorrow. Our tour guide reminds us of Mrs. Swan. Rook rike man......

We are having fun Really

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Xi'an and the Olympic Winning Spirit

We arrived at the Big Goose pagoda just after the torch had gone by. The excitement was catching. There was a sea of people, flags, and smiles and waves. A chinese father blew Barbie a kiss. It's a good thing these people are our friends. They could give each one of them a chopstick and send them out to poke everyone's eye out and the rest of the world would not have a chance.

Afer a few more local visits including SMALL Goose pagoda where John and his new best buddy Kaleb climbed to the top. After an 18 dumpling dim sum lunch we left for Guilen.
Our flight was cancelled but not to worry. We got to fly to a city next to Hong Kong and then fly back to Guilen. The pilot only slammed the plane down once. That makes 18 take offs and landings since we left. We only have 6 left.
On one flight a kid just squatted down and pooped in the aisle in his bottomless pants.
The method to get on each plane is much better that Southwests. When the doors open push your way to your seat. We gave them lessons in blocking and lineing up properly.

Starbucks mug count 4
Squat toilet episodes 10,000
Lazy Susan meals 58
Snow globes 6 (photographed only)
Extra suitcases bought for new stuff 1
Some people were maybe expecting an intellectual account of our journey. Did you forget who you were dealing with? We are too private to share our personal discovery of this culture.

Barbie typed this. Lynn will give you the realshit later.

Friday, July 4, 2008

More About That Later

What I Did On my Summer Vacation
by Lynn and Barbie
We went on a boat.
The boat went fast.
The boat was fun.
It was good.
We ate Chinese food everyday.
The only bad part was having to pee in the shower.
There was a show every night.
The waiters and housekeeping people put on the show.
We will show you what they did when we get home.
The End.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The First Action Figure Collection

Yesterday when we got off the ship, an American working on the boat told us that the earthquake dams had broken and that was why the river was a torrent of rapids our last 2 days. Now they tell us.
There was an 8 girl band made up of the waitresses and maids on the boat playing as we disembarked. They were playing doe a deer, a female deer and Home On the Range. They sounded like their band director was Harold Hill. It was so cute.
More about boat later....
We were in Chungquoing (Chungking) where the Flying Tigers were based. We went to the museum and a John Belushi Samuri-ish professeor yelled at us for 10 minutes and then the translator would explain, He say "The American come and save us. We grateful."

Then we went to see the pandas. OMG How cute. It was feeding time and they were so close. We liked the one that came out and grabbed his food and then deliberately turned his back on us. He would slowly reach around and grab a new branch of bamboo and then turn back away. He did not want to be the exhibit. Speaking of that, we were (the exhibit, that is) Cute litte kids would bravely come up and yell Hello and then run back and hide behind their parents. 2 boys played hide and seek in the group of tall Americans as we listened to our guide.
We are learning to follow a pink sign everywhere we go like lemmings. What will we do when the sign goes away?
Then we flew to Xi'an. They served us boiled peanuts on the plane.
Today we saw the Terra Cotta soldiers. It gave us chills. Tanner you would like it here. We also found John's twin among the statues---Really. Will show you picture later.
We also visited a poor village school which made Lynn deathly ill with a rash.
The olympic torch will be here tomorrow. There are millions lining the streets already. We won't be one of them. We've seen a torch.
Tomorrow more Xi'an and then fly to Guilin where we will get to ride another boat.

We are missing our puppies oh yeah and the people that are taking care of them too. We get NO news. Are fires still burning?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Shock and Awe

We are all okay - we've been on a cruise ship on the Yangtze River for five days, with no internet access - more about that later.

We have seen more people in the last week than we've seen in our lifetime. Last day in Shanghai, we went to an old people's activity center, where they had a fashion show, dancing, and singing. We then went to Mr. Woo's house for lunch - it was delicious. We walked through a farmer's market, and saw lots of food (some living, some not) --some of it crawled off before we could sample it..... Barb stepped in some of it, so we're still nibbling off her soles.....

We got to experience our first typhoon at the Shanghai airport, where we were Shanghaied for four hours. When we finally got to go, the water was so deep, the staff used cases of Coca-Cola for us to step on to board the boat, er, bus to the plane. The pilot was so anxious to get the hell out of there, he taxied to the runway before everyone was seated - and he taxied at Mach 2....

We landed with a thud... he apparently turned loose of the yoke about 12 feet off the ground. We then drove through the mountains, next to sheer dropoffs, and through miles of tunnels, at midnight. Lynn keep seeing the headlines--"Tourist Bus Falls Off Cliff in China", but fortunately, it wasn't a premonition.

We boarded the ship, and crashed for the night. More about the five days that followed later...

We're now in northern China, in Xian, off to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers, and then to visit a school. Hope it has reinforced concrete.....

Thank you, Rob, for the reports, and thank you, Jenny, for the cattle roundup -

By the way, Jenny, Lynn lost her sunglasses.... yes, those sunglasses....