Monday, August 25, 2008

China Part 3

We took the Almost Bullet Train (about 150 MPH) from Shanghai to Suzhou, (“Sue-Joe”), where we visited a silk making factory. The worms did most of the work there. Later we took a boat through the city.

Suzhou is a canal city sort of like Venice, and the water in both cities is equally icky. There were children swimming, and not far away from where they happily splashed, we saw a woman toss a bucket of suspicious liquid into the canal. It looked as if there had been many buckets of suspicious material tossed into the canal.

We went to see a garden that has been replicated in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and again somewhere in Portland Oregon. It is mostly trees and rock. I was thinking about making a garden of rocks when I got home. There is an abundance of raw materials in Whitmore.

Back in Shanghai we had lunch in Mr. Woo’s (“A Typical Chinese Family”) high-rise. He had a lovely family, and prepared delicious food for us. Mr. Woo took a liking to Richard and kept saying, ”You like more! Eat!”

Later that day we were “Shanghai’d” at the airport for four hours by a typhoon named Fengshen. Finally, someone decided it would be OK to fly and we were led across a makeshift bridge, made from cases of Coke, to a bus that would take us out to the plane. Just as the last person stepped on the plane, the pilot, who was obviously in a hurry to take off, quickly taxied out to the runway. People were stumbling around the fast-moving plane, trying to find their seats, the stewards were shutting the door to the plane and as far as we knew, we were taking off right then. The pilot did pause at the end of the runway to rev up the propellers before we shot up into the sky. (Yes. Propellers.)

On this flight we were served a box lunch. The box contained a dinner roll, a cookie, two cough drops, and two mints. We congratulated ourselves for purchasing those nutritious Pringles and M&M’s at the airport. We flew to some unknown city that was not on our agenda, where the pilot landed with a thud. We are talking THUD here. He must have thought he was about ten feet lower than he actually was. We didn’t really mind. We were on the ground.

There we waited for yet another flight to take us to Wuhan. We were to board a cruise ship for a relaxing five days on the Yangtze River. I was ready for a little rest. This was getting to be just like a job!

We ended up on a bus careening on a narrow road on the edge of a mountain at midnight. The edge careening alternated with traversing through two-mile long tunnels that had been blasted out of the mountain. If I hadn’t stayed awake, held on to my seat, and leaned toward the middle of the bus, I’m sure we would have gone off the edge never to be heard from again. I kept seeing headlines in my mind, “Tour Bus Falls Off Mountain in the Middle of the Night Somewhere in China.”

Long after midnight, we reached our boat, staggered on board, and crashed into bed. We were at the Three Gorges Dam.

The Three Gorges Dam Project was a little building task that uprooted well over a million people, and some people say it is going to prove to be a disaster to the ecology of the area. That, however, is not the story we got.
At every turn we received the news that it was a magnificent undertaking that will improve the lives of everyone in China by providing energy and keep the Yangtze from flooding.

It IS quite a monumental structure at six hundred feet high and a mile long. Plus it has five huge locks that allow ships to reach inland China ports. We were even taken to visit a “relocated” family, all happily tucked into their new home in the city. It was a block wall structure. The family was not randomly chosen. That is all that will be said here about this project.

Before I leave this section, I would like to make a few comments on some observations of mine. My husband claims that I just don’t see things the way normal people see them, but here goes.

First, the babies in China are the happiest little kids that I have ever seen. We did not see a single crying baby. We saw babies and toddlers in airports, on crowded city sidewalks, and in train stations, which to my knowledge are three places babies would rather not be. The Chinese people do not clog their landfills with Pampers. No! Their babies wear pants that have the whole crotch split. If they need to go, they just go. Maybe that’s why they are so happy.

Come to think of it our tour guides called the bathrooms, “Happy Room.” They would say, “You use Happy Room now or else it will be Happy Bush or Happy Tree.” And indeed, one night in a traffic jam in downtown Shanghai, we observed a man get out of his car and use the Happy Side of the Road.

The people of China apparently find us funny looking. They tend to come right up to Americans and look us up and down. There is no twelve inches of personal space in China. Now and then we would turn to our right or left and there would be a Chinese person’s nose right next to our shoulder. We learned that they call us the big noses, but they love to have their photograph taken with us, big noses and all.

Over all, the Chinese people are happy and friendly. They smile a lot and the young girls dress uber-cute. I enjoyed their sense of style!
Next; The Cruise.

2 comments:

Amongst The Oaks said...

Here I am cracking up again about the babies' split pants and the Happy Room. So true.

Tamara Jansen said...

I have had chinese people request to have their photo taken with me......WHY? Am I that strange looking? Did you have that on your trip?