China part 4
I have been on several cruises. This cruise on the Yangtze was a bit different.
To begin with there were only about a hundred guests on board.
There were three decks and a cozy lounge. The meal service was always a buffet, and it was pretty much the same thing for every meal. There were always eggs and bacon for breakfast along with the bean curd and “a vegetable.” Now and then they would surprise us. For example one night they added pizza to the line up. However since the Chinese don’t do cheese that was pretty much a bust.
They served hamburgers on one occasion along with the usual stuff, but I was suspicious of the meat so I passed. I understand they took dog off their menu so as not to offend the westerners, but one can’t be too careful. I also heard that the experts in protocol told the Chinese citizens to wait politely in line and stop spitting on the sidewalks, but they obviously ignored those suggestions, too.
One of my favorite things about the cruise was the lovely chamber music that was piped throughout the ship. It sounded like it might have been four, possibly six, stringed instruments playing Happy Birthday To You, Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail, We wish you a Merry Christmas, and Auld Lang Syne. It was endearing. I like to think they were attempting to make us feel at home by playing familiar songs.
There was entertainment each night. The wait staff and room stewards were the performers. There was dancing and lots of karaoke. They were cute. The main entertainment however was the dam and the beautiful scenery.
When we went to tour the actual dam, we had to go through a security check. Quite understandable with things the way they are today. When we got off the bus to go through the x-ray machines and so forth, they told us we could leave our purses and back packs on the bus if we wanted. They assured us it would be safe, as they always did. We went in the little security pagoda and were checked out and stamped. Then we got back on the bus and were driven to the dam where we got out and toured it. I wanted to ask them if they realized that there were a couple of weaknesses in their security checking process, but I kept my mouth shut. No sense in upsetting “Red China”
We were told that our bus driver was working toward passing the requirements for becoming a member of the communist party. Well, I just HAD to ask questions about that. Yes, you must qualify to become a communist now. Not everyone wants to join. It seems to be mostly the older citizens. The younger people, including our tour director realize that Communism isn’t good for the economic structure of a country.
Later I told our tour director that “Communist” was a scary word when I was growing up. I also told him that we used to say;
“Eenie meenie miney moe,
Catch a Commie by the toe.
If he hollers make him say,
‘I surrender USA’”
He laughed. Sort of.
After the cruise was over, seven waitresses played brass instruments as we disembarked. They played “Home, Home on the Range,” and they sounded like Professor Harold Hill had been their teacher.
When we got off the ship we went to Chonquing (Pronounced “chung king”.) This was the only Chinese I ever heard as a child. Whenever we played Chinese we would say, “Chung king bing bong.” It was all because of those dinners that came in the three stacked cans that were taped together. Mom was fond of them. We hated them except for those crunchy things that were sprinkled on top.
Chonquing was the capital of China during WWII. I did not know that. We visited the Stillwell Museum there, which was the home of the Flying Tigers. An old guy who remembers the war gave us a lecture about it all. He did not speak English, but he had a sweet little, soft-spoken interpreter.
First, he yelled at us for about ninety seconds. The sweet little interpreter said, “He say ‘welcome’.”
Then he began yelling in earnest. He waved his arms around and his face became red and little bit of spittle started coming out of his mouth. He became increasingly more agitated. He finally stopped talking, as he was completely out of breath.
The interpreter said, “He say ‘the American come help us. We velly happy’.”
When he started talking again John Belushi’s Samurai character popped into my head. I didn’t dare look at my sister. We are afflicted with “Inappropriate Laughter Syndrome.” We got this disorder from our mama. I tried to tune him out and breathed deeply, and was able to make it through the rest of his speech.
Our next visit that day was the zoo, because how can anyone visit China and not see the pandas? They were absolutely adorable. I swear you could determine their different personalities right away. One was shy. She kept her back to us and reached her hand around behind her to get more bamboo leaves to eat. One was bold and begged for goodies. The young ones were playful. For me, the pandas were a highlight.
Following zoo time we got on another airplane (our tenth) and went to Xian (say “She-on”) to see the famous Terracotta Army. The first emperor of China had the soldiers made to protect him in the afterlife. This just shows that a person could be powerful enough to be a despotic ruler of a large country and still believe that 8,000 soldiers made from mud would come alive as soon as he died. All of this happened well over 2,000 years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted.
Here is the story according to our tour guide:
In 1974 some farmers were digging a well and brought up a clay head and ran screaming from the hole because they thought they had accidentally reached an underground demon’s lair.
It is unclear who the original well diggers were. Today a man sits in a shop owned by the state and signs a book about the find, and they claim it is the guy who worked the farm but it is questionable whether he is an actual discoverer of the statues, as most of them are dead. That is probably due to the river of mercury that ran through the site. The clay soldier-making emperor actually died from drinking mercury. Ironically, he thought it would make him immortal.
The government once again used their power of eminent domain to clear the farmers off the area. The disposed people were allowed to set up souvenir huts along the walkway to the dig site in compensation. They joined the tens of thousands of Chinese peasants who chase after tourists shouting, “You need kite! Two dollah! Hallo! Hallo! You need fan! You buy! Two dollah! Two dollah!
All for the greater good.