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Friday, April 23, 2004

I have been without e-mail for the last four days, so
here is what happened.

Friday:

Today has been a well needed escape from the hustle
and bustle of the city. I have been about to go crazy
for the last several days, but I managed to slip off
into the Mountains for awhile. I still have not heard
anything from the English Teacher which I am supposed
to be taking to Yunan, and if he does not contact me
soon, I am going to ditch him for someone else as I do
not have time to find someone s\else if he dumps me. I
would actually be very angry with him at this point. I
went and talked with Laura today, but his cell phone
has been turned off. If I do not hear from him
tomorrow then I am going to start making alternative
arrangements. My day went really well. After going to
see Laura, I took bus number six down to a stop near
the Potala Temple, and I walked down to see if another
one was open, but sadly it was not. I then walked
further down the street anb almost got bit by some
little dogs, but I narrowly escaped. I then entered
into a very beautiful garden and started looking
around. At that time, a man in a military uniform
approached and pointed in the other direction. He
escorted me out of the area and then pointed to a sign
which said in English. Military facility, no
foreigners allowed. This was not obvious to me as I
came in from another direction and the area simply
looked like anywhere else that I had been. I went back
up the street and considered jumping a brick wall to
get into the mountains but decided to forgo it after
my last incident. I walked a very long distance to the
area around the Puling Su Temple and found a path into
the Mountains. It was actually a Chinese Grave Yard,
but for me, it was an escape from everything. I got
onto the ridge of the mountain and walked for several
hours and climbed all over the area. It was beautiful
and I enjoyed the peace and quiet. Unfortunately, it
was also a little hot. Luckily, I found some pine
trees and it was very comfortable in the shade. I
hiked for about four hours then I caught the bus home.
I tried to go eat at my favorite restaurant, but it
was closed. I then went to the market and ate
something similar to egg rolls. The lady tried to
charge me 50 Yuan, but I refused then she showed me
twenty. I got out ten and gave her that as it was
really too much as it was. I left for which I am sure
that she was shocked and came home. I relaxed and
tried to watch some T.V. I then went and met the
person who is hosting the party tomorrow. We walked
and ate ice cream. It was awful. It was in the shape
of corn, and to be honest, it tasted like corn. I then
took her to dinner, and we had sweet and sour pork. I
am still a little angry about staying for this party,
but what am I going to do. I guess that it is all
water under the bridge now. We talked some more then I
came home and am ready for bed. Talk to you tomorrow.

Saturday:

The point at one begins to feel trapped within the
silent depths of his own imagination is the point at
which one should really try to escape the environment
in which he has been enclosed. Today, I have truly
felt as if I have been about to drown in the abyss of
my own thoughts, and the only thing which I have
wanted to do is to hop on a plane and escape this hell
which I have chosen to live. Today has marked the
point at which my sanity has decided to take a break
leaving only the irrational voices of my conscious to
fill the void of my contemplations. Although I had the
best of intentions of enjoying the day when I awoke,
my cheerfulness began to fade at the moment in which
my electricity went out, and I was no longer able to
take a shower. This normally would not have bothered
me, but since I was supposed to help host a party at
9:00 A.M. in the morning, I began to feel a little
shitty. Just so you know, I did not get a chance to
shower, I simply changed my clothes, combed my hair,
and grabbed a bottle of water before walking to
campus. When I arrived, the students were all at
basket ball court setting up their tables and chairs.
It was already boiling hot, and there was no shade in
which to keep cool. I felt really sorry for many of
the students as they were in very hot costumes for
different plays in which they were acting out. One
other teacher eventually arrived, and when she got
there, we finally began. We watched the students play
games, give speeches, and do lots of singing. The
Sound of Music, A Walk in the Clouds, and Titanic
were the drama pieces of the day. I must say, my
favorite part was when one of the Girls tried to say,
“You Son of a Bitch.” It was so funny, and I almost
burst out laughing as it sounded like Fezz from That
Seventies Show. On top of the acting, there was lots
of dancing as the students can move farley well
although it looks a lot like the Backstreet Boys. The
Party ended with everyone singing Titanic then taking
huge group photos. At this point, I thanked everyone
for coming then said goodbye as I was really very hot
and wanted to come to my apartment and cool down. By
this time, the electricity had just come back on. I
got here and drank lots of fluids then washed up. I
tried to get on the internet, but sadly, my server was
down as it has been since yesterday night. I tried to
watch T.V., but once again, there was no English
station. I then sat and read a magazine for awhile,
but I had read it several times already, so it did
nothing for me. Being at the point of insanity, I
simply decided to go eat lunch. This was not because I
was hungry mind you, but I really thought that it
might simply waste some time and get me out of my head
for awhile. I got there and ordered Eggplant with Bean
Sauce. It took them awhile to cook the meal, but when
it got there, it was absolutely delicious. It was also
very rich. I had to eat lots of rice to counter act
the flavor. At some point in time, the couple on the
other side of the room began to argue, and it was
quite loud which was freaking out the waitress and
owner. The lady then started crying and sobbing which
really made everyone a little tight as I guess that
they do not deal with this everyday. At some point
after I stopped getting served my tea (since the
kettle was next to the arguing couple), I decided to
leave as I was very thirsty from the meal which was a
little salty. I went to try and pay, but all I had was
100 for which they had no change. No problem, I ran
across the street and grabbed all of my change and
gave it to them. Unfortunately, this meant that I had
no change for the bus. Needing some supplies, I
decided to go to the grocery store and buy a few
things. This gave me the ten which I needed to go back
and get my coins to let me ride the bus. I waited
thirty minutes for # 10 which never came, so I said
screw it and took another one. This required a little
more walking, but I decided that I needed the
exercise. I got to the stop then walked up towards the
mountains. I looked at all of the gardens which were
very beautiful, but it was so damn hot, I was almost
ready to turn back. I decided not to and walked along
some trails for awhile, but when I noticed that I was
drenched in sweat and had not found any sort of inner
peace, I simply turned around and caught a bus back
home. I got here and collapsed. Tried to watch some
T.V., but it was no good. Still, no internet. At this
point, I simply succumbed to my imagination and listed
to Paul Simon sing my inner woes. I believe that I
will be going to Beijing next week as I do not think
that I can handle a third week in a row trapped in
this city. I simply can not wait to go to Yunann as I
really need to see some green places that are separate
from cities. This has helped me realize that I am
simply not a city guy. It has possibly helped to
quench my desire to move out west as I believe that if
it is going to be overwhelmingly hot then maybe there
should be some springs or a beach nearby in which one
can simply take a dip and cool off. The evening here
was very nice and comfortable, but it is sometimes
hard to escape all of the stares. I actually went out
to buy some milk that I had forgot earlier, but I
forwent the ordeal as I did not want to carry my
groceries all that way and have people peeking into my
bags. I normally do not mind this as they are simply
curious, but I feel so emotionally drained today that
I just did not want to go through the process. I
eventually came home and watched Badminton which seems
to be a huge sport here. At some point, I got bored
with it then went and crawled under the covers to
escape my frustration. I do believe that when I say
that I need to get away in the future, I will be
leaving party or no party.

Sunday:

Today my enchantment with the world has returned
helping fill the dark voids of my conscious with
images of happiness and joy. These past several days
have simply reinforced my belief that I occasionally
have slight bouts with Manic Depression. This is
probably something which I should look into in the
future. For the time being, I will simply deal with
them as they come. My salvation came today when my
neighbor called and asked me if I wanted to go to a
cave with him this afternoon. Needing to get out of
the house, I quickly accepted his offer. I took a
quick shower then changed my clothes and waited for
him to arrive. A few minutes later, he showed up, and
we started our adventure. I first insisted that we go
to the grocery store to get some food as I had not
eaten breakfast. I happily bought my sweet rolls
which he finally told me their name. They are called
Tianjin Bread after a very large port city. I was
happy to learn this. I also picked up some cakes for
later on. We then caught bus number 10 which took us
to a northern bus station which I had never been. He
bought us tickets to another village, and within a few
minutes we were on our way. It was not long before we
were out of the city, and into the country side. It
was so glorious. The mountains were covered in trees
and the air smelt so fresh. The trees were all in
bloom, and it was beautiful. On the sides of the
roads, you could see men and their families out in the
terraced slopes with their mules plowing the fields.
It was very beautiful. There were also some amazing
thatched roofs which covered their homes. The roads
were a little windy, but it was simply beautiful not
to see any large building within my view and to smell
the fresh air. It felt so good. Small villages and
homes dotted our journey, and I knew that we had
reached the country when our bus moved from paved road
to a dirt road, and we started picking up farmers were
bringing on large bags of produce which they had just
harvested. There were cucumbers, bean sprouts, beans,
zucchini, egg plants, and other vegetables which I
could not name. I must say that Chinese men are very
strong. After watching them work in the fields, I was
greatly impressed. They use a plow to break the field,
but to make the rows, they pull this huge cement
roller down their plots of land. One can also start to
see the effects of splitting up the communal farm land
in the country side. You can tell that it all used to
be one huge plot of land which they have now divided
by stone walls which are very beautiful. The families
work very hard on their plots of land, but I learned
today that most of them barely make enough money on
which to survive. Probably around 2000 Yuan a year.
This is what most of the teachers make a month. The
teachers apparently do not get paid very well. My
neighbor also told me that there are around 60 million
people in China which do not have enough to eat every
day. I was stunned at the number. Our bus eventually
dropped us off at the bottom of a mountain, and we
began to climb. It was farley steep, but we weaved our
way to the top. At some point, we had to use a chain
and little foot holes to scale a completely vertical
wall, but I managed to make it to the top. It was a
little scary. The view was excellent, and we stopped
and rested for awhile then he took me to the entrance
of the cave. An elder monk lives there, and he has
carved many statues of Gods into the sides of the
cave. It goes all the way through to the other side of
the mountain. We looked at the sculptures and
painting, and they were truly unique then he took me
into this side gave, and it was creapy as all get out.
It was supposed to resemble Chinese Hell. There were
these life size Rhino/ humans and other demons
everywhere. Then there were these oversize scorpions
and lizards everywhere. Then there were these manikins
that had been dressed up like gods and little baby
dolls. Plus there were things which looked like giant
vampire bats. It was like a fifties horror movie set.
It was absolutely mezmerized by it. The cave was one
of the most unique displays of folk art that I have
seen. I left that room then we entered onto the cliff
which looked a lot like a patio, and it was quite
nice. There were several smaller caves which had been
made into rooms by building entrances to them. They
all contained different Buddhist Gods. It was truly
something to see. Quite wild and beautiful. We talked
with the monk who lived there. Saw his room and stove.
The room had old fashioned windows that were made out
of paper. The inside was covered in newspaper. I am
assuming that this was to keep warm. We eventually
left the cave and went back through the main hall. As
we exited, my neighbor showed me a stareway leading to
the top of the mountain where there was another cave.
Although the stares were carved into the side of the
mountain, one had to scale a vertical wall to get to
them. My neighbor did this fine, but I was unable to
do this. As a matter of a fact, I skint my arms and
knees up trying. He went up and looked around and said
that it was beautiful. He then came back down, and we
looked at one of the huge natural stone bridges in the
distance. It was an awesome sight to behold. He then
went and climbed to the top of a mountain peek. I
tried to do this, but I could not as their was a sheer
drop on either side of me, and it was just too much to
take in. I can do a sheer drop on one side, and if the
rock is wide enough then on both sides, but the path
was not wide enough for me. My neighbor was running up
and down the damn ridge. I thought that he was crazy
as hell. It eventually started getting late, and we
had to catch our bus, so we started back down. This
required me to hold chains and once again slide my way
down a vertical cliff. This was a little frightening,
but I managed to make it. We got to the bottom then
hiked to the edge of the road and about five minutes
later, the bus arrived. We got there just in time. At
this point, the bus was very crowded, but someone gave
me their seat as they rarely see white people. This is
something which only locals of Chengde know about. The
bus ride home was nice. We had to switch buses once,
but we made it. We then went out to eat. Had dumpling
soup and a fried pancake stuffed with pork and
spinach. It was absolutely delicious. I ate two of the
pancakes. Unfortunately, a man set with us because he
wanted to practice his English. I did not mind, but it
is hard to eat a pork pancake with chopsticks, and I
do not care for someone watching me do it. He
eventually asked me to go to the summer resort with
him tomorrow for which I agreed. My neighbor and I
then went back to his apartment and watched an English
movie for which I was greatly happy. He eventually had
to go to the hospital, so I came home and recovered. I
walked to the grocery store and restocked up on
supplies. It has been a good day, but I am very ready
for bed now. Hope that all is well.

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