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Sunday, July 04, 2004

Friday: Mongolian Majesty!

Words can not express the complete majesty of the landscapes which my eyes have seen today. The Mongolian Grasslands are truly an incredible paradise that await to be rediscovered by each new and curious traveler. Crawling out of bed this morning at 5:30, my journey began with an incredibly early start. After showering and dressing, I walked to the street corner and waited for the tour bus to arrive and pick me up. A few minutes later, Michael and the travel agent arrived and whisked me away to the Summer Resort. While waiting for the other travelers to arrive, there was just enough time to grab an Asian Egg Burrito. This consists of stir fried string potatoes, celery, carrots, and other unknown items, wrapped in a thinly fried/ scrambled egg shell. Absolutely fantastic. Boarding the bus, the trip began a few minutes later. After leaving the city, the sights were incredible. The mountains grew larger and more jagged. The grass and trees became more abundant the further north that we drove. It proved to be one incredible sight after another. At one point though as we cross the county border, the bus was stopped and checked for its tags
and authorizations. This seemed fine until the bus driver was taken out of the bus and taken away in a small military van. This seemed disconcerting, and I really thought that the trip was over, but an hour later, the bus driver came back, and we were on our way again. At this point in the trip, the scenery began to change again. The mountain slowly transformed into huge rolling green hills and fur tree capped peeks. The grass became incredibly green and the
temperature dropped. As all of this was occurring out the window, the road somehow disappeared and turned into a dirt track. Traveling through the beautiful hills, we arrived at our hotel about an hour and a half later. It was a series of red and blue Yurts that had been created for the solely for those tourists in desire for something kitschy. Feeling quite hungry, Michael and I joined our companions in this huge feast which was incredible. We had Chinese Beef Stew, Stir Fried String Potatoes, Saut¨¦ed flower buds, tofu, this really salty deer meat, eggplant, beans, another very salty vegetable, chicken with carrots and peanuts, another type of roasted nut, and some watermelon. I am sure that there were other dished but I can not recall. On top of this, they had brought Beijing ¡°Rice Wine¡± which is really Chinese moonshine. It was so strong, and they kept making me do shots with them. It liked to have killed me. Completely stuffed but feeling good, we then loaded on the bus and decided to head out for a day of horse riding. The place where they took us was stunning. The hills and grass were so green, the flowers were incredible with their colors, the beautiful river which meandered through the grass, and then there were the huge sand dunes that had been exposed from the retreating grass. Before getting off the bus, our guides only words were do not eat the grasses or flowers. She then went into great detail on how each one would kill you. The worst was the flower that will cut your intestines into seven parts if you eat it. I am not sure why she said this, but many people did pick lots of flowers, and they were selling every kind of flower, root, and plant possible to be used as a tea. Heading over to the horse stables, the owners brought me a noble steed, and I boarded then headed out with my group. It was a father and his four daughters. Only one of them spoke English. The ride was amazing. Four hours of complete splendor to the eyes. The grasslands and hills rolled on into the distance. The wind so chilly as it whipped against my face. The scene looked like images which I have seen on Wyoming and Montana and parts of New Zeland. Our horses treked along the sides of streams and through open pasture lands. One of the highlights of the journey was seeing all of the sheep herders as they rode along side their flocks. Many of the sheep would be perched along the hill sides then come tumbling down as the cowboy rounded them up. Little baby sheep sucking on their moms and staying close to her side. There was also the many beautiful flowers of every color imaginable. It felt like Little House on the Prairie. After five hours, we arrived back to our bus then journey back to the hotel for our evening of festivities. When we got there, they had two huge sheep wired to a grill while they spun them over the open fire. I guess that this is what they really mean by Mongolian Barbeque. It looked quite wild, but the fire provided a nice relief from the cold air. Setting up tables outside, they brought out many vegetables then started ripping off apart the sheep and bringing it to our table. It was delicious. Nothing quite comparable unless you have eaten Chinese Mutton then it is quite different. I ate almost everything that
they brought except for the head. After my last encounter with the tongue, eyes, and brain, I was not feeling so adventurous, but the rest was wonderful. After we ate, the then set up this huge bonfire where all of the tree limbs are stacked to the sky. Setting it ablaze, we gathered our chairs around then sang songs in Chinese and enjoyed ourselves. At some point, they also brought out fireworks. Let me be specific, firecrackers and M180¡¯S. They string them up by a string on a hole and hoisted them high into the air. Then they five seven foot long strands of firecrackers
and I just watched and listened as they exploded. At first I covered my ears until I was told that I was supposed to hear it all in its full glory. Afterwards, the hotel next to us lit some major fireworks, and it felt like the Forth of July. After it ended, we watched the moon in all of its splendor. When I decided to go to bed, I was unaware of the hassle that this would be. Going into my Yurt, Michael had taken the bed next to men, but he was frightened from all of the bugs. When I grabbed my pillow and got stung by a bee, this did not help any. There were also lots of flies in our room since he had left the flap/ door open. At some point, some flies landed on him, and he just started screaming and swatting his hands. This woke everyone up, and they came running to our room. He told them to move us to a real room, and they did. Unfortunately, it also had some bugs, so I was made to kill all of the flies before I could sleep. This involved more screaming as they landed on him. I was almost ready to smack his little ass, but I did not.
It was kind of funny. Finally, after killing all the bugs, I got to sleep. It has been an interesting and wonderful day.

Saturday: Day on the Lakes!

Waking up this morning at four A.M. was not my idea of an early morning start, but when the boy in the bed next to yours wakes up screaming from the fly which landed on his head, it is a little difficult to sleep especially when the sun shines in your face after that moment. Getting an early go at it, we packed our bags then headed out the door and played sky ball and parachute ball. Strangely enough, the staff was already up. Possibly from the boys screeching. They curiously joined us as we showed them how to use the toys. After playing for several hours, we were then invited to breakfast. It was a nice spread but being completely stuffed from last night, a bowl of porridge was all that I could manage. The weather was terribly cold outside, so after eating, everyone quickly boarded the buses in order to get warm and start our journey. Driving down the bumpy dirt road, my legs and butt were sore from the horse ride yesterday. It was not a comfortable ride either as the Mongolian Barbeque was not agreeing with me any longer. Arriving at the lake though, everything subsided, and we enjoyed the stunning vista. The emerald hills beamed stunningly as they reflected on the surface of the water. A large portion of the lake was covered in peat and natural water grasses. It made for a beautiful view. There were also these rustic little cabins on the water¡¯s edge made from the little branches on the Pine trees. It was all overwhelming for the senses, but it was also a little too cold to enjoy. As a result, no one was interesting in boating, so we headed down the road to another lake. When we got there, the flowers were incredible. The orange and purple lilies glowed in their brightness. There were many young girls trying to sell head wreathes which they had made from all of the flowers. I was tempted to buy one as I was told that the flowers will last up to six years without wilting when they are placed in your home. I did not think that they would make it through customs though. Once again, the views were incredible and there was the possibility of horse back ridding but with sore legs and an upset stomach, the idea did not seem appealing to me. We walked around and bought some nuts that they were selling. They tasted incredible sort of like a Brazilian nut but shaped like an Almond. We were then told the story of the princess of Emperor Consie who the lake is named after. The young girl was the favorite of the king, so he gave her a wonderful education and she learned how to read, write, and become an excellent sportsman. One day while hunting a Tiger, she tried to shoot him but missed. As Tiger lunged at her, he was shot dead by a Mongolian prince. They met and fell in love, but did not see each other again for over ten years. Then they were both invited to a party, and they met and fell in love. During the party, the young girl dropped a glass and broke it. This angered the host who was a Chinese advisor to the king as it is bad luck for something to break at an event. He had planned on killing her, but instead decided to encourage war between Mongolia and China. They went to war and the Price was killed then the Princess became ill and died as well. When the emperor heard the news, he grew sick then had visions of her which told him to carry on and drink the healing waters of the area to get better. When he came to Mongolia, he drank from the lake and that is why it was named after her. There are seven lakes in the area, and they are supposed to be a reflecting of a constellation. Finally, we got on the road and made one more stop in the woods at a look out tower. Bought some souvenirs a little Yurt and two tiny pairs of Mongolian boots. Afterwards, we started home. The views lit up the pupils of the eyes in unimaginable ways. We stopped once and had lunch. Though not hungry, Michael wanted something to eat, so we had egg with spinach and a fried chicken pieces cooked with scallions. Wonderful. As we rode back, the weather became incredibly warm again. There was one sight that caught everyone¡¯s attention. It was called the devils eyes, and they were two gigantic holes in the side of the Mountain which seemed to peer down at you as we moved. Quite eerie as they did look like a pair of eyes looking down from the sky. They also seemed to move as we drove by them. The strange part is down at the bottom of the mountain there are two very large hills which seem to be natural, but apparently, the two hills are the exact same size and shape of the holes in the top of the Mountain. No one knows how it occurred, but there are many stories about the place. We finally got home, and I arrived back to my apartment and rested. After feeling recuperated, I walked to the Mountain Resort and enjoyed the fresh air. When I came back, Claire had called. She just flew in from Beijing and will be here on Monday morning. Excitement.
Christopher

Sunday: Forth of July as the Foreign Guy

In a city of over five hundred thousand people, one would expect that the possibility of running into someone that you know would not happen that frequently. But in a Chinese city, this does not seem to be the rule. Mainly because everyone is thrown together in a very tight living space and expected to live and play together. I actually enjoy seeing the city streets crowded with walkers and bicycle riders. It is quite exciting to see, but all of the people can be a little exhausting sometimes. This morning toy man called and woke me from my sleep at six thirty. He seems to think that this is amusing and laughs about it, but it simply makes me a little bitchy and annoyed. Either way, when he got off the line, I was awake, and after showering headed out the door by eight o¡¯clock. Walking to the summer resort, the weather felt nice outside. When I got there, a number of women were singing traditional songs while a man played the accordion. Women tend to be the ones who sing while men tend to play instruments. This is not universal, but it tends to be more true than not. They sang quite well and lovely. I enjoyed it greatly. Afterwards, I walked down by the puppet theater to see them dismantling everything. Not quite sure why, but I suppose that there will be no more silhouette shows. Walking on down a path, the fields opened up before me and there in a small tiny tent was a family of acrobatic performers. This was new as they had not been here previously. The children did some amazing feats and performances. There were four young boys who opened the show. They flipped and jumped through about three very large hoops. It was quite impressive. After this, one of the boys and his older brother and father balanced a large bean on their fingers, backs, chins, feet, and everywhere else while dancing around. The pole would have seemed impossible for me to balance with both arms, so imagine my amazement when a little boy of twelve years was able to do it. Then another little boy ran out with a rope with two cement blocks on each end. He slung it into the air, twirled them over his head, and danced while doing flips with them. Next the four boys did a cute segment juggling hats, and finally the show ended with two very dangerous segments which made me feel very sorry for the children. The first was the boy who balanced a piece of wood on a steel cylinder and did tricks. This was fine then he added a vertical cylinder underneath for height which was quite scary. Finally, he was crazy and added another horizontal cylinder underneath the previous one, so the board was extremely wobbly as were all of the metal cylinders. Add to this the fact that he was very high in the air, and the poor child must have been terrified. Finally two girls came onto the stage. One laid on her back up in a chair while the littlest one who was around three climbed onto a large jar then the oldest girl picked up the jar and child and started flipping it all around with her feet. The poor little girl was terrified as she attempted to balance herself. They finally got rid of the jar, and the little girl was just tossed, turned, and flipped in every direction by the girls feet. She ten balance two of the boys who sat on a pole and twirled them around. It was quite crazy. I enjoyed the show but was disgusted by the fact that it was little children who were doing this. I suppose this comes in a country where there are no child labor laws. Leaving the area and walking to some other music players, I ran into a girl that I had met last week. She insisted on showing me around and walking with me. We went around the park then she followed me to the bank and post office. Finally, she insisted that I join her family for lunch. For some reason, I agreed and we went to her house. When we got there, her father got a phone call from some friends who insisted that I join them for lunch. We left and had Mongolian Hotpot which was quite hot on such a warm day. The mutton was delicious, but to be honest, I was a little muttoned out. The corn bead, noodles, and mushrooms were fantastic. Add to this, all of the beer, and it was nice but a little much for my stomach after the long journey and all of the food. After three hours, we left, and I came home, only after agreeing to go to her house for dinner. Wanting to sleep as my head was pounding, my apartment was a mess and needed to be cleaned. Thus, I spent two hours sweeping and scrubbing. I spent another hour getting my hair cut which looks fabulous. Those Eighties Asian Barber Fairies are amazing. Then I then walked to the market and bought a suitcase in order to pack up some of my souvenirs. I managed to put away a good portion of things when the girl knocks on my door. It was five twenty, I told her six in order to get things done. Chinese people have no sense of time or schedules. It frustrates the hell out of me sometimes. Not wanting to stay here, I went back to her apartment and helped her mom make dumplings. Four hours later, and her father was still at the restaurant with his buddies. When he got home, he was slightly drunk. We ate and talked. For dinner, we had chicken stomach with seasoning and cilantro, egg plant, and dumplings, Quite delicious. After dinner, the girls English student was called, and we all talked. I needed to get home as I was waiting on Claire¡¯s call, but they kept insisting that I stay. The food was delicious, and it was a lot of fun, but I was tired and ready to come home. Finally, they let me leave, but I have yet to hear from Claire. It had been a wonderful and unique forth, but my stomach thinks that it is ready to take it a little easier for awhile. I am also hoping to hear from Claire. Oh well, Happy Forth of July to everyone.
Love, Christopher

5 Comments:

At 07 September, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Esing it's Jamoom... I searched your name and realized Ron and Wendy (Wendy due first week of November) mentioned that you were in China... and man reading your stories make my recent trip to Israel a picnic in the park... Well man send me an email address, cause I'd like to catch up with you. ---jamo0003@umn.edu


Oh and Chris, I am heading back to Gainesville for my Ph.D. so--- if you ever come back in Lake City look me up...

 
At 20 July, 2006, Anonymous adventures of riley said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
I have a adventures of riley site.
Come and check it out if you get time :-)
Greetings.

 
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At 30 July, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris. I'm Lucy. Just came back from a 2 week trip to China. I used you site to remember details from Chengde for my foto album. Everything is great. You did a lot work sharing your experiences with others. Thank you.
By the way I tried to write in your guesbook, but it didn,t open for me. And I tried to send you an email, but that did't work either. Hope you recieve this message.

 

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