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Friday, July 02, 2004

Thursday: Failed Attempt

Feeling a little lonely this morning, I headed down to
the Mountain Resort in order to preoccupy my time and
put my mind at ease. Arriving at around 10:00, I got
there just in time to catch another puppet show.
Before the opening curtains, I managed to peep around
the corner to catch a glimpse at what was occurring.
Today¡¯s show was a lot lager then the one yesterday.
There were five people in the back of the stage. One
was a drummer, the second a violinist, two moved the
puppets, and the fifth provided the voices for all of
the characters. He as well as the rest of the
performers were reading from a very small, old book
which had Chinese script and music written inside.
They all seemed to enjoy themselves greatly as I
peered at them while they performed. The voice
performer was incredible as he switched from male to
female voices. The violinist and drummers were also
fantastic. This show lasted over an hour which was
twice as long as yesterdays. The audience was filled
with elderly Chinese who reveled in the dialogue of
the play. Some were sleepy old Chinese men who had
come with their wives. They were taking the chance to
catch up on their sleep. It was all very magical, and
being so caught up in the events, I had failed to
notice that it had started storming outside. Grabbing
my umbrella and running to the bus, my ride home was a
wet one. It was incredible how much rain had fallen.
The main road was flooded with water up to three feet
in some areas. Mainly where my bus stop had been. Some
people were wading through it, but the bus driver
saved me from this by driving me down to the nearest
dry area and letting me off. Of course, my feet still
got wet as my street was also a fast moving river that
was dumping its contents into the main street. Getting
home, Zhang, the toy man, called and wanted me to take
a taxi to have lunch with he and his son. Not really
wanting to go out, he was very insistent. Wading
through the water, I managed to find a taxi who
whisked me to their apartment. They cooked a wonderful
meal of eggs and tomato and pork with bell peppers.
Fantastic! While playing Ping Pong and doing some
searching on the web, we talked about business
possibilities. After about three though, I insisted
that they bring me home in order to pack for my trip.
Arriving home, I stuffed everything in my pack and did
some cleaning. Going to my four o¡¯clock class, only
two students showed, so I canceled and rushed to the
train station. Catching the bus, the trip to Beijing
proved to be long, hot, and miserable. Tried to sleep
most of the way. Arriving in the city, I caught a taxi
who rushed me to the train station, but when I
arrived, the refused to sail me a ticket for the
evening trip to Datong. Having no other choice, I
bought one for the next morning. Going to the subway,
I got there just as the last train was leaving. Being
a little pissed, I paid a taxi to drive me all the way
across town to the hostel. I got there three minutes
before they closed up. Exhausted, I drug my bag to the
room and collapsed.

Friday: The Great Race

Waking up this morning, my plan had been to grab my
pack and head to the train station in order to relax
and get settled into a peaceful state of mind.
However, my plan was slightly thwarted as I ran into
Peter and Hau Kneip, a couple from America, who had
lived in China about twenty years ago. We met last
week, and they wanted to take me out to breakfast and
chat. We walked to a little restaurant and had some
Dim Sum and black porridge for our meal. It was very
delicious. Peter told me that he had met Hau in China
in 1981 then came back a year later to marry her. They
said that China was quite different during that time.
He liked the idea of teaching in China and said that
his sister taught in many foreign countries at
American Universities. This peeked my attention, and
he described it to me in detail. It sounds like a good
possibility. After chatting for an hour, it was late,
and I needed to go. We exchanged e-mails then I made a
beeline for the train station. Running to the subway,
I got the metro to the nearest exit then got a taxi to
take me from there. Throwing the money at the driver,
I jumped out of the car and ran to the station and
down to the terminal. Seeing the train, I boarded and
two minutes later the train left for Datong. The train
was so hot, and the man next to me did not like me as
I insisted on the window seat. The windows were pushed
down, and I hung with my head out the train in order
to keep cool. After the first two hours, it got better
as most people had exited by then. The scenery was
truly stunning. The soaring mountains and deep blue
rivers. We passed a city with a huge church whose dome
soared above the entire sky line. It made me forget
that I was even in China. The church was a curious
anomaly as it was the largest that I had seen in China
to be in the middle of no where. The train passed
through a gentle rain which provided a light relief
from the sweltering heat. Arriving at Datong, I had
hoped to catch a bus to Wuti Shan, but the C.T.I.S.
head told me to wait until tomorrow morning. Going to
the hotel where I stayed the previous time, they put
me up and sent me off to explore. Walking about a mile
to the market, it was an enjoyable experience.
Arriving to the bustling crowd, the market had some
beautiful traditional items, so I picked up one or
two. Walking down the street, I passed through a heavy
crowd and feeling my pocket move, I went to put my
hand inside and within that short period my wallet had
been picked. My face turned a bright shade of red, and
I just left in frustration. There was not much to do
as I had not seen the person. Luckily for me, I had
cleaned out my wallet earlier and put my ticket home
into my pack. The robber did manage to make away with
about 100 Yuan. This was not as frustrating as loosing
my wallet which I have used for over ten years. This
hurt the worst as they are so hard to break in. Going
back, I decided to eat some Dim Sum for dinner then
headed to sleep in disgust. My trip was starting to
become a little more expensive than I had planned.

Saturday: Broke Down and Delayed

After waking and washing, I took the taxi down to the
new bus station in order to go to Wuti Shan. Getting
there, the clerk would not let me buy a ticket and
kept insisting that I wait over with the other white
people. Walking in that direction the young couple
seemed as confused as I. We talked, and they are from
Poland and were now traveling through China. The young
man had been studying in Xian and his wife had just
flown in to join him. We talked and enjoyed ourselves
while we waited. After about an hour, a driver finally
came and picked us up. The bus was quite hot, and the
ride was a little miserable as I had not had a chance
to eat breakfast. Agnes and Mark slept while I watched
their bags. The city is so disgusting and there were a
few times when it hurt to breathe from all of the coal
in the air. After three hours of misery, the bus
driver decided to stop to eat, but there was nothing
there that looked appetizing to me. Getting back on
board after an hour, the bus tried to pull off, but
the brakes had locked up, and it would not go. Pushing
the bus to the station near by, we waited for two
hours while they made some repairs. Finally, we got on
the road and into the mountains. It was quite
beautiful. The mountains seemed to roll over one
another with the lush green grass. The air smelled so
much fresher. Many of the Valleys started to look like
the Alps with their large spruce trees. Within two
hours, we were in Wuti Shan with its dozens of
Monasteries and temples. Feeling the need to go out
and explore, my companions and I quickly found a
hotel. Being exhausted, the both collapsed in their
rooms. I on the other hand went had found a delicious
restaurant and filled my belly with ¡°Vegetarian
Chicken¡± and some stir fried potatoes. It was so
good. Feeling satisfied, the adventurer took over, and
I began my exploration. The first was the large temple
which rested on the peak of the mountain over looking
the entire city. It was an incredible feat perched up
above the rest of the town gleaming over as its
protector. Going into some lower level temples first,
they warmed me up for the combing climb. There were
Monks and Nuns everywhere. There was not much
discernable between them as both shaved their heads
and wore similar clothes. They were all so happy to be
in the Holy Land. Arriving at the base of the
mountain, the climb did not look too hard, and in
reality, it was quite easy, but my pack made it feel a
little more burdensome than normal. The monks were
incredible to watch. They would take one step, bow on
their knees, stretch out flat then do the next step.
It was crazy. I know that they were exhausted, but
they seemed happy. There hands, feet, and knees were
all covered in calices from their arduous journey.
Getting to the top of the temple, the view was
spectacular, and the shrines stunning. Everyone was
praying and feeling overwhelmed, I was moved to do the
same. Going back down, my journey moved from one
temple to the next. Each beautiful and unique with its
own character and mood. I really enjoyed the nunnery.
The nuns heads were all shaved and some had six dots
on the top of their heads. Two rows of three. I would
like to know what it meant. The nunnery also had
traditional drafts which normally only girls make, so
it was a unique glimpse at how sex can influence the
material and spiritual culture of a building and
congregation. After looking at seven lower temples, my
journey took me to some of the larger ones. As it was
getting late, I had arrived just in time before they
were closing. They let me meander through their halls
and corridors. The statues and architecture were an
array of colors that reflected the brilliance of the
sunset. Wandering from one temple to the next, they
climbed up the side of the mountains to form one
continuous complex that creped up the side of the
mountain. Huge red brick walls soared above the
building only to be overshadowed by the towering pine
trees which shaded the areas. The stares and gates
were all almost overwhelming to the senses. Going back
down, I wandered through another temple then looked
around several of the shops. It was incredible. The
monks from some of the temples could be heard singing
in the temples. The night life was fantastic as the
made music and sang. Quite lovely. Having climbed two
mountains and visited ten temples, my legs and boy
were exhausted, so I managed to slip from the crowd
and pass out in my room.

Sunday: Magic Mountain!

Waking up at five o¡¯clock this morning, my day began
quite early. Heading over to a couple of temples that
I had missed last night, the monks and nuns were all
gathered together in their main halls singing and
praying. It was quite spectacular to hear and see. The
all seemed to be very happy and elated with their life
style. My favorite temple was the large Dagoba. There
were hundreds of Monks, and they walked around the
Dogoba and chanted while they spun very old and large
prayer wheels. It was very unique. There were old and
young monks that had gather together. The youngest
boys were around eight years. I¡¯m not sure how
someone decided to give their child to the temple at
such a young age, but I guess that it is part of their
culture. Walking around the temple, the most amazing
site was a huge group of a around eight hundred nuns
and monks which had converged on one of the building
with huge colorful flower bouquets while they sang and
chanted. It was awesome. Leaving there, one of the
other temples had a huge Buda riding a Dragon which
was the first time that I had seen such a statue.
Going back to the hotel, I woke up my Polish
companions to see if they wanted to join me in looking
around, but they were going to chill out for a little
while longer. We said goodbye then I went and hiked up
to the top of another large mountain only to find the
temple closed. But these Monks seemed to have
satellite and cable T.V. One must wonder how bad it is
to be a Monk. They sing, eat, sleep, and watch T.V.
Not a bad deal. Going back down, an Older Monk
approached me and kept speaking with me. This was not
really effective although he kept blessing me and
giving me secret hand shakes. He kept showing me how
to pray and all was going well until another Monk told
me to leave him alone. Going and listening to the live
Chinese Opera being performed at the temple it was a
beautiful combo of sight and sound. Feeling the need
to head back, the older Monk kept following me wanting
to teach me something, but I decided to ignore him.
This did not work to well, so I headed back to the
bus. Luckily for me that this occurred, The bus pulled
off ten minutes after I had arrived. They told us that
they would leave at 12:30 earlier in the morning, but
it was 11:00 when we left. The ride was quite long and
hot and once again, the bus broke down. Waiting an
hour to fix it, we finally arrived back at Datong
around 5:00. Eating some Dim Sum, I then went and
wondered around the market. My legs were extremely
sore. After several hours of looking, I started back.
Two people stopped me to practice their English. We
had some good conversations, and when we finished, I
boarded the train and fell fast asleep in my bunk. It
was quite a long day, but it is one for which I will
always remember.


Monday: Arriving Home to Happiness.

Despite waking up at 6:00 A.M. to a long, hot, and
muggy bus ride home, the day has proven to be quite
wonderful. Today¡¯s bus to Chengde was quite a bit
larger than normal, but this simply meant that they
could pack more people and cargo onboard. The journey
seemed so long. Five hours on a cramped bus is simply
too long after traveling all weekend. When we arrived
in Chengde, a huge smile came across my face as I
exited the doors. Getting on bus number seven, it took
me home, and I dropped everything and relaxed. As I
turned on the hot water heater to bathe, a huge eight
inch centipede crawled on the wall above me. It scared
me shitless from its size. I quickly slammed the door
and refused to enter without broom in hand. When I
returned though, it had disappeared. This was not very
reassuring to me as he was big enough to do some major
harm. I now look every time that I enter into the
bathroom. Finally getting the courage to shower, I
washed away the filth of the weekend and journeyed out
to capture the rest of the day. Bought forty loaves of
Mahwah for my students. They were quite excited to see
me. We had decorated the class room and brought all
sorts of wonderful food. We talked and they asked me a
lot of questions. It proved to be a wonderful event.
My second class was also fantastic as we talked,
listened to music, and sang. They are wonderful kids.
It was fantastic. I then told them all goodbye and
wished them luck on their exams. Afterwards, I came
home and collapsed.

Tuesday: An Amazing Evening.

Sleeping in for the first time in a couple of weeks,
it was nice to relax and enjoy myself. Spent most of
the morning catching up on the news and my e-mails.
After getting motivated, I took my laundry to the dry
cleaners and headed down to the mountain resort. It
was a nice walk around the park as people played their
instruments and sang. Coming back home, I had a
wonderful lunch of skillet fried chicken and onions.
So fantastic and wonderful. Afterwards, I wondered
down to the grocery and bought Mahwah for my classes.
My first class was waiting for me outside, and we
played in the grass while we ate and talked. They
played a few games and asked me lots of questions. I
took several pictures of them and we played a few
games. It was a nice time. My second class was simply
incredible. They are my favorite group of students. We
took a huge group picture then they took me out to the
park, and we sat in a very large circle and from seven
until ten thirty we played, sand, ate, and laughed.
They served me up some Watermelon and other Chinese
fruits that were quite delicious. After which, we
played hide and go seek, duck duck goose, and a few
other games. They then sang one Chinese song after
another for me. Some were popular, others from Opera,
many were fold and traditional tunes. Chinese people
have an amazing and wide range of singing tones and
pitches which they use. Their scales are somehow
different. It is wonderful to watch and listen to. We
sang under the full moon as it shined overhead. The
loved it. They did a bunch of traditional dances. My
favorite were the Buddhist dances in which they moved
from one sacred position to the next. Quite wonderful.
After tuckering out, I wished them all luck and told
them the search for happiness and show love to
everyone. It was a good night. I now feel complete and
ready to finish up my journey here. It is a nice way
to say goodbye.


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