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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Saturday July 17th The Journey Begins
Despite being somewhat of a slow but tiring afternoon,today has marked the beginning of my Great and LongJourney to the South. Waking up early this morning, itwas quite surprising to see Nancy in the other bedexcited and watching T.V. She explained to me that itwas hard for her to sleep in during the morning as shealways woke up early. I am not sure if 7:00 is reallysleeping in, but the T.V. really did not bother me allthat much. After we both got our showers, I decided totake Nancy down to Chowyangman to see a great Taoisttemple located near by. Seeing a pastry stand, westopped and had some breakfast. The Chinese Version ofan Egg Croissant. Arriving at the temple a littlelater, we were both horrified to find the price was anastounding 60 Yuan. This shocked me greatly as theprice was only 10 Yuan during my previous trip to thetemple. Not wanting to waste that much money, wedecided to go shopping in some of the large storesnearby. Nancy was quite surprised to learn that Iliked to shop. We had a nice time looking at things,and luckily, I managed to find a good battery for myCamera as I am quite positive that I will need it onmy journey. Heading back to the hotel, we packed andwatched T.V. for awhile before our 12:30 check outtime. I probably would have been more excited aboutgoing around Beijing some more, but my pack wasextremely heavy as it felt like a ton of brickspressing upon my shoulders. As the time drew nearer,we then headed down stairs and began our walk to thetrain station. About five blocks down the street, weboth stopped and rested as our packs were extremelyheavy. Hearing our stomachs grumbling, we stopped andhad an incredible lunch. It was this spicy chickendish with mushrooms and peppers. Due to its hot flavorthough and the long ride ahead, I ate two very largebowls of rice to help give me the strength that Ineeded to lug that bag around. After eating, we thenheaded down to Tiananmen Square and wandered throughsome very nice gardens. Seeing the time drawing near,we rushed to the nearest subway then headed down toBeijing Western Station. We were both extremely hot bythe time that we arrived as it is a long walk from theexit and the sun was beating down on us. When wearrived, we were also a little disappointed that wewere unable to upgrade our seats to a Hard Sleeper,but we were also happy to be on our way. For most ofthe afternoon, we played Spades and Rummy, and S.O.S.She is fine at the card games, bout out of twentygames of S.O.S. She did not win a single one. Later inthe evening, my throat began to throb and swell. Ithad hurt earlier in the day, but this was truly aterrible pain. Feeling a need to check it out. Ipulled a flash light out of my bags as well as a pairof chopsticks. Asking Nancy for a mirror, she pulledout a small compact, and I began my self examination.Using the chopsticks to push down my tongue, my throatlooked horrible. There was a huge blister with pusspouring down the back of my throat. My whole neck andface began to hurt as well, and my only thoughts were.Oh my God. I have got lock jaw or Tetnis as thesymptoms were the same as Lonely Planets Description.Feeling completely exhausted, Nancy let me use thetable as my pillow rest, I laid down and tried to goto sleep in order to get my mind off of the pain. Christopher

Sunday July 18th: Life in the Hard Seat
It seems impossible for me to describe to you howhorrible it is to have to ride twenty six hours in atrain on a very uncomfortable and hot passengercompartment. Add to this a surging theater and a sorethroat, and this has proven to be one of the worstdays of my life. Finding it almost impossible to sleepon the train last night, Nancy and I were bothextremely tired as the sun rose and peaked through ourwindows this morning. My whole body has ached todayand been incredibly stiff to move. This has simplyadded to my worries of lock jaw. Of course, this couldalso be because I have been stuffed in a very tinyboth with six other people in which it is required tocrawl over your neighbor in order to stand up and getout. Luckily, this person was Nancy who had now becomemy seat side nurse as she occasionally checked mytemperature. She was also not feeling well as shebegan to get motion sickness about the 15th or 18thhour. We looked like a pair of wounded dogs together.She with her aching stomach and me with my swollenthroat. In order to pass the time, we played lots ofcards and occasionally watched some T.V. The Chineseseem to love Tom and Jerry. I guess that it translateswell as the characters never talk. Of course,strangely, the Chinese give them voices sometimeswhich is a little strange as Tom and Jerry never say aword and there is no need for them to. They also donot call the show Tom and Jerry although it appears inthe beginning. They simply refer to it as Cat andMouse. We also passed the time by telling each otherstories. Since one of the cartoons was about theMonkey King. She went into great detail describing methe story behind this unique God. She explained to methat he has many magical Powers and can cause thingsto happen by plucking out his hair. He also has aMagical Staff which the sea God who is a Dragon gaveto him. He is one of the most powerful Gods but onlybecame one after he, a monk, a pig man, and anotherMonk completed a great Journey to the west in order toretrieve information and save the Kingdom. The storyis from the book called the Journey to the West, andit sounds like a wonderful read. Finally arriving toChengdu at 6:30 in the evening, we wandered around thestreets in search of a Taxi then headed to a hostel.After checking in and getting two beds, I insistedthat she take me to the hospital. Finding one nearbyon the made, we made our way there then had anexamination. When the Doctor examined me, she wasquite horrified. She told Nancy that there wereseveral Pustules on my throat of which there were somethat were bleeding, and it looked as if someone hadburned my throat. Hearing this, Nancy became veryworried for me. The Doctor wanted me to stay, but Itold her that it would be all right if she simply gaveme some Medicine. Giving me a prescription for twotypes of drugs, we went and had them filled then atesome cold, sweet tofu soup for dinner and dropped inbed with a very high fever when I got back. It hasbeen quite a lousy day. Monday July 19th Waking up this morning my throat was still sore butfelt better and my fever had broke. Not wanting tostay inside all day and waste my vacation time inChengdu, I insisted to Nancy that we take it easy butgo out and see a couple of the nice touristdestinations. She agreed although slightlyreluctantly. After bitterly watching her eat pancakesfor breakfast, I went and took a long hot shower andwashed away the filth of the last several days. Itfelt so good to get out of those God forsaken clothes.Heading downstairs, Nancy and I met then decided togo to the Panda Reserve and Research Center. The TaxiRide out there was quite long and a little pricy, butwhat are you going to do. There was no way in hellthat I was going to take a bus all the way out there.The Reserve proved to be a wonderful experience as wewandered through the Bamboo forests and enjoyed thescenery. We encountered our first Panda as we spottedhim off the beaten track. He was resting up on hisperch and enjoying the sun. Asleep though, so it wasdifficult to get a good picture. The second surpriseas we wondered up a trail marked Red Pandas. Veryinterested, we climbed up the walkways and to oursurprise we found a huge garden of those wonderfulcreatures that were all hanging around and relaxing inthe trees. This animal was the cross between araccoon, a cat, and a Panda with dark red fur. Theywere quite adorable, and there was even a spot whereyou could go and pet them. This was not my cup of teathough as I did not want any animal illnesses, andsince I was sick, I was not wanting to give themanything either. We then left there and went to fourother sections which had quite a few Pandas. They areso adorable and cuddly looking. Though I am also surethat one could rip you arm off if it wanted to. Mostof them were up in the trees lounging around and beinglazy. We walked around and enjoyed some very large andbeautiful peacocks and other animals. After which, Istarted to feel tired, so we headed to a temple toslow down and do a little relaxing. The BuddhistTemple was quite a large and sprawling complex and wasone of the first temples to use water ponds within itsschemes. The landscape was amazing with ponds and rockformations everywhere. The statues were also a littleodd as they were all encased within glass. This wasquite different from the north where all of the Budasand Gods are in the open air and covered in dust.These looked a little new although the dates mentionwere several hundred years old. Maybe they had gottena pain job recently. After we wondered through thecomplex, I felt extremely tires, so we went back tothe hospital. This time instead of prescribing memedicine, they insisted on making me relax and givingme I.V. drips. The whole process took about four longhours. The also loaded me up with medicines to takethe rest of the afternoon. I was all to ready to leaveas the hospital was quite old and a little dirtylooking. Lets just say that they do not have the mostrecent or modern equipment. But it was rather cheap.My visit with all medicines and I.V.s was only 36dollars. They told me that I do not have to payanything when I come back tomorrow. Leaving thehospital, Nancy and I went and ate food as we wereincredibly hungry. We went to a traditional Chineserestaurant and had some amazing dishes. Noodles,Dumplings, Zonza, and many more. They were incrediblyhot and spicy beyond belief. This was not good for mythroat but it diffidently help fill my very emptystomach. Having a little fuel to keep me going, wedecided to walk to the people's park and enjoy theevening. There was a wonderful teahouse with anoversize tea pot shaped fountain. I also bout somecaramel ona stick in the shape of a butterfly. Afterleaving there, we walked down to a Daoist Temple andhad a fantastic time. The monks were all makingofferings, and it was also a sprawling complex withfantastic Dragons and Gods. The offering which theyburned were a little odd. They had the regular paperbut their were also little blow up dolls of Chinesekids. It made no sense. We also got to watch them open two twenty four packs of sprite to offer to the Godsby placing them in front of the statues and praying. Isupposed that Loza and Taishan have developed quite afondness for our western beverages. They obviouslyconsume quite a great deal of it. One of them alsolike coke from the number of cans in the corner. Whatis amazing is that they do this everyday. Maybe cokeshould check into this and try and market its productstowards Buddhists. Can you really loose if you havethe Gods on your side. All in all, the temple wasreally cool, and I really liked the statues of the twogoats which were the animal incarnations of Laoza atone time. It was a wonderful place, but sadly rightafter we stepped out of the door, I finished a roll offilm and reloaded the camera then out of the blue itbroke. I was a little upset but not much to do. Nancyand I then went in search of an Opera but could notfind one. Feeling hungry, we ate spicy hotpot thenwandered around town and window shopped. Afterwards,we came back and crashed.Christopher

Tuesday July 20th The Day of Delays
Waking up this morning, I felt one hundred percentbetter than yesterday though I have still been alittle weak and tired. Feeling a strong need to getout of Chengdu today, Nancy and I decided to get anearly start at it as we had to first visit thehospital before we left. After checking out, we caughta taxi to the number three medical center, and theyimmediately took me back and began giving me my I.V.treatments. While I was receiving my fluids, Nancy decided to take my camera to try and go get it fixed.After visiting two shops, there was no such luck. Shegrabbed a horrible catch-up and mayo egg sandwich on abun from K.F.C. Of course, she was eating the porridgewhich did not sound appetizing to me. After breakfast,she then went out in search of more shops. While shewas gone, I finished my drip. It took fours hours, butit was done. We then met in front of the hospital.Nancy was a little shaken. She had been to four shopsand had not found a camera repairman, but on the wayback, she saw a man on a motorcycle get hit by a carand killed. It was too much for her, and she was readyto go someplace and calm down. Deciding to godowntown, we found a shop and dropped off my camerathen went for a walk in order to calm her nerves. Wewent to a train station depot and ordered our ticketsabout a week in advance in order to try and getsleepers. Unfortunately, there was no such luck. Theywere all sold out. This sounded like a scam to me, butI bought the hard seat ticket anyways. Afterwards, Ibought her a beautiful white necklace made out of veryfragrant flowers and a pen of flowers for me in orderto protect us on our journeys. We did not want toencounter any more accidents as this has been a verybad beginning to our journey. On our way back to thecamera shop, there was a man who was sellinggrasshoppers in their cage. Wanting more luck for ourjourney, I bought two for three Yuan. They were nosinging like the rest, but I was happy to have theircompany. Arriving at the Kodac store, we were slightlyangry that the Camera was not ready, but he said thatit would only take him one more hour. We headed nextdoor for lunch. They served us this amazing meal ofpork with very thin rice cakes in a sweet sauce withtomatoes and bell peppers. It was incredible.Afterwards, we went to the camera shop and the manfinished with my camera. It was really magical. Hepicked it up to give it a try then at the very momentthat it flashed both of the grass hoppers began tosing. It was my first sign that they had a little bitof luck within them. For their efforts, I sung withthem for the majority of our trip to Emei Shan. Afterleaving the store, we caught a taxi and rushed to thebus station. Arriving just in time, the journey tooktwo hours, but we occupied our time by discussingChinese stories. We mainly talked about the journey tothe west. This came about because we were talkingabout a group of women who used to live on Emei Shan,and they are simply referred to as the Women of Emei.These were beautiful nuns who were quite exceptionalat Kung Fu, and they could defeat any person whomchallenged them. These women tried to live peacefullives, but if ever crossed, we supreme and expertfighters. They apparently developed their own form ofKung Fu which is not too surprising since there arehundreds of varieties. After teling me about theseamazing warrior women, she went on to talk about agroup of warrior women mentioned inside of the Journeyto the West. Apparently, the monk, monkey king, pigman, and recovering god, had many adventures, and inone of them, they came upon a society of women whomhad never seen men before. They were fascinated bythese four and tried to keep them their ass long asthey could. The men kept trying to escape, but thewomen wanted to keep them. One day, the men tried toescape and were almost out when they stopped in orderto rest. They sat down and drank water from a verybeautiful lake, and they decided to bathe within itsfreshness. It was not long afterwards that the menbecame very ill and felt great pains within theirstomachs. During this time, they were caught by theleaders of the tribe. By the time that they hadarrived back, all four of them men had given birth tochildren. Apparently, the women of the tribemaintained their numbers by bathing within the magicalpool. After awhile, the queen of the women saw thatthe men were causing chaos among her society, so shedecided to let them continue on their path. This allsounds very interesting and reminded me greatly of theAmazons. I wonder if there is any relation through thesilk roads and folk tradition. When we arrived atEmei, we found a cheap hotel then headed out to dosome exploring. We went to the Baogo Si temple andwondered around. The landscaping in this area wasamazing. Huge bamboo which towered above us, flowingrivers, and wonderful flowers. At some point, itstarted to rain. We had Vermicelli noodles with beefand some strange form of vegetable which looked a lotlike grass root but the menu called pumpkin. Aftereating, we picked the leaves then went back and fedfiddle and crick some food. It was a very long day, sowe simply crashed.

Wednesday July 21st Stairway to Heaven.
To say that today was one of the most exhausting daysof my life would be an understatement, and havingspent all of the morning, evening, and afternoon inthe Chinese equivalent of Heaven on Earth, I can nowsay that I am afraid to see how they picture hell.Spending the majority of my time, descending the"stairway to heaven, the never ending number of stairsmade it seem like a stairway from Hell as my kneesimply collapsed under the pressure of all of thesteps. The last mile of our fourteen mile descent ofstairs was almost unbearable, and I was not sure thatI would make it. In saying all of this, their wereplenty of premonitions leading up to this day andthroughout the morning which warned us that we shouldnot try this descent, but did we listen, of coursenot. Waking up this morning, we rushed to the busstation around 4:00 A.M. in order to make it to thetop of the peak for the sunrise. Sadly, half way upthe mountain, the bus broke down, and we had to waitover an hour to get there. The ride was simply amazingthough. As it rains heavily there are many spectacularwaterfalls that gush off the side of the mountain atevery turn. It was wonderful. After finally tradingbuses, we made it to the top which the mists were soheavy it made it virtually impossible to see more thana few feet in front of you. There were also manystands which were hawking and renting jackets totourists as it is quite cold up at the top. It feltnice to me though, so we decided to forgo the process.Our plan had been to hike to the top but on hearingthat it was a mile and a half up, we simply took acable car to the level just below the peak. The viewfrom the car was actually incredible as you could seethe dividing line between the fog and tree tops. Thefog seemed to roll off the mountain in billowy cloudsof mist. It was actually quite spiritual, and one cansee why the Chinese believe this to be the magicalversion of heaven on earth. It gave me chills to seeit when I looked over the edge of the railing and onlysaw the haziness of the white mist. During sunrise,many people see an aberration of what looks to be aperson in the distant mist surrounded by a brightglowing halo. It is called the Buddas Halo, and duringthe old days many people used to jump to their deathswhen seeing this as they believed it to be a sign frombeyond. This became so frequent at one point inhistory that the emperor and officials were forced toput of a fence in order to keep would be death seekersfrom achieving their aims. There were severalbeautiful temples at the top of the peaks, but they were a little damp and cold. By this time, I was alsodamn and chilly as they mist is so think that it islike a soft rain falling upon your head. Do to thechill, we began our descent, and this began ournightmare journey to the bottom. At first, it waswonderful and nice. Everything was so green and fresh.The trees were amazing as there were both tropical andcold suited plants in the environment. There were manyhuge fir trees that towered above everything else andbelow was a nice jungle like canopy. On our way down,we stopped at about six temples. Each unique withtheir own Gods. The best was the one which was at thehalf way point. There were many pictures and statuesof Guinyan the Goddess of Mercy. My favorite was the Goddess ridding a Black Dragon Dog which are alloverChina, but this Dog looked live the Universe as he wasfilled with stars and moons. It was a wonderfulpainting. This was the temple in which marked ourfirst encounter with the Monkeys. Although everyonesays that these animals are quite tame, it is not aconvincing argument when they come trotting towardsyou with palms open and teeth grinning. They are alittle demanding as well, but they are also quitecute. There were little babies, big daddies, momas,and mothers with babies holding on for dear life. Theywere climbing on the walls and hanging from the trees.It was all very amazing. It was also at this pointthough that my knee began to mildly hurt. By the timethat I reached the bottom seven hours later, it wasswollen and sore. After leaving this temple, Nancytold me more stories about the Monkey King and hisrelation to the Goddess of mercy who gave him his veryunique hat for which he can never come off. She alsoexplained to me how all four who went on the journeyare now among the enormous Chinese Pantheon. The onlypeople with one greater would have to be the Indians.The closer we got to the bottom, there were more palmtrees, banana trees, vines, but there were still manytowering fir trees that were the most vibrant greencolor. We passed many more temples on the way down andat one point we had to hold off a pack of wild monkeyswho tried to attack us with our umbrellas. Some peopleherd our crimes and came and helped us. Thank God. Iwas not looking forward to as Monkey Bite. Afterfinally arriving at the cable cars, we headed downthen jumped on the bus and headed towards out hotel.We relaxed our legs and had a wonderful dinner, porkfat, pumpkin, zucchini, and roots for super. Afterdinner, I went to the room and laid out my leg andfell into bed. It was sore and I was tired. What ahell of a day. Christopher

Thursday July 22nd : Sore Some More.
God seemed to have found it fit to punish or test metoday as he placed in front of me thousands more stepsto climb and descend when all that my knee wanted todo was throb and rest. Needless to say that I lookedlike one of those three legged dogs which wanderaround the streets persevering though life. The onlydifference was a was a one legged wan hobbling up anddown the stairs of the Great and Grand Buda of LeShan. Waking up this morning, my day started out withgreat pain as my poor knee neither wanted to move orbend. It was terrible. After taking a hot shower andpacking my bags, Nancy and I fed the crickets thenheaded down to the bus station in order to catch aride to the city. The bus ride only took about fortyminutes, and we were happy to arrive at the base ofthe mountain. With our legs a little sore and ourstomachs somewhat empty, we decided to have some lunchbefore we ventured up the mountain side. We ate thisamazing Tofu in a spicy beef and tomato sauce. It wasdelicious. After lunch, we then found a place to dropoff our packs the journeyed to the top. The stairsproved to be almost too much, but we made it all overthe park. There was a beautiful Pagoda, waterfalls,temples to poets, and best of all the Great Buda. Heis simple enormous. Standing next to his head, I amonly the size of his head. Many people at the bottomof the Mountain take their picnic lunches and eat onone of his toe nails. He is quite something. He hashad several face lifts over the years, and he is stillquite vibrant and lively. Wanting to look around therest of the mountain, we passed soaring bamboo andseveral other landscaped waterfalls. We then decidedto go into a Buddhist Theme Park with Buda's fromaround the world. They have also begun carving a verylarge sleeping Buda, but it looks a little morerushed. The park was nice and there are some amazingstatues. My favorite being the relief of the 10,000armed Goddess of Mercy, and sure enough, they carvedher with 10,000 arms. It was impressive to see. Ialways wondered how they visualized her, and now Iknow. I guess that she has to have all of those armsto be able to help people out. There were also Chinese fairies which I have decided is a wrong translationand should actually be Angles as they look more angelic than fairy like. They are beautiful andsupposed to be quite helpful and can fly aroundthrough the air with their beautiful flowing robes. Ifthis does not convince you, just look at the pictureswhen I return. The park had a variety of Budas whichwere enjoyable and lovely. Feeling a little tired, wethen ventured back up to the Grand Buda and enjoyedthe sight of him then went back down and caught a busback into Chengdu. Sadly, it dropped us off wayoutside of town, so we had to catch a taxi back intothe city. We were both tired though and ready to getback to the Hostel. As it was raining when we arrived,we decided to head to the movies. It took quite awhileto find in the pouring rain, but we made it anddecided on Troy. The movie was a little disappointingas it was all in Chinese with Mandrin Subtitles buteven worse was the costume and design of the sets. Ido not like to criticize too often, but really, whydoes one shoot a scene in a decaying Greek temple ofPoseidon overlooking the sea when the Greeks are justgetting off the ground at this point and the temple isnot going to be destroyed. Even worse were the Trojantemples. One has to wonder what the Egyptians thoughtof having such influence on what was most likely apredecessor to the Persian Empire. Persian Gods lookquite different from the Egyptian ones. Plus, templesin the ancient times were painted very bright colors. Not the wonderful Marble look which our Modern Eye hascome to favor. All in all, it was an interesting takeupon the events though trying to take the Gods out ofall of it. Of course, the story diverges greatly fromthe Greek Version, but it was not took bad. At thispoint, I must comment upon Chinese Cinemas. We were ina Movie theater filled with leather black Sofas. Itwas one of the most interesting experiences of mylife. Imagine rows of sofas from the top of the roomto the bottom. Imagine what this could do for make outin the U.S. It was absolutely crazy. After the movie,we ate an odd dish of mushrooms and meat for superthen wandered around the shops. Feeling a littletired, we went to our hostel and fell asleep.

Friday July 23rd: Saying Goodbye.
It is often hard to leave those whom you have grownaccustomed to being around, so it was a little sadtoday when Nancy caught her train home, but all inall, it was one of those strange and magical days thatI have so frequently encountered on my journey inChina. After waking up farley early, I was once againsurprised to find Nancy waiting for me to get out ofbed. We talked, and she was sad to be leaving, but weagreed to enjoy the day together. My plan had been ontaking her to the Opera in order to see one of Chinasbeautiful artistic traditions. Heading out in hopes offinding an afternoon show, we first headed to a streetcafé and had some steamed Bowza for breakfast. It wasso delicious, and the buns were a lot larger thannormal so they could stuff more meat inside.Afterwards, we wandered to the theatre only todiscover that there were no shows this afternoon. Notto be daunted, we decided to go back to the movietheater and catch the House of Flying Daggers. Thiswas the new movie from the same director of CrouchingTiger Hidden Dragon. China actually forbid the openingof any new movies while this one was playing in orderto boost its monetary intake in hopes of increasingthe attention from overseas awards shows. Going intothe show, it was truly amazing cinematic movie thatboth stunned and amazed for all but the last twentyminutes of the film. It was impossible not to gettrapped within the story lines of an illegal andforbidden love. The beautiful scenery of the ChineseMountains, Horse Back Riding, Traditional ChineseDancing made into a Kung Fu art form, Daggers that canturn Corners, and Amazing Battle Scenes. It even hadthe traditional bamboo forest fight scene which allChinese Kung Fu movies have. On top of this, the musicwas amazing and every time the violin would play, mycrickets joined in, and they sand as loud as theycould. It made the experience quite magical. All ofthese things were proving to make it one of the bettermovies that I had ever scene especially with the lovetriangle and surprise cult. It was too much with bothstory and imagery. Then something happened, I do notunderstand, the last twenty minutes took a turn. Itbroke its own rules and conventions. Things started tomake less sense and the acting actually just faded asa memory of the past, and it was ruined for me. I amnot saying that Kung Fu movies have many conventionsas Chinese people accept the fact that Kung Fu expertscan fly and walk on trees. But, they in no way canaffect the weather, and why one would chose such anunimaginative way of making it snow one will neverknow, but the ending was terrible, and I felt slightlyshafted by the director. In order to make up for themovie, I decided to take Nancy to lunch, and we hadwonderful roasted duck along with stir fried spinach.We also bought some traditional woven animals made outof palm thatch. Having lots of time left, we headed toa game room and played Ping Pong for several hours thewent and caught another movie. This was the Day AfterTomorrow. Although it was a farley interesting movie,Hollywood has to come up with a better way of doingthese things. The plot seemed a little warn out anddry. When is Hollywood going to freshen up the moviesthat they are making? Feeling a little disappointedagain, we went back to the hostel and decided to go tothe Sichuan Opera through the hotel. It was a littleexpensive, but I could not leave Nancy on a low noteas she had been so helpful to me. The hotel took us toa taxi, and it proved to be one of the most memorableexperiences of the entire trip. Sichuan Opera isunlike anything which I have ever seen in my entirelife. The make up of the actors was incredible withtheir vibrant colors, headdresses, and gowns. Fromthere, we were taken into a fantasy land of puppetsthat can throw things with their hands and breathefire. After this, we got to see an amazing show handart performance. Remember in school when people usedto make butterflies with their hands when theprojector is on. Imagine a man who can do them ofrunning horses, dogs, rabbits, and of Dogs, eating aRabbits. The there was the changing faces, spittingfire routine in which the performers magically changethe color of their face within seconds while other menare spitting fire across the stage. Then, imaginepuppets doing the same thing. There were many otherperformances, and it was all truly amazing andmagical. Nancy and I had a wonderful time. Sadly afterthe performance, we parted ways. She took a taxi tothe train station, and I went back to the hostel andcollapsed. Tomorrow will bring a new adventure of itsown.Christopher

Saturday July 24th The Journey to Jiuzhaigou.
Although being somewhat used to very long bus ridesinto the middle of nowhere, one's butt never becomesquite used to the twelve hour long haul which it mustendure in order to reach some of the most beautifulplaces in the world. To be honest, I now feel as if Ihave sprained one of my butt cheeks, but I guess thatmay be a little too much to reveal. My journey beganat 6:00 A.M. this morning in order to pack and preparefor my trip as I was told that they would pick me upat 6:40. Having showered, shaved, and shoved all of mybelongings into the pack, I was a little perturbedwhen the taxi did not arrive until 8:00 to user me tothe tour bus. In the meantime, I did manage to eatsome fried rice for breakfast which proved to be quitedelicious. The first fried rice that I have had inChina. It is not very popular on the bus. When I firstarrived to the bus, my first thoughts that there wasno way I can endure the heat as the bus was quitehumid. I was almost positive that there was no airconditioner. But as we started going, the bus driverfinally turned on the air which made it both nice andcomfortable. My intentions for the bus ride was toread my book, but this proved to be impossible as themajority of the journey proved to be too bumpy toread. Spent most of the time thinking about the futureand pondering the wonders of my own imagination. Itwas quite nice to just dream even if it was only areflection of the impossibilities of our ownimagination. We did stop once for lunch, but it wasnothing spectacular to brag about. We also stopped oneother time at this beautiful temple. It was apparentlybuilt by the same man who constructed the ForbiddenCity. This is of course is not what made itinteresting. The main draw was the 1000 armed statueof the Goddess of Mercy, and she was incredible.Unlike many of the others that I had seen of her, sheactually had 1000 arms going in almost everydirection. This is easy to accomplish on a carving oran engraving, but can you imagine 1000 arms on astanding statue. Somehow they had done it and each ofthe hands was holding something different. The Goddesswas quite incredible. On the walls were also thespectacular Frescos which highlighted the statue.After visiting the Goddess, it was then possible tohave some fortunes told by Monks and burn someofferings. This was of no concern to me as I have nointerest in having my fortune told. The future isbetter left to the annuals of fate and time. Havingexplored the entire temple, we then got back on theroad and ventured through some of the most spectacularmountains and countryside throughout all of China.Unfortunately, there was also a lot of constructionas they were building the roads in order to transportpeople to the park. A significant portion of the ridewas along gravel and dirt roads that were riddled withtraffic jams as large tour buses attempted to passeach other on roads made solely for one vehicle. Itwas also a little disappointing to see so muchdestruction t the mountains as the blew out hugechunks from them. They had also constructed a lot ofdams or tore up the river beds and laid gravel whilethey prepared for the construction of one of thelargest water systems in the world. I am not walkingabout the three gorges dam either. The Chinese aretrying to build as many dams for hydroelectricity andwater conservation as they can. The only problem isthat they are destroying and damaging the naturalenvironment in the process. It is quite terrible tome. The journey was quite spectacular though. It was alittle long, and we did not arrive until 9:30 thatnight. When we arrived, we had a huge meal of Ruddbeggars, spinach, a sour vegetable, hot noodles, manypickled items including green beans, mushrooms withchicken, celery, and, and onions, and another chickendish. It was nice and filling. Afterwards, I had hopedto take a nice hot shower, but my luck was simply downand out as one of my roommates made it there first. Hedecided that he would take a long hot bath and feltthe need to splash the entire room. He also filled upthe sink and created a gigantic mess. He splashedwater all over the floor and mirror and did not drainthe tub or sink. I am not sure if he had not seenthese things before or had a water fetish, but heliterally flooded the bathroom. Having not had ashower, a sadly slid into the sheets and called it anight. What a day.Christopher

Sunday July 25th: Magnificent Mountains.
Despite starting off terrible, my day has been quitespectacular. Waking up this morning, it was slightlyannoying to have to sponge bathe out of the sink asthe shower was filled with water from yesterdayevening. Even worse to me was the fact that there wasno hot water to make up for the flooded tub. Slightlypissed, I went downstairs in search of a goodbreakfast and found porridge, peanuts, steamed buns,and boiled eggs. Nothing like the breakfast ofchampions to start your day. After eating, we boardedthe bus and within ten minutes we were in the parkgrabbing our passes and getting ready to explore thewilderness. Fearing for my safety, the tour guidestuck me with another person whom was there whichslightly spoke some English. Now, he did not do thisvery well, but with a translation book, he and Iseemed to hold our own just fine. We caught a bus andwere transported to the top of the Mountains. TheViews were simply spectacular and amazing. There isnothing simply like them anywhere on Earth. If I hadto describe them, they were a combo of IchetuckneeSprings, the Everglades, the Alps, and the Rockies.The Heart of this National Park is the water. It isthe most amazing color blue, and it is everywhere.There are these beautiful emerald and turquoise lakeswhich sparkle with the reflection of the great andglorious mountains. Many of the lakes get over 50 to60feet deep and is some of the clearest and coldestwater that I have ever seem. The lakes then flow intoone another over very shallow and rocky river beds.At some points, the river flows through the trees andwaterfalls form on the other sides of these limestonebuilt tree outcroppings. It is very odd but beautifulto look at. In other places, the water just slidesover long stretches of smooth stone as if it were theceiling or wall of a cave. In several other places,the water forms this huge, long, and giganticwaterfalls that seem to dwarf all who look and stareat these spectacles. My God, it is so glorious tobehold. The forests are even better with there hugevirgin cedar trees over looking and protecting thelakes and park. The trails are all wonderful, and tothe best of their ability they have limited the stairsor made them low impact as much as possible. Hue-R andI spent most of the day together. He shared his foodwith me as I had only brought a small package ofcookies with me, and they were quickly gone. Thehiking was wonderful and everything just made me feelso alive. At one point, I even got into the water upto my knees although it was quite forbidden. This didnot bother me though as it felt wonderful and seemedto be the post pure water that I had ever laid my eyesupon. The only thing which kept me from jumpingcompletely into the lake was the fear of getting someform of infection or bacteria that I could not sure.We must have hiked a good three or four miles and didnot even notice it. The weather was so warm and clearand the sky so beautiful. I t was just unbelievablehow amazing the place was. We also got to see someTibetan temples and people. They were quite bright anddifferent from the colors of the Chinese. They alsouse a lot of cow skulls in their decoration. They seemto be the Eastern Version of the Cowboy. Quitestrange. We did go into a Tibetan home and have butterTea. The Old Grandmother was sitting there turning herbig hand held Prayer Wheel saying Om Ma Nee Bay Me Honover and over. The inside was decorated with OrientalRugs. We ended up buying a few souvenirs. My favoritewere these amazing scarves that had all of theseTibetan Designs. On the hill tops were these hugewooden pools that looked like trees with the barkskinned off of them and covered in prayer flags thatblew in the wind. There was also these Prayer wheelsin the river which were turned as if it were a waterwheel constantly sending prayers to heaven. It wasvery inventive. After we left there, we rode back tothe top of another trail only to discover to late thatthere was not enough time to get back to the bus. Lestjust say that we were thirty minutes late and got leftbehind. The tour guide did wait for us, and we caughta taxi back to the hotel. We ate, but it was nothingspectacular. Went and bought some post cards of thehotel then went back to the room. I arrived back tofind fiddle dead, this made me sad and I tried to freeCrick out of guilt. Afterwards, I went to sleep.

Monday July 26th: Wet and Miserable.
Today began our journey to what was supposed to be thewonderful park of Huanlong, but what it turned out tobe was a wet and exhausting journey that ended with bebent over in agony and pain from elevation sickness.The morning started out somewhat Bitchy with a sixo'clock wake up call and the discovery of no hotwater. This was simply not my day. Deciding to gocheck on crick, he had no left his cage, so I cut somemore of it then he turned around and packed. When Ilooked back, he had crawled onto the top of his cageand started singing to me. It was like the insectversion of the Lion King. It was truly something tobehold and said a lot to me about what freedom andliberation means. He was so happy to be out of histight quarters. After his song, he hoped off and beganhis long journey towards a new life. I now wonder whathas happened to him. After eating porridge, eggs, andbread for breakfast, we loaded the bus in the rain andstarted our journey. It actually proved to be a littlebitch for me as we kept stopping at all of thesefucking stores in order to try and get us to buythings from them. The first store was just a market,the a jewelry store, and finally a beef jerky store.The last one was the worse as it was overcrowded. WhenI tried to return to go out the door in which I camethey tried to stop me and would not let me leave. Thispissed me off and I spit on them. I then went throughthe maze of people, and if they did not move out ofthe way, I simply shoved them out of my way or knockedthem over. At some point I did not care though as Iwas really pissed. This event really spurred anaggressive side in me which would last for severaldays. If people got in my way or tried to push mearound I hit them with my shoulder as hard as I couldand plowed my way through. This event really justpissed me off. It became worse by the time that wearrive to Huanlong. To get to the park, we venturedonto the end of the Tibetan Plateau and went to aconsiderable height. They warned us to get Oxygen, butmy lungs were so I knew that I would not need it. Iwas fine throughout most of the way and did not seemto have any problems with altitude sickness. When wefinally got to the park, it was pouring down rain andcold due to the altitude. The tour group fed us, andit was not too bad. They gave us our tickets, and webegan our ascent of the mountain. It was so crowdedand their were umbrellas everywhere. Hue- R was withme, and he kept insisting that we basically run up themountain as we had a very limited mount of time there.We flew up the side of this mountain with all of thesestairs which were slippery and wet. The views werespectacular though. I am not sure if I know how todescribe this place, but I will give it my best. Forthose of you who have ever been in a cave with lots ofwater, you know that on some occasions, the waterforms pools within the caves which holds them. Thewater is often very blue and very colorful. Well, nowimagine this effect outside without any caves nearby.For about three miles on the side of this mountainwere hundreds of pools made out of stone which heldwater in them. The water was held back by thesestalagmite like walls which acted as a mini dam. Dueto the slope of the hill, there were many layers ofpools that formed one above the other. So when youlooked at it, the pools seemed to look as if theymight spill into one another if the water everoverflowed which occasionally it did. The place wasspectacular, but by the time that we had walked threemiles up hill my legs did not want to go anymore eventhough Hue R kept insisting that we climb higher. Ineither cared or wanted to do this as I knew thatmeant more stairs to have to cope with on the waydown. I did go to the top though I was extremelytired. This is mainly because I was carrying my packon the front in order to keep it dry from the poringwet rain. We eventually got to the top, and it wasbeautiful, but the journey down was hell on my knee.We went as quickly as possible in order that we didnot get left behind. However, we must have moved toquickly as when we got to the bottom my head felt asif it was going to explode. I took a handful ofasprin, but it did not help. It was only after wedescended to the bottom of the mountain during our sixhour ride did I begin to feel any better. We arrivedin our hotel around 11:00 and ate super then I went tothe room and took a long hot shower and changed intowarm clothes after which I fell fast sleep.

Tuesday July 27th: Another Bus Ride From Hell.
Traveling has become a love hate relationship for meafter the last week, and at the moment, it seems to beverging more upon the later. It would not have been sobad but these long train and bus journeys have simplybeen about to wear me out. Waking up at 7:00 thismorning, I groomed myself then packed and headed downfor breakfast. It was the same old porridge and boiledegg bit which has grown a little bland and plain. Cannot wait to get back to the city, so I can enjoymyself a nice casket of steamed Bowza. Afterbreakfast, I went down and bought Tibetan necklacesand prayer wheels as souvenirs for all of my friends.Loading onto the bus, we were a little late gettingstarted as one of the couples arrived thirty minuteslate. When we first started, it looked a littlehopeful as the bus only made two stops at shops. Thefirst was a traditional Chinese medicine shop and thesecond a crystal store. I did not buy anything fromeither store. After this, it looked as if we actuallymight make it back to Chengdu early. The mountains andrivers were all beautiful colors. The trees were all alush green and the river was a raging blue as itswelled and rushed as rapids along the river bed.There was also a great deal of construction though asthey damned and redirected streams into other paths. Iam sure that this has greatly ruined the ecosystem insome way, but I guess that when you have to feed abillion people, you have to get your prioritiesstraight. The views were nice at first, but as it wasraining outside, the windows all fogged over with thecondensation of hot and sticky breath. This was nothelped by a four hour traffic jam which seemed almostnightmareish to me. It was not bad enough that therewere these huge buses going down gravel and dirt roadsmeant only for one car but when traffic was runningboth ways, it made it horrible. Add to this threeplaces of the roads which were washed out fromwaterfalls, and the traffic slowed to a crawl. It wasterrible and for four hours, the bus crawled towardsfreedom. When we finally passed, I could only breathea sigh of relief. We ate one more horrible meal thenheaded towards Chengdu. When we arrived, I went andate some braised chicken for dinner then checked intothe hostel. I also bought some supplies for my trainride home. I met a few French people who I was stayingwith then simply crashed in the bunk. What a day.Christopher

Wednesday July 28th: Adrift in a Sea of Art!
Today has been filled with wonder lust and amazementas Chinese art has both captured my imagination and myheart. With vivid color and dramatic depictions andimagination, Chinese artist and arts are on at the topof their game and should be at the forefront of theart scene. Why this has not happened, I will neverknow. The vibrance and energy of what is China isechoed in Chinese Artists. There was more than oneoccasion in which a tear was brought to my eye fromsuch beauty and emotion. Of course, my morning did notstart off so wonderful unless you consider my frieddumplings a culinary folk art. They were mouthwatering delicious. Other than this, my morning wasspent getting a shower then picking up water from themarket. After these errands though, my day began toperk up quite a bit. First, my journey took me to theoversized statue of Mao which overlooked the subwayconstruction which is going on. For any of you whowonder how subways are constructed, well they blockoff the entire street then did it up and starttunneling down. There is a huge whole in the middle ofChengdu. It is quite insane. The statue was veryimpressive though. It towers over everyone andeverything. He is quite enjoyable, and I felt itnecessary to have my picture with him. Afterwards, Idecided to wander down to the Sichuan Art Museum. Ihad passed the place several times before but simplyhad no time to enter, but this time, I wanderedthrough the main entrance and was blown away by thediscovery of a life time. The Gallery itself was notmuch to look at. The building was old, and it lookedas if it needed some more maintenance, but thesurprise was hidden in rooms off to the side. This wasone of the first exhibitions that I had seen of modernChinese art, and the imagery and expressions whichthey gave off were incomparable in today's society.The colors were so vibrant and brilliant and thethemes so happy and hopeful. On other occasions therewas hidden protest and unrest hidden win the canvas.One of the most memorable was the picture of a groupof ethnic minorities and all were smiling except onelittle boy and he had a frown. His hat was a littledifferent as well with bright red colors in it. Maybehis secret show of discontent with the Communistgovernment. Others were reinvention of traditionalChinese artistic styles with modern themes andfreshness. Most Chinese art is painted and displayedon scrolls. It is quite abstract and modern in itselfwhich made me drawn to them. These were all neatespecially the reinvention of religious themes andeveryday life. Others were images of ethnic minoritiespainted in oil. Many showed everyday life whilesculpture challenged traditional conceptions of whatart meant to the Chinese eye. Many looked like comicswhile others modern advertisement. They all took artnew places in China. There floors of art reinventingwhat art means in China and doing it so impressivelythat you could not helped but be overwhelmed by itsglory. Art in China has become a mix of both theancient and modern. One can by folk paintings fromfarmers off the street, see wood and marble carverssitting on the side of the streets making windows orsculptures for businesses. All of these workers makethese amazing works of art and get the equivalent often cents for their work. There were many occasionswhere I wanted to buy some, but there was simply noroom. Many people sell calligraphy and ink landscapescrolls on the side of the street or in smallgalleries, while more modern art is hidden from viewexcept on rare occasions when discovered by an artgallery. Art is amazing here, but the decoration iseven a little more strange. Much of the designsreflect sixties America in which we were entering intothe modern world at the forefront of our own culturalrevolution. The furniture reflects those smooth andsleek lines with beds, armoires, and even sofas. Onthe other hand, sculpture is very modern with thosestars that used to decorate all building in thesixties as well as marble or metal planets put upeverywhere. The cement squares are all lighted withthese oversized neon thread lights which look derivedfrom a sixties sifi movie. These have all beenprompted by Chinas recent space man program in whichthey have sent their first man into space. To them,everything seems new, fresh, and unlimited. They trulybelieve that they will be the next great super powerand can not wait for that time to appear. The Art ofthe gallery impressed me so much that I felt compelledto buy a number of art books and post cards. Thissimply made my pack weigh a ton though. The rest ofthe afternoon was spent enjoying the people and city.Wandered in and out of many bookstores and ate somesmall little snacks. Had a biscuit filled with meatsand eggs that had been cooked inside of it. Theypoured the batter of bottom biscuit then put in meatand eggs then poured over batter of the bottombiscuit. It was a little greasy but delicious all thesame. I walked around for about four hours then headedback to the hostel. Got some supplies from the storethen ate a nice dinner of kelp and duck. Afterwards, Iwent to the Sichuan Opera again with a Danish Coupleand enjoyed myself greatly. Who does not love firebreathing, magic, bright colors, and singing. Ifinished my last role of film in the Opera, and it wassort of a sad moment as at that moment I felt myjourney coming to an end. Everything would now bewinding down. After the show, I wandered back to myroom and packed my bags then prepared my journey home.

Thursday July 29th : No Relief From The Ride From Hell.
Although my today's train ride has been less painfulthan the last time, this does not mean that it was anyless uncomfortable. Why they do not have more sleepersI will never know. I booked this ticket over six daysin advance. One way or another there should have beensome sleepers. Instead, I had to spend over twenty sixhours plastered in that fucking hard seat next tosomeone that I did not even know. My morning did notstart off too badly. Took a nice hot shower thenheaded out the door and ate Bowza for breakfast. Wentin search of those cookies that I love but sadly wasunable to find a store which was open. As the timedrew nearer, I went back and grabbed my bag thencaught a taxi and headed to the train station. Iwaited for a long time. Chinese people really do notunderstand what a line is. The just lunge at any openspace and knock you out in the process. This has alsobecome my approach, so if they get in my way, I justrun over them now. I do not like getting pushed out ofthe way or knocked over anymore. I have started to putforth my aggressive side a little. We boarded thetrain, and I did manage to get a window seat though itwas uncomfortable as I was trapped inside and therewas not enough leg room with the people in front ofme. We kept kicking and stepping on each other theentire day and evening. I spent most of my timereading Thomas Hardy's "The Return of the Native." Thestory was quite riveting and kept me on the edge of myseat. The two love triangles were a good way to keepthe plot moving and engaging. These stories makes mequestion Victorian Values greatly. As it got late, Itried my best to sleep, but it was virtuallyimpossible due to the discomfort, noise, and light.So, I primarily slept for a few minutes then got backup and read. What a way to spend a day.ChristopherFriday July 30th: Having slept little last night, today has been quiteexhausting and hard on my body. The first part of themorning was spent on the train staring out the window.At some point, I broke out my scarves and used them asa pillow. It worked but not too well. The train ridestarted to make my physically ill to be on there anylonger. In my imagination, I kept counting down thehours as they seemed to stretch forever. Add to thisan upset stomach and no toilet paper, and the trainturned into some form of hellish concoction devised bythe devil himself. When the train arrived in Beijing,I took my upset stomach, heavy back pack, and tiredlegs and marched my way to the subway then to thehostel. It took me two hours of agony to get there,but it did not matter, I had a room and bed. Gettingthere, the first thing which I spotted was someone'stoilet paper, and although I probably should not have,I took a whole wad of it. I could no longer hold itand none of the toilets had any. After finallyrelieving myself, I went to my room and just dropped.I had planned on going to lunch, but by the time myhead it the pillow, it was four hours when I woke-upagain. Getting out of bed, I decided to go get somefood. Ate some fried dumplings and a pastry and dranka coke for my stomach. Afterwards, I got caught up ina Chinese Soccer Game with Iran. They were sellingflags and Bandanas. The later was solid red and lookedlike a flag except for it said fight for the motherland on it. They had them tied around their arms, andit really looked very Nazi like. Everyone was having agrand time though. China eventually won the game. Iwas tired though and did not feel like partying, so Isimply headed back and caught up on some well neededsleep.Christopher
Saturday: July 31st: Breakfast With the Arts!
Deciding to relax a little today, I have spent most ofmy morning revisiting my artful side and enjoying thetapestries of human emotion hung out like raw meatwaiting to be consumed by a hungry audience. Aftershowering this morning and consuming a wonderful hotbasket of bowza and fried rice bread, my palate wasthen set upon the burgeoning art scene of Beijing.Catching the subway, my first thoughts were if I wasan artist I would paint the people on the subway, sodiverse, so unique, and so much flavor. It is theessence of how I see and understand Beijing. It isreally the heart and soul of this city. The placewhere public place is shared and brings together allpeople on a level field. No boss, no student, teacher.They are all equal. In a way, they are faceless in acrowd of many faces. Subways are so beautiful. But, Iam not paining now, but it would be interesting in thefuture. Getting off at Tiananmen East, I walked to theChinese Art Gallery and was greeted by a huge andfresh building with clean lines of cement and marble.Similar to the other grandiose communist structuresdotting the landscape. Not much to look at though theinside was a open and wonderful design with modernlighting fit for up and coming museum. I must saythough, the inside was quite a bit sterile, and inmany way, it felt as if the majority of the artistswere reflective of communist propaganda. The freethoughts and expressions found in the Sichuan Museumwere lacking in this one. Maybe this is because, themajority of the artists were all considered themasters of their tradition. In my mind, this would bepeople who went along with the Party Lines. I am suremany other great artists met with much resistance orran into the Cultural Revolution. Either way, theexhibitions seemed bland and fixed. They were theproducts of a part machine that lacked any emotion andsometimes any talent. This is not to say that most ofthe paintings were not wonderful. I saw a number ofbeautiful and stunning pieces. My favorite was thefolk art section which looked a lot at paper cuts. Ifthe Museum was really innovative, they would createmore galleries on the folk art traditions and insteadof just showing pictures of them, they will actuallyhave examples to display. To me, mainly because thatis what I bought, there are many examples of Folk artwhich would prove to be wonderful and progressive. Myother problem with the exhibit was that there was nosculpture other than one art exhibit on glass worksfrom an amazing craftsman. The Sichuan Art Museummixed both paining and sculpture in such a way as itmoved and flowed into one another. The Chinese ArtGallery seemed cold and too functional at some points,as the pieces seemed to scattered and unfulfilling. Onthe other hand, many of the modern scrolls took a shotat abstract. They were very bright and colorful andproved to be nice to look at. The older pieces on thehigher floor also had a lot of merit from artists ofthe early twentieth century until now. Most were quitebeautiful, but it kept me guessing as to how many artsand artists were lost at the hands of revolutionarieswho saw fit to destroy the artistic legacy of Chinaand replace it with the Mao mania which occurred.Despite all of this though, I was simply happy to seethis place existed. Art is a basic form of the humanprincipal and without it we are nothing. It is ourexpression of function, reason, and insanity all atonce. It is what defines the essence of our cultureand captures the imaginations of the people. Forthis, I am glad, and I though that the Chinese areallowing the arts to flourish for a very long time.This was noticeable when I left and went through aboutsix book stores and enjoyed myself. Or, it was thewalk through the market in which arts were thrown intomy face for a modest fee. It was all overwhelming andall amazing. This of course ended with me buying atable cloth and place mats at the silk market as itwas just stunning. After all of this, my stomachstarted to get the best of me, so I had chicken withpeanuts for dinner along with pork and bell peppers.It was truly a feast. Having experienced such anenjoyable day with the arts, my evening was spentwatching this incredible Kung Fu show at the RedTheatre. This was the second opening night, so I hadto bargain for the price but thanks to the director heallowed me with a good discount. The show proved to bethis combination of ballet, modern dance, acrobatics,music, and kung fu. With the storyline of a boy on hispath to achieve his position as a monk through the artof Kung u. It was really amazing, and the sets werequite western. This was the first show that I haveseen like this, and I must say that everyone should gosee it once. It was also interesting to see how theChinese are reinterpreting their past and putting itto music and dance. History is a powerful tool and theonly thing more powerful is art. I hope that thistradition grows and develops more in the future. Untilthen, only time will tell.Christopher

Sunday August 1st
Today has proven to be an unpleasant ending to whatwas at times a chaotic and miserable trip. Waking upthis morning, I had one more basket of steamed bowzafor breakfast then went in search for my photos butthey were not finished yet. This was a littledisappointing, but it gave me more time to do a littlemore shopping. I went back to the room and finished mypacking then left the bag at the hostel. Walked backto the shop and found my pictures. They did not turnout to bad, but I was not wanting to carry them. Iloaded them in my other pack then headed to a bookstore and bought several monographs on Chinese art andculture. They were quite wonderful although I wasunable to buy all of the ones that I had wanted. Aftermy final purchase, I headed back then went and boughtsome water from the grocery and picked up my bag atthe hostel. Since my bags were so heavy, the taxiproved to be the most efficient way of getting me tothe train station. I arrived a little early in orderto find a nice spot on the train where to park my rearas there were no seats available. Ended up sitting onthe very hard steal floor. The ride was once againmiserable. Quite hot and uncomfortable. My seat wasalso next to the furnace and the train steward keptcoming by and shoveling in coal to the burning pitwhich made everything seem almost unbearable. Afterfive hours though, the ride eventually came to an end.I rushed to the bus and unloaded everything at theapartment. Went and bought supplies at the market thenwent back to the house and collapsed. Trains and buseshave come to symbolize agony for me. Hopefully, if Iever return, transportation will have improved bythen.Christopher

Monday August 2nd
The end of my trip seems to be fast approaching now.It is hard to believe that in only four days I will beon a plane heading home. It seems almost unimaginableand quite scary to me. I am still worried a little bitabout customs, but for the moment, I am simply tryingto enjoy the time that I have left here.Unfortunately, I have spent most of today packingshopping, and running errands. I did manage to sneakout and get some egg bread for breakfast today. Headeddown to the market and ate the greasy delectable.While down at the market, I did buy a beautifulblanket like the one which covers my bed. It was toobeautiful, and I did not want to steal the one from myroom. After going home and putting it away, I calledLaura and she agreed to meet me in her office in orderto get a reimbursement for my hospital visits. She washappy to see that I had made it home but had to hearthat an illness had interfered with my trip. After Igot some money and felt liberated again, I headed downto the Mountain Resort and enjoyed the beautify of theplace. The sky was nice and blue, the lotus flowersbright pink, the trees an amazing green, andeverything else seemed so mythical and magical. Itmade me a little sad that I would now be leaving itall behind. After walking around for several hours, Iheaded back down to the market and bought anotherbeautiful blanket which had been crocheted with birdsand flowers. It impressed me greatly. Chinese fabricreally is some of the most beautiful pieces of artthat I have seen in a very long time. Dropping it offby the house, my stomach began to growl, and it had tobe satisfied. The meal of choice for today was spicyfried mutton with noodles. It was one amazing andfulfilling meal. Feeling a little sleepy after lunch,I headed strait for the bed and took a wonderful nap.When I awoke, I examined the cash flow which did notlook too good, so I headed to the bank of China andgot out 500 Yuan in order to hold me over until it wastime to leave. With my new money, I then went insearch of both shaving cream and tide. The later waseasy to find while almost no store had shaving cream.This would not have mattered but grizzly adams was notquite the look which I was hoping for. When I finallydid find a bottle, it was almost 24 Yuan which likedto have made me have a stroke. How ridiculous thatprice seemed to me, but sometimes you just have toshave, so I did. When I arrived home, I did a goodportion of my packing. The pictures seemed to take thelongest as 52 roles are hard to fit in a tiny littlebox. Unfortunately, after filling up my red suitcase,there was still not enough room, so I stopped for theevening and walked down to the town square. The menand women were there singing and playing theretraditional music while the others danced to theoversized T.V. which overlooked the cement plaza. Themusic was quite wonderful and fantastic. I can not getenough of it as it really is magical. I love to walkto the square every night and visit with people andget to hear live music. At around 11:30, it began tosprinkle some, so I went home and watched the tubethen finally fell out. It was a good day.Christopher Tuesday August 3rd: Wrapping Things Up!Everything has now been packed and stored away, andfor the first time since I moved to China, my homelooks as empty as it has sometimes felt. My morningbegan kind of slow as I was intent on watching theJourney to the West. In this episode, the Monkey Kinggot his staff from the Sea Dragon. There was lots ofwonderful Kung Fu shows. They remind me a lot of Xenaor Hercules. Not wanting to miss any action, mybreakfast was an egg burrito filled with crackers andspices bought from the little old lady on the streetcorner. It was so good. After my show ended, I thentook a shower and headed out to face the day. My firstjourney was too the market followed by the MountainResort. It was a wonderful walk though my legs wereextremely tired. On my way home, I ended up buyinganother huge suitcase. This now brings the total up tofour very heavy pieces of luggage, a 70 pound carryon, and a guitar. I am still unsure yet as to how I amgoing to get it all to the airport more or less dragit through customs. I have faith though that it willall work out somehow. Taking it home, I dropped it offjust in time to grabbed some eggplant for lunch alongwith a peanut, cucumber, and carrot dish. Quitemarvelous. The egg plant is the one dish which Ireally will miss the most. It has to be one of the topthree dishes that I really crave since I have beenhere. Having filled my stomach, I then packed andcleaned for a good portion of the afternoon. Hadplanned on visiting with Mr. Who, but when I went tosee if he was at school, the offices were all emptyand locked. The campus looked like a ghost town, andit seemed quite strange to me. Coming home, I decidedthat my carry on was simply to small. This lead to mebuying one final bag in the market in which case Ifilled it to the rim when I came home. I spent therest of the afternoon walking around and enjoying thesites. Stopped by the grocery and bought water andMahwah! Oh it was so good and sweet. What will I dowithout my magical bread. Spent the rest of the nightat the square listening to the music then came homeand watched a little T.V. and finally got to bed. Christopher

Wednesday August 4th: The Chengde Day!
It is impossible to imagine my final day in Chengdebeing any different than how it has turned out. It wasthe perfect ending for what has proven to be a strangeand wonderful trip. My day began with a trip to themarket in search for some breakfast. My apatite led meto a large basket of Bowza and fried Dumplings. It wasincredible and proved to be quite filling. I then wentback home and watched a little T.V. and packed anothersuitcase which I had not counted on. One of thoselovely surprises. After packing everything as neatlyand tightly as possible, I went for a walk. Ended upbuying a bronze incense burner and fortune tellingIching coins. After which, I decided to get one lastgood view of all of the temples. The bus ended atPuning Si where I did some more shopping and bought aton of Tibetan Art Post Cards. They are fabulous.After this, I went and walked around the MountainResort. The sky was so beautiful and the trees sogreen. Walking around many of the palaces wore me outa little and made me hungry, so I headed back home andwent to lunch. Strangely enough, one of the Englishteachers at the school Mrs. Yee was there with herfamily celebrating her mother's birthday. Theyinsisted that I join them, and we had an amazing feasttogether. There was skillet chicken, fried pork withspices, beef stew, caramel potatoes, chicken andwatermelon rind, corn, and many other dishes. Add tothis, seven bottles of beer, and we had a fantastictime although I felt a little drunk afterwards. Iheaded home after wishing her mother a happy birthday.A little while later one of my students showed up withhis flute and decided to play it for me. He asked meto give him an English name, so now on I will refer tohim as Benjamin which is what I named him. We took thebus down to the Mountain Resort where he sat at one ofthe Pavilions and played his flute. It was magical andsoothing for the brain. I can not get enough ofChinese Music and art. It is very wonderful to listento. We then went back to my house and played some cardgames. He said that he had to leave at seven o'clockto go to work, but little to my knowledge, he wasplanning on throwing me a surprise part because at8:30, he and several other students showed up to wishme off. Among them was Sofia and Peter Pan. We atewatermelon, sang, talked, and enjoyed the night. Ataround 12:00, it became a little late for them, so webid each other adue, and I prepared my bags for anearly morning departure. It was sad to tell everyonegoodbye, but it seems to have helped bring a nicefinale to my adventure.

Thursday August 5th: The Long Journey Home.
Although today was not as stressful or hectic as itcould have been, my journey was neither pleasant noreasy. Waking up this morning at 5:00, I rolled out ofbed and took a long, hot shower in order to wake meup. After getting dressed, I rolled all five of thesuitcases to the door and put my guitar across them.Feeling a tad bit hungry and knowing that there wouldnot be another chance for me to eat, I headed down tothe market and ate fried dumplings and this friedpancake filled with meat for breakfast. It wasfantastic but quite greasy and not pleasant for mystomach. Going back home, I turned on the T.V. andwatched the news. Laura came a little while later, andshe looked at me in amazement as we wheeled fiveseventy pound suitcases out to the curb to be pickedup. She thought that I had completely lost my mind. Alittle while later the school's driver pulled up withthe car. To my surprise, there was another teacher inthere, and he was going to be going to Beijing withus. It was not too upsetting, it was just that therewas not enough room. Loading up my car, it took overthirty minutes of creative arranging before we managedto fit everyone and everything inside. With everythingpacked, I told Laura goodbye and we were on our way.It was a little emotional, but the mountains wereincredibly beautiful and stunning to be down for tolong. We passed all of the beautiful sights includingthe sleeping Goddess/Shaman. She would be my lastmajor impression of China as it was no time before wewere at the airport. It only took around three and ahalf hours to get there because we ended up taking anillegal road which was under construction. This was alittle scary as this involved the other passengerlifting a police barricade then pushing a policemanout of the way, so we could pass. Somehow, it worked,and we were headed down the highway. A short whilelater, the car was sitting in the air port garagewaiting for a suitcase carrier to help me transporteverything. Loading the five bags on, I strapped myguitar to my back and went on my merry way. Getting inthe airport, Customs set in front of me like ahorrifying experience. First, I went and bought theairport tax then wandered in and straight throughcustoms. They did not stop me, and for this I was sograteful. Unfortunately, when I got to the back, theticket counter would not open for another two hours,so a Chinese man and I sat down and had a niceconversation. When the counter finally opened, Idropped off four of the suitcases then had my carryon. The only problem is that the carry on was seventypounds and filled with pictures, jewelry, and mypostcards. It was so heavy. I then had to go throughanother inspection in which case they stopped me andinspected my bag. Seeing the items, they were a littlemiffed but let me pass anyways. I was so relieved. Theonly thing which made me feel any better was gettingonto the plane and sitting in my seat. The Plane Rideto Chicago was quite pleasant. I watched two movies.One on a golfer and the other was Eternal Sunshine ofthe Spotless Mind. Both were quite excellent. Thelater was simply incredible. I also caught up on a lotof music and talked with some other passengers who hadtaught in China. They were all older women and seemedto enjoy their experience as much as mine. We talkedabout everything from traveling, to architecture, thearts, politics, etc. It was wonderful as we stood andtalked for close to three hours. Before we knew it,the flight was landing in Chicago. At this point,luggage and transferring flights became a nightmare.We got there an hour early which was lucky as it tookover two hours to get my luggage. Customs let me gothrough smoothly, but then I had to check it all backin. Finishing this procedure, I lugged my seventypound bag to the check in counter a very long waysaway. The line was incredibly long, and I had thirtyminutes to get to my plane. I tried to do itelectronically, but it kept saying you are checked in.Finally, I cut in front of the line and said listenplease give me my plane ticket to get to Florida. Shetold me that it was to late because I had not checkedin yet. At that point, I almost snapped, and lookingat my face, she said that she would help me, andwithin a few seconds, she gave me my plane ticket.Heading back to the plane, my bag was then searchedagain, so I made it to the terminal just in time. Iboarded and we flew to Chicago. The flight wasunnerving as the plane kept making all of thesesounds, and I just thought, of god, please let me makeit. I ended up sitting next to a Slovak/Chicago Manand a Russian Woman. The both agreed that Americaunder George W. has become more Communist like thanthe former communist countries. We had a fantasticconversation. Finally touching down, I was so happy tobe back in Florida. My parents met me, and we went toget my suitcases, but none of them were on the flight.We then had to wait four hours for the next flight inorder to get them. When they arrived, the locks hadbeen broken and everything had been searched. It wasridiculous to say the least. It did not matter thoughI was here and so was my luggage. We rode four hoursto my house and after my thirty hour journey home, Icrashed in bed and brought an end to my Chineseadventure. It was one of the most amazing experiencesof my life. Only time will tell if I shall ever returnbut with a little hope, another adventure will awaitme.Until then, I will reminisce on the good times, learnfrom the bad, and treasure all of the people, places,and memories. What a journey! Christopher

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