Sunday, July 31, 2005

29 July 2005 The Daily Dose

My train trip from Shanghai to Chengdu, Sichuan Province, People’s Republic of China… You may know Sichuan if you like Chinese food… This is the hot and spicy variety!

27 July Wednesday morning…

I get up early, as usual… 0400, and had my morning brew, instant Africafe coffee a gift from Stephanie… This is a new instant coffee from Dar es Salaam it says on the can a product of the Tanzania Tea company (a friend gave to her)… Anyway, it’s pretty good, and much better than the Nescafe brand. Trust me I know good coffee and tea--we own a coffee and tea growing plantation in Nepal!

I do the Internet, and then pack, as I’m going to beat the morning rush to the Shanghai Central RR Station—this not the ordinary early morning rush, but the rush of the second-most populated city in the world! The train doesn’t actually leave until 0921, but I’ll be there much before not wanting to deal with the rush and crush of five million Shanghaians going to work, another ten million of them getting up! This is a city of 17-million people. There’s only one, with more people in the world… Mexico City! Mexico City is another place I’m not going to live!

In addition to departing early I had written in Chinese characters the following, ‘I want to go to the train station!’ This to deal with explaining to the taxi driver as none speak English. And trying to pronounce pidyin, the anglo version of the characters vocalized… Well, they just laugh! It’s like when the Chinese speak English, although I never laugh!

It’s interesting about learning the Chinese language. Because of the difference in pronunciation, it’s difficult to communicate even if you know ‘pidyin,’ which is the Roman letters (our alphabet) of the Chinese sounds (pronouncing their characters/alphabet). Thus, I’ve learned a better way to communicate with people like taxi cab drivers… You write the Chinese characters which they can read. And it worked, the guy acknowledged immediately! I was so proud of myself! It’s the little things in life that are glorious, not the big things!

Saints always tiptoe across the earth!

So, off we go in the taxi by 0600, and the streets are practically empty… We’re there in no time, and I’m sitting in the proper waiting room #7, at 0630. In fact, I’m the first one in line… A lot of good it did me later, when a tidal wave of humanity came rushing in pushing they way to the gate.

Shanghaians, and Chinese in general, because there’s so many ‘rats in this cage,’ are very aggressive when it comes to such things. Animal behavior! Thus, I’m certainly not going to deal with this… Maybe in Kashgar it’s different, and if not there, I will find the middle of ‘nowhere,’ where there are no people! I’ll find a peaceful place where there are no blaring TV screens, honking vehicles and barking dogs!

You go right ahead and live in Shanghai or New York City or Denver, or Colorado Springs, or L.A., or London… You’re probably younger or don’t know any better! Or, maybe you have to have a pastrami sandwich on rye with Russian dressing. I don’t! I don’t need anything really, but the Spirit!

Anyway, it’s a ‘textbook’ departure and I’m sitting on my ‘soft bunk,’ #20 in car #5 (18 in this train today and almost 1,000 passengers) by 0850 (thirty minutes prior to departure).

Across from me is a young Chinese woman who has placed her plastic bag full of goodies right in the middle of the table—we all ‘carve out’ our space in such situations. We hardly acknowledge one another (another trait of big city living).

We’re the first in this ‘compartment,’ or ‘stall.’ Then another Chinese couple arrives to claim, the next level. Note in each ‘stall,’ there are six bunks (three high on each side). I counted and there are 66 bunks to each car and if you multiply that times 18 cars, it’s almost 1,000 passengers going to Chengdu, or somewhere along the way. And trust me the train is full. They’re always full, all of them. We’re talking 1.2 billion people in China most of which live in the East (just like the U.S., or more so). Thus, there are many, many trains going every which direction—all full of course!

By the way, if you want to compare, China is slightly larger in terms of square whatever, than the U.S., but with three times as many people.

Regarding domestic air travel in China: I would think only business men, government bureaucrats, and the rich fly around China. I compared the fares, train versus flying to Chengdu, and the Chinese woman in Kathmandu is wrong (she had told me flying was less)… The train is one-third the cost of flying.

With my two large pieces of luggage (bicycle being one) it cost 600 Yuan, or about $75 U.S. to get from Shanghai to Chengdu. You can purchase a ‘hard seat’ for much less. Thus, even my ‘soft bunk,’ was much less than flying. But, the real reason I took the train, besides liking them, you get to see the countryside. If you fly over it, you see what…? A movie, you read a magazine, to stare out at the terrain some six miles below. You certainly don’t experience the countryside, and what it’s like.

With the usual ‘lurch’ the train starts off at 0921. Chinese trains are on time, generally speaking. Hitler would be proud!

And thus I depart the 35C. degree temperatures and 80% humidity, on the way to 20C temperatures and 20% humidity in Tibet (western China). Good bye Shanghai! Living in Houston, Texas, or New Orleans, La., or even St. Louis, Missouri, is like ‘doing time!’—and Shanghai in the summer is similar! It’s like ‘doing Chinese time!’

Now I understand the ‘coolie’ straw hats and the hand fans!

I think we’re heading west to Chengdu (which is due west of Shanghai). But, we’re really heading north actually. An hour outside of Shanghai and it’s still all low, wet marshland reminding me of The Netherlands.

Note: I didn’t realize until much later, after ‘Eric’ (Chinese travelling companion) showed me on the English map of China I’d brought along the route the train takes. We took a ‘circuitous’ (Dick Hammerstrom) kind of route from Shanghai to Chengdu, way up north and passing through Xi’an (where the famous Terra Cotta Soldiers guard the emperor (still). That’s why I couldn’t figure out why it would take so long (36 hours) to go 1,200Km. When in fact, the route we took was something like 2300Km. Additionally, the electric-engine/mountainous part was at a slower rate of speed.

I look out at the box buildings in the towns we pass through. Everyone (in the world actually) has their ‘SCC’ (standard Chinese cubicle)!

Think how most people in the world have such a limited view, whether it be inside this standard cubicle, or staring at their ‘mobile.’ We’re all just little puppets on invisible strings, unable to see beyond our noses, living in air-conditioned boxes! No wonder the world is so fucked up! We have no vision!

Until they sing! (for someone who hates ‘them’ too)

Looking at their little screens;
What possible dreams?
Who’s there?
I don’t care, I’m busy!

Living like puppets on a string,
It’s a familiar ring,
Salivating like Pavlov’s dogs
Getting fat just like hogs!

A virtual life,
The malady of the fife
And drum, the strum,
De aren’t I dum!

It rings, it stings
Selling its wares
They don’t care,
They think they’re ‘connected!’

They talk about what?
Trapped in the futile rut,
Walking on the mill they tread,
Half dead!

Captured, subdued, and enslaved
To an early grave
They march,
Waiting for that ring,
Looking at those little screens
Until they sing!

I remember living in Big Bend, far West Texas, where if I climbed up on top of a mountain (which I did just about every day) I could see 100 kilometers in every direction! My parents used to call this, ‘the wide open spaces,’ and I still need such… Space, distance… I don’t like living so close to other people—the animals don’t come. I like the wide open spaces! I was lucky! We grew up in a time in America where there was such a thing. Now, there’s a dwindling amount of land space everywhere in the world!

Conforming!

They slurp bucket noodles,
Draw doodles,
Stare at a little screen,
Mate in boxes!

The rebellion lost,
So high the cost,
Good little soldiers saluting;
Polluting,
A familiar ring?

Virtual puppets on electronic strings,
Waiting for it to ring,
Missing life,`
But not the strife
As lacking consciousness!

People everywhere,
Let us not dare
Externalize the situation!
The mirror a good place to start
And stop
Conforming!

Folks, we have to slow down the birth rate or we’re going to be suffering catastrophe after natural disaster, facing extinction! We know this unconsciously… We’re trying to preserve animal species, as we know we’re ‘on the list!’ We know as more and more animals, crowded out of their habitats, become extinct, we get closer and closer ourselves! How many years does humanity have left, if we devour the Earth, our very own mother… Maybe 1,000 years…? Of course, those living now don’t give a shit, and thus humanities demise!

Why do you think we’re searching for life on other planets…? We want to know if we can move there, live there, at least dump our garbage there!

Garbage is a whole other issue! Solid and liquid waste… In Asia, I see people throwing it on the ground. They think this is ‘away!’ They are wrong! I see people in the U.S. throwing it out automobile windows. They think this is ‘away!’ They are wrong! We are just ‘soiling the nest we live in!’ How wise is this? Talk about consciousness, Jim!

All the Chinese, like the rest of the world, are glued to their little screens. A virtual world they live in! Pavlov’s salivating dogs, who respond instantly (trained so well) as soon as the thing makes a noise (the bell rings)!

Five hours out from Shanghai, at roughly 1430 hours a few hills and growing corn appear. Of course, there’s the ubiquitous rice (‘fang’ in Chinese) growing. I don’t understand all the corn, however, as they don’t eat, and there is little in the way of livestock. So, they must be turning it into oil, and/or selling it abroad.

Like I said earlier, I though we would be going directly to Chengdu… How stupid of me… We are going north to Nanjing (a former capital of China), Suzhou, and Zhangzhou, then west along the Yellow River. This I learn from my stall mate, ‘Eric,’ who can speak English. But, why…? Maybe no rail lines directly west to Chengdu. Everything in China seems to revolve around Beijing, and maybe we have to join the Beijing line to Chengdu.

We take naps, eat (they eat noodles out of paper containers) and drink Lu cha (green tea).

Eric and ‘Rose,’ being young (I’m guessing under 25 years) can’t sit still for long. They’re either eating, sleeping, talking or, you guessed it, staring at their little screens. At one point they pull out their HP/Compaq computer and play a game. But, they have forgotten to charge the battery, so that doesn’t last for long. Outside the Chinese countryside passes by… I’m fascinated with my bigger ‘screen,’ the view out the window!

I notice an opened can of canned pork, and read the label… Sodium Nitrate they’re eating. I debate whether to tell them or not. I decide against as, I did the same when their age. They’re going to have to survive on their own! And maybe pickling their bodies will make them last longer, who knows. I’ve stopped trying to change others! But, I myself would have to be starving to death before I would eat canned pork meat soaked in Sodium Nitrate! There’s also a can of ‘nutritional’ protein powder I’m curious about, but guess where that comes from? It’s an Amway product! The New Colonialism.

The light fades, and I pull up my blanket (they keep it cold in the car) at 1900 hours. Everyone else is making merry, talking, talking and more talking! The TV is also blaring a Chinese movie! Note: Marx was wrong… It isn’t religion that’s the opiate, but idle chatter! But, I ignore and zone out, and in, and up and down (as I have to urinate all night long). By 2300 hours the car is finally quiet, except for some snoring.

28 July 05

At 0200 finally mountains and clear sky out my ‘screen.’ I think I’m in heaven! I see the waning (half) moon!

At 0430 we arrive in Xi’an of Jan fame… But, I must explain… Xi’an is the place of the famous Terra Cotta Soldier’s tourist site, and my friend Jan in CS, wanted to know if I was going. Well, I didn’t know at the time, but sure enough here I am in Xi’an, but only long enough to think of her! No, I will not be visiting the T.C. Soldier’s that I know of… It’s not on my list of things to do, but I’ve learned to never say never, as soon as I do… I made it to Xi’an, Jan, and it wasn’t even on my list! Nor was the Great Wall, but I ended up walking on it courtesy of Subodh Gautam.

At 0630 much corn growing out the window.

At 0800 we arrive in a Chinese City called Bao Ji on the Yellow River. It’s on the map so I know where we are, about sixty-percent of the way to Chengdu. We’ve come this far, and it’s taken 22.5 hours of the 36-hour trip. Now, we have only forty-percent left to traverse in 12 hours. I’m worried we’re going to get there too early, and I’ll have no ride to Sim’s. But, what I hadn’t figured (second mistake) is that now, we switch to an electric engine to go through the mountains (much slower going).

I have noticed in the toilet closet the Chinese are not exactly anal retentive! I seem to be the one that ‘flushes’ the squat toilet. But, ‘flushing’ on the train amounts to opening a ‘door’ with everything falling on the tracks. That’s why they won’t let you use the toilet when the train is in the station!

But, think about this… One thousand people probably defecating or urinating how many times…? 2-4K times in a 24-hour period I’m guessing. So, don’t walk on the RR tracks in China!

I don’t remember, but I think Amtrak in the U.S. has chemical toilets they suck out at various intervals… I wonder about commercial jet travel…? Are we flushing it out into the air?

There are 6+ billion people on the earth today… that’s 14-18 billion whatever-you-want-to-call-such PER DAY! Where is all this going…? On and in the earth! But, I wonder for how long there will be an ‘away?’ The shit’s going to start rising at some point! Now, there’s a horror movie!

We have to slow down human population for humanity to survive… It’s just that simple! But the problem now… The people living today, just don’t give a shit! Ah, there’s the wipe! Gosh, I’m full of puns tonight!

I always revert to a quote I heard/read and wrote down… “There’s infinite hope, but not for us!” I’m afraid it’s true! So, why keep having babies…? What kind of world are you creating for them…? Ah, it’s all about consciousness, Jim! Wake up! Wake up, world! People procreate without thinking, doing what their parents and grandparents did before them, because nature has dictated. But, what nature has created, nature can destroy… Thus, all the disease, Tsunamis, earthquakes, wars and violence (much caused by religion: My God is better than your God! Jim, it is all about raising consciousness, so we might live more thoughtfully!

By 1100 in the morning, we’re threading our way through some mountains (Shan), following a river, the tracks going through many tunnels. There are many trains, and much stopping too. So, now I know we have a chance to be on time (arriving at 2121).

By now, we are all getting ‘antsy,’ as the trip has become tedious by this point. People just can’t sit and stare at the wall. So, the young ones sleep to avoid (a form of meditation). Others go through the routine: eating, cleaning up, watching the TV, sleeping. I see few people reading.

At 1300 still going through tunnel after tunnel (maybe one hundred), and passing through mountain villages. The Chinese train personnel, stand at attention as we pass through their station.

It’s ‘noodle time,’ again!

By afternoon, I’m suffering too, with my chronic constipation… A fatty liver, and inactivity. It’s too cold in the car too, so I lie down and cover up, me too avoiding the unpleasant. At this point I’d rather have a good bowel moment than sex with Miss World!

Nothing!

The pain brings
So much gain!
I suffer to pleasure,
You,
Master, Lord and God!

You are the Divine Lover and
This is Spiritual Sex,
Dying on a cross
To be born forever!

The pain gone!
The pleasure gone!
The __________ gone!
Nothing gone!
Nothing was,
Nothing is,
Nothing!

By evening we’re more than eager to arrive, now down from the mountains and passing through the Chengdu plateau. But, I’m disappointed, as this looks much like around Hangzhou: low, wet, green, with Lotus flowers and rice growing. Worse, it’s raining now.

I’m looking forward to seeing some guy named Aaron, but not knowing how we’ll recognize one another. But, usually what happens when a hotel picks you up they stand at some appropriate place hold a sign with your name in English. This is what I’m hoping for…

Suddenly, Eric and Rose are busy getting all their luggage together, and they have brought too many things. I offer to assist, but she shows me her muscle and smiles! No, they can handle it they say. But, when they load up they look like pack animals. Stuff… We have (and take) too much stuff with us.

I follow them, and thank God, as a new train station and city, God knows where I would have ended up. We walk and walk and then are in the rain… It’s raining ferociously, and I should have stopped to adjust to such, like put on my jacket. But, I’m busy looking for Aaron.

When I don’t see I wonder what to do. They offer to call using their mobiles (sometimes these ubiquitous things have value)! I give them the number, but it doesn’t seem to work, as Eric is confused. He tells me the person said to call Sim’s Cozy Guest House. It’s only later I figure out that when I recopied the number (which I’m famous for) I missed a digit and had only seven (most telephone numbers are eight, or eleven for mobiles). So, Eric dialed some private person in Chengdu only to totally confuse them! ‘No, this is not Sim’s Cozy Guest House!’

They decide to get me a taxi so we run through the rain to the taxi stand. When they ask the drivers in Chinese to take me, they beg off not knowing where Sim’s is located. So, no Aaron, no taxi, now, really what to do? Eric takes me to a nearby police station. He and Rose must go! I thank them profusely for their help!

Alone in the police station I’m faced with a half-dozen of Chengdu’s finest! Eric has explained my plight to them, so they are discussing what to do. Then one appears who can speak English. They quickly figure out the number is incorrect. I ask if there’s a directory assistance? No there is not, what to do now? I tell them I discovered this Guest House via the Internet, and ask if I can get online (there’s a computer behind the counter). No, they don’t have access. But, the English-speaking chap gets an idea and off we go in a patrol car looking for an Internet café.

When we arrive at this Internet, teeming with young people playing games, all eyes turn to me! Who is this the police bring to use the Internet.

I’m shown a machine, but it suddenly isn’t working. They have to restart! My patience is stretched thin. I’ve been travelling for two days now, and want to lay my head on some warm pillow. Finally, I get the proper use, and head for http://www.google.com/ (in English).

I put in ‘Sim’s Cozy Guest House,’ and bingo there it is (thank you Internet). We call from the Internet cafe, and get Aaron…

I’m slightly agitated at this point, but when in need, careful don’t get too angry… ‘Did not the ‘travel service’ pick me up he asks?’ No, I did not see anyone. He asks me to jump into a taxi, and use my mobile… They’ll explain where they are to the driver, via… For some reason, I don’t like this idea. Luckily, after a short, tense discussion Aaron acquiesces and says he will come to pick me up. But, he doesn’t know where the police station is (hasn’t been in Chengdu that long). I explain, almost yelling into the receiver now! Who is this dimwit, and have I made a mistake booking at Sim’s? I ask myself!

I wait in the police station, it pouring beyond the door, young girls outside smiling at me! I wonder if they’re in trouble.

One of the Chengdu officers asks me how much police officers make in the U.S. I’m stumped, but remember reading about New York City’s and what they make (all unionized). I proffer a figure of $25,000U.S. per year, but explain this was a few years ago. This translates into 200,000 Yuan. Guess what they make? I’m shocked when they tell me 4,000Yuan per year! That’s only 300+Yuan / $40U.S. per month… This for a public official! No wonder there’s corruption!

I spend something like 5,000 per month travelling… No wonder the Chinese think I’m wealthy—I am in China!

To cushion the shock of this fact, I explain how everyone in the U.S. has access to weapons, and being a policeman in New York City, is dangerous… They get killed all the time, I tell them! Note: In China no one has access to any legal weapons, thus there isn’t the same kind of violence as in the U.S. I know you won’t like hearing this, but it’s not safe in American compared to China. China is much safer on the streets. And much less crime!

I’m so impressed with this group of friendly policemen I have the English-speaking one write down his name. I tell them I’m going to write a letter to their boss! But, I don’t think they understand.

Aaron arrives, a nice young guy from Australian. On the way out, I try to thank the police officers in Chinese, XIE, XIE!!!

We hail a cab and drive to Sim’s which luckily isn’t very far, a couple of turns, and maybe three kilometers from the Train Station. I watch closely as I know I’m going to have to negotiate the city, at least in the day time.

He won’t let me pay, and won’t accept any cash for his help! This makes up for someone not meeting me! He checks me into a ‘double’ without air-conditioning (has a fan) for 70 Yuan / $8.50 per night.

It turns out to be a nice clean room on the second floor in the rear. But, the open windows to a large boulevard, a hundred meters distance, make it fairly noisy. Drivers in China all honk their horns constantly as you have to bully your way through to get anywhere. Note, traffic control lights are only an indication as what you’re supposed to be doing. They sometimes go on red, and stop on green, as in New York City!

After Aaron shows me the facilities, where everything is, including the showers downstairs, the ‘gents’ toilet (ten meters outside my door), etc. He does the usual explaining about times, breakfast, rules, booking, etc. When he’s finally gone, I unpack, undress and fall onto the bed exhausted! I’m managed to turn the fan directly on me!

It’s been two interesting, but long travelling days in China! Note… travelling is work, just like any other job I’ve ever had. Most people thinks it’s a vacation! Not the way I travel!

Postscript: Best of all, no mosquitoes! They burn mosquito ‘coils,’ everywhere! This is a sub-tropical climate, and one I can’t seem to get out of this summer of 05! I’m not a mosquito kind of guy! ‘Oh, momma can this really be the end, to be stuck in the tropics, with the Tibetan blues again?’

Monday, July 25, 2005

25 July 2005 The Daily Dose

The day for ‘scenes,’ but thank God for Bhuwan!

Today was getting-the-luggage-to-the-train-station day! We’re departing for Chengdu on Wednesday morning, and we’d been told you have to take care of baggage at least one day prior.

We had thought we would be doing this yesterday (Sunday), but the taxi driver who said he would come, didn’t! You know how that goes… He got a higher fare, going out to Pudong International Airport (where we came in on June 20th)).

Note: I’ve learned since being here one month, that there’s a high-speed (350KM per hour) train between Shanghai and Pudong AP. I’ve had an idea to try it out, roundtrip for 80Y ($10U.S.)—I’ve never gone faster than an airplane on the ground!

So, this morning to fix the problem I called Tony Cheng as he said he knew how to get a ‘mini-van.’ I called, gave him an option, today or tomorrow, and he called back and said today, now in fact!. Tony Cheng is our future Chinese business partner in http://www.makemagictogether.com/ !

Then I called Bhuwan Poudyal to arrange a rendezvous, and was downstairs with my large black bag early! We had arranged for to be picked up at 1100 then on to SSMU to rendezvous with Bhuwan. I was downstairs ready to go at 1040. The driver showed up right on time, and helped me carrying my large black bag to where he’d parked on the street. I have been expecting him to drive up to the front door, as there is a driveway. This was his unfortunate mistake on his part, as he got a ticket for parking illegally on the street.

This turned into quite a street scene! My taxi driver suddenly moribund calling his dispatcher (I think), and then argueing with the cop. I had been standing near the van, but then I got the idea to present myself thinking a white face might help, but it didn’t. And the taxi driver’s argument fell on deaf ears too, so he ended up whipping out 200Y ($30U.S.) paying the fine, right there and then (you don’t go to court). He explained all this to Bhuwan later, as Bhuwan speaks fluent Chinese.

On the way to the train station, I’m thinking the guy is going to want me to pay the 200Yuan fine! This reminded me of a travel story in Italy years ago (which I related to Bhuwan).

We had a video job in Navarro, Italy. I think this was around 1990. We flew to Milano… The name of the airport will come to me... it starts with an ‘L.’ But, it turned out to be the wrong airport, this one some 80KM from Navarro. Additionally, I had a terrible time getting the video equipment, we had brought with us, through customs. But, finally, the Italian customs official allowed it, and we hailed a station wagon (van type) over-sized taxi (as we had much gear).

I sat in the front watching the whirling meter with trepedation. Italian lira are many to one U.S. dollar… Thousands… So, up went the charge, 20,000, 30,000, 70,000, etc. I turned to my travelling companion (who will go unnamed as an asshole) and told him to be prepared. By the time, we got to the Hotel in Navarro, the tab was something like 110,000 lira. O.K., we had that together. But, then the taxi driver gestured 2X, as he wanted to get paid for the return trip. I said, no way in English and a fight ensued! There upon occurred one of the great ‘scenes,’ of my many miles of travelling (around the world)!

I thought we were going to get to fisticuffs! He went ballistic, and I became recalcitrant! He followed us into the hotel, his tirade sounding like an Italian opera! The manager of the hotel appeared and saved us both. The taxi driver was going to call the policia! I said, ‘O.K.! bring them on!’ I wasn’t about to budge!

The argument went on, but was abated slightly when the manager plied the driver and me with wine.

Soon the decibels lessened and the screaming match turned from an threatening argument to a discussion. There was a disagreement! We hadn’t known about the X2 deal, or we would have said ‘No way!’ from the beginning. The hotel offered the taxi driver dinner. Soon the taxi driver, surfeited on wine and pasta relented (he had a long drive back to Milano)! We disappeared upstairs to our room.

I guess the point of the story… in telling this is… Make sure you communicate with the person you’re incurring a cost with—agreeing on the ‘deal.’ If there’s a language situation (like here in China), make sure you have an interpreter. I had made some mistakes going to Italy, and it almost cost me dearly!

Today, it cost the taxi driver—200Y for illegal parking (when it could have been avoided by driving up to the door).

When we got to the loading dock at the Shanghai Central RR Station, the usual hordes of men wanting to ‘help,’ carry your luggage (making a tip) descended upon us. We said ‘no thank you, and unloaded the van!’

The meter tab turned out to be but 34Y. but, there was a ‘parking’ fee of 10Y. I handed Bhuwan a 100Y note, and told him to ask for 50Y in return, I was going to tip the driver 16Y. Nobody understands ‘tips’ in China, so what came back was 56Y, or the exact change (with the ‘unloading’ fee deducted) or 44Y. I didn’t notice as we were too distracted holding off all the porters.

Now, poor Bhuwan had to deal with filling out forms in Chinese (this is what I mean about having someone along who knows the language). I couldn’t have done this without his help. First the forms, then the black bag got weighed and bound (for 7Y). Then we get to carry both over to where it’s really weighed and taken away (I took some photographs—check out in the Gallery).

Now, we are to go pay at windows around the corner (about 50 meters walk.). We walk over and get in line (as there’s always a line in Shanghai considering the population is 17 million). More waiting! We have to wait until the paperwork comes from the second scale, explains Bhuwan. In the meantime, we partake of another ‘scene,’ this one even more tense (than the one earlier between the taxi driver and the policeman)! Three Chinese men get into it!

There’s two against one, but the one holds his ground—I didn’t need to know the language to figure he’s not going to pay! Now, they’re yelling at each other! I’m thinking about the day astrologically speaking… Like what’s going on with the planets today? I ask Bhuwan what they’re arguing about? The lone man, a passenger in a taxi refuses to pay the 10Y ‘stopping’ fee! Obviously, he was dropped off at the same unloading dock and the drivers paid the fee they want reimbursed! Their argument goes on and on loudly—the passenger isn’t going to pay! We wait for our paperwork to arrive, Bhuwan somewhat nervous as he only has until 1330 to get back to the hospital (eat lunch too). I’m thinking it’s noon time and these government employees are eating their lunch. It’s noodle time (the Chinese are very big on eating noodles).

But, we get lucky… Finally a uniform appears behind the bullet-proof glass, and starts the process, as this is the place you pay. All the customers, us included, fight for a position in line.

Note: The Chinese are very aggressive in such situations, like the Post Office. They’ll just butt in front of you if you don’t speak up! It’s the too-many-rats-in-a-cage syndrome! No courtesy on the streets (in public places) in Shanghai. Thus, I’m not going to be here! I’ve done all my fighting over a .03 cent stamp! Let the Shanghai-iens!

My tab, and I guessed about right… 97.3 Y for the two pieces (only does the bureaucracy come up with these oddball amounts)! I was thinking 100Y. So, for basically 500Y / $60, me and all my things go to Chengdu! God willing and the creeks don’t rise too high!

By now, it’s 12:30 and we just have time to eat lunch at Zentral, our favorite ‘Eating Healthy’ restaurant convenient to both of us (between 277 Dongtai Road where I live and the Shanghai Second Medical University where he lives in a dormitory room). Another taxi ride to the restaurant, and another 12Y.

I have a ‘Mango Madness,’ and Bhuwan has curry chicken with white rice. Where are we? Shanghai, China, one of the most cosmopolitan, international cities I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. They used to call it the ‘Paris of the East.’ Now they call it the ‘Oriental Pearl of Asia!’

The total ‘tab’ for the ‘getting-the-luggage-to-the-train-station day’ is 325 Y, or roughly $45 U.S., when I included 100Y to Bhuwan for his effort!

What a great young man, Bhuwan Poudyal is, and good looking besides! American women, ‘heads up!’ (check him out in the Gallery). He speaks four languages, has a medical degree, and is a good guy! What else do you want? I know…

Back at the office I run into Zhao (Stephanie’s father), who can’t do enough for me! When he finds out I’m departing on Wednesday morning he gives me four more boxes of Yigan Kang, the liver formula (Traditional Chinese Medicine). It’s exactly what I was going to ask him for, four… But, not without paying. He refuses to accept any money, but I’m going to pay him anyway… Leave some money in an envelope.

He wants to contact Bhuwan about distributing the product in Nepal! Perfect, as I was trying to think of a way of getting them together. I give him Bhuwan’s contact information! Bhuwan and he will go into business together! This will get Bhuwan to the U.S. This will help Zhao.

Off Zhao goes! I’m into taking a bath and going to bed. I got up at 0300 this morning.

I’m taking a bath when I hear Zhao’s voice along with someone else’s! Lord, what’s up? He asks through the door? I’m taking a bath.

When I appear Zhao is there with Ling (the TCM doctor from Uremqui). They explain (Zhao’s English improved) that they can’t take me to dinner tomorrow night, as busy, but would like to tonight! I beg off with a stomach problem (not lying actually). These people are ‘killing me’ with kindness (eating myself to death!).

I meditate, and go to bed at 1930 hours. I’m relieved!

It’s time to head west, and Mt. Kailas.

And such was the, ‘getting-the-luggage-to-the-train-station day!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

24 July 05 The Daily Does

‘Five Times Dead!’

I’m sick about something, and have to write about it! It’s been bothering every since I found out… Reading/hearing the news. I should know better!

This incident in the London subway, the second one! An innocent boy (27-years old) killed by the London police! I’ve cried many tears thinking about it.

Now, they say he had nothing to do with the bombings! Oh well, too bad right…? Just another casualty in this madness we call modernity! But, think about if you’re his parents, or girlfriend, or whatever relative! A life snuffed out by mistake, by the trigger-happy police, who will have a million excuses, like he resisted arrest! It’s his fault they will say—he should have ‘evaporated!’

No doubt the poor guy was scared witless! I believe he was a student from some country in South America, and new to London! Suddenly an army of police (looking like aliens) are pointing guns at you, yelling at you, scaring the shit out of you! Yea, I suppose he acted like a ‘terrorist,’ right…? So, shoot him five times dead! Now, he won’t have a life! My heart breaks when I hear these kinds of stories!

I can tell you… If I were his parents I’d dedicate the rest of my life to suing the London police, writing stories, turning it into a movie, whatever… They would never be able to forget as long as I was alive!

We’ve gone mad, this modern world! And we all just ‘ho hum,’ and go on like nothing is wrong! Of course, always justifying it as we can’t deal with the truth! He, this 27-year old kid deserved it, right? He should have been smarter, right? Well, tell that to his parents, or girlfriend, or friends! The whole episode sickens me, from start to finish!

Yes, others died too in the terrorist attacks, and I mourn for them too! But, a wrong never justifies another wrong! What’s causing all this madness…? Doesn’t anyone ever ask this question, besides me?

Gosh, I’m just glad I don’t live in London, or the U.K., or the U.S. where the police are now more dangerous than the terrorists. You look sideways at them and they shoot you five times dead!

Now, they’ll be more cameras—‘Big Brother’ has certainly arrived! Now, they’re will be more lives snuffed out by mistake! Now, there will be more heartache, more anguish, more suffering! Now, there’s more inconvenience, more hassle, more wasted time! And we just put up with it, turns our heads, say ‘oh well,’ ‘ke garne!’

The modern world truly has gone mad! And I’m eventually (as soon as I can) getting out of it!

In the meantime, I speak up and out about evil!

F.A. Hutchison

23 July 05 The Daily Does

Did you know that in China they feed eels (popular food) birth control pills to fatten them up? Don’t tell me money hasn’t become ‘God’ in the world? Thank God, speaking of such, I don’t have a hankering for eel! Or, for that matter genetically modified food. This from friend Stephanie Zhao. She also told me another interesting thing… How ‘food safety’ has become a big issue in China. And what they do, her mother and her…

Interesting how people react/solve, otherwise ‘defeat’ the ‘capitalist pigs!’ Stephanie explained they purchase (when purchasing vegetables) the most imperfect-looking ones as they tend to be more ‘natural!’ If it’s too perfect or too shiny they avoid! So now, when the ‘market’ finds out about this, or the ‘bottom line’ starts getting affected they will produce imperfect-looking vegetables and fruit (to fool the customer). Ah, it’s all a big ‘game!’

Bhuwan helped me purchase my train ticket to today (500Y / $60U.S.) I’ll be departing on Wednesday morning, arriving Chengdu Thursday night (38+ hours to go about 1200KM or 800 miles). I had planned on departing Monday or Tuesday, but no lower berths were available… Lower births on Chinese sleeping cars are the ones in demand, as you’re at floor level, besides having a table. I learned about what’s desirable riding up to Beijing and back with Subodh, Mira and Nisha (last month).

You have no idea how many people travel via train here, but I’m guessing millions every day… Just go the Central Station in Shanghai, and you’ll get some idea.

I’m happy to be getting out of Shanghai, as with the heat, the cockroaches, the noise, the aggressive people I’ve determined I could not live here in the summer (at least). And on the 23rd floor no less! ‘Oh momma, can this really be the end, to be stuck inside of Shanghai, with the Lhasa blues again!’

I took the group (Bhuwan, Stephanie, and boyfriend ‘Samuel’) to a Nepali restaurant last night—the only one in Shanghai. It’s called ‘Nepali Kitchen.’ Hari from Kathmandu was our waiter and obviously enjoyed talking with Bhuwan in his native tongue (homesick). I met the owner, a native Nepali from Manang (a ‘province’ in Nepal) who’s been in Shanghai for seven years. Obviously, Kanchha he calls himself, has built up a good clientele. But, I still believe there’s room for another Nepali restaurant (another Rato Ghar) if it’s done correctly.

We sat Asian-style eating on lower tables which is uncomfortable to me (legs folded). But, the place was pretty much packed with foreigners (not minding such). Of course, the Chinese, being ethnocentric have to have their noodles everyday (no so much rice as you think). I had the worse dhal bhat ever (maybe that’s the reason they don’t come)! But, the Nepali tea was pretty good! Four people cost 300Y or $40 U.S (basically $10U.S. each). The kids had a good time though! Stephanie has been so good with me here, her family so generous. I had invited her parents but they opted out, not wanting for me to have to pay for them!

The Chinese government waited until I arrived in China to revalue the Yuan, causing me to lose 100Y / $12 per month. Seems like little, but 100Y will purchase 5 rolls of 35MM film and/or one week’s groceries. So, this macro-economic move (caused by the U.S.) has cost me some purchasing power here.
If you never travel out of your country you know nothing of exchange rates (and can care less). But, different money is worth more or less depending on what currency and what country. I happened to suffer from this in Europe last summer… The weakened dollar cost me 25% of my ‘pay check,’ and affected me greatly.

I receive $625 U.S. (SSB monthly payment). In Nepal this is something like 42K Nrs., and considerable. In Europe last summer $625 U.S. was worth only 500 Euros. You certainly can’t live on that amount in Holland, where I was staying, and if it hadn’t been for the generosity of the de Vries family, I would have been on the street.

Europe is more expensive to Americans generally, but now the dollar versus the Euro makes the U.S. less expensive to Europeans. It’s crazy!

Anyway, the Chinese haven’t revalued the Yuan since 1997, but waited until I arrived in 2005, to increase its value compared to the U.S. Of course, the U.S. government was behind this putting all kinds of pressure on China, as the trade imbalance (value of RMB or Yuan) was helping China and hurting the U.S.

I’m for ‘One World,’ where there is but one language, and one currency! I know… This is a Communist conspiracy to get their hands on your wife’s white body! Or, so it used to be! Now, it’s more likely a ‘terrorist’ plot to undo Christianity! It’s crazy! People so generally stupid they go along with this kind of thing (not really understanding)! It’s not a ‘nation of sheep,’ but a ‘world of sheep!’

‘Just give me my Lone Star beer, my pickup truck, country/western music, a dog, weekends hunting, and I’ll endure anything! Throw in TV so I’m manipulated even more, and I go and die for you in your ‘dirty little war!’ Throw in a pretty girl, and I’m sucked in for life. ‘Bring the wife, the kids! You all come back now, you hear!’ I can’t believe I survived 12 years in Texas!

But, we’re talking China now, and the ‘won party’ system! We’re talking eels dining on birth control pills! The world has gone mad in my opinion! People wonder why I’m anti modernity…? They just don’t get it!

Where was I… Taking a ‘rock’ to a ‘mountain’ on a bicycle! Talk about…

21 July 05 The Daily Does

Chinese people don’t drink tea, they eat it! I’ve taken to the idea myself, as it’s good fiber… No tea bags for them, wimpy they say! They just put the processed green (no black tea here) into a container, add water and ‘eat!’ It’s the standard hot drink here, as not much in the way of coffee (although Starbucks is here in force with some thirty outlets in Shanghai.

But, the average Chinese person prefers green tea without milk or sugar. If they knew how I ‘doctored’ it (soy milk and sweetener) they wouldn’t approve. But, I’ve noticed green tea can be bitter after sitting in water for a time. Plus, I’ve been known to experiment with food, like mixing soy sauce with peanut butter and mixing it with my rice (yum, yum)! Note: When a Chinese man (one of Xu Jian’s guests one night) saw me doing this he had to try.

While I was ensconced in the Villa outside of Dequing, I got to see tea leaves been processed. This was next door actually… Benson took me over one night, a swelteringly hot night, where a Chinese man had built a fire in a machine that basically dehydrates the leaves… That’s all they do in the way of processing, extract the water content, that you put back in when brewing. I also got to see how they harvest, shaving off the new growth leaves with a machine. The tea bushes which they grow in rows look like manicured hedges.

Dequing, by the way, is a primary tea growing area in China (little did I know). But, there are two famous ‘brands,’ from there: Dragon Well, and Mogan San (if you can find it in the U.S.). Tea bushes, must like hot/wet climes, as the Dequing area is surely that! I certainly won’t be owning/growing tea, as this is not my kind of territory. I’m more a coffee growing type as it likes elevation.

What have I been doing in Shanghai…? I’ve been waiting to ‘get paid,’ and planning the next ‘phase/leg’ to Mt. Kailas.

Ah, walking around perspiring and getting sore feet! Although some named typhoon (hurricane) has dropped the temperature a bit, with cloudy and windy weather. This having caused some damage in Taiwan, hit the Provinces north of us here on the mainland.

Thus, one day I had a foot massage, which are inexpensive ($4 for one hour) and plentiful (as they’re popular in Asia). It was wonderful and something I’m going to have done regularly!

They wash your feet before and after. Then they massage away stimulating the organs in your body, as the nerves in the bottoms of feet are connected. My feet were sore anyway, but this little Chinese girl almost made me scream a couple of times, as they use their knuckles! Wow! But, the end result are healthier feet (and body).

It was interesting being there, this store front with the ‘Madame,’ and her cast of characters. I assume a family operation… You sit in recliners and many fall asleep it’s so relaxing. If not for the blaring Chinese Kung Fu movie, I might have too.

Then in walked a young and attractive anglo couple. I should have known right away they were from France, but when I listened it sounder like Russian, or eastern European which made the man laugh. They got the full treatment which includes an upper body massage. The guy was into it, but the young woman with him… It must have been her first time, as she never did relax much.

Nearly done, a Chinese man, who ‘does’ your toe nails inquired if I wanted the same. For some reason I indicated (if you can’t speak the language you end up acting it out) ‘yes!’ Then I was worried about being able to pay for all of it. But, I was glad I had them trimmed, shaved, burnished, and otherwise made ‘pretty,’ as I’ve never had this done before. Maybe I should paint them now, and wear sandals! I’d be the talk of the town! Gosh, you can never do anything different without receiving censure (although I’ve rarely listened). Painting my toe nails and wearing sandals would certainly make me ‘Gay,’ right…?

In the meantime, I’ve purchased a good nail clipper and will do this myself from now on (always saving money). He charged 10 Yuan or $1.25 cents for about twenty minutes work.

I have also had an interesting experience purchasing a product. I have wanted, since arriving, a Chinese language CD. After discovering that Fuchou Road is the scene of many book and stationery stores (my kind of street), I went to the Foreign Publisher’s Book Store. I had seen a story on TV (CCTV 9 is the English channel) about the release of the Harry Potter book.

After wandering around looking for a long time, I finally bumped into the right (now possibly wrong) Chinese clerk, a young woman who sold me just what I’ve been looking for… Something I could put in the Toshiba here, and learn Chinese (a daunting task). It cost only 68 Yuan, or $8U.S.

But, when I got home and put in Tos here, it wouldn’t play. A window pops up explaining a problem with initializing and to try restarting Windows. Needless to say, I tried everything, even testing it in Mr. Zhao’s machine (where it works). But, it’s suppose to work with Windows 98 too.

Anyway, the following day I pack up the computer, sans AC cable (a mistake) and walk it so many kilometers back to the store. Of course, I have the receipt, the package, and everything else, as I’ve done this before (at least in the U.S.).

I accost the same young Chinese woman, who ‘machine guns’ me with Chinese words… Of course, I don’t understand (in Chinese: ‘Wo bu zi dao!’). Worse, the battery is dead, and I can’t start and show her the problem. She gets rid of me by offering a brand new CD. She also gives me a card, a person to call if I have anymore problems. Well, it makes sense to try another CD, so off I go, and walking back to Jian Xu Zhao’s office where I’m living (on the 23rd floor).

Sure enough, this new CD doesn’t work either. Ke garne? I check the software companies WEB site (www.go2china.net) and send an email message describing the problem. Of course, the message returns because the address is no good. Note, I think if I were a software company I’d make damn sure our email address was correct and working. I also call the number and get a Chinese woman who does speak a little English. She invites me to an address at 12 noon, this to solve my problem. But, who wants to traipse all over town for $8?

Companies have learned to ‘externalize their costs,’ thus saving them money. After the product is purchased, they don’t want to hear from you again, except praise or purchase more! Big mistake in my case as I’ll purse for nothing just on principle! They motivate me!

Anyway, I haven’t solved the problem yet, although will with Tony Cheng’s help. In the U.S., it would be easy, but here you have to know the language to get into such specifics! Thank God for friends, relationships and productive situations!

I’ve discovered an American here, Joe Eberling who owns/operates a outdoor equipment distributorship (Wild Rampage). I have been emailing him for months, as this has to do with my MSR Dragonfly camping stove. I have managed to massacre the stove, in an attempt to get it working. The problem, the wrong fuel!

It’s all my stupid fault too! Sometimes I’m not very bright when it comes to solving mechanical things… I didn’t realize, until Melvin de Vries told me, that the ‘white gas’ version in Europe is simply petrol. I went through some elaborate attempts to find the ‘white gas’ substitute in Sweden, only to burn use the wrong fuel, melting the fuel line. Stupid! But, I was desperate to cook rice one night in Germany! I have since paid the price.

Actually, I think I exacerbated the problem using kerosene in it in Nepal. But, this worked for awhile. Then one day, it wouldn’t work at all!

Luckily I befriended a man named Eric at Cascade Designs (MSR Stoves) in Seatlle, and he has done nothing but be helpful. For one thing he’s lead me to Joe here in Shanghai.

This stove, when burning white gas in the U.S. worked fine! Now, it’s going to have to be retuned to Seattle and the fuel line (a major part) replaced (as Joe’s company here doesn’t do such). Anyway, the saga of my MSR Dragonfly stove!

I’m better with spiritual things, than material things!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Daily Does 19 July 2005

Before departing for Chengdu in a week, I better rewind and tell how we got here to China and what happened… I know you can’t wait!

23 June 2005 – Beijing

We have a Chinese buffet breakfast. It’s horrible, no tea, and nothing hot! From now on in China, I’ll be buying/travelling my own food. Or, did I tell this all before?

So much happens to me I can barely keep up with it all… I’m going to go and check… Hold on… I can’t find June 22nd…? But, maybe apart of June 21st…? Ke garne? Keep going… If I stop to ponder too long, days will go by, weeks, as we pass through the void at the speed of 30KM per second… We’ve already traveled thousands of miles just thinking about it!

Beijing, yes Beijing, the Washington D.C. of China, the home of the Ti’an Namen uprising in 1989, and the Summer Olympic Games in 08, the two events some (almost) twenty years apart! But, don’t forget the guy who stopped the tank! Where is he now? There was courage!

I found June 22nd, now the 23rd:

Speaking of Ti’an Namen Square we take a taxi to… We’re doing the tourist thing… Visiting Mao’s Mausoleum. I’m neutral. But, when I find out I have to check my backpack, no way… Mao will have to do without me! I explain to Nisha, as she’s curious… Young people… So much to learn about life and living (besides school). I offer to wait, watching all of our hand bags. We decide where we will meet later (across the street). I’m happy to wait in the shade of a tree as the ‘discomfort level’ is off the scale! Maybe it’s Mao’s bad energy! Nisha runs up, having forgotten something (they won’t let her take in her purse even).

While I’m waiting I take some photographs of life in Beijing (in ‘Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org).

I’m standing there observing Chinese humanity when a Chinese woman gets my attention. She wants me to read something she’s written. But, it’s in Chinese. She’s carrying a young boy on her back. She tried to convey something, but I could only guess. My intuition told me that this woman was widowed (the child orphaned) in the ’89 uprising, and she wanted me (others) to know. I would think, if this was true, that this is a dangerous thing to do, as there are police everywhere. I offer some money, which she accepts. Maybe she’s just a beggar!

After she departs I lay the written material on my backpack. It isn’t long when a young Chinese woman walks up and is curious about this. She squats and reads it intently (see photograph in ‘Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org ).

Nisha, Subodh and Mira return in something like thirty minutes. They’ve seen Mao’s body lying ‘in State!’ I haven’t missed much I’m told! I have a theory that it’s a Disney version of Mao… Who would know? Who cares? Even the present government admits ‘he made mistakes!’

Now, we’re off to World Park… I have no idea what this is, or where… I just follow along.

Nisha is trying to figure out which bus to take, when a Chinese man, physically handicapped no less, seems to want to help us! Of course, he’s selling something, but after what he did (we followed him several blocks to get to the correct bus stop), I would have bought whatever it was he was selling… What was it…? A map, some memorabilia? When I offered a donation he wouldn’t accept it however. A man with integrity!

We board a double-decked bus and climb above and sit in front. The view of passing Beijing is good, although right in front of me is a blaring TV set (ubiquitous). In the next row I observe a mother taking very good care of her young son (about eight- years old). She fans him. She offers him water. Ah, mothers, amazing… I thank God for mine!

We go on and on, must be one hour before Nisha indicates we’re getting off. We’ve finally arrived at World Park, and now I remember seeing it yesterday, riding back from the Great Wall (Badaling). I have a very good memory for things seen.

We are suddenly deluged with people selling drinks (it’s horribly hot), and restaurants (‘Come to ours, it’s the best!’ they must be saying). We pass one and end up in the second, and quite a nice place it turns out to be. It’s air-conditioned for one thing. The food is good and fast, the service solicitous. Nisha and Mira eat like Trojans! I am weary of eating, and constipated. But, they think I have to eat to keep up my strength when just the reverse is true! They don’t know it, but they’re ‘killing me with kindness!’

After lunch on to World Park in the afternoon heat! It’s insane! There is no one in the Park, they’re all smarter than us! But, we only have this afternoon, and this is a part of Nisha’s plan. Thank God we rent an electric cart with guide. I would have passed out walking! The discomfort index is now off the off-the-chart reading! But, I’m there as photographer, and pose Nisha, Subodh and Mira in front of the Eiffel Tower, the World Trade Center (prior to 9/11), the Taj Mahal, pyramids in Egypt, Niagara Falls, etc. – all smaller scale replicas of things that identify that country.

Later when I post these in ‘the Gallery’ (don’t forget www.cyclingpeace.org) my captions mislead on purpose and sure enough, someone is fooled. He sends me an email message telling me it’s not London Bridge they’re standing in front of but some other bridge in London. We got around ‘the world’ that afternoon in about one hour.

Now, it’s really hot! We buy cold drinks (Subodh likes his really cold!) and try to recover in the shade. But, soon time to return to beautiful downtown Beijing. Before we depart we take some photographs at the main entrance. Three ‘bums’ accost us and it’s a ‘photo opp.!’ (see in ‘the Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org).

Poor Mira, I felt sorry for her, as she’s not used to this kind of running around. She falls asleep on the bus. I might have too, except it’s not that comfortable! We must have stopped a hundred times, between World Park and ‘downtown’ (this ‘local’ bus). But, we get to see the real Beijing. I can’t say it’s a place I would like to live… It has no sky, just that kind of toxic haze that L.A. or Dallas has.

But, it’s only 1142 days until the Summer Olympics begin—China making a very big deal out of this! They’d have to pay me much money to be in Beijing in 2008! Not interested!

We take a taxi to our ‘out-of-the-way hotel, retrieve our bags (I’ve kept mine with me.), and ride on to the Beijing Train station. Wow! Talk about people! There must be one million Chinese coming and going ! It’s overwhelming, just like Shanghai’s RR station—not a place I would seek to hang out!

We’re early so we sit at an outdoor café drinking more, and eating more (I buy a banana for later). We observe Chinese humanity as it rushes past, or sits and drinks like us… Subodh and Mira call home (Kathmandu) via Nisha’s mobile. This is the most interesting part of the day for me, observing the scene. I go buy film. Subodh wanders around. The ladies find a toilet.

After ninety-minute’s wait, we follow Nisha (our Chinese-speaking Nepali guide) to our sleeper car and back to Shanghai. This time, however, we’re separated, Nisha and Mira in one ‘stall,’ Subodh and me in the adjacent one (and all of us on the second level). The desirable one is the lower berth, as you have a table, and don’t have to climb up and down.

I’ve learned the trick with Chinese train travel… Buy the ticket early or you’re going to end up on the top bunk, or not get on at all. There are millions of Chinese people travelling by train everyday. Buy early for a off-hour departure (like in the middle of the night). Try to time arrivals at off-hours too, so you won’t have to deal with the ‘stampede!’ It’s madness to me!

The all-night ride back to Shanghai is jerkier and noisier than the one going to Beijing… Thus, I don’t sleep that well. The same thing for Subodh, both of us arising early… 0530. I make Nescafe coffee for us (the Chinese drink nothing but Lu Cha/green tea). All cars have an endless supply of boiling hot water! This is good!

We arrive and deal with the ‘stampede,’ rushing for a taxi which takes us back to Shanghai Second Medical University. Subodh and ladies go to Nisha’s room, I head for our hotel room and a hot shower! Some things ‘hot’ are good!

24 June 2005 (in Shanghai)

This is a day of shopping which I should have sat out. I’m not a consumer, I don’t even like window shopping—thank God I’m not married! But, somehow I go with the ‘flow,’ as Subodh has been so nice to me.

We go to the Lotus Super Mall, next to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The mall is pretty amazing actually, ten floors of stores and restaurants. They look and buy, look and buy! I buy one gray t-shirt for 9.90 Yuan, or $1.25 cents. That’s the sum of my purchases for a week in China… Except for film… I buy many rolls of film. Kodak, Fuji, would be happy to know. They buy gifts to take back to family and friends in Nepal. I take photographs of them looking and buying.

We eat in one of the Mall restaurants, Subodh after something in particular. I think he’s trying to accommodate me actually, always thoughtful he is! I get my rice!

Afterwards we walk the Promenade on the Huangpu River, this opposite the Bund. At night the lights are spectacular, and we take photographs with such in the b.g. (see in ‘the Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org ).

I buy them Hagen Daz ice cream!

We take the five-minute ferry ride across the Huangpu, and taxi back to where we’re sleeping! It’s 10P.M. and been a hard day of shopping! We’re asleep before our heads touch the pillows (as least mine).

Being a tourist is a strenuous thing! More debilitating actually than cycling 100KM per day, which I’d much rather do!

June 25th and 26th, (I think) in Shanghai…

Two more days of doing the ‘tourist number.’ I remember more shopping. I remember ‘Old Shanghai’ (more shopping).

I remember seeing Nisha, Subodh and Mira off to the airport early one morning. I’m taking a train to Hangzhou to ‘live!’ for awhile, checking out the Apollo Development Corporation (Stephanie’s company). They’re flying to Bangkok for a few days ‘vacation,’ before returning to Kathmandu. It’s Nisha’s last moments in Shanghai, after six-years of Medical School. It’s my beginning in China!

Seems like I’ve left out Nisha’s graduation, on a Tuesday…? Oh, well… You get the idea!

Suddenly I was on my own in China, ‘no direction known like a rolling stone’… Well, not exactly! Bhuwan (my new Chinese-speaking Nepali friend) takes and gets me on the train in Shanghai. Stephanie and Benson will be at the train station in Hangzhou.

We’ll be ‘hanging ten, in Zhouland!’ or should it be ‘Zhaoland?’ Whatever… Soon continuing ‘Pilgrimage to Mt. Kailas!’ Remember…?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Daily Does 17 July 2005

I am so blessed! It’s hard to explain! You spend your life up and down to discover bliss! Sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if I’m alive or already in heaven!

Yesterday, for example… Stephanie’s father and business associate: Zhao Xu Jian and Linjim Gang (Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine), they took me on a tour of Shanghai, bought me dinner at the oldest/best restaurant in Shanghai in the evening, walked me around the promenade on the Huangpu River afterwards (across from where The Bund[1] is—great view!).

I wonder how many successful business people in the U.S. would stop what they’re doing, and spend the day showing a stranger around their city…? One they can hardly converse with (we both speak hardly any of each other’s language). I’ll bet not many would drop what they’re doing and be tour guide for a day!

Americans are so distracted it’s hard to get their attention even when you’re paying them! Think about it… When was the last time you stopped your routine and spent an entire day doing something totally for someone else? This is a really healthy thing to do!

Ah, America, my favorite ‘whipping boy!’ You’ll have to forgive me, dear American friends as it has little to do with you personally!

Anyway, Xu Jian came by and collected me right on time at 1300 hours. We first drove to his ‘hospital,’ in the new Pudong District. He calls it a ‘hospital,’ I would call it a ‘clinic.’ It’s right above the ‘Tete a Tete’ Restaurant in a modern building. This is where we collected Linjim Gang (the ‘gang’ pronounced like ‘cang’).

While we’re waiting we have an English/Chinese language lesson. I learned how to say, ‘Do you understand?’ Zi dao? ‘I don’t understand, Wo bu zi dao! And, ‘I understand,’ or Wo zi dao! This important stuff when trying to communicate in a new language. Additionally, I learn some new ‘Chi Qong’ (Taoist) exercises. But, I can’t squat fully without falling over!

After taking some photographs in his facility (check out in the ‘Gallery’) we took a driving tour of this new developed area, high-rise building after high-rise building, company after company, factory after factory! Now I know where everything in the world is manufactured—‘Made in China!’ And why? An inexpensive, educated and motivated work force! Next, services! Watch out India!

This area of Shanghai reminded me of north Dallas, or Los Angeles, with new buildings, broad boulevards and landscaped meridians. There are huge three-sided, lighted billboards on one stanchion. There was the Shanghai Expo Center, parks, the hedges manicured and clean (not exactly Nepal). There was an incredible metal sculpture in a roundabout, Mr. Zhao mentioned (in Chinese) both coming and going, a ‘spike,’ through a lattice metal ‘plate,’ that’s famous, I’m sure.

There was a huge building where Putin and Jintao just met, but I didn’t get the name of it either. So, famous in fact this mammoth building (I think the Museum of Science and Technology), he stopped and had the doctor take a photograph of me standing in front of (in Gallery). I was duly impressed! Me, Putin, and Jintao… I’m sure you know ‘me,’ but the others…? Which country and their titles?

Although the weather in Shanghai, the heat and humidity… I couldn’t live here in this part of China in the summer (eastern coastal)! I leapt back into the air conditioned Teanna, with it’s massaging leather seat, video camera for backing up, and GPS guidance system. For a $ poor guy, I travel in style!

However, I noticed on the way two anglo women on mountain bikes, which made me think how much I’m missing riding ‘My Fiets!’ But, I don’t know about riding in such humidity. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to riding in Tibet!

We head north and east, I’m not sure which… I’m lulled as Mr. Zhao’s driving style, there’s something very relaxing about it… He drives slowly and carefully… I shake off falling unconscious, as he’s keen on pointing out things. I act interested, and am actually.

There’s the ‘German Center,’ and Roche, a country club (I was hoping not! Wal Mart has just arrived, the beginning of the end!), a housing development, ‘Dongjiao Village since 2003!’ There’s a billboard which reads, ‘Beautiful Space, Phase II’). All this while I get my back massaged and listen to the gay English, wild-dressing guy singing (I’m losing it! I can’t seem to remember his name…? Benjamin just played Van Morrison for me at the Villa… Talk about incongruities!).

We arrive at Stephanie’s High School (‘school’ sounds like ‘Co’ in Chinese)… It’s immense and modern! It’s also 40 KM from where they live in Shanghai. We head back for Pudong Centrum.

I get to observe the tallest building in China (I’ll get the name!)… It’s impressive actually, looking like a modern-day castle at 88-stories in height. Somehow, they’ve added lattice work to the exterior making it unusually attractive (in the setting sun).

We go to the Lotus Super Mall (I’d been there with Nisha, Subodh, and Mira). This, directly across from the Pearl TV Tower, some 500 meters in the sky (third highest in China).

We park below in the garage, me remembering ‘Summer #14, ‘ our space. We ride a series of escalators, past many stores and restaurants (‘ten floors’ they say to me). This is Saturday and the crowd… Gosh, I wouldn’t have come here alone for money! But, I get to urinate, and hope for ‘home.’ I’m not a shopper! I’m not even a ‘looker!’ But, they proudly show me this unique mall full of 100,000 people shopping, eating, happy in the air conditioning. I’m sure there must be a staggering power bill every month!

We drive to ‘Old Shanghai,’ (I thought back to the office where I’m temporarily ensconced.) I’m been to ‘Old Shanghai,’ with Nisha, Subodh, and Mira,’ but don’t tell them. They’re doing a ‘bang up,’ job of showing me the sights! In ‘Old Shanghai,’ there must be a million tourists! We dodge hawkers selling watches with ‘Bu yao, xie, xie,’ which means ‘I don’t need, thank you!’ I buy film which I do need.

We eat at the best/oldest restaurant in all of Shanghai I’m told, Yu Yuan. It’s only been in the same location for three hundred years, serving only one thing, Chinese pork dumplings (Xiao Long Bao). The line waiting to get in on this Saturday night is 100 meters long. But, Mr. Zhao knows what to do, disappearing upstairs for a moment. Suddenly we’re near the head of the line (he obviously knows someone).

So, after all of this, how does a vegetarian tell his gracious host he doesn’t eat pork or wheat, or dumplings? He doesn’t! He eats them! Well, actually I manage to eat just the pork ‘ball,’ inside, avoiding much of the wheat! I wash it down with the Oolong tea (comes in a pop-top aluminum can). I also eat all of my shredded ginger knowing this will help with my digestion (that’s staggering at the moment from all the Chinese food).

Interestingly, we sit at a table with two strangers (every seat utilized in this cash machine). This Chinese couple speaks pretty good English and we share the usual. I learn that they’re up from Guangzhou, the husband on business (works for an oil company), his wife on vacation. So, we have a good chat.

Afterwards, my hosts take me through the Nine-bridges Pond (where I’d been with, you guessed it two weeks prior). I take more photographs (in the Gallery at www.cyclingpeace.org). One of a ‘Chinese angel!’

At this point I’m longing for ‘home,’ bed, relief from the madding crowd, but there’s more!

We drive now under the Huangpo River (tunnel) again as we’re going to ‘walk on river,’ I’m told. And you’ve guessed correctly again… Who did I already do this with, two weeks prior? Ah, you’re brilliant! This time, however, it’s breezy and cooler, although the crowd even greater! We take more photographs, they insisting I’m in them (generally with something important in the background). I must say, this promenade full of stunning sights… Across the river, with lighted boats going back and forth in the foreground, is ‘The Bund.’ Behind you are some of the tallest structures in China all lighted up like Christmas trees!

These two Chinese chaps, terrific hosts actually and so kind! Note… Someday I hope to reciprocate in the U.S. (although Mr. Zhao has already been there to visit Stephanie.).

Finally, they’re getting tired as it’s about 2000 hours (8P.M.)—we’ve been going since 1300 hours / 1P.M. I’m happy as now we’re driving back ‘to the barn!’ and I can ‘smell the hay!’ We drop ‘Gang’ off first near the Clinic, and then under the Huangpo again and to the office. The streets of this city, almost empty now!

I thank Mr. Zhao profusely, as I’m touched with his and my Chinese friend’s loving-kindnesses! You would think I’m important with the kind of care I’m given! It almost makes me feel guilty… Like, what have I done to deserve all this goodness?

Remember at the beginning what I said…?

‘What a life!’ as Marina used to lament!

‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!’ my chant!




[1] I’ve asked many people what is the definition of the word ‘Bund?’ None have had the right answer. Some thought it might be the corruption of the word ‘Bond,’ a la Bond Street (of London) with the early English influence in Shanghai. The Bund used to be the ‘Bond Street’ and ‘Wall Street,’ of China. Now, it’s moved across the river to the new Pudong district. What does ‘Bund’ mean? According to the article in a little booklet I came across, it’s an anglo word for the muddy, undeveloped bank of a river. Nothing to do with ‘Bond.’

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Daily Does July 10 2005

The Daily Dose July 10 2005

Yesterday… Saturday… I break one big rule… Never hike/climb with someone forty-years younger than you… Especially one wearing a ‘Pith’ helmet.

21-year old energy, is actually frightening, as they can’t sit still for long (exactly what they need to do—meditate). This are the kinds that fight and die for Bush…

But, when I hear they’re (both Benjamin and Leo) are going for a hike, hopefully to Mogan San (mountain) I’m suddenly caught up in such. It’s hot, I don’t have the proper footwear, but I’m as stupid as the next when it comes to getting ‘outside’ (even in this jungle). I haven’t done any exertion since being in China (two weeks).

We start at 1100 in the morning, and walk through a village across the road from ours (where we’re living in the ‘Villa’ ). I wish I knew the names, but ke garne?

I discover marijuana plants growing ‘wild.’ Although the plants always seems to be growing near some house—plants some 2 meters tall. I’ll bet they’re partaking… Good for them! If I had to live in this kind of heat/humidity I’d be stoned all the time too!

We thread our way up concrete roads, through houses of the village and finally to fields of cha (tea). Soon the tea fields turn into a bamboo forest. We’re on a trail for awhile. Then it finally disappears beyond a Chinese grave.

Then we’re going up… And it’s hot… And I don’t have my boots for such. Mr. Pith helmet does! Leo is in footwear like mine, made for court play (like basketball or tennis). I know better. But, I don’t want to turn back, as I’m interested in Mogan San. It gets worse and worse, me sliding back as much as going up. The bamboo leaves slick like pine needles. My heart is racing as it’s too hot!

I stop for a bottle of tea, I’d brought. I’m now climbing from bamboo tree to bamboo tree, Benjamin and Leo up ahead. I finally ‘poop out,’ telling them to go ahead, I’ll wait there (on the side of the slippery hill).

I know my limit (at 65-years old), not wanting to have a heart attack or some other problem that would cause me to pass out (heat stroke).

Additionally, my goal when going ‘out there’ is always to return in time and feeling good, basically having a good time. With young men, they want to stretch to the limit (which they should), regardless of how they feel when they return (as younger bodies always recover soon).

I never want to be a burden anyone, that’s why I rarely hike with others, especially young men. If I ever have a heart attack, I’d rather be alone, and just ‘check out,’ hoping no one ever finds my ‘remains.’ If this sounds strange, this is the ‘Hutch way,’ of making the ‘transition.’ I have to use all these euphemisms, as westerners are so uptight about death and dying.

Benjamin and Leo go on up ahead. After a rest I start up again, knowing I can ‘get there,’ if I take it slow. It’s impossible to go any other way, but reach and pull from one bamboo three to another. In twenty minutes I’m up to the ridge where they disappeared. I check out possible trails or evidence of their route. I don’t find anything promising. I don’t see any summit (nothing to motivate me).

Then I begin to wonder… What if they don’t find the same route down? I could wait for a very long time. Not wanting to, I decide to go down without them, to return to the Villa. If they don’t return in a reasonable amount of time, I will sound an alarm.

I slide down, falling from one bamboo tree to another, this for about fifty meters, getting cut and sliced with thorny vines in the process. My hands are black from something that comes off touching bamboo trees. But, I’m liking being ‘out there,’ and know getting back to the Villa is no problem for me (I have much experience in the ‘forest’).

I’m resting when I glance back up to the ridge. At this very moment I see a human form. It’s Benjamin and Leo returning. I yell out, so they know I’m there. I wait for them to come down to where I am.

We ‘slide’ down the hill on the bamboo leaves carpet, sometimes on our butts, sometimes falling (me twice). It’s like skiing on snow. I know better!

Once off the hill, we find the trail, and retracing our steps is no problem. But, by the time we’re back at the Villa, we’re completely drenched with perspiration, bloody from scratches, dirty, tired and thirsty. It’s been a good work out!

The first thing I do, after washing off the bamboo trees, is drink one liter of orange juice I’ve had with me (now warm after three hours). Everyone rushes to the showers, a cleaner better kind of ‘wet!’

In a climate like this you never are completely dry (like I prefer to be)! Oh, how I long for the ‘Roof of the World!’ Colorado in the U.S. has my kind of climate!

We spend the afternoon eating (at least they do) and recovering. I should say I do the recovering, they are fine. What a difference there is between 65 and 21 years of age. I’m envious of their young bodies (not their young minds)!

I take a nap!

In the evening we all convene in the ‘den’ upstairs (media room with air conditioning). I’m writing away or uploading images (or whatever I do) when I suddenly hear Bach’s ‘Toccata in D Minor’ played on an organ (very famous classical piece). Benjamin has much music loaded on his new Dell. I think amazing! In the modern-day jungle one moment, then 16th C. Germany the next!

The next moment we’re watching a ‘Hollywood’ movie Leo has downloaded entitled, ‘The Upside of Anger!’ I recognize Kevin Costner, but not the rest of the cast.

All of this so amazing to me, the incongruity of it all… Hiking in a bamboo forest one moment, listening to Bach the next, watching a ‘Hollywood,’ movie the next and in Dequing, China (wherever that is).

My friends are still back in Colorado Springs!

But, what a piece-of-shit ‘Hollywood,’ movie, the glib acting style (everyone is ‘cool’ in ‘Hollywood’ movies). This is all about rich people with rich-people’s problems! They all smoke cigarettes (cigarette companies pour millions of dollars into ‘Hollywood’ movies), the two adults both have drinking problems, Kevin constantly with a Budweiser beer can in his hand (guess who put $100K U.S. into the budget?), and the kids smoking marijuana (which I applaud)! I guess you can’t have everything as you like…?

I blame the ‘no-name’ director, as Kevin gets none. And when a ‘star’ gets no direction (and has no discipline) s/he reverts to playing themselves (gestures). Clint Eastwood made this style famous, until he grew up (on the job training).

I’m an acting teacher writing a book about such entitled, ‘The Heart of Being!’

I wonder what ‘the boys’ think about this movie, particularly Leo who’s Chinese. It’s all so stupid, nothing but conflict, strife, and arguing… I guess this belies the theme (as about what to do with all the anger we have pent up)! It’s all about pain, which America is full of these days! What to do with all this pain? Make money from producing a movie about it!

At the end the authors try to make some grand point about the family being ‘One Safe Place,’ (the closing-credits song). I like the song, but the movie is absolutely stupid!

You’re really only ‘safe’ in your own heart/mind! And this realization comes after living a little. Life is unpredictable, and we’re not in total control (no ‘Free Will’ ultimately). All we can do is try to evolve, become more ‘conscious,’ and ultimately know who you really are (‘Know thyself!’). We find that ‘one safe place,’ in our own minds! You have to get over being afraid (to live)!

I have one friend who’s concerned about travelling to Nepal, because of disease. He’s particularly concerned about Malaria. How can I tell him ‘the only thing he has to fear, is fear itself!’ The fear he has is unfounded, built up from the culture (media) he grew up in (being too clean).

Yes, we can all be prudent about such… Typhoid is a problem in Nepal, so you don’t drink the tap water (like in many countries). But, not to partake of life, is just as dangerous, as it’s a wasted life (in my opinion)!

You can never leave your bedroom, living in a plastic ‘bubble,’ called your hometown! You can also contract Malaria at home and for no reason! You can also choose not to live, but just exist! Safety is an illusion!

This is the pronounced ‘sentence,’ for most people… They don’t really live, grow and develop, they just exist—it’s too frightening--life! I feel sorry for them! But, to each his own! Whatever courage they can muster, I appreciate, especially in this modern media world of manipulation. If you watch television regularly you can become paralyzed with fear!

According to our governments, there’s a ‘terrorist’ behind every bush. But, when you get ‘out here,’ you find out that’s not true!

Life is grand! Life is wonderful! If you will just get ‘out here,’ with me! You find out that ‘one safe place,’ is in taking risks, not avoiding them!

‘He ping’ (‘peace’ in Chinese)!

Hutch, hot in Hangzhou!

The Daily Dose July 11 2005

The Daily Dose July 11 2005

I’m back in Shanghai, a city of only 17 million people (maybe the second largest behind Mexico City…? I’m sure Bombay and Calcutta are up there too!)

Don’t’ tell me I don’t lead an amazing life!

We take a bus from Hangzhou to Shanghai, Stephanie accompanying me (so much easier to have a native speaker along) as we’re going to the PSB (Public Service Bureau) and the ‘visa-extension office’ (Department of Exit and Entry… Sounds ‘sexy’ to me!). This to get my Chinese vis-a-vis a la visa, and she is helping me with such… I really couldn’t be here any length of time without the Zhao family!

She’s called ahead to book bus tickets, but they told her just come in, no problem! Of course, there’s a problem (just as soon as someone says such you know there’s going to be…). They’ve oversold the bus and there are no seats for us. But, we rush to the gate, in this new (but empty) Hangzhou Bus Terminal in an pleading attempt. We’re ‘the show,’ this young Chinese woman with the old white man—everyone stares! Of course, we get on the bus, some Chinese having to sit on plastic stools in the aisle because of us. They give the white foreigner a regular reclining seat. Actually it’s age they respect in China—I’m here at the right time in my life!

The Chinese are very courteous and polite, at least they have been to me. The exception is on the streets of Shanghai, where you have to be very careful (like Kathmandu) as you’re liable to get run over foreigner or not!

This is a nice comfortable bus with a screen (at the front) to watch movies, TV, etc.. This is a 3.5-hour ride from Hangzhou (direct with no on/off passenger stops) to Shanghai. Thus, the movie today is ‘Pearl Harbor’ as it’s 3-hours in length.

But, what another ‘piece-of-shit Hollywood’ effort! Violent, manipulative, with all the elements to attract the unevolved (sex, patriotism, etc.). To me this does disservice to those who died in the real thing, December 7, 1941, a ‘day that lives in infamy!’ Who said that…?

The bus heads north then west which concerns me… This is the problem with a ‘compass head’ (as I was known in the Army)… I always know what direction I’m going and sometimes this causes some anxiety. Today it appears we’re heading north, then west out of Hangzhou, and Shanghai is east. But in time, the bus swings around and onto a (what we would call Interstate highway) and heads east… I’m relieved. I didn’t want to be surprised ending up in Beijing.

Stephanie and I talk, as this is the first time we’ve had in two weeks (since meeting in China) to talk away from others.

This part of China (Shanghai Province) reminds me of Holland, as it’s low, wet, green, and laced with canals. Uremqui, in far northwestern desert-like China, is looking better and better.

But today, I sit in a bus full of Chinese, watching the ‘Hollywood’ version of ‘Pearl Harbor’ (the ‘evil’ Japanese attacking forever). Outside the window on my right, a ‘Dutch’ canal full of Holland-looking canal boats laden with coal. At one point I turn and look out the window and I spy a banner that’s been hung in front of some Chinese company reading in English, ‘Welcome Syrian Delegation!’ Talk about ‘globalization!’

A young Chinese passenger (an eight-year old girl) is fascinated with me—she can’t stop staring. But, when I smile at her, she’s so embarrassed she hides her face clinging to momma! Cute, all the Chinese children—there’s something about Asian children so appealing to me.

I wish now (in retrospect of course) that I would have come here to China as a young man, married a Chinese woman, and had a child! But, too late now, thus I ‘adopt’ all!

There is no ‘WC’ (toilet) on this bus, thus I wonder what I would have done had I drank much tea prior… I ask Stephanie…? She says I would have had to make a special appeal to the bus driver (who can’t understand English). This is one reason for learning the language of the culture you find yourself in, or riding a bicycle!

But, about halfway we make a ‘pit stop,’ at a service station. By now it’s raining pretty hard. We run in the rain to the ‘WC’ some fifty meters distance. No problem as it feels good in the heat. But, mosquitoes, (‘wenzi’ in Chinese). attack me like the Japanese Zeros (fighter planes) attack Pearl Harbor in the movie. Another reason why I’m not a low and wet kind of guy--wenzi…

At some point, Stephanie is dozing and I’m watching people being blown to bits on the screen. I notice the bus stopping to let some passengers off… They turn out to be the same young Chinese men that sat directly behind me. One of them had gestured earlier that he would help me lift my backpack, which I was holding on my lap, to the luggage rack above. But, I declined, trying to explain (‘computer’) the reason I was holding it had to do with cushioning the computer inside (not because I was worried about having something stolen). But, it turned out these men were, in fact, thieves, and stole something from one of the passengers! This caused much consternation! The victim jumping off the bus and running after them, but to no avail. There was much Chinese talk about this, while in the b.g. Japanese Zeros sink the U.S.S. Arizona!

We inch our way through crowded Shanghai a part of the evening traffic rush… We’re talking millions of vehicles on the highways, in one of the largest cities in the world. It’s so large even Stephanie, who grew up here, doesn’t recognize everything and gets lost occasionally. I’m going to have to acquire an English map!

Stephanie tells me I’ll be one of 30,000+ foreigners living in Shanghai.

When we finally arrive we’re planning to take a taxi to Stephanie’s dad’s place of business. I’ve been offered one of his offices to stay (has kitchen and bathroom), he working out of another (clinic). This is very kind of him and Stephanie’s mom! All the Chinese I’ve met (so far) have been very gracious to me!

We’re 1.5 hours late ( at 1800 hours / 6P.M.) and can’t get a taxi (rush hour). Stephanie calls her dad and he comes to pick us off (another example of all their courtesies). We wait in a restaurant and have tea. The service is terrific, as they are so many servers (typical of so many people in one place) as patrons. It cost something like 2 Yuan (or ten cents). I would have left a tip, but they don’t allow!

Stephanie’s dad arrives and we’re off to his office in the comfort of his new Nissan Teanna (mentioned the massaging seat in a previous TDD). I’m alert trying to remember places, as I know I’m eventually going to have to negotiate Shanghai by myself.

We arrive at one of the many high-rise buildings (tallest in China is in Shanghai, and something like 80 stories). It’s near ‘Tibet St.’ which I feel is a good omen. I’m hoping I won’t be too far off the ground! We park in the basement and take the elevator to the 23rd floor (ah, a #5, my birth number).

I’m shown to an office suite (#2306) where I’ll be sleeping for a week (or so). It’s a cot with a bamboo ‘sheet,’ (they sleep on to be cooler). Stephanie’s mother has purchased slippers for me and a blanket for the cot. She has a watermelon in the refrigerator for me! The room has a view of Shanghai below (see images in the Gallery). I’m happier here as the accommodations at the ‘Villa’ were way too ‘soft’ and luxurious for me. Then again, this is not exactly roughing it!

This business ‘office’ has both a bathroom and a kitchen. I’m shown all the amenities, given the keys and given lessons as how to operate everything. Then we’re off to dinner.

We eat at one of Mr. Zhao’s favorite restaurants, and tonight, ‘fire pot.’ This I will explain, although most have partaken of such in the U.S. It’s a heated pot in the middle of a circular table. Various food is brought in dishes that we drop in the boiling water to cook. The only thing that comes pre-cooked is rice. I discover something I like and will order again… They mix peanut butter with soy sauce, and when I poured on my white rice… Mmmmmm good! All the other items from greens to meat are too exotic for me…

I try to explain I’m a ‘simple’ eater, but so far it’s fallen on deaf ears. We have Tsindao (sic) beer and ‘Gam bay!’ (‘drink to the bottom in Chinese’) each other many times. It’s interesting but the Chinese don’t just toast one time to the entire group, but continue individually (makes sense). I eat too much and suffer later, of course!

‘Home’ alone I get on the bamboo sheet at 2130 (930P.M.)

Don’t tell me I don’t lead an interesting life!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Daily Dose July 9 2005

The Daily Dose July 9 2005

‘Peanuts, honey roasted!’ and, classical music tomorrow!

Ah, yesterday… What a wonderful life (in spite of the oppressive humidity)! I think I’m going to write a screenplay with that title? I wonder if Jimmy Stewart would play the lead?

It started off as a ‘normal’ day at the ‘Villa,’ near Apollo Agricultural Park (10KM outside of Dequing). Except that is was a Friday and Benson seemed to be in an unusual hurry. So, we go off rushing to Dequing him honking at every possible thing (this kind of Chinese honking annoys me but I say nothing). His style of driving too, very aggressive (had a bad accident in 2001).

Seems like 2001 was not a good year for many.

Once at Apollo Development Corporation (which operates the Agri. Park), I set up my computer on the conference table and begin writing, doing whatever I do (sometimes can’t remember). I had hesitated plugging into the wall, as the last time, I thought such crashed my computer. But, I don’t like to disturb people working their jobs. Additionally, these Chinese friends are so thoughtful you have to be careful asking anything, as they’re liable to move heaven and earth for you. So, I take a chance and plug into the socket near the photocopy machine (not the socket that ‘exploded’ the last time I was in the office). It seemed to be fine my computer working O.K.

I’m writing away when I notice a group of Chinese people with something unusual, a Sony Betacam SP camcorder, the kind professionals use (have ‘shot’ much footage with one). I didn’t think much of this, as I thought this was a news crew ‘shooting’ a story in the building and were asking directions to the company from the Apollo people. Turns out they’re producing a story on Apollo and young Benjamin, a agri. technical advisor from Alabama (foreigners always get attention). Or, so I thought…

Next thing I know Stephanie informs me they want me in the video too (another foreigner). When to do this? Right now! So, off we go, driving back out to the Park (near the Villa). Never a dull moment in my existence, and such as I have warranted in my life (don’t do boredom).

We stop at a nursery area (a part of the Park), where there are rows and rows of many potted shrubbery bushes, of which Benjamin knows the Latin name. They ‘shoot’ him explaining, and I ‘shoot’ them with not much explanation (see images in the Gallery at http://www.cyclingpeace.org/ --people keep asking me where the ‘Gallery’ is...?). In virtual reality I say!

I don’t want to get too far off the ‘track’ here, but what you call life is ‘virtual!’ Life is a word game!

Then comes my ‘big moment’ in the Chinese video. I’m to ride a bicycle… Well, it has two wheels, but in my world not much of a ‘bicycle.’ I like the color, however, pink! The brakes don’t work. Check out the image at http://www.cyclingpeace.org/, then ‘click on’ the Gallery (one must explain always).

What is it about human nature that doesn’t do any preventative maintenance? I observe the rusty hunks they call bicycles here, the chains rusted and/or thick with goo. I clean my chain practically everyday. Thus, ‘My Fiets’ works well! This little pink one barely. The seat is too low, and I look like a Hindu, pumping my knees practically up in my chin.

Hindus, at least the ones I’ve observed in Kathmandu, generally ride in shower shoes flopping, at maybe two kilometers per hour. Hindus are never in too big a hurry they aren’t (or is that a double negative?). This style of riding an Indian bicycle always make me laugh.

The Chinese cameraman is inventive. I recognize all the chat between him and the ‘producer.’ He wants to get the standard reflection-in-the-car-window shot, but it won’t work. I’m to ring the bell a lot!

Then my biggest moment, an interview with the Chinese producer with Stephanie as translator. I try to say all the right things, complimenting the Chinese. I know what they’re looking for, as I’ve produced many of the same genre.

I find out afterwards that this is not about Apollo, per se, but a promotional video for the Province (It’s one of 33 I’m told, provinces that is.... I’ll get the name as it’s a beer too. Something like Liajiang?). This is what happens when you work in another culture… You only think you know what’s going on.

Then we’re treated (always) to lunch at a local restaurant. We get the air conditioned room with the lazy susan. There’s everything from beer to rice, to eel. I avoid the local eel! Here we sit eight of us, two Americans and six Chinese around this round table. We’re all very polite and have a good time. I learn ‘game be!’ (sic) or the Chinese toast which means ‘drink to the bottom!’

I ask the group, via Leo and/or Benson what attracted them to a career in video…? An interesting answer, or course as one I wasn’t expecting… When they started their careers, during the era of Mao, they had no choice, they were told what they would be doing. Now, they’re glad as it affords meeting people like us, and is a challenge to do well. I agree vociferously, knowing oh so well what they mean about ‘challenging!’

Back at the office, I’m working (writing or whatever I do) when the president of the Apollo Development Corporation (Zhang Wen) walks into the office, dressed in slacks and a golf shirt (had been in shorts and a t-shirt the day I met him). He says, ‘Hi Hutch,’ but appears focused on something more serious. He issues some orders in Chinese, and heads back for the elevator. Soon, Benson and Stephanie are following him, explaining to me… Seems they have to go out to the Park as some government official is expected—the reason Wen is in Dequing (stays in Hangzhou most of the time). I wonder if he’s told them, or this is a surprise.

They all haven’t gone five minutes when the sky opens and there’s a downpour which turns into a hail storm (with thunder). People rush to the windows to enjoy (the cooler temperatures suddenly caused by the falling balls of ice). I don’t bother.

It isn’t thirty-minutes later that Stephanie and Benson return. The big official called his visit off because of the storm. In and out, back and forth we go!

Suddenly Benson is in a hury to depart for the Villa (taking Benjamin and I). But, we must shop first as he’s not returning until Monday morning (the Villa is ten kilometers from any food market). I need milk for tea, yogurt, sugar. Benjamin needs beer as it’s Friday night (he’s 21-years old).

In the meantime, the plan is for Stephanie and I to return to Shanghai on Monday. She’s going to accompany me to the Public Service Bureau (Police) in Shanghai (I will have her father’s address) to apply for my visa extension. (Note: I’m now something like five weeks behind on my ‘Pilgrimage to Mt. Kailas.’) Benson, who returns to Hangzhou on the weekends to be with wife and son (Peter), will return Monday morning in time to put me on a bus to back Hangzhou. I’m to meet Stephanie at the Central Train Station for a 1000 train to Shanghai. At last, there will be time to talk with her (without distractions). But, I can barely keep up with it all (wanting simpler seclusion)—it must be my age!

Back at the villa Benson cooks us another great Chinese meal before he departs! This guy is number one in my book, both of them, including Leo. They’ve been wonderful hosts for my short stay at the ‘Villa’ (Apollo Agricultural Park).

After dinner I stand with Leo outside partaking of a post-storm ‘sunset.’ We’re visited by a large yellow butterfly who flies very close around us. I had seen it earlier and remarked to Leo. Now, it comes very close as if to say, ‘Ni hao!’ Later, I’m watching TV downstairs in the living room (CCTV #5 and a program entitled, ‘Sports in English’), and notice this large yellow butterflying by the window as if saying ‘goodbye!’ These kinds of experiences don’t go unnoticed by me (as would with most). This is nature ‘talking to me.’

People miss so much in life, just because they’re distracted!

Later I’m sitting upstairs in the ‘den,’ where the ‘satellite’ TV (we can watch an ‘illegal’ CNN) and computer are located. It’s where I’ve set up my little ‘office’ on a bamboo table. Leo is sitting at their desktop computer, Benjamin sitting with his monster (the latest) Dell next to me at the bamboo table. Suddenly I’m hearing western classical music as Benjamin has hooked up his Dell (with much music uploaded) to the speakers. At the same time he’s showing me images of me earlier in the day on the pink bicycle. The selection is Antonio Vivaldi, and for some reason the incongruities are overwhelming… to make it even more overwhelming, Leo has downloaded a ‘Hollywood’ movie and suddenly we’re watching the ‘Rounders’ a ‘Hollywood’ produced movie on the computer screen. Sensory overload!

Benjamin hands me a can of peanuts he’s purchased at the Chinese supermarket and says, ‘Peanuts…? Honey roasted!’ For some reason I think this a good title for a typical ‘Hutch’ day in China! I’m then offered some Chinese beer!

‘Am I dreaming I’m a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I’m a man!’ Old Taoist saying!