Friday, September 23, 2005

19 September 2005 The Daily Dosage – my weekend cycling trip with two Chinese men (whose names I don’t even know in English)

19 September 2005 The Daily Dosage – my weekend cycling trip with two Chinese men (whose names I don’t even know in English): 200 KM in two days, and probably the best short cycling trip of my life… It was a full moon! The place, the locale, the people, everything was heaven (moon) sent!

Saturday:

I’m up at 0600, and out by 0730. There’s always many tasks loading for a cycling trip, at least for me, who is picky about starting right! Good start, good finish is one of my mottos! I guess I’m a perfectionist, try as I might to overcome!

Off hours is the best time to be on the Uremqi streets, safer, with far less traffic!
I cross town, with ease, (hotel on the west side, near the RR station, People’s Park on the east side). I’m there by 0800, as requested. But, there’s already one Chinese man waiting. It’s not Mr. Zhao the leader (whose flag I now proudly fly on Ms. Fiets). The man waiting can’t speak a word of English, and doesn’t even know pidyin , but we communicate. He writes down his name in Chinese in my book.

This man, about 45-years of age (I’m guessing) has a brand new bicycle, all decked out with new travelling gear. In addition, he’s wearing new cycling clothing, so I’m guessing he’s new to cycling (although one shouldn’t make assumptions). We wait together for Mr. Zhao, but the early morning ‘scene’ in People’s park is something to behold (see photographs in the Gallery at www.cyclingpeace.org )

Remin (People’s) Park, is the place on Saturday morning you come to participate in Tai Chi, calligraphy, aerobics, roller skating/blading, etc.. It’s an amazing scene, with thousands of people, many just there to spectate. Imagine Acacia Park in CS being full of people on Saturday morning, all doing exercises (or artwork on the pavement). Or, imagine Central Park in N.Y.C., with a million people exercising, etc. Actually, Central Park used to have the same kind of energy, when I lived near in the 1960’s!

I spotted an anglo, so I introduced myself. Turns out he is an American, staying in the adjacent 5-star hotel the Hok Tai (don’t know the exact pidyin name), or something like that (see photograph in Gallery). ‘Some guests to remember, this was one to forget,’ from California, a California ‘Bob!’ But, I shouldn’t be too quick to judge, as he might be a nice guy! He was just in a hurry, and certainly not interested in me, which I can understand in People’s Park on Saturday morning (too much in the way of interesting Chinese). There is music, and drums, and energy, energy, and more energy!

Bob, made two older American men I’d met in Uremqi in the last 24 hours. The one the preceding evening, Curt (‘…one to remember…’) I had run into by ‘accident,’ at my ‘kai shui’ restaurant (the place I go to fill my thermos with hot water) in my hotel neighborhood. He was staying at the Ramada down the street two blocks.
He’s on his way to Pakistan, then back to Kashi (where I’m heading for the winter). I give him Stephanie’s mobile #, if he needs help! Always be helpful, if nothing else!

Mr. Zhao arrives and organizes the cycling group. There’s only two of us there, we’re to meet the bulk of the group, another six, north of town. I follow my Chinese man through town, red lights not stopping him!

We go out the northwest part of Uremqi, something I’d wanted to, having never been in this part of the city (going towards the airport)… And amazing again, the development… A stunning hotel, and an Olympic-sized stadium and arena!

I have to pee desperately, but this guy doesn’t speak English… What to do? This is comical, thinking (as I’m cycling) what to do… I finally stop him and try to convey, even going so far as to act out, but he doesn’t get it! Luckily we’ve stopped near a school and he hails a passing student, knowing the young know English. Sure enough the girl explains, and he laughs. Even ‘luckier,’ we’ve stopped 100 meters from a ‘W.C.’ where I make a ‘beeline’ for… I’m in such a hurry I burst into the ‘Ladies’ (only) and get a scolding! All this could be a sequence in a comedy movie about an anglo trying to survive in ‘Sino’ situations!

We finally get to the group, waiting on a street corner. I’m in ‘luck’ again, as one of the older men has brought his son who speaks English (a medical student). We head north, me not knowing where I’m going really… I had thought possibly a short trip, a hotel, and an easy ride home tomorrow, Sunday—that’s what I surmised talking to who I could about what/where they go every weekend in the summer. But, it got a whole lot better than that as the day went on…

It’s a breeze, the cycling… as, going north, from Uremqi you go downhill, not much, maybe 1-2 degrees in grade, but enough to make you feel like you could cycle forever! However, because this is a ‘weekend kind of outing,’ for older and out-of-condition men (who smoke of course) there are many stops.

I get to know young, Zhao Wei (keep in mind the Chinese traditionally put the last name first), or Wei Zhao for you westerners. He’s a nice, young, and polite boy who is very helpful. He tells me it’s going to rain on Monday, but tomorrow, Sunday still good! But, then we almost collide when a vehicle pulls out and he swerves to avoid! ‘Close,’ I told him later! He apologizes, but I’m not sure it was his fault. His father is my age at least, and hung right in there… I’m always happy to see this… People out trying at least even though they may (and probably are) suffering!

On and on we go until we’re about at the 60 KM mark (from Uremqi – several have cycle computers). We stop at an intersection to rest, where there are some tables in the shade. Here I meet a Chinese policeman, who’s fascinated that I’m from the U.S. (sounds like ‘May Goa,’ when you hear the Chinese say, ‘America.’). I give him my Chinese explanation of the Kashi Rally. He writes in Chinese in my book, his name, telephone number, and some ‘best wishes!’ although I don’t know exactly.

At this point young Wei tells me he and most of the group are turning back, as it’s some kind of holliday in China… I’m to follow two others (one the man at the beginning). He says something about another 12KM, and I’m still thinking, a village, a hotel, and then back quickly on Sunday.

We head out, and now these two are stronger and wanting to ‘rock and roll,’ so I have to ‘chug’ to keep up. But, this is good as I need a work out. We go and go, much more than 12KM, possibly 30! Through cotton-growing country, no less! China grows cotton, which takes a dry and hot climate (which this certainly is, at least in the winter).

We finally stop to have lunch, but no zhau fan here. I’m given a plate of noodles, meat, and vegetables swimming in grease. I try the noodles, just to see and the noodles are slightly like ‘rope,’ or what the Italians would call cooked ‘andante.’ I eat the vegetables, mostly green pepper and tomatoes. I pay for all three of us, some 17 Kwai (Kuan in parlance), which is roughly $2 U.S. Three people, a big meal, plus tea for $2 U.S. China is inexpensive comparatively! This would cost 10X the amount in the U.S. (Colorado Springs).

It’s now 1530 hours (3:30 P.M.) and hot, as we’re going through what looks and feels like the Imperial Valley (around the Salton Sea) in California. Some parts remind me of southern Arizona, some the Big Bend country of far west Texas. Some of it is pretty desolate. But, all of it is déjà vu! I’ve been here before! I’m a desert ‘rat,’ they called me ‘the lizard,’ in my younger days. I’ve resuscitated a few!

I’m beginning to wonder and query my Chinese duo about how far, what and when are return to Uremqi is…? This at a school in a very small village, where they ask for directions. They subsequently explain to me, not much further (gesturing), and that we’ll be returning to Uremqi tomorrow (Sunday). I was concerned as I have this ‘Men’s Journal shoot’ coming up and need to be back in U. on Monday (of course I don’t try to explain this to them).

In this little village, I shop in a ‘store’ (for liquid, juice, tea, etc.) as I’ve now figured out we’re camping out for the night. When the Chinese ‘owner’ (or clerk) doesn’t understand what I want, I go behind the counter and pull out what I need, two bottles of juice, and one bottle of some kind of nutritional drink (you learn to communicate someway, somehow, if impossible by verbal language).

But, I’m glad to have this kind of experience in the far ‘outback,’ as I know this is what I’m going to encounter on the way to Kashi (for the Chinese), Kashgar (for the Uyghurs). It seems like in China, as far as my experience goes, you can get pretty much anything, anywhere! Of course, I don’t expect to find soybean milk powder out here, but you can certainly find it all over U.

We head east, and are soon on a dirt road for the first time. It isn’t long afterwards, that we’re finally out in the country, uncultivated as least. Although we pass the final cotton field where ‘Chinese migrant workers’ (I noticed buses) are picking. One of the Chinese cyclists walks and asks ‘the boss,’ (napping in the shade of course) for directions. Note: These two cyclists have never been here before… They’ve only been given directions, an idea about ‘this place.’ This is the kind of thing you get good at figuring out, when you can’t communicate verbally (directly). You just have to go, ‘with the flow!’ We’re now, according to one of the bike computers, some 90KM from U. What do I do…? I could hardly find my way back without my ‘guides.’

The countryside turns into sand-dunes like hills… desolate, I’m talking desolate, yet in China, with one billion plus people, you don’t go too long anywhere without running into a two-legged, walking, talking or riding on something (noise makers they are all).

Up and on a ‘dike,’ I suddenly I realize what this is, as I see a series of ponds (lakes) and marsh, with one car and a man fishing. In the distance, some yurts on a shallow hill. Ah… This is where we’ll be spending the night—a camping facility. I’m pleasantly surprised. But, it’s mostly ‘beach’ sand at this point and we have to push our bicycles the last 100 meters.

When we get there we discover a half-dozen yurts (see photograph in ‘The Gallery’), and one semi-permanent house in this ‘settlement.’ They’ve even run electricity out here. I had first thought these yurts, seeing them at a distance, would be ‘operated’ by Kazakhchi, but they turned out to be abandoned. But, something was going on out here, maybe a hunting/fishing lodge of sorts, as there is abandoned equipment, piles of logs, and lots of debris.

The place is a mess actually, with piles of trash. I think how nice this place could be if cleaned up, the garbage dealt with (the Chinese no different from the Nepalese on this accord). They throw ‘shit,’ anywhere and everywhere. The only difference between China and Nepal, in this regard, in China there is an ‘Army’ of people to clean up every morning! In Nepal, it just ‘grows’ wherever!

But, the greatest thing… There isn’t a manmade sound—I mean the total opposite of ‘Hotel California!’ It’s intensely silent, except for the wind, a distant dog barking. The second greatest thing, on this day at least, is the weather… ‘hot’ with a breeze. I’m in ‘heaven!’ On the other hand, the Chinese men squat in the shade of the ‘reed house’ (the semi-permanent structure

The yurts over look a series of lakes and marsh land. In the distance we spy giant Herons and some other birds. After we check out the scene, and rest a bit (after moving you want to be still) I take off with camera ready.

I ‘wonder’ around the marshy lakes and dune-like hills, happy to be ‘out in the middle of nowhere!’ I can’t believe my good fortune! This is exactly what I wanted, for a full moon night… I shall sleep out in the sky!

But, the birds… Too smart for me… They won’t let me get very close so I wander back to the yurt complex enjoying being outside on such a lovely afternoon.

The two Chinese men have staked out the best yurt, and invite me to share. But, I tell them I’m sleeping outside. Part of the reason, has to do with Chinese men’s snoring… They all smoke. They all snore (except for Lee).

I find a pile of stacked… I don’t even know what to call them… ‘shelves’ (pallets) made out of metal and wood, roughly five by thirty feet in size (no doubt had some industrial use). There are maybe five of them stacked one on top of the other, about four-feet off the ground, making the perfect bed/platform to sleep on.

I spread out my ‘space blanket,’ pad and sleeping bad, and sit in the setting sun. It’s all too perfect, if there can be such a thing! I think if I could have written the script, it wouldn’t be as good as this! It took eight hours, and we’re 90+ KM north of Uremqi, but if you asked me to find the locale, I doubt I could… Out in the middle of the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Xinjiang Province which you’re never even heard of!

I think the mystery of life is astounding! Yet, there’s nothing to solve!

I stare out at the incredible scene, the lake, the birds, the sun setting, big, orange, and warm. Yet again will it come up in the east, smaller, paler, cooler, but to make another day, warming us, growing us, sustaining us!

I feel so blessed at this point, tears come to my eyes, I’m overwhelmed with emotion! How did I get here? Where am I?

I’m with two Chinese guys whose English names I don’t even know! I’m at ‘the end of the earth,’ light fading… This is exactly where I want to be, exactly at the time I’ve wanted… It’s hard to explain… My life ‘flashing’ before me! I fantasize a UFO landing in the night… A ride around the Galaxie! This would be a moment to ‘die,’ to make the ‘transition!’ I’m speechless, tears running down my face!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!

The Chinese men disturb my reverie, and we discover the full moon just appearing… I bring it to their attention—they discuss it in Chinese. We watch it for at least thirty minutes grow into something I will remember forever! I’ve never seen a more beautiful full moon rising, this September moon in China!

A giant heron takes off in the distance, hear the wind beneath its wings! I don’t even know how I got here, except by ‘your grace!’ How can I thank whatever gods maybe for this moment?

I’m 65-years old, my life is setting like the sun, the shadows lengthening on the page! ‘Da feng’ (the wind) ripples the lake, but the fish do not care! On the other side of the world they’re asleep in their beds, dreaming….

I dreamt the other night I was ‘magic,’ having special powers! We all do! If you can, pause long enough to ‘connect!’ It will make all the difference!

Lady bugs in this part of the world are brown in color. The Heron stands stately in the water. The bushes wave the wind!

Life! That’s the amazing thing!

Yesterday, with Toby and Martin in Uremqi, and now this! Yesterday, full of human travail, today the majesty of nature!

What kind of world has man created where we have to steal from each other? Don’t steal things from other people, give to them! It will make all the difference! Give! Share!

The idea of Communism, in its purest form, was to share a little more, not a bad idea! Of course, this idea was corrupted by human nature. The idea of Capitalism is to do for thyself, not such a good idea (in my opinion)! Money has become ‘God’ in modernity!

Get out in nature and observe! We’re a part of ‘It!’ We’re not above ‘It!’ but a part of it! Both the Taoists and Albert Einstein said the same thing! If you want to understand existence, observe nature deeply! Neither one talked about ‘Jesus,’ or Mohammed, or Buddha, or Lao Tzu, for that matter… Nature…

The fisherman (of earlier) drives home in his climate-controlled box on wheels, no doubt having taken fish from the lake. I remember seeing him ‘land one’ running wildly to the jerking line, a fish on his hook. But, what has he ‘caught’ other than himself? Come quietly, not in a ‘climate-controlled box on wheels!’

Don’t take, give! When you give, you get! When you take, you are taken from (in ways you don’t even know). Make no noise! Don’t’ ‘trash out’ mother earth!

I know the sky, the birds, the flies biting my leg! They are the same ones of 1952!

I know the sun, the wind, the sand, the earth! I’m of it! And in 30K years what was my body will be the ‘clay that pushed in the hole, will help keep the rain at bay!’ ‘See change!’

What is here without consciousness? That’s what all this is, mind created! Even the sky, the stars! ‘We are’ the ripples on the pond! The fish don’t care!

I hear a dog barking across the pond… What is that? Is the dog the bark, or vice versa?

One of the Chinese men sleeps on the sand, no doubt finally relaxed away from the ‘madding crowd’ of Uremqi! He sleeps deeply, modernity ‘washed’ from his mind!

I lie down in my sleeping bag, the other Chinese man still pacing about, smoking a cigarette!

I make a wish on the first star, but then realize it’s a planet probably Venus. Oh, the human foibles, frailities. I gaze up at antiquity! But, there are few old stars on this night. Only the brightest can survive the full moon, turning my night dreams into day dreams.

There’s no wind, no bugs, it’s perfect on my pallet, both Chinese men finally disappearing into their yurt. I’m ‘alone’ in this ‘Disney studio!’

All night long, drifting in and out of consciousness, I watch the moon traverse the sky, a ‘satellite.’ All night long I’m ‘bathed’ in the light of the ‘silvery moon!’ The Yin transforms me forever! I am Ahya now!

The night is the most serene I can remember, so still, unreal! I don’t know if I’m ‘awake,’ or ‘dreaming’ as I look around at my ‘movie set!’ Have I been taken up in the UFO? Even the Chinese are not snoring, or I can’t hear them. The light, such a different light, this full moon, cast on the yellow reed-walled house a few feet away.

I am ‘sleeping’ in the sky.

I awaken at 0500. I don’t want to get up, even thought not that cold. But, soon the sound of Chinese chatter. Time to get up.

Soon a Chinese face is checking to see if I’m still alive. I say, ‘Good Morning!’ He says something in Chinese, which I don’t understand.

I see the moon set over the horizon! I’ve never watched the full moon from horizon to horizon before, a complete cycle. The Yin has transformed me forever! I am Ahya!

It’s been a benevolent moon, no trouble! I wonder if this is the ‘harvest moon,’ or maybe October? The Chinese are harvesting several things, the cotton being one ‘crop.’

The Chinese don’t know or care about our calendar months—they have their own. They have another existence, on the other side of this spinning top. We think ours is the only way, they think theirs! I think Nature is the only ‘Way!’ neither West nor East—but, the Tao!

We’re off quickly on our bicycles with no breakfast, not a sound. It’s such fun to do this, travel so lightly, go before the sun comes over the hill, leaving not a trace. I love to move, I love to travel, especially on a bicycle. Like silent ships slipping into a sea we go...

We crank through the sand and mist, the early morning of northwestern China. We pass a house where the dogs bark threateningly at us, their owner staring at us incredulously. Where have we come from, looking like ‘moon men?’ and on such strange looking bicycles.

Soon, we’re back in the ‘flow’ of rural China, women passing us on their bicycles, their faces covered with white scarves to shield from the morning chill (dawn effect).

In the second village of some size, we stop for breakfast! I’ve been given ‘milk tea,’ and am drinking it, when my Chinese men tell me we’re moving. I hear the words, ‘mi fan,’ which they know I like. It turns out no fan, but noodles, and sausage but I abstain (begging off). But, I’m in luck with hot water in a bowl, where I make coffee! I eat my apple and a combo pear/apple (this a Chinese hybrid that has a name that escapes me). Note: Coffee is hardly drank by the Chinese, yet you can purchase Nestles in the supermarkets in U. They drink only lu cha or green tea, and in special containers with screens to keep the leaves at bay. Note: No tea bags for the Chinese!

The sun is coming over the hill. I wander through the village market setting up for the day. Who is this strange man, they must be asking…

Everyone stares at me in China, less this phenomenon was in Nepal. They’re all curious in this part of China, as there have been few white people. A man from America (‘May Goa’) no less! I’ve come on a bicycle! I’ve come in peace (‘he ping’) respecting them! I want them to know Americans are kind and generous people, not like George W. Bush! Not all Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or Capitalist. Some are different!

I love, loving them. I love making people smile! As a result they are kind and generous with me! I can hardly give money away in Xinjiang Province (except to the beggars with hat out). I have to fight every morning with the people at my ‘kai shui’ (hot water) restaurant as they won’t even take one yuan (.12 cents) for filling my jug (thermos).

We move on, me ringing my bicycle bell! It’s my way of communicating ‘thanks,’ or ‘Hi,’ when I don’t know the proper words! I wave, say ‘Ni hao!’ or ‘hello’ in China, ‘Namaste!’ in Nepal. Here in Xinjiang Province, you’re not just dealing with Chinese, but Uyghurs and Kazakhs! So, to say ‘Ni hao,’ doesn’t work!

We head south, on a poplar-lined two-lane highway! The morning traffic is building, even thought it’s Sunday in China. Sunday doesn’t have the same significance it has for westerners… It’s just another work day. The Chinese, Asians… they work all the time!

‘Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh, what a beautiful day! I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going our way!’

I’d seen the kind of sun light I was cranking through in Xinjiang, before…

There’s such a technique in ‘Method Acting,’ ‘Affective and/or sense memory.’ You use your senses (any one of the five) to call up an emotion associated with a particular sound, sight, smell (certain perfume and I can remember making loving). One of the things with me is light/sight, sun light… I can feel it!

I can tell you what time of year it is just by the sun light, almost the latitude. What are we here in Xinjiang Province, probably (and I don’t really know) something like 30 to 40 degrees north? This is similar to the U.S. Thus, I knew the light of that morning (Sunday, September 18, 05) I’d been in and/or felt before… It’s a ‘déjà vu’ feeling. I felt like I was in the Imperial Valley of California, along about 1960, maybe Indio, maybe eating pancakes for breakfast (which I used to love—now can’t eat). I felt my parent’s presence (physically long since gone).

It’s quite a distance, something like 20KM, but we make the city (?) we’d come up through the day before. We had stopped in the city park and I’d taken some photographs (see in ‘Gallery’). I remember my young friend Wei saying it was ‘small.’ Yet, ‘small’ to a Chinese person, in terms of population, is ‘large’ to us in America. I’d bet this city has a population of 100,000 people.

My two Chinese friends are searching for something, I know as they stop and ask several times. I know it can be one of three things (you get good at guessing). One, a bicycle shop, as the man on the older bicycle is having some trouble with his bottom bracket, two, a zhau fan restaurant for me, and three ‘unknown’ (can be anything, like buying a present for the wife back in Uremqi). Turns out to be, #2, as they’re so thoughtful, knowing I like zhau fan, they’ve found a place for me to have it for lunch. They order, and then return to watching my bicycle (I haven’t locked). This is how kind and thoughtful they are!

I sit alone, but have the very best zhau fan/polo (the Uyghur rice pilaf) so far in Xinjiang Province (including all I’ve had in Uremqi)! Why? It’s the freshest… The vegetables are different (like spinach), and are fresh! But, I down it too fast, knowing they’re standing out there waiting for me! To help my system, I double the dosage of digestive pills I normally take to 4! I eat as quickly as I can and then return to where they’re keeping vigil over all the bicycles (the street very busy). I thank them, making sure they understand how grateful I am! They were even going to pay for it!

On the road again, we turn left when I remember it should be to the right (good memory about places, directions). But, I go with the flow thinking they must have something in mind, like a different route back to Uremqi.

It isn’t long before the ‘older bicycle’ (wish I knew his English name) gets so far ahead we lose him (he has this syndrome of getting too far ahead of us, and then having to wait).

But then there he is, spotted up some steep incline on some dam/dike. I’m not sure exactly what this is. We follow, of course, cranking up to behold a huge reservoir/resort! I’m amazed yet again. This is not even on the map! We’re talking five kilometers across too, albeit cement lined (a true reservoir versus a lake). There are boats, and in the distance Bogeda (the 5450 M peaks) majestically jutting up in the distance (see photographs in the Gallery). I spot a large house boat, which turns out to be a floating hotel (see photograph in Gallery).

Again we ‘take a break,’ they resting in the shade chatting with the locals (who run the concessions). I wander around and take photographs (again in the Gallery). When I notice bicycles ‘built for three and four,’ I set up a photograph of us, ‘the tree Musketeers!’ sitting on one (again…). You can rent these and crank around the reservoir. I’m very impressed with all this… The Chinese… China… It isn’t what you think! It’s more like America!

I buy drinks for all and some film (ah, just in the ole nick of time). The weather is perfect… If we would have had the time, I would have bought all a ride around in one of the fast-looking boats tied below us.

Off again on our bicycles, it looks like we’re going to crank all the way around, but in a kilometer, we walk down the embankment to ‘behold,’ a giant stature of the ‘Laughing Buddha!’ I was dumbfounded! What is this doing here?

I don’t believe anyone really understood, but me… Thus, the photograph of the Buddha (which cost me a 1 Yuan donation) is dedicated to Karma Sherpa, there in Pharping, Nepal (‘Nebhur,’ it sounds like in Chinese). There at the tea/cooler/awning (everywhere in China) a Chinese man speaks good English, and I give him a flyer about ‘The First Annual Uremqi to Kashi Bicycle Rally.’

We pass Lotus ponds (the flowers are gone but the giant leaves are unmistakable) then turn down a street, lined with trees (see photograph in Gallery). This is a Kazakhchi Resort. Every time you think you’ve got a good idea of what you’re dealing with in China, they surprise you! This street in the middle of this desert with yurts no less, a tree-covered street reminding me of several I’d cranked through in The Netherlands. The only difference… Here the sun was casting hard shadows!

I remember thinking at the time, that I’ve enjoyed the variety of terrain/roads they’ve taken me on… I don’t like just a hard-surface highway. Then again, after a while, off-road challenges get old on a loaded bicycle. Some variety is nice, however.

But, we bounce for too long over some rough unpaved and open road. Past a small Mosque (no photograph) we turn onto a two-lane highway full of trucks. Beyond the poplar trees on one side of the highway yellow fields where they’re growing something, wheat maybe (see photograph)?

It isn’t long before the ‘older bicycle faster man,’ has stopped again, this time for watermelon. I’m now getting the idea these guys have taken this route before, as the other introduces me to the Chinese family behind the watermelons. This house, with a courtyard and the smiling/happy people in it, made me feel like I was in Mexico. They are drying corn in the courtyard, for one thing (see photographs in Gallery).

So, in the course of the day so far I’ve ‘been in’ four/five different ‘countries’ (can you name them?)—Colorado in the distance, no less! Where am I?

Soon we’re back in China! How do I know? We’ve stopped for noodles this time. And this time it’s my turn to stay with the bicycles, a pool table a few meters away (see photograph in the Gallery).

Off we go again, but as has been the ‘drill’ for the day… The ‘older bicycle’ cranks out of sight, but then the other knows right where to find him… Bathing himself in a pool of water fed by a large pipe (for irrigation). A parked taxi man is washing his ‘climate-controlled box on wheels!’ Later two young boys arrive on their bicycles, scoot out the pipe (about ten inches in diameter) to bend and drink directly from the flow (I’m not sure I would).

We rest here beside this gushing water quite a while, as I think they probably over did the noodles back a few kilometers (the ‘negative’ ions too good to pass up from the gushing water).

This is lovely, but trashed-out spot… I fantasize what I would turn it into… First clean it up. Second, build a wooden deck around it, and serve tea here, complete with vegetative décor. It would attract the tourists for sure. Except… Nearby is a factory spewing out some unpleasant pollutant, turning the sky gray, and causing our eyes to water… Oh well, an idea…

But, the lower classes (working people) they don’t understand… Interesting… Culture is family, education, exposure to the finer things in life… The ‘lower classes,’ (and I don’t know what else to call them), never get a chance! They’re too busy trying to survive!

Here in the afternoon, after fruit in the morning, and gulping how a heaping plate of polo (zhau fan) I am dealing with the usual constipation! But, the nearby reed-walled outhouse too ‘ripe’ in the summer sun for my liking, so I get no chance ‘to try’… ah… Say ‘ahhhhhh’… Say… I should fast, but the food too good here in China!

You people whose bowels move freely and easily… Trust me… You don’t have any problems… You just think you do!

Onward now in the heat of the afternoon, a crusty, dusty ride through growing ‘uncivilization.’

It isn’t long until I recognize Miquan, the industrial town about 20 kilometers north of Uremqi on the way to Bogeda (I’ve learned that the name ‘Ti’an Shan,’ describes the entire mountain range, so incorrect to use for the National Park where we met ‘Mr. No Good Man’ Kazakhchi kurt). Miquan is one of those places you want to crank through as rapidly as you can, as it’s nothing but factories and pollution (as far as I can tell).

At this point I’m wondering when and where we will part… I want to say ‘Xie xie,’ to my good hosts and cycling companions. I’m an emotional kind of guy, and when I have as good a time as I’ve had in the last two days, I want to make sure that they understand how much I appreciate.

Additionally, I’m thinking I’ll take my way to the hotel, over a footbridge crossing the big highway (Interstate like), and we’ll part there. But, again, after a long rest on some green grass, our ‘fast man’ is too far in the lead to stop. So, I don’t break off but follow.

Worse, he goes the wrong way on the big highway’s access road, and this is dangerous as ‘shit!’ I mean I keep saying to the vehicles careening at us at too fast of speeds (at least 60KPH), ‘Thanks for not killing us!’

Note: The Chinese, even the good and seemingly conscious are crazy about this… On the streets they’ll do anything to get where they’re going, risking their lives in the process. I take enough risks riding a bicycle in Uremqi, but this is too much. Unfortunately, I’m committed to saying thanks and goodbye to my Chinese hosts.

But, ‘Mr. Fast/old bicycle’ just splits off, turning toward his home no doubt, without so much as a ‘goodbye!’ Thus, he becomes in my book ‘No good cycling man!’ This is not a guy (Chinese or not) I would want along on our ‘…Uremqi to Kashi ride’… He’s not ‘hip’ to group cycling courtesies!

I stop with the other man (with the new bicycle), and here I do express what I’m feeling. He responds with describing next weekend’s trip. Even though I don’t quite understand his Chinese, I know the subject (you get good at reading the situation). So, here we part, waving, and I head directly to the hotel. Unfortunately, I’m trapped on the ‘wrong way,’ and have to continue too long, dodging oncoming traffic. Here they have good reason to honk loudly at me, I’m guilty!

Had it been me alone I would have gotten off that the first overpass bridge, the way I’d discovered on my reconnaissance trips (early in ‘the game’). But, instead of a ‘grooved’ or ‘scored’ wheel track in the middle of the stairs , like most, this one is out of tile or ‘marble’ and slick as ‘snot!’ So, my laden/heavy bicycle keeps sliding off. Then down on the other side, I fall down with it! This really pissing me off! Suddenly the reality of being back in Uremqi hits me, the honking, screaming madness uniquely Chinese!

Note: A bicycle, while you are riding it, can be the most stable thing on two wheels! But, stationary, or being pushing it becomes the most unstable thing on two wheels, and a pain in the ass. Ms. Fiets is always choosing to fall over when I have stashed it against whatever I can find at the time (on the road a real challenge and why a kickstand is not a bad idea). You have to be very careful leaning your bicycle against something, as if you’re not careful, it’s going to fall over!

The rest is history as they say! I’m ‘high’ as a kite now with the remembrances of ‘the best short cycling trip of my life! I’m remember not wanting to part from my new Chinese cycling buddies! And I don’t even know their names (in English).

Postscript notes…

I’m just back at the hotel unloading, when out of the door come three Pakistanis. One immediately strikes up a conversation. When they find out from America, they’re all smiles and even friendlier! So, if you think the people from Pakistan hate the people of America, you are very wrong! I was shocked, as I expected derision. I told them we’d get together, but I haven’t seen them since.

While me and my Chinese cycling buddies (they slept) were lying on the green grass, on the outskirts of Uremqi on the way back, and not far from ‘home,’ I watched a commercial jet fly over (through a very blue sky). This one at cruising altitude (trust me I’m a pilot myself), with all four engines pouring superheated air out as ‘exhaust’ (what moves all this weight through the air at such speeds). Of course, the super hot air almost immediately, is crystallized into what is commonly called a ‘con-trail.’ (‘con’ for condensation). This is the white in color (as seen from the ground). At first this is a very hard line, but as time goes on, the white ‘line’ becomes diffused and more and more it looks like a tubular cloud. Then, with time, and this is what got my interest, it completely disappears, as if it were never there!

I thought, such is life! First we’re this thing called ‘air,’ (can’t see), then we go through this incredible metamorphosis called conception/birth (going through the jet engine), and then ‘living’ for a short time, to be dissolved back into the ‘air’ again! A cycle, as we ‘live’ in Duality.

‘From Above!’

The things of the sky,
Know no nations;
Stations in life!
Why do we die?

Looking down from above,
What a treasure trove,
Their love,
Showering us
With age
As we’re all on the human stage!
Life-death,
Duality!

The stars lament,
Their light slightly bent!
Our plight,
Our fright
Comforted,
Always there every night!

From their lofty position,
They see the transition
Offering love for hate,
From above!

‘Good night, Gracie! Good night, George!’

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

01 September 2005 The Daily Dosage working backwards…

Gosh, Uremqi is just bursting with energy! I haven’t felt this upbeat, happy kind of energy, building, building, building, yelling, pounding, farting, belching, spitting, since 1958, in Tucson, Arizona! China is ‘exploding’ with a 09% per annum growth rate!

‘By the rubbing of one stick against another, fire is produced! By applying that fire, both sticks are burnt up! Similarly, the Super-Intellect is born of the union between the moving and the non-moving! And by that, to which they give birth, both are consumed!’ (Kasyapa Sutra of q.)

So China will come and go, just like the U.S., in the continuum of creation and destruction. ‘Be here now!’

‘Union,’ both creates and destroys! This in Duality, our mind-created existence! Really, it’s just a ‘vibration’ from infinitely slow, to infinitely fast! This, one opposite seeking the other (enantiodromia)—that’s the ‘movement.’ The ‘non-moment’ is something we don’t know about, the voidness… ‘The Other.’ It’s ultimately ineffable!

The ‘trick’ (while you’re ‘here’) is to get in sync with the ‘vibration’ or what’s called harmony! This by ‘letting go,’ hearing it, going with it! Being ‘still,’ for one thing, in order to first understand that you’re just a part of something much greater, the total.

The ancient Chinese called this the Tao! They, along with Albert Einstein, said, if you want to understand existence observe Nature! You’re a part of it, not separated!

After studying the ‘New Physics’ years ago, at the suggestion of my good friend Dick Hammerstrom, I knew there is no such thing as ‘objectivity!’ Learn Heisenberg’s ‘Principle of Uncertainty!’

Thus, ‘Modernity’ has separated us, estranged us from our ‘mother.’ It’s weird, as it’s ultimately self-destructive (as you can probably tell in 2005). ‘Modernity’ has brought dis-harmony (no peace)! I mean isn’t that obvious to you?

Could we just ‘chuck’ it, and get back to nature? No. We’re riding a juggernaut to the ‘end,’ the extreme, whatever that be, maybe the ‘Big Bang’ ‘hitting the wall,’ to bounce back in the other direction, who knows… I don’t know, but eventually we’ll reach some extreme, where the ‘energy,’ will suddenly reverse, and boy will this get humanities’ ‘attention!’

They’ve talked about the Poles (North and South) reversing… This has actually happened in the history of the earth (according to those who might know)—2-300.000 years ago.

The earth could ‘wobble’ out of orbit… It’s not a perfect ‘top’ spinning through the void! ‘Our’ minds didn’t create a ‘perfect top,’ as we’re not perfect!

These ‘natural’ phenomena would cause the ‘mother of calamities,’ making Hurricane Katrina (September 05, in New Orleans, U.S.A.), and the Indonesian Tsunami (26 December 04), seem like ‘tea parties!’

Returning to ‘Hotel California’ today from my zhau fan restaurant two blocks away, I took my normal route, up the quiet side street, up the recycling lot’s stairs, along the abutment, this leading to the street/alley and the hotel. This, of course, the ‘short cut’ that the locals know about.

Right where the path and the street join I saw a man lying prone on the ground, blood covering his face. Another man was sitting next to him. I quickly realized that the injured and his ‘guardian’ were waiting for help, but I didn’t know what to do. If I had been in an English-speaking country I would inquired. But, here…. I just walked past. I assume an ambulance, or help was on the way, but who knows. There was no crowd, no hysteria, in fact it was strange the two men in that position (the uninjured not cradling the injured)… quiet, still, in repose (the injured could have been dead already)… There was no crowd, everyone just people going about their business as normal.

When I got back to the hotel, Lee was all excited as he had found me a ‘new hotel.’ I had been complaining about the noise at night here in ‘Hotel California and the fact I have trouble sleeping (the Chinese bang the doors and yell in the hallway until about 1A.M.). An idea for a book entitled, ‘Bang the Door Slowly!’

A couple of days ago I had taken Lee to the hotel that James Zhu had recommended. So, once he knew I was looking, he went right to work, such a kind soul he is! And lo and behold he told me this ‘new one’ only cost 30 yuan per night. The one James Zhu recommended was 50 (at the time he’d recommended). But, when Lee and I got there (several weeks later) is was suddenly 80 (a white face does it every time). So, Lee was excited, as this ‘new one’ is supposed to be quiet and for only 30. I should have known better… Too good to be true!

Off we go in a taxi to check out the place, to see if I like it. Then he can’t find it. We exit the taxi and start walking, first one way, the we reverse directions. I’m beginning to find this humorous. Actually, I know Uremqi better than Lee who’s lived here much longer than me (some people don’t explore like I do). We take another taxi. We find the street. We’re there!

He rings the downstairs ‘buzzer,’ to what looks like an apartment building, not a typical hotel (with blaring sign). Nothing! He rings and rings (Chinese people are very impatient, they won’t wait for anything… ‘Modernity’ again!). Some people come and tell him it’s the other building next door (the two door/facades are identical). I assumed this, as Lee gestured me to follow.

Here we gain access and take the elevator up two floors. But, it’s not like a ‘hotel,’ with a lobby, but more a ‘situation,’ where a man is renting rooms (I don’t know how Lee found this ‘situation.’). I’m excited in one way, as it is clean, modern and seemingly quiet, but I immediately know there’s a problem. When the man sees I’m non-Chinese, an American no less, his face changes! The PSB will be on his case, which he tries to explain to Lee. This is all new to Lee, having never gone through anything with a foreigner before.

I knew about this… that in China foreigners can only stay (live) in certain ‘approved’ hotels, apartment houses, etc. And this guy (the innkeeper) didn’t want to get in trouble, which I understood. In fact, without even understanding Chinese I knew what the problem/discussion was about, Lee (young and untutored) was dumbfounded! Of course, he had failed to tell the landlord/innkeeper on the telephone, that the potential guest was a ‘foreigner.’ That would have saved us the time, yuan, and effort. We live and learn, don’t we?

Life is ‘trial and error!’ You hope you don’t get killed in the process of wising up!

So, we return to ‘Hotel California,’ Lee the wiser, where he apologizes profusely! I’m not upset, as I appreciate him trying! We have a few beers, or he does, as I’m only into a few sips (‘gan be!’ is the Chinese ‘toast’ meaning ‘bottoms up!’). I tell him I’ve decided to stay at Hotel California until departing for Kashi… It’s just simpler that way—I don’t like moving for one thing! It’s not all bad! ‘Plus, I like being close to you,’ I tell him! ‘We are good friends! Gan be!’

‘Some guests to remember (Lee), some guests to forget (all the rest)! Oh, what a un-lovely place! Hotel California!’

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

12 September 2005 The Daily Dosage

We give ‘birth’ to our own selves in the course of our conscious lives!

There are three births; the first of course physical, from the female womb, the union of physical opposites, male and female energies uniting… The second, mentally, at about 30-years of physical age (if you’re lucky, as for some this never happens to). This is when you begin to ‘get it’ (understand some things). And the third, the most important, spiritually, when the ego combines (union) with the cosmic mind. Of course, this is sublime or beyond words! There’s an old Taoist saying, ‘Those who speak, do not know! Those who remain quiet, do!’ And what the latter group has achieved is spiritual ‘birth.’ Once that happens there’s no need to discuss anything! There are no questions, and no answers!

Most people don’t get beyond the first birth. Some ‘get it,’ mentally, most don’t evolve spiritually in one life time (particularly in this ‘Age of Distraction’).

Read this from my ‘brother from another planet,’ Mitch Renner who lives in Peoria, Illinois, but whom I met in Lhasa, Tibet:

“Hutch

Regarding your comments on games and tv, our late Tibetan Buddhist teacher at Asian Classics Institute, Khen Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin, once made a comment about Disneyland: that it wasn't fun at all, but rather boring! Personal note: ‘Disneyland is designed for those who don’t have an imagination!’

You're right: rampant capitalist consumption drives the beast of untold desire leading to eventual suffering; each dollar spent equates to a vote on the matter of what type of world one wishes to see come to be. Just as any thought, action, and speech has its concomitant repercussions.

A thought: every individual is a mirror of God; therefore, your goodbyes are only to be met again with fresh hellos from others that come across your path. Nothing is permanent in the material. And yes, death stalks the streets of Peoria as elsewhere! I had an encounter with her last year in a hospital emergency room!

But, I know Hutch you are a person that thrives in the company of others, so whatever I think you choose to do on your current path, it should involve others in some fruitful way!

I have, in humble and submitting spirit, begun working on assimilating the timeless wisdom of many great mentors (such as yourself) into a semi-historical science fiction novel that hopefully, some day, (will) inspire others to perform the search within! With patience, may I succeed, in God's grace, for the sake of others!

With love,
Mitch”

‘Modernity’ is designed to distract you for money! ‘Modernity’ is anti evolution! ‘They’ (the ‘owners’ I call them) want to keep you ‘barefoot and pregnant,’ basically ‘stupid!’ For a ‘stupid’ person just works, spends, and doesn’t cause any trouble! These people are the two-legged ‘sheep,’ just grazing, moving, ‘baaaaaaaa-ing,’ and getting ‘slaughtered’ (in so many ways).

I watched a lamb’s ‘execution,’ when we were up at Bai Yang Gou (Kazak yurt community). A man and a woman carried it by it’s legs (each with two) upside down. It didn’t struggle, it didn’t cry, it just went to the chopping block, where ‘wham,’ it’s head was cut off! So, much for being a ‘wool factory’ for awhile (good), now we’re going to eat you! This is the same thing the ‘owners’ do with the masses!

Man is the worst predator! In fact, so bad he’s now killing himself!

They wonder why I’m a vegetarian! Actually, here in Kazak-land/China (Chinese are ‘rabid’ meat eaters) to make a point! I want them to know that there are people who won’t eat the flesh of animals (don’t agree with killing them to eat)! Of course, the Kazaks/Chinese don’t know how to respond to this… ‘You what…?’ ‘You don’t want pre-packaged, preserved with sodium nitrate sausage?’ ‘If I were starving to death, of course! But, for now, no, I’ll pass!

Actually, food safety is a real issue in China, brought up my Chinese friend, Stephanie Zhao.

You can see what ‘modernity’ is doing to people everywhere you go in the world… People basically ‘slaves’ to a ‘system’ they hardly understand, just trying to survive! They, ‘slaves’ to custom/religion, family, job/work, screens (TV, the Internet), acting rotely (I’ve invented a word.) everyday (the same drill). Their ‘minds’ basically ‘captured’ by ‘distractions’ of one form or another.

It seems particularly evident in China where everyone seems pretty much the same (although now evidence of some youthful rebellion—I’ve seen purple hair).

The Chinese men all dress the same (western), smoke cigarettes, are glued to their ‘mobiles,’ gamble, the younger ones watching movies or playing games at a ‘Net Bar.’

The women too, although somehow they seem a little more individualistic than the men to me—willing to express themselves via dress, hair, etc. But, most wear ‘uplift’ bras (the Chinese figure basically without curves), ankle hose (at least in the summer), and spiked heels. Most leave their black hair long. Most get married, and have one child (the legal limit) they dote on! Most end up being nothing more than mothers/’worker bees!’

Everyone, or at least the ‘lower classes’ watches TV. But, they’are hardworking and ambitious! If there’s any ‘official’ religion beyond ‘Communism,’ it’s ‘Capitalism’ (and how ironic!) The ultimate ‘distraction’ is consumer goods, and they want everything and they want it now! They’re very much into expensive black motor vehicles, the intimidating kind (SUVs)—and honking you down!

The Chinese appetite for freedom and power has been whetted! I would expect China to surpass America in all ways in the future! The ‘Dragon’ has been awakened! But, as Mitch intimated to earlier, to what end… Will it be a version of ‘Blade Runner’ in Shanghai?

In fact, in so many ways China reminds me of America, several decades in the past (like in the ‘50s and ‘60s)!

They are building, building, and more building at least here in Xinjiang! There is construction going on everywhere I turn (I hear it going on out my hotel window!)! There are people working, working, working! I see (and give yuan to) a few street bums, but considering the total population of China 1+ billion, a small percentage.

There are things, things, and more things, markets, vendors walking, stationary, and on wheels, yelling to buy this or that! They demonstrate, they confront, they’re not docile about selling (like in Nepal). At soon as you show any interest (stop and look) they’re all over you! When I tell them I’m ‘just looking’ (pointing to my eyes), they immediately lower the price! It’s tough for me to deal with as I’m a slow and careful buyer (with little discretionary income), thus I sneak peeks until I’m serious. I hate disappointing them! There’s so many, and so many people… I feel for the sidewalk vendors, and the laborers sitting with tools and a sign in front of them hoping someone will hire them.

On my little downtown side street there are back to back restaurants both up and down stairs (at least 20). I don’t know how each makes it! But, everyday the same drill, the cute young girls enticing you at the door.

If there’s one hair salon, there are thousands! If one market, or fruit vendor, there are hundreds of thousands (all pretty much the same). There must be a million places to eat in Uremqi…

I got to thinking about it… Two million people (the population of Uremqi) times 3, or six million meals per day! There’s a whole lot of eating/drinking going on here in China… Think about their total population… 1.2 billion times 3…

Then think about ‘eliminating’ (‘passing’ as a euphemism) all of it, the food… Well, maybe not! All I can say is… In the next 20 years we’re (the world’s population) is going to be drowning in its own shit!

Why do you think this ‘unconscious’ search and, travel to, outlying planets…? We know we’re running out of everything, and hoping the solution is somewhere ‘out there!’

The markets in China are incredible! I’ve never seen such a variety of goods, things to buy anywhere in the world!

But, then about two weeks ago, looking for some contact lens wetting solution (which they have of course) I stumbled onto the ‘mother of markets,’ at least in Uremqui. I didn’t even know it was there. This turns out to be close to my ‘Hotel California,’ maybe 500 meters away. I looked at a quilt (to cover my door to baffle sound), I bought one shoelace (1 yuan), and I considered buying a sheep/woolen vest. But, I disappointed them all, I’m afraid.

Gosh, I wish I’d had a video camcorder (Hank!), I don’t even know how to describe this pastiche of stalls, all configured by time in a variety of buildings old and new, in alleyway, street, or unoccupied space, goods of all varieties, displayed in a kaleidoscope of ways! I actually got lost inside as it’s a labyrinth, mesmerized, and I don’t get lost anywhere! Well, not for long…

I’ve been wanting to buy a roll of packing tape, you know the kind… clear, roughly 2 inches wide… There was stall after stall, full of every kind of wrapping/packing tape known to man. There was roll after roll, box after box of this kind of tape. I feel almost ashamed asking for only one roll. It will probably cost 5 yuan, or .75 cents.

When I saw daylight, and managed to stagger out into the street, I was reeling from the energy! I was wanting #407 and my hotel to recover. But, an interesting thing on the way back—more stuff! Stuff, stuff, stuff, and more stuff! I thought I was crossing this busy street using the underground passageway. But down below I was suddenly ‘trapped’ in their ‘Shoe Mart,’ where there turns out to be a thousand stalls, all selling shoes! I couldn’t believe it! By now I was getting panicky! Underground, and surrounding by millions of pairs of shoes! This after the ‘mother of markets!’ ‘Oh, momma, can this really be the end to be trapped inside a shoe mart, with my hotel blues again?’

I want to go back to the market, but I think I’ll take a Chinese person with me! I had wanted to take Lee, but now he’s gone (as this is 12 September).

I’m lost in terms of time and dates… I’m in a time warp here in Uremqi, a city that lives on two different clock times! Try that for fun, and games! It’s so strange… You don’t know which one to set your watch/clocks to…

When I was first here I was naturally on Beijing time! But, I noticed that my zhau fan (rice pilaf) restaurant is on Uremqi time (two hours earlier). I’ve been early, and had to return as the rice wasn’t cooked yet. I also noticed how Gordon and his wife have their clocks on Uremqi time. What to do? I got this brilliant idea to set my watch in between, or in the middle between the two. Well, this was a little weird, as I had to keep figuring. Then I noticed the shop where I have the film developed was on Beijing time. But, then a hotel I went to, looking for Tobe (the Bao Di) had two clocks, one set on Beijing time, the other on Uremqi time (two hours earlier). So, what to do…?

This is perfect city for the Omega watch I had purchased thirty years ago (in Switzerland no less)—when ‘spanning the globe’ for ABC Sprots. It was unique in that it had two hour hands! This for travellers like me, that kept one on the time at home, and then adjust the other to where s/he was!

Omega, or Swatch needs to sell watches with two hour hands there in Uremqi! In fact, what a great idea! We’ll call it ‘The Uremqi!’ (pronounced differently than it’s spelled of course, as everything in Uremqi is different than it appears… ‘Uremqi,’ pronounced, ‘Wulumuchi.’).

We could call our watch with two hour hands, ‘The Xinjiang,’ for the Province. I’m told this time situation exists everywhere in far west China.

This unique situation caused by Beijing’s insistence that everyone, everywhere in China be on their time! Of course, this is no problem for the people living in east China, as the sun coincides roughly with Beijing north and south. But, what if Washington D.C., insisted that Seattle set their watches to Eastern Standard Time? That’s roughly what you have going on here! It’s crazy!

So, of course, the locals, the people that live here, well they have their own time, depending on what their personal situation is, and this is drawn roughly on cultural lines… Most of the Chinese, and I’m sure those working in government offices, or running trains and planes are on Beijing time. The Uyghurs, the indigenous group here before the Chinese (but after the Tokarians – Anglo Saxon-type people), are on Uremqi time, two hours earlier. This is a bit tricky, as you have to ask, or either be early or late (to whatever).

It hasn’t affected me too much, although I go to bed early and arise early. Thus, if I go by my watch (set on Beijing time) I go to bed at 1900 hours / 7P.M., and arise at 0300 / 3A.M. Since the sun is still up at 1900 hours, and very dark at 0300, it’s a little out of whack! Then again, if I reverse it, and go to bed/arise on Uremqi time, the light is more normal. On the other hand, I have to be careful if I’m trying to catch a bus or train… This is how crazy it can get…

Albert was right… It really is relative! Welcome to Xinjiang Province, China! Where the watches have two hour hands! We’ll get rich when we produce the ‘Uremqi’ watch! Shall I contact Swatch, or are there any other entrepreneurs out there…?

I’m also going to produce a ‘Spitting Contest’ here in China… Why waste all this talent?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

11 September 2005 The Daily Dosage (from Uremqi, Xinjiang Province, China)

I know why I heard ‘Auld Lang Sang,’ today, riding on my bicycle (sometimes the cleaning trucks play it, when driving through the streets of Uremqi… Very strange for me to hear this song in this faraway Chinese city…)… ‘Auld Lang Sang,’ the most poignant song in of my life…

Every time I hear it, doesn’t matter where or when, I’m suddenly overwhelmed with emotion (I don’t want to say ‘sadness’ as it isn’t)… But, whenever and however expressed these ‘feelings,’ are powerful… sometimes happy and sometimes less than happy, sometimes tears filling my eyes!

It calls up all the emotions of New Year’s Eve (in my American upbringing). And such generally unhappy for the Hutchison family, as my father was never there to ‘celebrate’ (as was ‘working’ at a hotel, or resort, etc.). Thus, our mother would drink too much, acting like it didn’t matter, when all of us knew better—my father not being present (for whatever reason)! You can’t fool children ultimately, and shouldn’t try!

Li Jian, my new Chinese friend (I call ‘Lee’), left today for Qing Hai on the train. I had hoped to see him off, but he said no, and I understood, that there might be a girlfriend, or business associate that I wouldn’t ‘fit into to!’ When you get older you understand these kinds of things.

I thought we might meet in his hotel office (just down the hall), but it wasn’t to be. Then I knew we would say ‘goodbye’ on the telephone, as he had called my mobile yesterday to test (he’s a very intelligent young man). But, technology or human stupidity (who knows?) almost cost us a parting word…

I first tried to call him on the hard lines downstairs in the ‘lobby’ (I use the word ‘lobby’ lightly as it’s merely a crowded hallway where too many people congregate.). When I called from these ‘good’ telephones I got a Chinese recording both times (both before and after going to the store).

Then upstairs in #407 I had been charging the mobile, or thought I had, and all last night… But, it still said, ‘low battery.’ He first called me, killing the battery, and this is when I finally figured it out. I discovered that I, or the housekeeper, hadn’t plugged it in properly and it wasn’t charging. So, when I got it ‘together,’ with the AC it worked. Then when it was working (just before he was to depart) I got him ‘on the line,’ as we used to say!

‘I know little English,’ is his lament, but his English is better than my Chinese. And we said what we needed to say, tears now in my eyes (thinking about it)!

Why is it that parting is so difficult for me, I always, ‘Slip out the back Jack!’ Generally speaking I avoid ‘partings,’ as too painful!

I’ll know we’ll meet again, ‘Lee’ and I, somewhere down the road. We became very close in a very short time (the last four weeks in Xinjiang)—two strangers, a young Chinese man, and an older American (there’s 35 years between us) meeting ‘by chance’ (of course I don’t believe in such). Now, I consider him one of my (Chinese) sons!

I wrote the following poem which I will send to him (eventually):

“Our Time together (for Li Jian)

‘I know little English.’
But, I have a big heart!
I know little Chinese,
But, we have a great start!
We’ve never let language
Keep us a part!
So, why today?

You’re off to there,
I’m off to where?
We will meet again someday,
Notwithstanding!

In just a few short weeks
We crossed many creeks,
And,
I shall always remember
Our time together!”

In the mean----, his departure has brought up what I always feel when I part from someone I care about, and it’s painful… I think it has to do with my father and mother dying at too early an age!

It also brings up the fact I’m getting to that age myself! I pause to ponder this… How to say ‘goodbye’ knowing I might not ‘meet (this person) again?’ Maybe I’ll just play ‘Auld Lang Sang!’ ‘Should old acquaintances be forgot…?’

Life, mine has been grand, and at the end now sublime, beyond words! Tears fill my eyes when I think of the grace (unconditional love) I’ve been given by this unseen, unheard ‘thing!’ This ‘thing,’ that has proved unconditional love to me in my life time (my consciousness), and comes again in the form of a Chinese man named Li Jian. And many others of course, like Ganai, Teija£¨ Rotraut, Mitch£¨ P°£B°££¨Mary£¨ Peter£¨ Michael£¨ Chintimani, Subodh, Bill and James A. and B., Trueman and Marty, and Eric, and Stephanie, Jan, Beth, and all the rest (hundreds) that come to mind (knowing I’m forgetting many)! My sisters, for three: Sally, Marylee, and Betsy!

This is not just another day for me, September 11, 2005, but a special time for several reasons. Maybe because it’s the same date, several years ago when a violent event changed the lives of so many! Life has a way of appearing the same for years, then ‘turning’ on a dime!

So, should we wait…? So, should we wait to say ‘I love you!’ to those we do, and those we don’t, and those we don’t even know! No, I don’t think so! I could easily be killed on the streets of Uremqi tomorrow, or you there in Peoria (who think you’re so safe)! It seems to me the time has come to act! The time has come to love! Simply! The time has come to express it! So…

Let us conceive (together) unconditional love for the world! This whether we’re American, British, Iraqi, Israeli, Korean, Nepali, Chinese, Dutch or Finnish! We’re pretty much all the same! A T-shirt I want to wear for the Chinese will say; ‘Yes, on the outside I’m different! But, on the inside we’re the same!’

Sound like a lofty goal, conceiving unconditional love for the world? Of course! But, ‘The absence of all doubt leads to complete success!’

Instead of playing Marjoh (I don’t even know how to spell), let’s do something worthwhile! Let’s spend our remaining years/hours (and we never know how many) working on some sublime endeavor, rather than indulging ourselves in a game (or soap operas on TV)! Games are for children! ‘When I became an adult I put away my games, and pursued the unknown!’ It’s made all the difference! So says Gura Ahya!

‘Modernity’ wants to keep you the puer eternus, the ‘eternal boy/girl,’ the child playing games! It doesn’t want you to develop, because then you’ll do some realizing, and ultimately you’ll put away your games, and be wiser for it… For one thing a very discriminating purchaser of ‘things,’ which causes the capitalists problems. They want you docile and stupid, doing whatever ‘puja’ you do, whether than be lighting incense to appease a God, or watching TV (where commercials ‘infect’ your psyche without you knowing it). They don’t want you quiet in meditation, coming closer to the real source! They’ll lose you, and that’s the last thing they want… To lose you to something else, like consciousness!

Let us conceive (together) unconditional love for the world! Possible? Why not? ‘Most people look at something and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask, Why not?’ If we don’t try, how will it ever be possible? And the first step… Just thinking about it! Just, pausing in your ‘busy’ lives (routine) to think about such! Maybe saying a prayer! Maybe doing something different, or creative, like a ‘random act of kindness!’ It’s that simple! We don’t have to produce a rock concert, or fly to Mars! Just start thinking about it!

I wrote Li Jian another poem I managed to print out and give to him before he departed:

“Bai Yang (for Li Jian)

I watched an ancient
Waterfall-
Ing,
Falling,
Falling.
Not in such a hurry
The longest of times!
Falling,
Falling,
Falling!
The cycle
Turning,
Turning,
Turning!

The down,
The up,
The Bai Yang,
The Yin,
Learning,
Learning,
Learning!

Why are we
Running,
Running,
Running?

Where are we
Going,
Going,
Going
In such a hurry,
Worry,
Worry?

I watched an ancient
Water-
Fall,
Bai Yang.

(‘Be still, and know I am God!’ – Psalms, vi.vi. #10)

Thanks for taking me there!
Your American friend,
Hutch”

‘Should auld acquaintances be forgot…?’

Let us conceive (together) unconditional love for the world!

Just start thinking about it!

It’s simple! It’s love! It’s the most powerful thing in existence!

31 August 05 The Daily Dosage:

Part II of our cycling trip to ‘Ti’an Chi,’ a Chinese National Park roughly 100KM east of Uremqi.

Note: My friend in Chengdu, Peter Snow Cao informed me, via email, that I’m misspelling ‘Uremqi.’ Of course, being an English writer I just naturally have been putting a ‘u’ after the ‘q.’ But, it’s ‘qi!’ ‘Uremqi!’ The ‘q’ pronounced like a ‘ch.’ Thus, with a ‘u’ pronounced like a ‘w’ we get something like ‘Wulumuchi’ for Uremqi, but how is beyond me? Even the Chinese can’t tell you. I think it has to do with the fact that two, maybe three different ethnic groups are ‘fighting’ for control of ‘it!’ Thus, every group claims the ‘right’ pronunciation!

21 August, Sunday continued…

We’re walking around the Lake (‘Ti’an Chi,’) dodging thousands of other Chinese tourists (some other countries, like Japan) on a sunny, warm and pleasant day—I was happy to be in the mountains under any circumstances! Our goal was the Taoist Monastery (whose name I have somewhere, something like ‘Duawa’…?) maybe two kilometers distance, but up a steep set of stairs at the end. I hadn’t recovered entirely from the 13-hours of cycling, but there didn’t seem to be any major damage either!

When you’re 65-years old, you observe your body closely and how it performs! I noted that I was tired from the day before, but not incapacitated, as here I was hiking just the day after.

The walkway/path the Chinese government has constructed to get from the… What would I call this area, the start…? I know… The ‘feet’ of the lake, where the small causeway dam is located. Where restaurants and facilities are, where the boats dock. This, the north end of Ti’an Chi. Note: The ‘head’ of a lake is where the rivers empty into it, or the south end of Ti’an Chi (towards Bogeda, the 5500M peak).

So, from the ‘feet’ of the lake to the Monastery, this walkway is pretty impressive, as it involved building… again, what would I call these…? These ‘bridges’ (for lack of the right word) out of and circumscribing the rock cliffs? Note: One image is worth a thousand words… thus I wish I’d take a photograph of such… Additionally, they carved stairs out of the same rock cliffs! So, it’s a bit daunting for the elderly/infirm and thus some people take a ferry boat (takes five minutes). We walk of course, which takes about 45 minutes! But, had the Chinese left it as a trail, it would have taken three hours if you could make it (it would require some climbing). You would have had to take a boat!

No boat to walk such a short distance for me! When I’m too decrepit to walk I’ll ride, when I’m too decrepit to ride, I’ll crawl. When I’m too decrepit to crawl, it’s time to meditate. And when I can’t meditate it’s time to ‘check out!

Since arriving in the Park (just yesterday) every Kazak has a horse he wants me to ride (for money of course). I try to explain to them I like to trek/hike, and/or ride my bicycle! They don’t want to hear this! But, it’s their ‘rap,’ that’s deficient! If they were clever, and made me laugh, or engaged me in conversation, I might be challenged, or forced to ride their horse somewhere, sometime… Maybe to just get a photograph!

I should bring a woman named Garlene Parris (from Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.A.) to this area and have her teach these Kazak guys how to sell! I’m wondering at this point, however, if Garlene is still alive…? I haven’t heard from her in so long! But, she doesn’t do email!

People, in general, don’t know how to sell (like Garlene can sell the proverbial ‘ice to Eskimos!’)

I know the ‘lower classes’ are undereducated, but I always wonder why, when trying to sell me something, they don’t try to speak my language? If my livelihood depended on my getting money out of foreigners, trust me, I’d try to learn their language. I’d study them to figure out the best way to approach them. I’d do whatever it takes to get money out of them.

But, what I come across so many times is people (in Third World countries) trying to sell me something who can’t communicate with me! So, tell me… How can I buy your product/service if I don’t understand you? Couldn’t you find a clever way to convey what you’re trying to sell? But, I guess the poor stay poor because they’re not very clever—I don’t want to use the ‘S’ word! It’s the clever ones that make the money and move to the head ‘of the class!’ Is this not Social Darwinism? The smart get richer, and the stupid stay poor! I must be of the latter class!

This is the Second Taoist Monastery I’ve visited in China. The first, the ‘Green Ram’ Monastery in Chengdu. I wonder how many there are left in China…? My goal is to visit them all. The largest and most well known is at Wudang Mountain in what Province. If I remember correctly there are 34 Provinces (the U.S.’ states) in China.

I’ve been fascinated with Taoism as a philosophy for many years. I’ve taken vows and am, in fact, a Taoist monk. But, how and where I’m suppose to keep secret, so I will. But, Taoism as a religion I’m not much interested in… Isn’t that strange…? It’s the ‘sangha,’ and ‘tangha,’ I’m not much interested in…

It seems to me ideas lose power when they’re all bound up in dogma, dharma, and dress. I don’t wear monk’s robes nor rotate prayer wheels or Malla beads. I have no hard bed or book! Nor did Christ, Mohammed, or Lao Tzu. They were too busy living it!

But, then people came along and said, ah look these guys are different and we want to be like them! O.K., but then all of those good ideas those ‘guys’ (gals) had is corrupted by human nature for… You guessed it, power and money! Nee ‘religion,’ whether it’s called Christianity, Communism, Buddhism, or Taoism… The ‘Isms!’ They all fight for the same control of the masses in one way or another. Trust me! But, you join whatever you want, as you probably have a need for such. I don’t… I chose ‘the road less traveled, and it’s made all the difference!’

Anyway, I enjoy visiting these edifices/organizations wherever they be… In Rome or on the side of hill in Ti’an Chi. I’m curious! Like…

There were huge ‘golden’ statues in the Taoist Monastery at Ti’an Chi, but for the likes of me, I don’t know ‘who’ these statues represent? Could one be Lao Tzu, supposedly the founder of Taoism?

I wanted to buy some large incense sticks, but just three (to a package) cost 100 Yuan / $13U.S. Outrageously expensive, as I can buy incense in Uremqi for 10 Yuan / $1.25! What do they think I’m stupid…? I’ll start a factory and manufacture it myself!

In one room of the Taoist Monastery there were blessing people, ‘throwing’ the ‘I Ching’ for… You guessed it, a donation. Thus, I bowed to a statue, who I have no idea who it was, and was ‘blessed,’ by a Taoist priest who chose a ‘stick’ out of a container, read the number, with an assistant fetching one sheet of paper (my ‘fortune’) from one of many stacks of paper in a book shelve. After Lee read this he simply said, ‘Good!’ I have never been able to communicate with him about what my ‘reading’ was beyond ‘good!’ Additionally, they wanted the sheet of paper returned (saving is important when it comes to the ‘bottom line’).

I think of organized ‘religion’ as a business, like any other! If people only knew how rich the Catholic Church is…

It was a lovely weather day, and the view from the Monastery stunning, the green lake below, the mountains beyond. I was loving it, the air, the dry mountain air, the cool temperatures. The only thing I wasn’t too happy about was the ‘too many people!’

We walked back to the ‘feet’ of the lake and had lunch at an outdoor café (they’re all pretty much outdoors)—it was crazy busy being Sunday! I had ‘ahau fan,’ a Kazak/Uyghur rice pilaf (they call ‘pollo’). I’ve grown fond of this ‘dish’ (not unlike dhal bhat to me), but Lee had meat! He’s a young meat eater. I’m an old vegetarian! I think we shared a beer.

We diddled around until we could return to ‘our’ yurt that we seem to be sharing. I think we arrived back about 1445 (2:45 P.M.), too early as the ‘party’ was still going on so I was directed to the yurt-keeper’s ‘shack,’ where I promptly fell asleep. The party didn’t get over until about 1630 hours, or 4:30P.M.

Afterwards and back in ‘our’ yurt I make coffee with the kai shui (hot water) the Kazak-keeper’s wife provides (in my Chinese thermos).

I washed my laundry in a tub the cold water and soap provided. I hung it on a flag-festooned wire, too low to the ground (this to prevent people from entering the neighbor’s yurt ‘area’). Later my, still wet, underwear was lying on the ground, and I had to rewash.

We’re one of a hundred yurts in this ‘community!’ A yangle of…

I nap in our yurt as Lee plays a Kazak music video on our TV! This pounding (semi-modern) music ruined the ‘scene’ for me. I want more native drums and a live dancing Kazak woman! Otherwise, I was actually curious to see a Kazak music video (not unlike Nepali ones I’ve seen)!

I want to live in a Yurt somewhere, but it will be without a TV set/DVD player! And it won’t be a National Park either!

At 1900 hours I’m still functioning. But, I can barely read my own handwriting from the notes I made at the time… But, while ‘yurting for it:’

‘If you listen!

The ubiquitous screens
Stopping our dreams,
Our lives, forever!

Ancient structure,
Oh, the rupture,
Modern now ‘in,’
The chagrin,
Such sin,
The square so thin
Compared to the other!

The circle
Creating the mandala,
Everywhere directed,
Yet, nowhere in particular,
Leaving the door ajar!

Ah, the other…
Sometimes day,
Night,
Right,
Wrong,
Always strong
Sometimes male,
Female
Always around,
Always the sound,
If you listen!’

And ‘I’m’ not referring to listening to a Kazak music video either!

22 August – Monday

We’re finally in yurter ‘heaven,’ as the people, about eight million of them, have descended in buses to return to Shanghai and Beijing, or wherever they come from. Thus, today, a Monday, we have Ti’an Chi almost to ourselves, now only about 40,000 of us left! I came for seclusion, and I think that’s only possible if we hike up toward Bogeda (in Ti’an Shan, the ‘Heavenly Mountains’).

If there’s one thing the Chinese people (all of Asia) is good at, it’s procreation! It must be the noodles! They know how to create more people!

Every morning Lee shaves his chin with an electric razor, then he gets into his little screen.

We are an odd pair travelling together, an older American man with a younger Chinese man, two people who can barely communicate! I think maybe the germ of a story, or movie, or whatever else I won’t write! Yet, we do a pretty good job of understanding each other. I’m teaching him English and he’s teaching me Chinese! ‘Your Chinese good!’ he’s always remarking, but I know better.

Since yesterday I’ve reconciled with our Kazak-yurt-keeper, a funny little guy with an engaging personality. I’m trying not to be the demanding ‘foreigner!’ ‘What, no hot-water bathing? What you mean we’re paying for the place and it’s not entirely ours…? We don’t even have a key, or can lock the door to ‘our’ yurt! We have to trust you!.’

I ‘wonder’ around and observe Kazak life in this summer vacation community. I’ve learned they all move down to Fukang for the winter, the snow and cold up here, even they can’t take!

So, this is a May to October deal, this yurt community, where the children play football on grass, the women bake bread in a brick ovens and the men… Well, besides butchering and cooking the meat, I don’t know what they do… I think gamble, play games, and hustle about, asking if you’d like to ride a horse? ‘Want to ride a horse?’ The answer is… ‘When I’m too old to walk, I will ride! When I’m too old to ride, I will crawl! When too old to crawl, it’s time to ‘check out!’ They, of course, don’t understand!

Wherever I go in Asia, it’s the women I’m impressed with, rarely the men… Why…? It’s the women who do all the work, bare and raise the children, cook the meals, clean the shit toilets, then dress up in pantyhose when it’s too hot, and generally have an endurance that’s astounding!

In China the men simply smoke themselves to death! But, it’s not even the right kind of ‘tobacco!’ Otherwise, many spend the day gambling, playing cards or ‘Marjoh’ in China.

In the morning about 1030, Lee and I head around the lake, or at least the south side, where there’s another amazingly-constructed walkway… I’ve heard about a place where anglos hangout, this mentioned in ‘The Lonely Planet’ guide book for Xinjiang (that was given to me by a nice Belgium cycling couple in Chengdu that I’ve mentioned in previous ‘TDD’s’). Occasionally, I need to have an English conversation. The place they mention is ‘Rashit’s Yurt,’ where they speak ‘English.’

It’s another glorious morning, the sun warming the lake (and us). This is 2K meters ASL, or 6K ft., about the same elevation as Colorado Springs. And those of you who live at such elevations know it can be cool in the morning, even in August.

I’m not sure, but I think this part of the world is higher in latitude than CS., so possibly a ‘tad’ cooler. CS is at 38-degrees north latitude. I think Uremqi is something on the par of Beijing, New York City, or about 43 degrees north. But, don’t trust me, look on a globe.

I’m into geography, and draw a map of the U.S. to explain to Lee about the fifty states and where Colorado is in relation. I also draw a map of Asia to explain where Nepal is…

It’s not called ‘Nepal,’ in Chinese, but something like ‘Neighbor’ when Lee pronounces it. And ‘Tibet’ is pronounced ‘Chidon,’ in Chinese or something like that…?

Russia, I explain to Lee, is the largest, then Canada, then China, then the U.S. in terms of square whatever… But, China and India are one and two when it comes to population! Did you know that the U.S. is third in population? Americans are pretty good at procreating too!

It isn’t long until we’re at ‘Rashit’s Yurt,’ we can tell as he’s hung a large banner to advertise. There are horses and sheep and yurts, an anglo couple at a picnic table. Well, the male is anglo and the female is Chinese. Later we meet them to discover he’s Finnish, and she’s from Beijing. He works for the Finnish Embassy in Beijing. I tell them about my Finnish friends the Jokitalos. It really is a ‘small world,’ once you get out into it!

We order ‘zhao fan’ for lunch for 20 Yuan each (in Uremqi it costs 3 Yuan each). But, we’re hungry and what to do? She informs us this will take 20 minutes, but in fact it took about one hour. Note: Always double the time someone in Asia tells you it’s going to take, and you’ll be close to being right (and not frustrated). It turns out to be pretty good washed down with the usual ‘flower tea,’ which is nothing but hot water to me. I don’t taste any ‘flowers.’ I ask Lee ‘What kind of flowers?’ but he never understands my question, or doesn’t know the answer. Many times when Asian people don’t know, they will simply act like they don’t understand (maybe to save ‘face’).

While we’re eating and enjoying the milieu more anglos arrive with the usual heavy backpacks (carrying the ‘kitchen sink’ with them). There’s two men and one very blond woman, all in their twenties (you rarely see older backpackers like me ‘out there’). One man, Alan, is from the U.S., Cincinnati, Ohio, the other from Germany along with his very blond and of light-complexioned companion (who has us move to the shade to eat our lunch).

The Finnish man and Chinese woman depart, as they’re catching a bus to Kashi.

The Alan teaches English in Taipei, and I learn all about that, that you can make a bundle of money doing such. The German couple is on ‘holiday.’ In Europe it’s ‘holiday,’ not ‘vacation.’

We hang out until 1430 / 230P.M. It’s nice to have a good English conversation every once in a while. Plus, it’s a beautiful spot Rashit (I don’t think we met Rashit himself, although did talk to some Kazak men, or Lee did). Rashit has nestled his little ‘community of Yurts,’ into a small bend of the lake and adjacent a rock cliff where the hawks seem to congregate. These ‘hawks,’ with white stripes on the underside of each wing do a little ‘dance’ for me in the sky, as I watch them.

I pay the Kazak woman 40 Yuan or $5 U.S., and ‘tip’ her some apples I’ve brought along.

Be generous wherever you go! Read the quote on our ‘home page’ at www.cyclingpeace.org by the ‘Peace Pilgrim,’ a woman who walked all over America for years talking about her travels.

I’ve figured out that the Kazaks are the ‘cowboy’s of China. They ride horses and herd sheep and cattle. They’re everywhere with their horses, and there are more sheep and cattle than I imagined possible (for a national park).

At the ‘head’ of the lake there is a rushing stream, actually several ‘tributaries’ of this ‘river,’ whose name I do not know (although it comes off Bogeda, the three peaks of ‘Bogeda,’ that I’m slightly confused about the name of…).

The rushing stream we must cross and there’s no bridge, not even a strategically-placed log. So, I climb a small bank to investigate up stream. Here I find the necessary rocks and we cross without getting wet.

This is a drainage area, rocky, with some trees fed by the streams. I’m sure in ancient times or during Spring run off, the entire area is inundated. But, we observe the Kazaks, up and down this ‘highway,’ on horseback or on foot so we follow their ‘path’ on the rocks. If you observe while you’re ‘out there’ it’s much easier.

They have built rock walls, and some buildings. There’s also a yurt family tending whatever, not concerned with us, as the traffic here up and down to the mountain is considerable. So, we’re nothing new (normally I’m stared at in China). The Kazaks go up for mushrooms, among other reasons. I’m just checking out the route for later, Lee following along.

We go maybe 500 meters above the ‘head’ of the lake, where we rest on a log in a fir forest. I go to ‘W.C.,’ the expression we now use (common Chinese one for foreigners). And I ‘give birth’ for the second time in one day, which makes me ecstatically happy!

At my age (and condition) a good bowel movement is better than sex with Sharon Stone, or Britney Spear, or whomever I might fantasize a ‘dream’ in bed (neither one really). It’s hard to explain, except mothers know, as after being pregnant for 40 weeks I’m sure they have an overwhelming desire to ‘get rid’ of this ‘thing’ you’ve been carrying for so long! And constipation is similar, trust me!

Maybe it’s hiking in the mountains that has made the difference (‘Magic Mountain’)! Being at Ti’an Chi for three days makes up for five weeks in eastern China.

At 1630 (Beijing time I’m on) we return to the Kazakhchi’ area (summer yurt area). But, we continue down to the ‘store/restaurant/gift shop’ area where I have my favorite food for the second time since being there, zhua fan (the Uyghur rice pilaf). Lee has dumplings and we share a beer called ‘Wusu.’

‘Wusu’ is brewed in Uremqi and none too good as beer goes! I’ve yet to have what I think is a good Chinese beer including the famous (as all over the U.S.) Tsingdao!

I buy apples, and 35MM film, one roll costing 35 Kuan (normally 20 in Uremqi). Of course, extract from the tourists what you can! But, today, a Monday there are hardly any of us ‘tourists,’ and the entrepreneurs must make what they can while they can (this I understand).

Back up at the lake the tourist boats are still honking! The Chinese love to honk, scream, yell, light up firecrackers, and make any kind of noise… Interesting!

We walk up to ‘our’ yurt, only to discover everything has been moved. I immediately know our little Kazak keeper has had another function in ‘our’ yurt. I’m being to see how this works, this double billing of space. Again, make ‘hay while the sun shines!’ I’m not real happy about this, but ke garne? This is something they would not understand, even if I could explain it in their language (Kazak).

We organize our stuff, do laundry, bath, W.C., and whatever else you do when you’re on ‘the road’… Which I am forever!

We all have our different rituals. I observe Lee, whose personal hygiene habits are good! He probably is curious about me too, as we come from totally different orientations (cultures). He’s into smoking cigarettes, and his little screen. I do neither. He combs his hair in a mirror in the morning. I have no hair! But, I make coffee and eat zhua fan and he does not. So, our habits are somewhat different. But, he’s a good guy, and I’m getting to like him for many different reasons!

It’s not so much that he’s Chinese and I’m American, but that I’m 65-years old, and he’s 30-years old! There’s the difference!

We go to bed, after a good day! My digestion is finally beginning to work! Thank God for small things! Halleluiah!

Lee always says ‘Good Night!’ in English. Then he’s out like a light! He sleeps like a baby dead to the world! It takes me hours to drift in and out of consciousness. The wind will wake me, and so it did later! Lee never moved.

23 August - Tuesday

About 0100 in the morning, a fierce, lonely wind comes with much noise, blowing the hole covering off the yurt and revealing tree above us, rocking to and fro!

Our yurt-keepers get up to deal with this, as they know what’s coming… rain! I hear Kazak talk, and figure out they’re stretching plastic over their round house. It wasn’t long afterwards that it started to sprinkle, the sound on the plastic obvious.

In the morning, I decide not to rouse until later, when the light comes over the mountain to the east. This not until 0830 Beijing time (what my watch is set to).

We are planning a hike to Bogeda today, but it doesn’t look all that inviting outside, still cloudy from what the wind brought. Ah, change, always change… The weather!

Later when we’re about to depart the rain comes, this time with ‘feeling!’ We decide to wait it out, and then get back in ‘our beds!’ I fall asleep to the sound of rain on the plastic above. Lee smokes and watches Kazak music videos on the TV screen. This annoys me!

Here I am living in my first yurt, out in the wilds of far, northwestern China, and I’m subjected to this. I ask myself, where in the world can I go where this isn’t? The answer, no where! It’s everywhere, like air! I’m sure on some far distant planet (where possibly there is no air), there is some form of ‘life’ watching our sights and sounds via some device! And I’m sure they’re ‘thinking’ Oh, we better not go there!

You never know what you don’t want or like, until you’ve had it, seen it, experienced it, right? When I was growing up I ‘worshipped screens,’ both the small (TV) and larger (movie). I still will go to see a movie on a larger screen, as I like the experience in a dark room. Now, the watch movies in net bars wearing headsets—everyone watching something different (not a ‘shared’ experience).

It rains until about 1100 in the morning. At that point the yurt-keepers come out to remove the plastic (they must know it’s not going to rain again).

My Chinese friend (the one I met on the train), James Zhu (pronounced ‘Ju’) sends Lee a message via ‘mobile,’ that he’s returned to Uremqi (he’d been visiting a friend, way out in N.W. Xinjiang somewhere). Mobiles seem to work EVERYWHERE in China too!

We decide to forego hiking to Bogeda today, we’ll go tomorrow when the weather better. One thing about the desert/mountains… It never rains for very long… This is not Oregon in the U.S. or eastern China, or Nepal during the monsoon.

We walk down to the commercial area to have lunch. I get my zhau fan, and Lee gets his beer. Some of Uyghur men (another group not Kazak), having lunch at an adjacent table, are curious about me and we exchange greetings.

From what I’ve seen of China so far: Shanghai, Beijing (ugh), and Chengdu; Xinjiang, possibly Yunnan and Tibet are the only Provinces where I’d want to live.

Discovering ‘Ti’an Chi’ has been a delight for me, reminding me so much of the Rockies in North America! On the other hand, it’s, as I’ve learned since being there, a National Park, not unlike Yosemite in California (where you now have to make a reservation to enter). I come from a lesser populated and different era—certainly no reservations were required! Strangely, being in China and, Ti’an Chi in particular, is like returning to that ‘era’ (1950’s in the U.S.).

After lunch, and a nap, we walk up the road past our ‘yurt community.’ This another amazing road ‘going no where in particular.’ Except someone has said, ‘long road.’ I’ve gotten so I don’t go by these comments, however, as other languages translated into English, many times, are inaccurate. What is a ‘long road,’ for some is a ‘short road’ to others…?

It winds up and up, and we past more yurts and a strange and out-of-place looking hotel (see photograph in Gallery). At the same time, we get quite a view of the Lake!

Additionally, it has cleared up and the sun is out to warm us. It’s yet another lovely afternoon in the mountains. We stop for a break, where I do the ‘W.C. dance’ and Lee eats some crackers on a rock (see photograph in the Gallery).

We wind up and up until the road breeches a ‘pass,’ and suddenly we’re in a ‘hidden’ valley full of grazing sheep. In the distance several yurts. Unfortunately, where there are roads there are vehicles, many trucks up and down, and now a Chinese family drives up and get out to partake—the sun beginning it’s descent into Uremqi fifty KM beyond (the hill).

Suddenly, there are Kazaks on horses, as they know tourists are money. I give them some apples I’d brought along. ‘No, I don’t want to ride a horse!’ I take their picture with Lee (see in Gallery). We find out they live in the yurts which are for rent at the rate of 100 Yuan per night. I get their contact information (they have a ‘mobile’ of course) for next time, as this is much more secluded and possibly quieter than below. But, I will certainly, for 100 Yuan, make sure we have it all to ourselves!

After the Chinese depart Lee and I ‘wonder’ down into the valley, me sitting on a rock picturing living here. We say nothing. the setting, the sun too perfect to disturb. The sheep grazing on the nearby hill, ‘singing’ their song of time, ‘Bhaaaaa!’ Otherwise there is little in the way of distraction. I’m overcome with a sense of peace. Idyllic, an English word, comes to mind, but possibly overused, and understated. Serene another descriptive word, as only the sounds of nature reach my ears for a time. I realize this is how I want to live, undisturbed by the modern world—I have no more wanting, no more trying to get somewhere… I’m ‘there!’ This is how I want to end my earthly existence, close to nature. I try to teach Lee about nature, and how to listen to the ‘nothingness.’

In ‘modernity’ all wound up like ‘mad hatters’ we live in the future! I realized sitting at 65-years of age there is no ‘future’ for me! Now, is ‘the time!’ I have become the path (as S.G. recommends).

Whether or not I get ‘The Heart Stone’ to Mt. Kailas is really immaterial! It’s simply a symbol of the path to bliss! Once you’re achieved this ‘bliss,’ there’s no need to go any further! There’s no place to go, we are t/here, wherever!

All my life I’ve been on a spiritual path, whether I knew it or not. In the beginning I acted like any other young American boy, bent on financial success, and getting the ‘beauty queen,’ the American Dream, so called. Living ‘happily ever after!’ What a bad joke perpetrated on the masses! It is really the ‘American nightmare,’ this insidiousness sold by the ‘owners,’ in order to manipulate and motivate to make them $ rich (and spiritually poor). They are the most unconscious!

I don’t think capitalism is so great! I must be a ‘Communist,’ God forbid! On the other hand, I have no economic alternative to offer… To be in China for any length of time is to understand man’s basic motivation, and that’s to have more, and more, and more of what he thinks will ease his pain, and bring him pleasure! Nothing new here! And so money has become God!

We as a species are in a very ‘dark time!’ I would call these the modern ‘Dark Ages!’

We ride to the ‘top of the hill’ in a cable car for 11 Yuan, only discover we’re at the bottom of a ‘well’ (consciousness)! I’m afraid, Jim… it does all have to do with consciousness, because if you don’t know that you don’t know, you pursue the mundane, like any animal (in pursuit of material things). You become ‘religious’ pursuing whatever ‘book,’ or philosophy eases the doubt, the fear, the pain, and gives you hope for a better existence! You live a ‘ritual’ without going deeper!

Instead of stopping the seeking of the material, and pursuing the spiritual, we just distract ourselves, one electronic ‘balm’ after another! Instead of seeking the challenging, the difficult, if not the impossible, we settle for being anestitized (by ‘modernity’). Heck, better to be ‘safe,’ than sorry!

We don’t dare strike out for the ‘unknown,’ giving everything up to submit, to sacrifice, to love something that’s not so obvious, not so material, and not delivered so easily as a ‘ride to the top’ for 11 yuan). Why walk when you can ride?

We are like the sheep covering these hills, and maybe that’s good! But, then if you’re a ‘sheppard’…? Or, if you don’t want to go along with the flock… Ke garne? You discover something else! ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, while I was walking one day. I took the one less traveled! It’s made all the difference!’

And I’ve (or I should say ‘we’ve’) discovered ‘it!’ And it’s sublime, beyond describing… So, why try? I don’t, only in poetry, which most can’t understand (which is good).

Not that I’m completely ‘there!’ I have one foot in ‘modernity’ (still), and one foot ‘there’ (where I want to be). But, I’m getting there more and more, and maybe am a little like a Bodhisattva, someone, something, that harkens back, trying to show the rest to see there’s another way of living. But, the ‘competition’ (modern distractions) almost impossible to overcome! You have to have been ‘chosen’ in a way! You have to be ‘taken’ like I was and am now! I have no choice! I never have, I only thought I had a choice! That I could live for the Ego! I was entirely wrong, and suffered for it. But, I’ve found that suffering and pain are the greatest of ‘teachers!’

What do you think the message of the Christ story is all about…? The present-day Christians having missed the point entirely! You can’t just ‘worship!’ You can’t just go to church on Sundays! You have to ‘die of the Ego body,’ to be reborn of the spirit (everlasting life)—this requires suffering! That’s the message! And how do you do this…? By living a life and awakening from ‘the dream’ that this so-called ‘reality’ (modernity) is… ‘Buddha’ means ‘awakened one!’ Christ means ‘risen one!’ The same thing! ‘He’ rose above the mundane life of the unconscious (the ‘knot noing’ people).

That’s what gnosticism is all about… ‘knowing’ rather than just having to ‘believe’ Trust me, there’s a huge difference! The ‘believers’ all look the same (dressing the same), acting the same, going to church on Sundays, reading the Bible (although never really understanding what it’s about), and in general just going along with ‘the program.’ Sheep, the sheep there are, eating, moving, but never ‘knowing!’ ‘Bhaaaaaaaa’ espousing the dogma, quoting the Christian bible, but never really understanding! As… It’s safer to do this (to be unconscious), than to find out for yourself—suffering! And most people seek safety rather than true knowledge (which comes with much pain, like ‘dying on the cross’ because you didn’t go along with ‘the program’).

Interesting that it wasn’t Pontius Pilate that condemned Christ, but the money-changers in the temple! He gets the bad rap, but ultimately wasn’t the one(s) that caused Jesus’ death (although it had to happen)! It was the Jewish money grubbers that felt threatened by ‘this man’ who said, stop doing what you’re doing, and share with others! Stop doing what you’re doing and follow me! Oooouuuuuuuueeeee! What are you talking about? Give up my ‘wealthy’ (bankrupt would be more appropriate) life, are you out of your mind?

And this is happening again in America today! Look what a rich person, Barbara Bush (W’s mother) just said about the poor (in the wake of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans)… Basically, that they deserve what they (don’t) have! That they all want to live in Texas! C’mon, Barbara, who wants to live in ‘hell?’

Compassion, is not one of the Bush’s qualities! Unconsciousness is! Jung said, the only sin is unconsciousness! Therefore, you can only pray that they come out of the ‘bushes;’ come from darkness unto the light… They simply know not, just like Christ said about the people who crucified him.

The only hope of mankind is to come from ‘darkness’ unto the ‘light!’ So, even if you don’t understand the concept of ‘consciousness!’ (‘a state of knowing’), learn about it!
Don’t just sit there and read the bible and feel comforted! Become uncomfortable with what is happening in the world. Get off your ass and do something about it!
That is, if you’re unlike the Bushes and have compassion!

And so we ‘walked on’… I walk on… Getting closer to ‘Mt. Kailas’ everyday! I walk on!

But, whether or not I/we ever get ‘The Heart Stone’ to Mt. Kailas is immaterial. It’s simply a symbol of the path to bliss! Once you’ve achieved this bliss (like we have) that’s no place to go, we are ‘there’ wherever!

Like the ‘garden’ we were sitting in at ‘Ti’an Chi!’ It’s just a reminder of what’s possible! That serenity, peace of mind, joy, are possible now, forgetting about ‘the future!’ It’s all possible, goodness, right now!

Of course, this comes with ‘practice!’ You don’t just ‘jump cut’ to it! I’ve been on this spiritual path all my life! But, now even with the physical pain of old age, I know its opposite, ‘pleasure’ too! Can we know one without the other in Duality? ‘Know!’ the Gnostics say! ‘Be still, and know I am God!’ (Psalm, vi.vi. #10)

I notice that on our (Lee and mine) third day out of the morass (a big Chinese city) that Lee is finally being to relax (it takes at least three days to slow down). This is good! He’s finally not smoking cigarettes so much, not glancing at his little screen so much, and drifting off into ‘nature.’ This is why it’s so healthy to do this.

We have a lovely walk down this smooth, paved and manicured road, but then ‘the no good (yurt) man,’ syndrome strikes again! ‘They’re having a ‘party’ in our’ yurt, one of those ‘intimate’ parties! This ‘party,’ a rich Chinese man and a costumed Kazak woman! Obviously, there’s something going on here… I think some of these yurts may just be Kazakchi ‘whore’ houses for the Chinese…? They don’t even leave after we arrive, but act like we’re interrupting them (who knows what the deal was)!

Sorry about that! We hang in, doing what we would do normally if they weren’t there. I make tea for one thing, and start writing in my notebook, ignoring them. I think they get the message we’re not leaving, so they do. Thank God! I make a mental note about renting a yurt again from a Kazak… Even Lee is pissed off, now beginning to repeat, ‘No good people!’ ‘No good man!’ And for emphasis, ‘Very no good man!’!

At 2030 (8:30 P.M.) it’s still light, but we go to bed anyway!

24 August, Wednesday - a trek/hike up to Bogeda (the 5.4K meter pea) - a day of fording steams!

I don’t sleep very well, as there’s too much noise in the community! Additionally, someone is snoring. Now, I first suspected Lee, being concerned about sleeping with him in the same room in the first place. But, it appears he wasn’t, as for the most part he doesn’t snore! I’m blessed with this one, as he makes a very good cycling/camping companion (one of the best I’ve ever had)! Most of all Lee never complains about anything! I’m doubly blessed about this!

Most smokers snore, by the way! Lee doesn’t!

God, what hell to be a Chinese woman, sleeping with a smoking (ah I’m sure wonderful smelling breath), spitting, and snoring man—who yells all the time!

We arise around 0700, the sky looking promising (in the dark). We depart by 0745.

When we’re pass Rashit’s Yurt (about 60% around the south side of the lake) it’s still semi-dark (the sun not yet breached the east mountain).

Another 30 minutes and we stop on the wonderfully Chinese constructed (concrete) path, to eat our breakfast, the sun now warming us.

Note: The sun makes such a difference in the mountains and desert. If it’s up it can be too potent, burning you, baking you. If no sun, you can freeze to death!

At the head of the lake the stream has risen from yesterday’s rain. Now, our stepping stones are underwater. Lee takes off his shoes and fords. I follow, but not after looking for something to walk on. I’m not a barefoot kind of guy!

The river is freezing cold, and does it ever wake me up! Not only that but my tender feet suffer from the rocks. It’s a form of ‘torture,’ yet when over (on the opposite bank) there’s something refreshing having done it! Certainly it toughens my tender feet.

We follow behind a group of Kazak mushroom hunters, but they walk way too fast for us (soon gone in the distance). We pick up a trail, however, through the rocks (all rocky and sandy river bottom we’re going through at this point). But, hiking on lose rock is no fun (you fall a lot). Lee has street shoes, but I’m luckier in my leather (Timberland) hiking boots. But, upward we go, the river (now pretty big) to the right of us.

I, leading the way, spy the trail going up the side of the bank, and gesture Lee the way. Up the bank the trail turns left (east) climbing a boulder strewn, green grass meadow. Here there are sheep and goats grazing. We go up and up, it getting prettier, and more wonderful every step. Up ahead one of the Kazak sheppard shacks. We continue past, and follow the trail down to another stream (running east and west). Here the trail climbs the bank, but I opt out, as it’s too dangerous, Lee with his shoes. Luckily, a large tree (log) has fallen at the right place, making a perfect ‘bridge.’ But, instead of walking we straddle it and ‘scoot’ our way across. I suppose we could have made it walking, but why take unnecessary chances when you don’t have to (age again)? I suppose in my younger days, with friends, we would have walked as it would have been the ‘macho’ thing to do.

We find and follow a trail up the stream canyon. The trail is deep (old). I’m thinking this leads up to Bogeda more directly than following the river south.

It’s a beautiful sunny day, the mountain scenery not unlike Colorado, or many other mountains I’ve been in (like the Himalaya). I note the trees are fir, Douglas-fir like. Lee asks me ‘What’s these in English?’ If I can find my notes, I’ll include what they are in Chinese.

We stop at a wonderful spot and have lunch. This a place where the stream careens over large boulders! The sound is enlivening! After eating some almonds and an apple I hop out to a boulder, sit and meditate among the rushing water. It couldn’t be much nicer, for someone that likes rushing water, being in the mountains.

My reverie is broken by some Kazak ‘cowboys rounding up’ some cattle on the opposite bank. Gosh, can I ever get away from such? Is there a vegetarian planet?

I take a photograph of a lone wild flower (see in the Gallery at www.cyclingpeace.org)

A butterfly lands on my camera case.

After sufficient time to digest our food, onward, upward!

But, it isn’t long when it’s obvious this is not the main trail up to Bogeda… I’ve been fooled below and have taken a lesser one. This peters out into growing undergrowth and thickets. I’m not into ‘bushwhacking’ this day, so I tell Lee we’re turning around and heading back down. We’ll get closer to Bogeda another time on the main trail.

I always have a plan in mind, when hiking/trekking/cycling, particularly in the mountains. My primary goal is to get back where, or camped out, or in a hotel by a reasonable hour, having had a good time! I guess it’s my age! I’ve had enough ‘challenging’ situations. I’m not into proving anything, or do I have ‘summit fever!’ I’ve been on top of enough mountains in my life time! I don’t have to ‘conquer’ anything but myself!

We go down this stream on the south side, or opposite the meadow we came up.

At the bottom a challenge as now we have to cross the stream, and no convenient log/bridge. We end up backtracking looking for a safe place, where boulders afford steps. The water is coming down with some force, and moving water is a powerful thing.

I find one, but it requires a long jump. I survey the situation long enough to realize this is dangerous with so much weight on my back. I’m about to say no, when I realize I’d be O.K., if I didn’t have my heavy backpack. This will work I tell Lee, not hesitating. I go first, Lee then hands over the backpacks, and then he comes. We’re on the north side now, but not up the bank.

Gosh, you can get yourselves into some challenging places without trying very hard. I gesture to follow, and we hop boulders, all the way down to the (main) river (sorry, I don’t know all the names).

On a shelve overlooking the river we decide to stop and rest, eat and drink again. It’s something like 1400 / 2P.M. in the afternoon, warm and lazy! The sound of the river again, lulling us…

‘Sirens,’ these rushing streams/rivers are to me! My idea for a perfect place to live would be in a log cabin or yurt (without the Kazak keeper) next to one—where I could fall asleep to the sound!

I spread out my ‘space blanket,’ and we eat, drink, and get comfortable. We day- dream, hypnotized by this peaceful place. I watch the ants, the butterflies, and the bees sucking up the nectar from dandelion blossoms. I doze, my back against a tree. Lee lies prone and is soon asleep.

I contemplate this wonderful trip, the fact I’m in a remote mountain area, in a remote part of China. All this with a young and genuinely good Chinese man! How did all this happen…? Yes, there are always ‘challenges’ in Duality, like our ‘No good man!’ but can there be ‘perfection,’ without ‘imperfection?’ I don’t think so!

We’re there in reverie quite a long time, as I let Lee sleep. Along about 1600 hours I wake him, gesturing we should be heading back. I always want a ‘perfect’ ending to a ‘perfect’ beginning (and ‘middle’). I know we have to ford the stream at the head of the lake, and don’t want to do this in the dark.

We have been observing foot, horse, mule, donkey, sheep and goat traffic on the other side of the river. Obviously, this is the mail trail to Bogeda. But, how to cross?

We scout around heading north (back to yurt ‘heaven’). Lo and behold we discover a log bridge, the main one no doubt. But, I’m confused as the traffic hasn’t been using this crossing, but continuing north on the west side. We use the log bridge anyway, deciding to follow all the traffic. But, then for some reason, I think no… Better to return knowing the trail, rather than using an unfamiliar one. So, we cross the log bridge again, to discover the trail we came up on, and will be able to find this again when we return.

I have guardian angels, I know this… I can ‘feel’ them around me! I’m guided ‘out there!’ People always ask me how I can cycle or hike alone? I tell them I’m not alone! Additionally, when you don’t have a partner or go with a group, you always meet new people.

I see where I made my ‘mistake’ earlier, taking the trail up the bank to the meadow. But, if the truth be known, the trail to the log bridge is hardly discernible… Sometimes it requires a local guide, or the experience of discovery! I like discovering thinks with the help of my ‘guardian angels.’ They tell me, ‘Which way!’

We’re back at the head of the lake with plenty of light. But, I’m not into wading again, so I scout further to the lake. And sure enough there’s a place with a combination of rocks and logs to pass over without getting wet.

Back at the ‘feet’ of the lake, we walk down to the ‘commercial’ area and eat dinner of zhau fan and beers (I think we had 2)! I’m ‘blissed’ (maybe tipsy) sitting in the sun as it winds around the earth for another day. It’s been a good hike!

I write a poem sitting there…

Why life?

What is life anyway
But, expression,
Confessing, we’re all too human!

Expressing leads to
The ‘expressionless,’
The nothingness,
The void,
Oh Floyd!

Consciousness!
Unconsciousness,
Returning,
Beginning,
Why?
I think I’ll die,
Live!

Why life?

We get back, and I’m wanting to pay up, as tomorrow early we depart back down to Uremqi. I give Lee 200 Yuan paying two thirds of the 300 Yuan due for 5 nights at 60 Yuan per. I always want to pay more, as he has a family (wife and son back in…), and I know his salary can’t be much. In fact, I don’t even know what he does exactly for the ‘machinery’ company he works for (I’m seen his card and the company brochure only). But, I can’t read Chinese, and even though I’ve asked, he hasn’t understood.

Anyway, Lee returns fuming mad! Seems the ‘No good man,’ had become the ‘Very no good man,’ by changing the rate. Instead of the agreed-to 60 per night, it’s now suddenly 100 per night. The ole ‘bait and switch’ maneuver by the less than scrupulous! What to do?

They argue, and it gets louder and louder. When ‘Mr. No good man’s’ boys enter the yurt I think I’m going to be in the middle of a fist fight (they wanting to protect ‘dad’). Now, I’m getting slightly pissed off as the argument is beginning to ruin my trip!

This is what I mean about ‘modernity,’ capitalism, the fact that money has become ‘God!’ If we let them they’re going to ruin our trip over 40 Yuan per or $5 per, basically a total of $25 U.S. If I would have had it, I would have just paid, but I didn’t as I plan ahead (budget). I had just enough to make sure we returned O.K., affording Lee’s bus trip (his bicycle was still inoperable), the repair of such in Fukang, lunch, and contingencies. What to do? Mr. ‘No good man,’ refuses to accept the 300 Yuan and we don’t have 200 more! Lee is obviously stressed at this point! The argument continues in and out of the yurt.

Finally Lee returns exasperated—no deal, the man won’t accept the 300 Yuan! I suggest that the young man Lee made the original deal with be summoned to admit the 60 rate. But, it turns out he’s part of the conspiracy too, and won’t admit anything! Bummer!

At this point I suggest to Lee that he go to the Chinese police. He immediately blows this idea off as, ‘The Chinese police are no good either!’ I tell him about my experience with the Chinese police in Chengdu (a very good one). He’s adamant about not getting them involved, telling me that in the U.S. the police are ‘good,’ but the Chinese police... I wouldn’t understand! Obviously, he’s had some bad experiences with them. But, I continue to encourage such… Otherwise, what are we to do…?

Finally, he bolts up and out, without saying anything! What a deal I think to myself… Bliss turned into shit, all for money! Maybe we should depart this evening, reducing the 100-rate tab to something we can afford (400 total). But, this is impractical at this hour, it’s getting on to 2000 / 8 P.M.

Suddenly I hear Lee’s loud voice obviously with some cache! Next thing I know, he enters the yurt having gone to the police with a successful outcome. Seems the police called Lee’s mobile, and the police order Mr. ‘No good man,’ to accept the 300 or the original deal. Lee is emboldened, no doubt ‘rubbing it in.’ Of course, I want him to ‘back off,’ knowing that when you ‘win’ you should do so gracefully. Mr. ‘No good man,’ enters contrite, accepts the 300 cash demanding an additional 20 Yuan (for something). Ah, chiselers always are eking out whatever they can. But, Lee and I are relieved, the Chinese police, once again, my heroes! We can now relax, have a good sleep, and depart the following morning as scheduled.

Suddenly there is peace in the area! I’m sure the entire yurt community heard about this, either immediately, or as a story later (how we ripped the poor Kazak family off). All of this drama over $25 U.S.

I immediately give Mrs. ‘No good man,’ 5 Yuan for kai swui (hot water). I’m always the diplomat, trying to make things right, or better, or whatever… The adult child of an alcoholic(s) (ACA). I don’t like disagreements harkening back to my childhood, my parents ‘tragic’ cases!

25 August – our ride back to Uremqi

In the morning before we depart I give her another 10 Yuan. I like this hard-working, smiling woman, married to a ‘No good man!’ I liked their children too, giving them food gifts as often as I had them. It’s the children that suffer, without knowing (just like I did when I was too young).

The plan is for Lee to take his bicycle on the bus, thus he heads out first having to walk down the hill. I catch up quickly and we walk together. We part at the bus parking lot, with the plan to meet at the restaurant, after Lee has had his bicycle repaired. We want to cycle together as much as possible.

I take off immediately, thinking it will take me roughly two hours to brake down all the way… Something like 40 kilometers.

Ah, it’s a wonderful morning, gliding down, what painfully came up five days ago. But, I don’t see any buses coming down. What if there aren’t any…? I’m always thinking (unfortunately)! I finally stop in the sun and change my clothes, as I know down in the desert I need to be dressed differently.

It’s a cool breeze down, and I’m in Fukang right on schedule. I find the restaurant, and Lee is waiting for me! Gosh, I’m slightly amazed at how easy it’s been so far… I’m suddenly eating zhau fan and drinking flower tea he’s ordered for me. A warm and fuzzy feeling envelopes me.

Next to us are three young Uyghur boys (students) drinking ‘milk tea!’ Of course, the Uyghurs have to be different than the Chinese! I try their milk tea, which I think needs sugar, but at least better than the insipid Chinese flower tea.

I try to tip the restaurant owner, a Mr. Mejet, 2 Yuan and he refuses. I think, some bad, some good… This guy is Mr. ‘Good man!’ One Kazak tries to rip you off to the tune of 200 Yuan, and the next won’t accept a 2 Yuan / .25 cent tip! When I refuse to take it back, he goes and buys us two water bottles! So, if ever in Fukang, Xinjiang Province, China, and looking for a good restaurant, go there, ‘Mejet’s’… Where? I can’t tell you, except that it’s mostly through town from the Uremqi (northwest) side, and on the left! I don’t know the name, it’ll be in Chinese or Kazak anyway, and you won’t be able to read!

At the next table is Kazak family from Alaty (the capitol of), Kazakhstan, here on a visit. I get an invitation to visit them in Kazakhstan. I buy their children candy! This is a ‘good man’ family! I will visit them someday, having their contact information (at least a telephone number I can read).

Note! There are only good and bad people! There are not Americans, and Russians, Indians and the Nepalese! There are only good and bad people. There are not Chinese and Kazaks, there are only good and bad. There are not the French and the Spanish, the Irish and Israelis… Only good and bad people! At least to me! I don’t go by any other ‘label,’ or political boundaries! There are good Yurt keepers and bad yurt keepers! There are good restaurant owners, and ones that will rip you off! In my world, there are only good and bad people!

We depart for Uremqi, it now getting very warm, too warm to be cycling through a desert! I reprimand myself for not thinking about this.

On the way back we run into a caravan of camels! How appropriate! (see photographs in the Gallery, at… Well, you should know the WEB site URL by now!)

The rest is history! We made it back without incident, and had a nice conversation (iced tea) with a Chinese guy on the outskirts of Uremqi. I found out the big highway (the four-laner through Uremqi) is only seven years old!

The ‘crank’ back to Uremqi, the same distance as going, has taken five hours less (going down hill) or 8, rather than 13 hours. Oh, so much easier, although 8 hours ‘out there’ on a bicycle is still a lot. I can tell Lee is ‘dying’ to get back to the hotel, as he’s so far ahead of me, I can’t even see him (the horse smelling the barn syndrome)!

Once back at ‘Your Friend,’ the usual yelling, screaming, banging, and spitting on the floor. But, I had a nice warm shower! My bed felt divine! You take the bad with the good! I could have more quiet and less spitting, but it would cost me more Yuan! The average ‘good’ hotel in Uremqi costs something like 180 ‘kwai’ (Yuan) per night, or $10! I’m paying less than one-third of that!

It was, overall, a very good trip to Ti’an Chi—‘Heavenly Lake and Mountain’ as it certainly is (sans all the tourists)! Oh well, you can’t have everything! No people, no zhau fan or beer! No, ‘No good man,’ and no yurt! Ke garne?

Ah, life is what it’s all about! Living, trying, experiencing, becoming more conscious!

‘Good night, Gracie!’