Sunday, June 25, 2006

25 June 2006

We're back in Shang Hai, but oh, what a day departing Hong Kong...

Our last day in Hong Kong was Thursday, June 22nd, the first day of
summer. This turned out to be a 19-hour ordeal for me! Travelling is
arduous, so get into physical condition if you want to, it's
strenuous.

I'm up at 0600, letting Tom sleep next to me in our #1704 Minden Hotel room.

It's plush, the best hotel I've stayed in since my Network television
days (this at $120 per). A LAN hookup for free, thus, we were able to
use our new MacBook, and right in our room. This will probably save
me from developing lung cancer, as no more Net Bars --'dens of
iniquity!'

At 0700, I descend on an Otis elevator to the 'breakfast' room. Here
we have coffee and tea, plus an assortment of breads, including two TV
screens (I can do without), and the local papers ('International
Herald Tribune' for one). I bring my green apple and delight in one
muffin and very good coffee.

It's the little things in life that bring you joy. This breakfast
respite for me, made the entire day palpable, well almost. I ate,
drank coffee, and read an English newspaper. Wow, civilization!

At 0800, Tom and I head off for the Chinese Government Office, this
the third time in three days and to finally pick up my passport with
new visa.' The 'tab,' 390HKD or divide, 7.7 into 390 for the $
equivalent, I'm guessing $45 U.S. But, this only for 30 days.

Governments make money on visas!

We take the subway, two stops, having to change once. This costs
18HKD / $2.50 for two of us each way. We've got the 'drill' down
finally, having 'practiced.' We're just prior to the morning rush, so
the trains are not 'jammed' just filled. There's a difference. I've
been in subway cars where squeezed in so tight you couldn't more.
Then try getting off at your stop!

The entire subway ride, under the Bay and over to Hong Kong Island,
walking to the 'China Resources Bu idling,' takes but 30 minutes
(since we now know the way).

We're the first ones in line 2 out of 3 days. 'The early bird gets the worm!'

I go off to find the toilet behind the 'Nine Dragon Wall.' When I
return Tom is talking with two black women waiting in the visa line.
I know immediately they are from the U.S. One, a flight attendant for
United is very outspoken about what's happening in the U.S. She's
moving to Senegal. In the meantime, they're off on a one-day shopping
excursion to Shenzhen, the large Chinese city on the 'Mainland,' we've
passing through to get to Hong Kong.

The wait is not long before two 'robots' open the doors, and I have my
passport, and we've retracing our ride and back to The Minden by 1000.
One task completed.

We check out of the hotel, and take the KFC (could I be correct?) line
to the 'border,' or Shenzhen. This takes 45 minutes, with many stops
(maybe 12). Hong Kong is larger than you think, at least the area.

Here at the border crossing the usual Immigration and Customs. We're
entering 'China' again. Hong Kong, which is supposed to be part of
China, really isn't.

No problem for Tom, a citizen, or me with new visa, but Rucha is
stopped cold. Something is wrong! Her visa has only 1 entry (which
she used to enter in April), and she needs to get another one
'upstairs.' Of course, when this discussion begins, I call Tom over
to help. He's allowed to accompany her, while I wait!

This is where the day changed from O.K., to not-so wonderful. Here I
am alone in China, Tom and Rucha 'upstairs' somewhere (still in 'Hong
Kong'). I have no mobile, but Tom's bag he's left with me. There's
no place to sit while waiting. I try to talk to a Chinese 'robot,'
but no comprende. There's a 'penalty box' with a wheel chair and
benches, but this for people who are 'suspect,' their passports being
examined. A nurse sits at a desk with two chairs, and I'm temped to
ask to sit in one of the chairs, but I'm coughing so much, I better
not, knowing what can happen. 'Robots' are basically 'bored,' so you
don't give them any reason to get excited.

I wait and wait, standing, moving, trying to think what I would do if
they never appeared agin... I thought best not to go through Chinese
Customs with Tom's bag, plus I'd be beyond where he could talk to me.
So, I just 'hang in,' as we all do when in these kinds of situations.

Finally, after forty minutes Tom appears, and I move closer to the
'border,' to hear him. He shouts, 'Another twenty minutes!' I thank
him! It's not knowing that causes stress, but once you do, the burden
lifts and waiting (not one of my talents) is much easier.

Finally, both Tom and Rucha appear and get back into the line. More
waiting, but now even easier, as I know they've been successful in
getting her a new visa.

Through the line ('approved') we walk the 'gauntlet' of Customs, but
with no problem. Now, we're all back in 'Mainland China,' Shenzhen.
The plan now to check out taking the train back to Shang Hai.

So, we walk to the RR station, something like 500 meters. It's
raining, but the way is covered, and easy going (Rucha drags her bag
on the the marble stones).

After having to find the 'Long Distance Train' ticket office, we again
wait in line. Tom has checked the departure board and there's one at
1700 (5P.M.). It's only 1:30 P.M., so plenty of time. The only
problem, no train today! Why? We don't ask. We could take a train
to Guangdong, and go from there to Shang hai, but I opt to fly.

Now, we must find a travel or airline office. Additionally, we
haven't eaten since early breakfast.

Outside, I spy a 'Shangri la,' Hotel, and direct everyone there.

Hotels are great sources for solutions when travelling. This
especially in Asia, where a white face is thought to be a 'guest,' and
admitted with courtesy. Also, there's always a concierge, and good
information.

We ask and are directed to the 'Business Center' on the second floor.
Right away, I notice this is a 'five-star hotel.'

On the way, we decide to have lunch, but after seated opt not to as
just 'snacks.' Upstairs is a Chinese restaurant! Perfect, as we have
to go up anyway.

We order lunch in the Chinese Restaurant, and then Tom and I go to the
'Business Center.' Here a pretty Chinese girl (turns out from Korla,
Xinjiang) books us on a China Eastern flight. By now, I'm low on
patience, and am curt with her, but she doesn't notice. Just another
'ugly American,' I can sometimes be. Everything always takes too long
for me, Tom and her having an endless conversation. I can become
irascible and demanding, especially when not feeling good. And this
day, not very good at all, with my chest cold, the one I've had for
three months and can't seem to shake (between cigarette smoking in Net
Bars and eastern China air pollution).

I finally depart to eat my 'chao mi fan' (fried rice), in the
restaurant (with Rucha). I have left my passport and Bank card with
Tom in the 'B.C.'. I'll sign when I've eaten. Everything in it's own
good time.

I notice a pretty Chinese woman staring at me in the dining room. At
my age and looks I can't believe any woman would be interested, but
some Chinese women are curious (I guess). Of course, this always
'charges' the male ego.

Tom arrives, and I have to return to the 'Business Center.' The 'tab'
for three 'Y' seats is something like 5,000RMB or roughly $170U.S.
per. I didn't care at this point, only wanting to return to Shang Hai
as quickly as possible. I'm not feeling very well at all at this
point.

Now we have an hour's wait before departing for the airport. We have
opted to take a taxi to the airport, as the hotel offer no buses. So,
we sit in the lobby and and partake of desert. This a mere 200RMB /
$25US. for two glasses of watermelon juice and a dish of ice cream
(I'm not into watermelon juice). Yes, things can be expensive in
certain cities/establishments in China.

It turns out to be a 45-minute taxi ride to 'Shenzhen International
Airport,' right on the 'Bay of Something.'

After checking in, bags disappearing from sight, we are subjected to
the usual security gauntlet. First my money clip sets off the door
radar. Then we're relieved of all our 'weapons' two Swiss Army
knives, nail clippers, and scissors. How silly the world has become.
I'm pissed off, and getting demonstrative about it, Tom trying to calm
me down. Poor Tom, my faithful assistant. He has to run to the
check-in country and send the items some other way.

Rucha and I wait at the security check. When Tom doesn't return for
such a long time, Rucha is worried he's been 'held' for whatever
transgressions they can think of!

We live in 'police states,' in our 'countries,' whether it be China or
the U.S. We've allowed this to happen, and can only blame ourselves!
And all in the name of 'security!' Because the big, bad 'terrorists'
our out there, and going to eat us up! How completely stupid we are!

At the gate, I can 'sense' there's going to be a delay. For one
thing, there's no aircraft in sight. More waiting. I'm now trying to
catch a nap at every seat. Additionally, after three months of
travelling with Rucha, she's annoying me.

Finally the 757 arrives, looking somewhat used. Tom and I watch it
being loaded with palates of boxes. So, many things being transported
around the world. I wonder where my little soft bags are, I hope not
crushed.

Tom thinks this is a 'small plane.' I explain, 'medium sized.' The
new Airbus A-380, has two floors with a capacity of 600+ passengers.
I hope to God I never have the misfortune to be subjected to one of
these flying 'cattle cars!' Can you imagine fetching your luggage with
600 other people (all in a hurry of course).

We board, one of a mere 200 'cattle.' This is the first time I've
flown on a Chinese airline. So, I'm observant. We get the middle
three of a six-seat row arrangement. The best being on the window
two. Here begins the 'torture' for me. Not the seat, but that we are
told, because of the weather, we'll be sitting on the ground at the
gate for two hours before taking off. Why didn't they tell us before
boarding... The old airline trick... Once captured have to pay. If
we'd found out before, half of the passengers would opt for something
else, causing much trouble (changing tickets, refunds, etc.). The
passenger, the customer, is the last one thought of in China.

I think about informing them I'm ill and want off (since easy still at
the gate). But, I don't because I know what this is liable to cause.
A doctor, an examination, with the 'Bird Flu' scare; much potential
trouble. So, I sit there feeling worse and worse. I have Tom ask an
attendant for cough medicine. None. We ask for 'aspirin' (I haven't
brought mine alone). They can't understand. They bring me something
labeled 'APC,' which I think is aspirin, but don't take. I want to
torture myself! No, I don't take pills that I'm not completely sure
about.

They serve 'dinner' to keep the 'cattle' from getting too unhappy--no
one can smoke, so I'll bet the men getting restless. It's horrible,
the 'boxed' meal--reminding me of what they serve on military flights!
No alcohol is offered. Maybe this is good, although I would have
bought a beer (to anestisize myself). I'm beginning to think China
Eastern not so good.

Finally, we back away from the gate, and are moving to the active
runway. Somewhere I remember learning, probably, from an information
board, that this flight lands at Pudong International. I should have
asked. Why Pudong? This is a domestic flight? Pudong is a large
International airport. Shang Hai has a domestic airport, closer to
the city. Pudong is 50KM east of Shang Hai proper.

We take off, and the flight is smooth, and it isn't long before (two
hours, versus 25 vis RR) descending into Shang Hai. The storm has
dissipated and only raining now. I'm thinking better of China
Eastern. We land and are walking to the baggage claim 'salon' We walk
and walk, as Pudong Airport is huge!

I'm thinking we might take the 'high-speed' train into Shang Hai, but
we discover the last one departed at 2100 hours / 9P.M. We retrieve
our bags easily, and no further hassle, except the means of travel to
Shang hai... Maybe a bus, no, we opt for another 150RMB taxi ride.
I'm in no mood to catch a bus, want to get to #2306, and to bed as
quickly as possible. I'm feeling like 'donkey do-do' at this point.

When Rucha annoys me for the umpteen time, I explode and yell at her
in the taxi! Poor Rucha doesn't deserve it. We ride in silence all
the way back, but nearing my destination, I apologize for yelling at
her.

When I finally lie on my cot in my room at #2306 it's midnight and
it's been a grueling 18-hour day of visas and travelling.

Best to travel when you're young and strong, don't wait or you won't,
worse you won't be able to!

Me, I'm a tough old bird, having travelled much, drank too much, eaten
much, made love much, done everything maybe too much. But, such is
the nature of my body/soul for whatever reason. Now, writing this
some three days later feeling better, stronger, with good news. Tom
has solved my staying in China!

Would you believe, there's a law on the Chinese books, that says, 'If
you're over 60-years of age, have no family in your home country, you
can stay if you find a 'rich' Chinese family to sponsor you. I
qualify in all regards, but yet to see, as what is said on paper (Tom
discovered this searching the Chinese Government's WEB site), and what
actually happens is sometimes different. You know how that goes.

But, as Rucha says, 'We'll find out!'

So, stayed tuned!

Hutch
in Shang Hai China where the monsoon and insecticide (sprayed on the
streets) gives it a fetid quality. Eastern China is not a healthy
place for me, and I'll be here only for as long as I have to be.
--
Climb high,
Ride far,
Your goal the sky,
Your aim the stars!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

22 June 06 Hong Kong

(Note: First time I've ever created a 'journal,' (or 'The Daily
Dosage') 'live' online. This made possible by new computer and hotel
Internet connection. Also, because there's no word processing program
on this computer that I can figure out. I sure as hell don't want to
use Microsoft 'Word.') So, 'email' was the only alternative!

I can't sleep! I made the mistake of drinking tea at the Chinese
restaurant where we had dinner tonight (Rucha and me, 'chao mi fan').
Tom had his noodles.

We've been eating mostly at non-Chinese places (needed for me and
Rucha), Italian, Indian, and western. So, poor Tom has been
suffering. Hong Kong is more like a Chinese version of the Bay Area,
than China. Everyone here speaks English. Tom has been surprised when
local Chinese don't understand his Mandarin.

I can't sleep! But, Tom sleeps like a 'baby,' I've noticed (instantly
'there,' and never moving all night). Me, on the other hand, at
66-years of age, taking time to 'drift off,' and then waking every two
hours to urinate! I sleep like a cat, Tom like a dog!

Today, walking in Hong Kong Park, we saw some turtles sitting on
rocks. I was reminded of what the 236-year old man said when asked
what was his secret to longevity, 'Sit like a turtle, walk like a
pigeon, and sleep like a dog!' I can do only one of the three!

We saw some lotus blossoms too! I don't think there's a flower
anywhere more lovely than the lotus, the leaves so large, the blossoms
so delicate. Padmasambhava is said to have been born from a lotus
blossom.

We've been in Hong Kong for three days now... An amazing city, I
haven't been near here in forty years (last time during the Vietnam
War - what we called for 'R and R' - basically getting drunk and
laid!)!

Wow! I thought Shang Hai was rich, but I think Hong Kong out does Shang Hai.

We came here from Shang Hai, of course on visa business. I couldn't
stay on the 'Mainland,' beyond June 20th, and Hong Kong 'famous' for
lenient visa renewals. Or, so I thought. I was somewhat dismayed
when the female 'robot' said, '30-days only for tourist visa!'

My visa business in China is a long and complicated story, so I won't
bore you. Suffice it to say, I spend most of my time in China, time
and resources, just renewing visas (to stay). Sometimes, I just want
to 'pack it in,' return to the U.S. where I at least don't have to
renew my visa! I don't know how many thousands of whatever currency
it's going to cost me to renew, but I'm sure this is my #2 (behind
everyday living) expenditure in China.

Governments, the bane of our existences! Designed solely to extract
every bit of money we have! Wake up people! You think you need a
government, like a 'monkey on your back!' They have become the
'monster,' that comes out of its cave every night to prey on us! And
we're so stupid we allow it! Wake up people! Then again,
'governments' are only a projection of our very selves! We are the
problem for creating and allowing. 'We have met the enemy and he is
us!' said Pogo.

Why do we torture ourselves so? We get what we think we deserve,
pain, rather than pleasure! We've been inculcated with the idea of
'sin,' and guilt for so long by other 'predators' (the church), we now
believe it! Stupid we are! We get what we deserve! Wake up people!

Anyway, I was only able to get a 30-day extension, to return to the
Mainland 'China'. This I desperately needed for many reasons (have
money in an account at the Bank of China for one).

Why don't I just 'pack it in,' and move to another country like
Kyrgyzstan, or Mongolia (two places I want to experience)? Because I
have this insane notion I have a responsibility to my Chinese friends
(offering them some opportunities).

If the Han Chinese people hadn't been so wonderful to me, I probably
wouldn't be motivated to try to stay. But, coupled with the Beijing
Olympics opportunity, and the chance to start
www.makemagictogether.com here, I will make every effort to stay
through 08. After that I don't care, and most likely will be looking
for another country. I've thought of returning to Europe for a time
(need western sophistication every once in a while).

So today, back to the Visa Department of the Chinese Government for
the second time. This after I'd met and talked with Ben Lam about
possibilities. He raised the issue of the type of visa (gets
complicated here) that you must have in order to apply for work and
residence status (Chinese Green Card equivalent)--long term status
which I need. Seems, and follow the 'logic' here, the way the Chinese
Government doesn't think... If you're here in China on a 'tourist
visa,' you shouldn't be looking for work--you should be spending money
at the Great Wall National Park, for example. You shouldn't be
looking for work, without 'Z' status, or a 'looking-for work' visa.

But, you can't get 'Z' status without a whole bunch of documents from
the company you're not supposed to know about. I need to acquire these
documents in Shang Hai, so needed to return to the 'Mainland.'

It's a classic 'Catch 22' situation, governments are so famous for
creating: 'If you need it, you can't get it. It you don't need it,
it's easy to obtain.' I tried to explain to Tom this is a 'game,' you
play... Maybe a Chess game. You have to be a good player to win!
Luckily, I'm a good Chess player. Better, We have a 'force' on our
side, that is more powerful than all the governments of the world
combined! So, trust me, I'll get 'work and residence status!'

'The absence of all doubt leads to complete success!' quoting the
'lotus-born' one! I (we) have no doubt!

In the meantime, I suffer with a chest cold! Help Ganai! Send those
supplements! I believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but rely on
what I know has worked in the past: Astragalus, Echinecea, Golden
Seal Root, Lobelia, for a few! Strange... Astragalus, is a Chinese
herb, but difficult to find here, and then only as tea! I need a
massive dosage... Herbs require large amounts! Homeopathy requires
dissolution.

One good thing... I was prepared to suffer from the humidity (Hong
Kong in the tropics), only 96% today! But, for some reason it hasn't
seemed that hot! Maybe my anticipation of suffering turned the
tide... It's been bearable! Only 30C. with 96% humidity. But, after
walking around the polluted streets of the honking masses, trust me
you need a shower.

Luckily, The Minden ('boutique') Hotel turns out to be a find (good
shower)! A lucky 'guess' on my part (seen on some street map), as
only 800HKD / $120 U.S. per. But, Rucha is along, and this makes such
luxury possible. If it hadn't been for her, I'm sure Tom and I would
have spent the first day scouring the outer edges of Hong Kong for
more reasonable 'digs.'

The Minden, is in the heart of Kowloon, just across the bay from 'Hong
Kong Island,' thus rich and desirable!

After the morning's visa excursion, Tom and I took Rucha along, via a
wonderful subway ride (under the bay), back over to the Island. This
in quest of 'The Message,' for Christian friend Stephanie. We have
been to three book stores prior, but none to be found. Then
yesterday, returning from 'visa excursion,' I noticed a man on the
subway reading the Bible. I asked him where I might find and he knew!
But, locating the bookstore... I'm the only one in the world with
this unique talent of finding things, my only true innate ability. I
had barely remembered his words, something about 'Luppo,' but we
walked right to the 'Elim Bookstore,' and found many versions of, 'The
Message.'

I can tell you there are few things I wouldn't do for my Chinese
friend Stephanie, and her family. They've been wonderful to me here
in China! I would have walked over 'hot coals' to find this book (not
available in up tight China).

Note, 'Hong Kong,' really considered a 'foreign country.' After being
here for three days, and seeing a little bit of it, I agree... It's
more like (and didn't I say this earlier), a Chinese version of the
Bay Area, California. Here, however, the hills are greener!

In this shopping complex (on the way to the bookstore) I saw a sign
which read, 'Hutchison House!' (see photograph at www.cyclingpeace.org
/ gallery: 'Rucha, Tom, and Alexander in Hong Kong'). My last
(father's) name is 'Hutchison,' not 'Hutchinson' as ours is so often
mis-spelled! So, when I saw this I wondered, 'What?' Later I
realized that they were an old Hong Kong family and now a company
listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange! Maybe I'll buy some stock...
How can I not in my namesake's company?

After buying the book we walked outside and over to Hong Kong Park
(located on a hill). Rucha, now much stronger, made it up the hill in
the heat (exertion in heat difficult for this German woman)! But, we
(she) was rewarded as we found a fountain, with water shooting up, and
sans sandals she stood in it (while another Chinese 'robot' looked on
about to scold). It refreshed (revived) her and we had a good time
'wondering' around in the greenery.

Later we took a double-decker (English style) bus down to 'Star
Ferry.' We sat 'upstairs' and had a wonderful view of all the massive
'sky scrappers' on Hong Kong Island. There's one that must rival the
one in Pudong (Shang Hai), this at 88-stories (the number '8' lucky to
Chinese).

The ferry ride across the bay short but again water a 'tonic' for
Rucha. She, enjoying the cool ocean 'spray' off the bay! And the
combination of both, the bus and ferry rides, gave us some sense of
Hong Kong, and in such a short time.

All other hours in the past three days, have been spent in the hotel,
visa getting, computer shopping, and eating. Other tasks involved
sending packages to the U.S., and to our dear Chinese friends in
Kashigar (that we miss)!

It turns out 'Hong Kong Post,' much more lenient than 'China Post'
Customs for sending things. Tom was amazed that they didn't even ask
what was in the package (going to the U.S.). In Kashigar, where the
Gov. is massively uptight, they scour every package (even open to
examine). Thus, shipping a bottle of Yigan Kang to my sister Sally in
the U.S. has been daunting until now! Where there is a will, there is
a Willis!

Some other snippets...

The subway is unusually well thought-out here in Hong Kong!

The non-Chinese food has been a wonderful respite for Rucha and I.
One night we 'splurged' ($50U.S. for two) and ate at a locate Italian
restaurant, Guardino's. I had rissoto, and Tiramesu! We dranks two
beers each! The service was good... It was like being in Italy, or
Europe, as the Chinese waitresses spoke English. You don't get this
kind of thing even in Shang Hai.

Ben Lam, my new 'friend,' turned out to be full of good information.
He has plans for China, which I concur with!

Consider his unusual background... Born in Hong Kong, his parents
moved to Australia at an early age (before he could learn the Chinese
language). Thus, he speaks English like my friend English-born, Peter
Stansill. He has lived in Australia for thirty years, but now back in
Hong Kong to build hospitals and schools on the 'Mainland.' It wasn't
until five years ago that this Chinese-born man learned to speak
Chinese.

We bought an Apple Computer in Hong Kong, this at comparable U.S.
price. It's a 'Mac Book, and I'm creating this 'journal' on its keys
(which feel good). The 'box,' (Marty's expression) has 'built-in'
everything, like a camera, so when we chat, you can see us! It's so
fast, there's no comparison between it and my old Toshiba (sitting in
Shang Hai). It weighs five lbs., but we'll take it everywhere (even on
bicycles), as we'll have China Mobile's 'online' program--use like a
'mobile.' We'll be able to get online in the mountains of Xinjiang
Province, then watch a movie in our tent, as it has a DVD player (the
battery lasts for 3 hours).

There are no beggars on the streets of Hong Kong, although I saw two
'street people' today. I gave 5HKD to one. Hong Kong is rich, thus I
haven't had much of a chance to play 'Santa Claus' like normal.

I remember a big, rich-looking Catholic Church over on the Island...
St. James...? I wonder how much they support street people? There's
also a Mormon church in Kowloon. So, religion moved in here long ago,
possibly with the Hutchisons! You won't see many churches outside of
Shang Hai on the 'Mainland.'

We saw the Pisces docked at the 'Star Wharf,' a large modern ship,
that turns out to be a 'cruise vessel' (food, gambling and games on
the high seas). Just the kind of thing I wouldn't do if it were free,
and trust me, it's not!

Men wear suits and ties here in Hong Kong. When I met Ben Lam he was
wearing such! Me in a T-shirt and trekking pants.

Everywhere is 'rich' in Hong Kong! But, they still lack a good Uyghur
Restaurant... No 'poluo' Mamat! What to do?

Now, a couple hours later, having pounding these white keys, I think I
will try to sleep! It's 11P.M., June 22, 2006.

Happy Summer time!

Haqi
in Hong Kong (returning to Shang Hai tomorrow)

P.S. Tonight at dinner I couldn't find my wallet, and thought I'd
lost it full of cash and important cards. I almost had a heart
attack! But, I'd left it in the room! When I saw it, I fell on the
bed and thanked 'you know whom!' My divine lover, of course!

We will! 'Wo Neng! 我能!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

13 June 2006

‘The Visa Game,’ a new TV series!

Maybe the number ‘13’ does turn out to be ‘unlucky,’ as had a bit of that today… A setback! I can’t renew my visa in Shang Hai, ‘Can’t stay in China for more than one year!’ said the uniformed ‘robot’ at the Immigration Office. Mr. Zhao turned out to be right… Thus, we have to travel to Hong Kong to deal with renewing my Chinese visa.

Additionally, I learned something (an old lesson, and ‘suspicions re-confirmed’). No Chinese official (bureaucrat in any country) is going to risk their job (ultimately), even if they say they ‘love you!’

It was either a misunderstanding or whatever, but my Chinese ‘friends’ in the Police Department, only confirmed what I already knew… The only question… Why did they mis-direct me? They must not have known, or somehow there was a mis-interpretation between me and them (Xu Tan in the middle translating). The upshot, a colossal waste of time and effort today, trying to renew my visa in Shang Hai!

Worse, why did I believe them? Mr. Zhao knew, as he knows the Chinese Government so well (dealing with them via Gongming). So, once again, an important lesson relearned: I had let my Ego interfere by hoping for the best! How many times do you learn this kind of lesson about people? I seem to learn it over and over, as even though I act not, I can be naïve, hoping that people are courageous (just because I am )! You simple cannot count on people beyond your closest ‘group,’ and even then…

Later, when having a discussion about the day’s ‘loss’ Rucha said something so ‘interesting,’ I wrote it down: ‘It takes courage to have courage!’ What in the world could she mean? I suppose she’s suggesting that even to think about the idea of being courageous (some action) you have to risk a little? I don’t know…?

To me you either are, or you aren’t ‘courageous.’ It’s not something you think about. I’ve only thought about it in literary terms, not me personally…’Am I, or am I not courageous?’ Maybe I’ve never had the courage to be courageous…? I just do what I can (or have in the past). Maybe I’m afraid to appear a coward? I suppose what is ‘courageous’ to some, is not to others.

Thus, for Rucha, who doesn’t ‘believe in,’ this is yet another example of how we create ‘our worlds,’ by what we think and say (‘believe’). To her I am ‘courageous.’ To someone who climbs Mt. Everest without eyes or legs, maybe what I do on a bicycle isn’t so ‘courageous!’

But, enough about being ‘courageous,’ and creating a ‘safe world!’ The world I live in isn’t very ‘safe,’ but I accept that as a ‘reality.’ Creating a ‘safe world,’ for yourself, is only another ‘illusion,’ but one most people need (I guess). Again, what is ‘safe’ to some, is ‘foolhardy’ to others.

Now, what to do…? What happened today, plus the way I’m feeling physically (suffering from the climate and pollution), calls up the desire to make a bigger decision. So, a dilemma…

On one hand, we’ve already planned to travel to Hong Kong, and pursue renewing my visa, as Rucha says, ‘Never Give Up!’ Something I tell my students. Of course, this is what I’ll probably do, on the other hand, I wonder if the ‘cosmos’ is trying to tell me something I should heed, something I lament about to myself? I voiced such to the group today, that sometimes I just want to find a mountain cabin and drop out! Striving seems so futile!

The Buddhists and Taoists know when they recommend, ‘non-action!’ Ah, this is what would require ‘courage’ on my part, as I’m ‘scared to death’ to do nothing! It’s easy for me to ‘act!’ Being ‘courageous’ to me would be to do nothing!

Maybe I’m pursuing something in China, I shouldn’t…? This business: www.makemagictogether.com? This, when it may require my ‘life?’ Not literally, tomorrow, but certainly, over time, a ‘piece of me?’

I’m ill (low-grade viral infection) here in Shang Hai, beset with allergies caused by very polluted environment (plus the fetid climate). It was confirmed the other day when I realized my friend Peter, fresh from Dalian (unpolluted), was coughing like me! He confessed that he was having trouble breathing. Others do not have the same problem or even notice, as not so sensitive as we! Peter is smarter than me, however, as he departed today to return to Dalian (realizing how unhealthy Shang Hai is).

So, that’s one option, to ‘chuck it all,’ and just go on ‘Ms. Fiets,’ wherever, not caring… Maybe writing a little…?

On the other hand, I feel somewhat responsible to my friends who believe in me and what we’re trying to do! Of course, that’s my dilemma…? How can I abandon them?

However, in order to stay in China for any length of time, is going to take effort and resources (possibly my ‘life’)! Is it worth it?

This is my dilemma… The question… What to do?

I suppose I will go in one ‘direction’ (of trying to live in China) as far as I can, as this is my usual ‘tact!’ If it becomes ‘impossible,’ I’ll eventually ‘heed the message,’ and change courses (move elsewhere)! I just hope that won’t be ‘too late!’ (have some vigorous life still left).

In the meantime, Hong Kong, where we come!

Hutch
Haqi, the magic dragon, who doesn’t like living near a sea!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

10 June 2006

Yesterday…

You don’t think the Catholic Church has power…? They just shut down the movie, ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ in China ! This after it had played for three weeks (Catholics no doubt complained). And seemingly strange as they (Chinese Archdiocese) just elected a Bishop that was unapproved by the Pope. Nonetheless, ‘Who’ understands the ‘chess game!’ very well! It’s all power politics and how the ‘game’ is played; the ‘moves’ you make. In this case a ‘bishop’ was ‘moved’ in just the right place!

Of course, most people don’t even notice these kinds of things, nor what has happened to Google in China.

Wake up world!

Yesterday evening Mr. Zhao and Stephanie drove us (Rucha, Tom and I) some 100KM west to visit an ancient Chinese city (actually two). The first was called ‘Xitang,’ about 20KM northeast of Hangzhou .

We spent the afternoon walking around the narrow streets, partaking of the old houses, and looking in the shops, where just about anything is for sale. They’re even now carving your name on a grain of rice and creating an amulet for you to wear around your neck (for a price of course).

Human beings, so ultimately clever, when it comes to surviving, and I can tell you surviving in China is no easy task (incredible competition).

There was a group of students painting the scene (see photographs at www.cyclingpeace.org / gallery) .

When I ran out of film (a way of ‘painting’), Mr. Zhao, so thoughtful, bought me another roll of film! There was a photography club in attendance, so you know plenty of film for sale! Some of them had the latest digital cameras (which need no film), some with the longest of lens (which need no walking closer)! The Chinese are very ‘hip’ about technology!

Then Mr. Zhao took Rucha and my photograph where Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep had stood in a restaurant (their photographs on the wall with the owner)… But, now Tom and Meryl have nothing on us! This place very quaint with a view of one of the canals (no doubt expensive and where they take celebrities).

The Yangtze River Delta, reminds me so much of Holland, with all it’s canals and canal boats… It’s really an ‘Asian Holland,’ this part of China (so different from Xinjiang).

We, in fact, took a little ride in a ‘sampan,’ rowed by a Chinese man. As there was no city noise (motors) we all lapsed into a drowsy reverie. Stephanie remarked many times, how she didn’t want to leave the boat and return to Shang Hai. I too could have been rowed about all day long, and quite happy. It was over all too quickly (maybe 30 minutes).

Then Mr. Zhao bought us dinner , where we were serenaded by a Chinese couple. The husband playing an arhu (traditional one-stringed ‘violin’), in his straw hat, and the woman, in traditional dress, banged out a rhythm with a stick and block (Rucha said Carl Orff had invented). It relaxes me just to think about sitting there, hearing the lamenting music, and looking out at the canal.

But, the Chinese food, too exotic for me, and I had trouble with. This because Mr. Zhao was the host and I don’t like being ‘picky’ when someone is buying me dinner. But, I ate as little as possible (although liked the eggs with mushrooms and fried vegetable bread). When he explained about tiny ‘conch-shelled animals,’ and fish right from the river, I thought to myself… You’re going to eat that?

We had just seen ‘up close,’ how the local residents dumped everything into the river; how the painters cleaned their oil brushes. There were dead fish floating everywhere… ‘You’re going to eat that?’ People amaze me!

I managed to swallow one ‘conch,’ before Stephanie said only ‘eat the black part!’ But, then when the river fish came all fried up I declined, ‘balla !’ (the Chinese Pinyin sound for ‘I’m full!’).

On the way back to Shang Hai (I fell into a wonderful nap—love to sleep in cars). But, I was jarred awake when we stopped to visit another ‘ancient village,’ called, ‘Fangdong’ (?). This was after dark, so exotic in artificial light. I think this is the village of ‘Three bridges,’ as I remember a commemorative rock, and ‘Tom’ reading the Chinese characters. Sure, enough there were three bridges. Here we didn’t stay too long, however, as was getting late.

On the way home I fell into another nap, but it wasn’t long before Shang Hai ‘banged’ into my consciousness!

On the way back, I did learn that Stephanie is travelling to Singapore tomorrow (Sunday), and that Mr. Zhao, because of a visa hassle, isn’t going to Australia!

Governments, the visa game, what a pain in the ass it’s become! And as Stephanie said, ‘It’s every country!’ She went on to explain that if the Chinese want to get a U.S. visa they have to buy a special telephone card to call a special # at the U.S. Embassy, this just to get an appointment.

It’s the same ‘game’ here! I’m still waiting to hear about my Chinese visa—now running out of time!

Then today, Saturday, Peter Schmitz turned up in Tom and Rucha’s hotel.

I had expected him in the evening (as he had said in an email message), but he caught a fast boat and bus (from Dalian in northern China), and was here in Shang Hai at 0600. Luckily, Tom had his mobile on, and Peter checked into the same hotel.

Peter, my friend from Eugene, Oregon, that I met on the street in Lhasa, Tibet, seven years ago (1999)! Amazing, today was the first time we had been together in seven years… An interesting story…

As I said, we met on the street ‘by chance!’ (I don’t believe in accidents, but what the Chinese call, ‘yuan feng .’ (literally translated to mean ‘long wind’). I was looking for a vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Lhasa, and ran into Peter who speaks Chinese. He directed me to ‘Wundefu!’ and it was. Additionally, as I told him today, I became good friends with the Chinese couple (woman with English name, ‘Grace’ ) who operated the place.

Anyway, Peter and I hardly saw one another again in Lhasa. But, before departing I took him to a ‘Net Bar,’ and taught him how to use email (got him an address). Thus, we started an ‘epistonic’ relationship that has gone on for the last seven years… Somewhat amazing! I hadn’t seen him since 1999. So, today I remarked, ‘Every seven years in China!’

After getting ‘caught up,’ we joined ‘Tom’ and Rucha, and went to a Chinese vegetarian restaurant that Stephanie had told me about. I had been wanting to go, but when Peter he reminded me he was a vegetarian, I remembered and called Stephanie (on the way to Singapore) for directions.

It would have been wonderful, but I was fasting after eating ‘poison,’ the night before in ‘Xitang.’ I did have carrot and lemon juice, however.

Peter is here in China after a four-year absence. However, he has much more experience than I, as he’s been here a half-dozen times over the last fifteen years. He even speaks Chinese.

After lunch we walked on (Rucha came along) off to buy some stationery items on Fuzhou Road. Peter returned to the hotel to sleep.

Afterwards we put Rucha in a taxi cab for her hotel, and Tom and I walked on… This for underwear (a kind I’ve discovered only available in one little stall in Shang Hai). Also, I purchased a folding fan for Rucha, and Tom bought her some Uyghur bread.

Earlier she had been along with us at the Bank of China, where I deposited some cash I’d been carrying around (7K RMB / $900U.S.) When we arrived in the bank a Chinese man was screaming at the clerk in a loud voice, his wife trying to calm him down. I told Rucha, who doesn’t believe in such, that here was an example of ‘full moon’ energy. Later she went over and glared directly in the man’s face (who stopped such).

Because I have a Bank of China account at a Kashigar branch, here they charged me $5 U.S. for depositing $900 (7K RMB). This pissed me off, but only ’exclaiming’ to Rucha later (thus the gifts)! She thinks I ‘walk on water!’

I stopped again to purchase some Fujian Guan Yin (‘female Iron Buddha’) green tea. This for an incredibly low price! I first thought he was talking about 100 grams for 130 Yuan, but he had meant differently. In Kashigar you pay 100RMB for 100 grams. Here I bought 500 grams (1/2 kilogram) for 110 RMB / $15 U.S.

Note, many things more expensive in Shang Hai (like hotel rooms), but a few things are less expensive (like Guan Yin green tea).

Near 277 Dong Tai Lu we ran into a young Swedish guy vacationing from Goteburg. Interesting, how all ‘lowei’ (‘foreigners’) gravitate to one another ( ‘starved’ for speaking English). His first words, ‘Where are you from?’ Note, he didn’t ask in Swedish, but in English!

Back at 277 / 2306, I slid into doing nothing, like writing this… Can’t you tell?

Down on the street I could hear ( through an window open) the taxis honking their horns 23-floors below, the ‘music’ of Asia—noise pollution !

Then later, when I was trying to go to sleep, they were unloading a truck down on the street. In a culture where ‘private courtesy’ is de riguer, ‘public courtesy’ is non-existent!

There’s so much noise, and lack of public courtesy,’ in Asia, they don’t even notice it! I do!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

06 June 2006 (060606 – this happens only once every century! The next, next year: 070707 in July)

060606=18+=1+8= 9, a very auspicious day. ‘6’ is a good number in China, as meaning things happen easily with the ‘flow.’ ‘9’ is ‘my’ number, as spiritual—thus, the ‘numbered’ day auspicious.

And lucky for us, as this was the day we ‘launched’ ‘Get Visa’ day! Stephanie called the woman at the Shang Hai PSB, and explained. She said she would discuss ‘my case’ with her colleagues and call Stephanie back. So, we wait.

In the meantime, our usual routine with Rucha here… ‘Tom’ and I go to the Net Bar for 3 hours in the morning, Rucha does her ‘morning routine, ‘ and then we meet for lunch around 1130.

Yesterday afternoon, after eating at Zentral we walked to People’s Park. The temperature still reasonable in this part of the world, and additionally we were blessed with a stiff breeze. After taking the usual photographs, we walked on to the ‘Foreign Language Bookstore,’ on Fuzhou Road.

On the way we passed an address, which ‘confirmed’ the ‘auspicious’ day: ‘666.’ (see photograph at www.cyclingpeace.org / gallery). What are the ‘odds?’

Of course, Christians believe this number represents the ‘devil!’ Oh, what a difference consciousness makes! When you don’t know that you don’t know, what trouble you cause yourself!

Jung said, and true, ‘The only sin is unconsciousness!’

Most people live in a tiny ‘box!’ We live in a vast ‘circle!’

The ‘Foreign Language Bookstore’ in Shang Hai, has one entire floor (the 4th) of books in English. If there’s a larger one in China (possibly in Hong Kong?) I don’t know. Here I was in quest of ‘The world is flat!’ by Tom Friedman. They were ‘sold out’ of it!

So, I purchased four others (420RMB, / $50U.S.) these ultimately for our library at Indy’s Café in Kashigar: ‘Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For a Laugh,’ by Mo Yan, ‘China, a History,’ by Arthur Cotterell, ‘Beowulf and Other Old English Poems,’ and ‘One Hundred Poems from the Chinese.’ Edited by Kenneth Rexroth.

I love to read! I’ve always loved to read, as I grew up in the days before TV. I’d rather read words on paper than look at a ‘screen’ any day (large screen movies excluded).

From there we put Rucha in a taxi for her hotel, and ‘Tom’ and I walked on to the Shanghai Bookstore, a short walk. We were looking for a book that defines basic business terms in Chinese. I’m teaching ‘Tom’ about ‘biness!’ as they say in Tejas. We’re about to ‘launch’ www.makemagictogether.com and he needs to know the difference between ‘revenue’ and ‘profit!’

This bookstore is about the size of Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. Many floors with possibly a million titles. We looked and looked , but never bought as we never found what I wanted (basic business terms in Chinese). Of course, I can find what I’m looking for on the Internet (www.amazon.com) , and maybe it’s been translated.

On the way back to 277, riding in a taxi (a harrowing experience during traffic hours) ‘Tom’ told me of a book he’d bought some time ago, entitled, ‘What Are You Doing?’ He described the image on the cover as a ‘mouse turning a wheel.’ Coupled with the title, what does this suggest to you…?

I will repeat what I said earlier… ‘Most people live in a tiny ‘box.’ We live in a vast ‘circle!’

‘What Are You Doing?’

From Shang Hai

The Dragon (¡˙)

5 June 2006

Yesterday

RR Shipment from K. - things
Ceres
Lunch
China mobile
Dinner on the Huangpu
Haircut
Bed

My notes about the previous day events… The things that come to mind afterwards.

I’m never quite sure about which verb ‘tense’ to use when writing about our travels… Of course, I always write about such afterwards, so past tense would be appropriate. But, sometimes I write in the present ‘tense,’ as it sounds better, or I’m thinking that way. Sometimes I mix the two confusing the ‘issue.’ But, does it matter…? Maybe and maybe not. Who knows?

We’d spent the day before yesterday going to the RR station, only to discover after spending too much on a taxi (and fine for parking in the wrong place) that we didn’t have to go at all, as they would be delivering the shipment. Additionally, we went to the wrong end of the RR Station, having to walk 200 meters from one end of the building (huge) to the other two times. We had gone to the wrong place (on the east when should have been on the west side).

‘Full moon energy I had explained to Rucha,’ who doesn’t believe in such things. I told her it’s not a matter of ‘believing’ but ‘knowing!’ There’s a huge difference, trust me!

‘We’ know now what Jung ultimately did! In a BBC-TV interview, when Jung was 82-years old the interviewer asked him the ‘great question.’ ‘Do you believe in God! After pausing in reflection Jung said something that changed my life (in 1983)! He said, ‘No, I don’t have to believe, I know!’ I spent the next 20 years in quest of what he ‘knew,’ and didn’t have to ‘believe.’ Now, I ‘know’ the same thing! But, what that is, is for you to find out!

But, trust me, ‘Rucha,’ the full moon does affect human (and animal) behavior on Earth!

Anyway, our mis-adventure (waste of time and money) at the RR station, the day before yesterday was then compounded by an attempt to solve our mobile tele. # situation yesterday (confused?)… To solve we had to go to a China Mobile location. But, this endeavor had a happy ending, just like with the shipment!

‘Tom’ had called to get the CM (China Mobile) location ‘near People’s Park.’ But, it turned out that only the street CM was on, ‘Jiang Lu,; was ‘near People’s Park,’ not the office where we had to go—it was at 168 Jiang Lu, and this very near ‘The Bund.’ So, we ended up walking something like 7 KM, and this through masses of people in ‘downtown’ Shang Hai. I thought we were going this far because we needed a ‘special’ location (like the ‘International’ office), but no, it was just one they gave him to go to as the ‘nearest.’ Thus, some mis-communication between ‘Tom’ and I.

It’s hard enough to do business in your own country! Try doing it in a foreign country with a huge language barrier (like China).

In the meantime, we had run out of money (time) on our tele. Since we thought we were going to have to change the number, we hadn’t buy more. But, I was concerned about such, as I knew people might be calling… Note, mobiles in China (maybe everywhere) are too complicated (for an ‘ole fart like me!’)!

Then when we got to the China Mobile location, the usual throng of people, and all in a hurry! Luckily they had a ‘pick-a-number’ system (‘first come, first served’) or it would be mass madness! I think our ‘number’ was 1287 (to give you some idea of how many people they had served by 1600 hours (4P.M.) in one day, and they were only up to 1253. When the numbers (showing movement) didn’t advance for a long time, I made plans to return the next day (waiting not one of my best ‘talents’). Then just before departing, suddenly the numbers starting moving again and at a rapid rate. I changed my mind, and decided we should wait our turn—we were there after a long walk.

In the meantime, I’d had ‘Tom’ replenish the money/time for our mobile (didn’t want to miss any calls). All too confusing for you to understand I’m sure… Full moon energy! If this sounds ‘crazy’ (fong le’ in Chinese) it was!

So, we waited… At least our phone number now available for calls. I don’t know how long we waited, but it was a reasonable amount of time before moving to ‘Window #4,’ and a CM clerk. Of course, ‘Tom’ did the whatever was necessary in Chinese, while consulting with me in English. I stood by with whatever money we needed.
When a Chinese man ‘butted in,’ I got angry and told him to wait his turn!

I had not liked the idea of changing our number (134-8288-9411) because it’s printed on 500 postcards! I had envisioned having to change the number on these cards by hand (a nightmare). But, good news! We didn’t have to change it as we had thought… This can be done, our ‘new program’ of payment, by computer (ah, the ‘virtual world’ comes through sometimes). On the other hand, there’s a little ‘bad,’ with every ‘good,’ and we learned the new ‘payment programs’ won’t take effect until next month (July). In the meantime, we still have to buy these prepaid cards, the per-minute rate expensive. But, the ‘problem’ was ultimately ‘solved.’ ‘Perseverance does pay off!’ Who said that?

Outta there, because physically close to ‘The Bund’ (Huangpu River) we called ‘Rucha’ and ‘Ceres’ and told them to meet us at the ferry. They had spent the afternoon at the Shang Hai Art Museum. This worked out beyond my expectations (thank God for mobile teles. do come in ‘handy’ – ‘Ceres’ and ‘Tom’ calling each other several times for us to find one another).

On the other side of the Huangpu River we walked along ‘The Promenade,’ a stretch of restaurants, bars, and the best place to view ‘The Bund’ (across)—the sun setting filtered by some clouds.

We had dinner at Paulangers (sic) German Restaurant , sitting with others at an outside table. ‘Rucha’ and I had some dark German beer, and Apple Strudel for dessert . It was a nice meal, except for ‘Tom’ who suffered through some German sausage and mustard (his first time). For four people dinner cost 440RMB / $50U.S. with a 40RMB / $5U.S., tip. This, the most expensive dinner we’ve had in China (so far).

Afterwards, we wandered around ‘The Promenade,’ with thousands of others (‘many lowei’ ‘Tom’ noticed) enjoying the cool weather.

One bizarre discovery… We came across some Chinese couples dancing the ‘jitterbug’ (or something similar) to Tennessee ‘Ernie’ Ford’s ‘Sixteen Tons!’ I mean I was amazed… Talk about ‘exporting culture,’ as I often cite as America’s biggest, what are the odds of coming across some Chinese couples dancing to this old (1955) American classic? I knew the lyrics in English and ‘Rucha’ knew in German (about a German sailor not an American miner) and we sang together: ‘Sixteen tons, and whatya got? A ‘nother day older and deeper in debt! St. Peter don’t call me ‘cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store!’

You video makers… You’ve missed your chance (for ‘stardom’) not making a video about one old American man (on a bicycle), one old German woman, and one young Chinese man, travelling around China!

I forgot to mention, that yesterday ‘they’ (some private company) delivered our shipment (from Kashigar), the one we had inadvertently gone to the RR station to pick up the day prior. We’d called and requested they come in the afternoon, and ‘no problem!’ But guess what?, while going to lunch we got a call that the driver was at 277 Dong Tai Lu, and where were we? So much for prior arrangements. So, we delayed lunch and ‘ran’ to #2306, the GongMing office where I ‘live,’ (when in Shang Hai) and the address we use for mail and shipments (for Shang Hai).

‘They’ had broken the insert in my thermos. Ah, only 08RMB / .10 cents to replace. But, it was a mess broken ‘glass’ everywhere in the duffel bag I had used to ship it in. Actually, it was my fault as I didn’t pack it very well. So, I didn’t protest too loudly.

Now, to check my HP printer included in the shipment. I had packed this well in a hard case, but it’s getting older (banged around all over the world) and who knows? I had claimed a value of 8K RMB / $1,000 U.S. for the contents. So, why not use the insurance if something damaged?

In the meantime, on to lunch at a trendy bistro (ate a Cesar Salad, but not very good), on to, and on and on…
We’re still going like a Ever-ready or is it a ‘bunny’ battery? Unstoppable!

Never stop until you can’t! You never know until you try!

Here I/we am/are in China, having traveled from east to west, now with hundreds of Chinese friends, and are having the time of our lives (albeit occasional ‘challenges’)!

From Shang Hai, Hutch, ‘Haqi,’ the ¡˙ in quest of a new visa (next ‘adventure’)!

Note: Many new photographs of our adventures at www.cyclingpeace.org / gallery

3 June 2006

We are in Shang Hai (meaning ‘high ground’ )! I was happy to discover the temperature ‘cooler,’ with some wind… A ‘cool’ front had brought rain the day before, so yesterday, Friday, when we emerged from the RR Station I discovered it was wonderfully cool, still (June 2nd)—this, rather that what I had expected, as I was here in Shang Hai last June (ugh!)!

In terms of weather Shang Hai is the equivalent of New Orleans in the U.S.

I arrived in China here in Shang Hai, almost exactly one year ago (2005)! We (Subodh, Meera and I) flying from Kathmandu (Ms. Fiets all packed up in a box).

I remember arriving at Pudong Airport, new and gargantuan, with nothing but 747s parked at gates to emphasis the largess of budding Shang Hai. We were met by Nisha (Subodh’s niece) and a friend. They negotiated a van, which drove us some 30KM into Shang Hai.

This was the first time in Shang Hai for me, and I was overwhelmed by its size (2nd only in population to Mexico City)! But, not only large but stiflingly hot (humid) in June!

Now, one year later, and with much experience in China (from east to west) I’m much more at ‘home’ in Shang Hai! I even speak some ‘survival’ Chinese! So, what a difference one year makes: I have many friends, speak a little Chinese, and it’s mercifully cooler.

My Chinese friends, the Zhaos here in Shang Hai, and others scattered all over China), including Xu Tan, or ‘Tom’ my Chinese ‘assistant’ make it possible for me to stay. I’ve been very fortunate to meet so many wonderful people in the last one year.

From Wulumuqi (Urumqi in Uyghur) we had stopped in Xi’an, one of the ancient capitols of China. We stopped to partake of China’s second most popular tourist attraction, ‘The Museum of Terra-cotta warriors and horses of Qin Shihuang.’ Our ‘layover’ in Xi’an also an opportunity for Xu Tan (‘Tom’) to see his family, as his sister there, and his parents not too far away in Shangxi (the Province).

We stayed, courtesy of his cousin (‘brother’) in the ‘Sieman Xi’an Hotel,’ I thought an interested ‘coincidence’ as ‘Sieman,’ a very large German corporation, and Rucha with us, from Germany (‘De guo’ in Chinese or µƒ π˝!

We rented a taxi/driver for the day (200RMB or /$25U.S.) and he drove us some 40KM to the Qin Shihuang Museum. And boy, a veritable ‘Disneyland!’ I hadn’t expected the developed-commercial nature of this, but the Chinese not to be out done by anyone! This is a vast complex of huge buildings, theater (‘Circle Vision’) restaurants, and stalls selling everything including your photograph standing in one of Shihuang’s chariots! I wonder if Qin could have envisioned all this some 2,100 years ago?

Building #1, and the display of the restored soldiers and horses is the one you see in photographs (check out ours at www.cyclingpeace.org / gallery).

We had hired an English-speaking guide, a young Chinese man, for 100RMB, this after paying 100RMB to get in! Trust me, I’ll bet the Chinese government is richer than even the U.S. Government !

The guide spoke too fast, and was too much in a hurry but I learned a few things, more than I’d ever known about Emperor Qin and his buried ‘memorial!’ First of all, the soldiers and horses you see in photographs have been restored (one alone takes three months!). Secondly, the site was discovered (in 1974) by a local farmer (now venerated) while he was digging a water well! Thirdly, it took 100,000 workers 80 years to create the mausoleum (like building one of Egypt’s pyramids). Every soldier and every horse is different (like in real life)--These weren’t stamped out of some assembly line, but created by an ‘army’ of artisans!

We were a part of a large crowd of tourists, mostly foreigners (must have been thousands there on the grounds). I think we were there something like two hours, then the long walk (2KM) back to our awaiting taxi.

There we were besieged, as at every tourist is, by Chinese vendors. We bought some wonderful peaches and apricots. These for nothing!

We took a strange route back into Xi’an as the driver took it upon himself to avoid the ‘toll road.’ Of course, we were paying tolls, so I never quite understood. It was bumpy, dusty and worst, time consuming on a day when we didn’t have any, but I’ll never be able to understand how Asian drivers think (or don’t). Next time, I will be explicit as to routes to and fro. On the other hand, we got to see a different part of Xi’an… Or, on a positive note, maybe we avoided an accident… I’ve learned to go ‘with the flow!’

We had lunch in the Hotel dining room, and it was good like usual--every Chinese restaurant, or 99% or them good. I remember one bad one in Turpan, Xinjiang, but in eastern China, the competition so keen, few bad ones… Amazing, as there are so many—I would bet one million in Shang Hai!

We loaded up the taxi with our baggage now in quest of dealing with my mobile tele. #… It’s a complicated story, these mobile numbers in China (11 digits in length), where and how they work, and for how much. Additionally, this was made more complicated as Rucha had done something unusual in Beijing when first arriving.

Because she’s from Germany she has a German telephone number. When she got to China, she wanted her daughter and friends to be able to reach her on this same number. Which was fine for her, but it prevented me, from my Chinese #, calling her except for some elaborate and expensive doings at China Mobile myself (later in Kashigar). We had to first put down a 1,000RMB deposit, and then I was able, except the number was so long, with many codes, XT had to program for automatic dialing.

But, now, being in eastern China, I changed to my ‘China’ number (134…). I thought I’d just be able to transfer the money and whatever to this number, to be able to continue to call Rucha, but no, a big problem!

The upshot… The money has to stay with my Xinjiang number (135…). And I’m unable to call Rucha, from the 134#. But, she’s able to call us, and that’s what’s important.

Oh, modernity, so complicated!

We made it to the Xi’an RR station in plenty of time, arriving two hours prior. This is good in eastern China, where so many travel by train, and the waiting rooms are so jammed just prior departure. If you get there early you get a seat near the gate, and a chance to get some baggage space on the train (running to your berth).

XT’s sister wasn’t able to get us a ‘soft sleeping berth,’ as too late (always must book early or no). This the reason I wanted to be there early. I knew what it was going to be like traveling on a ‘hard sleeping berth’ (many more people and competition for baggage space).

But, we’ve discovered a trick when riding on Chinese trains. This has to do with using (and paying) a porter to carry your luggage to the car. If you do, you get to go to a special ‘VIP’ waiting room, and board first. Of course, this is what we did, but only to discover, XT’s sister was only able to book one ‘lower’ berth. I, of course, gave that to Rucha, and XT (‘Tom’) and I were going to have to climb up one level (at least not the ‘3rd level’).

I’d told Tom to try and ‘upgrade ,’ classes, and this we were lucky enough to do, once the train left the station. It cost much more (190RMB each), but worth it—trust me! For one thing there’s a door you can close to your compartment, and with it all the noise is reduced. There are also other amenities like an AC outlet (can use your computer, or charge your mobile).

Thus, we traveled in ‘style’ to Shang Hai (overnight some 16 hours).

Interesting a deaf/mute Chinese man joined us at some point, the other upper berth vacant (four berths in a ‘soft sleeping compartment.’ Unfortunately, for me he snored, so I got to try out Rucha’s ear plugs she’d brought for me from Germany.

Rucha, the nicest, kindest person I’ve ever met! A wonderful woman! She keeps repeating that I’m ‘amazing!’ but it’s she that’s ‘amazing!’ We laugh, as we both aren’t very good at ‘receiving!’ We’re great ‘givers,’ but poor ‘receivers!’

I am so blessed with so many good people!

‘Ceres,’ (Zhou Yali) in Shang Hai one, as she met us at the station (something I hadn’t expected).

We went first to the GongMing Office at 277 Dong Tai Lu, where we were greeted by Stephanie and her parents. Of course, Mrs. Zhao had cleaned and set up ‘my room’ (one of the offices they don’t use much). She is so thoughtful, buying me things like rubber ‘slippers,’ etc. They also recommended a nearby hotel. So after catching up on the news in Shang Hai, etc., and being invited to dinner by Mr. Zhao, we went off looking for a hotel room (for Rucha and Tom).

Finally, after looking at two hotels (including the one they had recommended), we opted on the hotel I’d stayed at with Subodh last summer. This is adjacent the Shang Hai 2nd Medical University. I had had Bhuwan , check out the rates before coming. Ah, yet another good friend in China!

I’m now living at Mr. Zhao’s office 277 Dong Tai Lu (#2306)—where I normally do while in Shang Hai. Although on the 23rd floor (don’t like living so high above ‘Mother Earth,’ it saves us RMB, and is good situation with bathroom and kitchen. Plus, it’s within walking distance of People’s Park, or ‘Zentrum’ (the center of Shang Hai).

That evening Mr. Zhao took us all out to dinner; this at the Manchurian Restaurant where I’d been with them before! It was wonderful of course, Rucha ‘enjoying’ the mushrooms. But, for me too exotic, some Chinese food… I’m a ‘mi fan and vegetable’ kind of guy!

On the way back to the office and hotel they drove us to partake of the new lights on ‘The Bund ’ (Huangpu River). It was a cool night with a breeze, so different from last year! And the lights impressive! Note, the Chinese never do anything in a small way! Thus, I’m eager to partake of the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics in 08… I can only imagine!

I am so blessed with so many good, thoughtful, and generous people all over the world! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!

Now, the challenge of having my Chinese visa extended!