While I was composing this I was listening to (not watching) a movie entitled, 'Eragon,' in German (out of lip sync)! How can that be? Well, the amazing technology of Apple computer, and the complete idiocy of the people who pirated the movie. First, when it said 'English' for 'audio,' I got German. Secondly, the subtitles were in English, but obviously from another movie (the word 'fuck' in practically every sentence), and positioned so low on the screen as hardly able to read! To compensate, however, it has a female-speaking dragon, and an actor of merit (I wish I could remember his name?). But, instead of torturing myself watching 'Eragon,' I decided to do something productive, like write this! Yet, I continued to listen to the soundtrack of the movie as I wrote. I could hear, and sometimes see (as I;d 'flip' to) fighting, flying, riding horses through beautiful scenery and generally, the heroes just a plot point away from disaster! But, trust me in this movie, good, wins out over the evil, and the pretty girl is saved by the end (I don't even have to watch to know)! All of this in China, no less!
Now, my wonderful day in Qinghai:
This morning we arose early to cycle with Mr. Du (our landlord) to a town (Huzhu) some 40KM northeast of Xi Ning. He had invited us a week ago, as there's some kind of special market in this town. I thought a good opportunity to get to know him better, cycle 80KM, and see more of Qinghai Province! All turned out to be true!
He was right on time, and we departed 26 Da Tong Jie at 0800 as planned. The sun was barely up in a cloudy sky and it was chilly. I learned my lighter gloves are little help in the cold. Of course, I should have worn the heavier ones early, brought the lighter ones for the afternoon. Even with all my experience I still make mistakes. What else did I forget...? An extra Mini DV cassette (as we were 'shooting' video). I did remember to bring an extra fully-charged battery.
I'd been out this highway before, but not very far. This a two-lane hard surface highway, overloaded with traffic (as most Chinese highways are)... The honking madness of Chinese highways! Mr. Du, on an old one-speed Chinese bicycle, was slow. But, I didn't mind it as I'm still weak from the Flu episode--in fact, it was perfect staying back with him. Richa, had breezed ahead with little effort! Ah, if only I had a 24-year old body, I couldn't probably conquer the world (at least a few peaks, maybe the 'Tour de France')!
Going slowly gave me the chance to stop often to capture images of various bucolic scenes (check them out at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery). The best, a mama lamb with her new kids! In addition, I 'rolled,' on something you won't see in the U.S.: a farmer plowing his field (Spring planting time) pulled by two oxen, with another man sowing seed by hand from a tub!
I also, 'rolled,' POV ('point of view') footage while riding. You should try this sometime, something I can do having the experience: one hand guiding, one hand on the camcorder, one eye in the viewfinder, one eye watching the road. But, it's not always great 'stuff,' as you don't really see what you're doing. I did it primarily for Mr. Du's benefit, as I'm sure he's never seen himself riding a bicycle before.
By the time we got to Huzhu it was 12 noon, but not bad considering it was 40 KM and slightly uphill, and we stopped often to let Mr. Du catch up. Huzhu, on market day, turned out to be teeming with people (nothing new here)!
We first wanted to eat and rest first, so off we went to find a restaurant. This takes some doing as Haqi will only eat rice, and not all restaurants cook rice. It must have taken us thirty minutes to find one that did. It turned out to be pretty good and Mr. Du and Richa got what the wanted too (meat and noodles)!
I believe China has consistently the best restaurants in the world. You can go into any little restaurant, anywhere, and, generally speaking, eat well for little money. It's always hot, and always tasty. Sometimes it takes a while as they make as everything is fresh (little pre-prepared). But, this is what makes it so good! Every day they go to market and buy fresh ingredients (nothing stored for too long).
After lunch we cycled around the town taking photographs. Then we visited the market, which stretched out on one street several kilometers long. Here I almost 'went mad,' from dealing with the crowds, the masses. People think getting travelling a bicycle longer distances, challenging. For me, that's the best and easiest! It's dealing with the congested communities that's challenging for me, the traffic, the noise! And I want away from 'it' all as soon as possible--must be my age!
In the meantime, this market was teeming with people, children, loudspeakers hawking 'buy! Buy! BUY!' some playing music, and everything under the sun for sale! I'm sure I could have bought a child, or a young woman for a night. It's easy to fall in love in China! It had the atmosphere of a circus sideshow: selling/buying, buying and selling, hawkers entertaining anyway to get your attention! (Mao would be amazed!)
We 'shot' video to try to capture what I've tried to describe on paper before, but really can't possibly convey. I was happy to get away alive! But, in the course of 'running this gauntlet,' we made friends with many as I was the only 'loawai' (foreigner) within 40KM! Richa captured many images (www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery). Mr. Du was obviously interested in cycling the distance to bought several things (as great deals--you'd be amazed!)
Afterwards, having survived the market, we began our return trip to Xi Ning (about 230P.M. / 1430 hours). On the way out of town, we stopped at a 'Tu' facility (reminded me of a Buddhist Monastery). This was the kind of structure I'd love to have for www.haaqi.com: much wood intricately carved, courtyards, gardens, and the most amazingly of all, only one story high!
The 'Tu' people are one of the 56 'minorities' in China. We had come across the 'Tuwa' (not to be confused with) at Kanas Lake, but this group entirely different! They obviously are practitioners of Buddhism, which was a little confusing (my normal state in China). But, only depictions of Mao! Again, see images at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery
Strangely enough outside the Tu 'Monastery' in the courtyard a group of young women were being rehearsed for a dance number. I was fascinated with this, as my career was the entertainment business (of course dance a part of). Again, and I've said this so many times in the past... What are the odds of running into something like this, 40KM from Xi Ning, Xi Ning 2,500KM from Shanghai? Yes, in Shanghai if you ran into a dance troupe in rehearsal (which we did at the Shanghai Ballet), you wouldn't think anything unusual... But, in Huzhu?
We ended up befriending the director, a 'professional' dance instructor. He explained, these girls were 'non-professional' dancers, the daughters of farmers. He went on to express dismay about the cultural scene in Xi Ning (no place to rehearse). Thus, he was happy to learn about www.haaqi.com, and our plans for Xi Ning.
Before we departed on our bicycles he organized a group photo (image), which you can check out, along with the others, at www.haaqi.com/gallery.
Heading south toward Xi Ning, it was all 'downhill' back to where we'd started that morning. I hadn't realized cranking to Huzhu (sometimes it's difficult to tell--I just thought I was out of shape) was, in fact, up hill. Now, that we were going downhill Mr. Du could keep up with us. Richa and me, could probably made it back in two hours without Mr. Du. Certainly Richa could on his new bicycle. I think with him it took three hours (4:15 on the way up).
The entire day, spent just how I would like to spend the remainder of my life: cycling through the countryside, meeting people, taking 'photos,' writing about it afterwards. The temperature just right for me (a little cool in the morning), the afternoon sun warming things up, a nice lunch, being outside, smelling fresh earth being plowed, meeting all the friendly people, the children, even the market was interesting (although trying), meeting the dance instructor... I was thinking... Gosh, what a perfect day! Then something that made it sublime! Mr. Du asked if we'd like some yoghurt.
Now, you probably will think this silly! Yogurt can be purchased in every food market in America, maybe the West--no big deal! Why so special? I wish I could include a sample here for you to taste! This was the best yoghurt I've ever eaten (trust me I've made it, and somewhat of a connoisseur)! Not only did it taste unusually good, it was the situation: served in a ceramic bowl (no plastic containers), we sat on stools in the warm afternoon sunlight, feet on mother earth next to some rushing water. The yoghurt was 'homemade' fresh, of course. The cost, probably for 12OZ. (guessing here), 1 RMB / .10 Cents U.S. Afterwards Richa tried to pose with the woman, but she, being an unmarried Moslem woman, would hardly cosy up to him. But, we did manage to capture her image. Later, I told Richa, 'If I could get this stuff to the U.S., we'd get rich!' Think of it! The best yoghurt I've ever eaten for .10 cents U.S.!
One wonders what I'm doing in China? This day an example of why!
Then after our 'quiet' sojourn in the country came the city honking madness of Xi Ning! Ah, back to reality!
By the time, I had carried Ms. Fiets up the three flights of stairs to our apartment, I'd knew I'd had a good work out! In fact, on the way back in to Xi Ning I was feeling stronger!
Maybe it was the yoghurt!