Tuesday, May 29, 2007

290507

We departed for Da Tong on Sunday about 1430+ hours (2:30+P.M.) Da Tong, a 'town,' (not to be confused with a 'village' or 'City') is only 30KM up highway #227, due north of Xi Ning. It's an easy ride, although slightly up hill.

The weather was overcast threatening to rain, grey, cool, but what I would call almost perfect cycling weather (in a dry climate). Plus, we had the wind with us, so we glided up without stopping, except one time to answer the 'call of nature!' I remember two guys on racing bikes passed us like we were stopped (when we were going)--training for the upcoming race no doubt. Ah, youth, into speed!

The trees and fields are all green now in contrast when I first came to Xi Ning in January. Summer is upon us, and everyone wants to be outside now that the weather is warm enough. All the 'resorts' are advertising and Chinese 'cabanas' are set up everywhere to accommodate.

It took us only two hours to reach Da Tong, and found the Da Tong Hotel without too much trouble, where we'd stayed in November! Xu Tan had told Li Yan ('Swallow'), we'd be there at 1700 hours, so we had a few minutes to wait until she arrived.

There were many children in the park in front of the hotel, and they descended upon us like birds on food. They're always curious about foreigners ('laowei'). Thus, I passed out candy and postcards, and we took pictures with them (see in Gallery).

'Swallow' arrived with her new boyfriend, and helped us check into the Hotel (they paid for one room). I bought another room for us so I could have privacy and Xu Tan could sleep (as he snores and I wake him up). Additionally, he likes to watch TV, like any young person.

We then walked to a local restaurant where 'Swallow' and her boyfriend bought our dinner. Here I discovered a new vegetable dish made with corn and pine nuts (wonderful)!

I'm always amazed at the consistency of Chinese restaurants anywhere in China! As you know in the West, particularly America, some are good, and some not! In China, 95% of the restaurants, anywhere you go are good! I don't know why except the competition is so great, as there are so many; they all have to be good as lose out to the next!

After dinner I returned to my room, and Xu Tan went with them on a tour of the town.

I, not ready to fall asleep, checked out some 60 channels of TV. I ended up watching the 'Grand Prix of Monaco,' on CCTV 5 (sports channel)--the incessant Chinese chatter turned off. I haven't watched any sports for so long and was amazed at the coverage (on board cameras to show every angle), additionally the latest in speed (pit stops that only take 08 seconds!). I had been to Monaco for 'Wide World of Sports,' remembering one unfortunate fiery crash where Lorenzo Bandini (?) died! A guy named Alonzo won this race, averaging some incredible speed, and on this twisting city course.

Whenever I think of Monaco, I think of Grace Kelly, and the irony of how she died in an automobile accident.

Lying in bed in the Da Tong Hotel I also thought of the incongruity of being in a town in Qinghai Province, China, watching a 'Formula One' Race (the height of decadence in my opinion) in France. One of those race cars costing one million+ dollars!

The following morning we were up early, as the festivities were scheduled to begin at 0830 (a thirty-minute ride in an automobile).

I accompanied XTR to breakfast, although didn't eat anything! Chinese breakfast is hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, and white-flower (steamed or fried) buns. Sometimes you can get rice porridge.

'Swallow' (Li Yan) came by and picked us up in a taxi, and we rode to the school through a beautiful valley. I was impressed with the countryside as green with trees, although a muddy stream (all the streams in this area).

Arriving at the school compound we discovered it much nicer than the typical Uyghur schools in (Xinjiang A.R.)--more money of course.

I was treated like 'royalty,' taken to meet the 'Headmaster,' and then to sit in his office waiting for the event to start. He, a middle-aged Chinese man was cordial, although spoke no English.

The 'event,' once started, included a parade, speeches (I gave a thankful one.) and performances. All was O.K., except the performances, although cute, took way too long. I thought I was going to 'pass out' in the sun, a crowd pressing up against me! But, there was even one musical number in English for my benefit (learning the 'ABC's'). See the images at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery

How I'm (any 'laowei') treated in China would amaze you (given the only comfortable chair)! The Chinese people almost without guile are respectful, and gracious as hosts--particularly with 'laowei!' I've said this before but I feel like a 'movie star' in China!

Afterwards, it was decided to have lunch in a restaurant, rather than the school. This was an awkward moment, as I'm sure the Headmaster wanted me to eat at the school. But, the others thought better of this, and I'm glad they did as we ended up eating outside near a stream, the food good (consistency, remember what I said earlier). It was an idyllic afternoon, in the shade of a hill hearing the rushing water. I would have loved to have taken a nap in a hammock! But, not to be…

Mr. Zhao took us back to the hotel in his fancy Honda! Instead of just dropping us off, as would be with westerners they wait and 'see you off.'

Soon we were on the road again, but returning in the sun, the wind in our face. Luckily it's slightly down hill (200M in 30 KM).

We stopped and shopped twice before getting back to 28 Da Tong Jie. First, at Homey's (best food market in Xi Ning) where I looked at an electric juicer (going to fast soon), and bought two more DVD movies (our 'library' growing). Then at the computer mart to get some blank VCD 'R's' to 'burn.'

On the way XTR home crashed into a woman who was running across the street without looking! I was happy that the woman XTR ran into wasn't hurt. But, I get so annoyed with these people, as they don't look! Life in the 'crazy lane!'

'Home' at last after carrying out bicycles up three flights!

270507

From friend 'Dick' in Vancouver, WN., U.S.A.:

"Yes, of course. You need not play the game. (REFERRING TO MY DROPPING OUT!) Resistance, until world wide consciousness improves is somewhat (or a great deal) is futile anyway.

We cannot change others, only ourselves. But, if everybody decided to do it... Then it does become possible. There is also a concept /phenomena in Electrical Engineering called "The Zener Avalanche Effect," in which no current flows in a circuit until the innate or induced resistance (see inductive and capacitive reactance) is overcome. Once it is, then the current flows at full level. It's not a slow ramp-up, or a sloping curve, but goes from nothing at all to full force (a square wave). Sort of like a dam bursting or an "avalanche," if you will. Once the electrical pressure has built up to a sufficient degree, than, as Keith Jackson once said, "Whoa... Nellie!" It's also similar to the "100th Monkey Effect."

NOTE HE'S SAYING THAT WHEN THINGS ARE EXACTLY RIGHT, THEY HAPPEN INSTANTLY, THAT IT MIGHT TAKE ONE MILLION YEARS, BUT IN SECONDS IT CAN ALL CHANGE!

'I always find it interesting how the phenomena in physics are duplicated in the societal world.

But, we have to begin with ourselves.

True.

Dick

P.S. 'The Zener effect,' by the way, is what makes semi-conductors (transistors, diodes and integrated circuits) work."

We had been discussing the futility of trying to change the world (projecting evil and wrong doing onto others). The only solution in my opinion is to, 'Perfect Thyself!' But, of course, so much easier to blame others! Changing ourselves, perfecting ourselves, oh so much more difficult, as we have to admit some things, some truths (that we probably don't want to! Like we're just as 'bad' or 'good' as the next person!). My favorite quote from Walt Kelly, the creator of 'Pogo:' 'We have met the enemy and he is us!'

Yesterday at our third session of 'Haaqi's English Club,' a 'first' for me: singing 'Silent Night' in May! Turns out Chinese people like 'Silent Night,' but I had to 'pinch myself,' as to know where I was! I then explained to the group about this 'Christmas Carol.'

We had invited two musician friends to perform, which they did (guitar, violin, and Erhu (Chinese one-stringed instrument), but I think it someone in the audience requested they play 'Silent Night,' as they had to refer to their own sheet music (the lyrics in English luckily for me).

It was an amazing session, actually, as started slow with few visitors, and then built to a crescendo of 'rock n roll' dancing!

We ended up with three different performing 'entertainers: the two musicians mentioned before are: Bao Feng (who we met on the street one day), and Wang Jing, Zhao Yali a professional model (tall and thin), and Cai Gong Tai, a Tibetan dancer (with earring no less).

So, I feel like after yesterday we're over 'the first hump,' at Haaqi's English Club!' There's always that period in the beginning, when you must establish yourself as something 'permanent!' Nobody wants to 'invest' in something that's not going to be there next week!

Today, we cycle off to Da Tong, a town 30KM north of Xi Ning. This to visit a Tu School tomorrow. Our English Teacher friend Li Yan ('Swallow') invited us!

I leave you with another message from Dick Hammerstrom in Vancouver, WN., U.S.A.:

"As David Brinkley once observed, "The only thing objective is a turnip." But most scientists would also agree with you and us. Einstein proved with Special and General Relativity that there is no "Privileged frame of reference or point of view (meaning observation). All is relative. Hence, no absolutes. Science is on our/your side, you know. But, beyond that, "Schrödinger's Cat" proves that even what we deem "reality" is relative and not absolute. Existence itself is only a probability and not an absolute. String theory (as well as relativity) hold that a solid door is only a probability and not an actuality. Maybe the odds are 10-to-the-35th-power to one or even more; but if one were to keep trying long enough, you will pass through the door, on one of the tries, without opening it. Again, neither you nor the door are actually "real" but only a set of possibilities that tend toward reality.

As Carl Sagan once said: "The Universe is not only stranger than you imagine, it is stranger than you can imagine."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

260507

'I miss the clouds

In the city,

Butter flies fast,

Doesn't last

Like water;

Stronger than rocks

The clocks,

'Tick-tocking'

Until gone!

I love the sound

Making round

The square!'

A couple of days ago, Thursday I could take the 'modern city' no longer, had to get away. So, I cranked west on highway #109 some 36KM up toward Huangyuan (where I'd like to live 60+KM up and west of Xi Ning).

Chinese people regard Xi Ning as 'small.' But, it's too big for me (2+ million people), all relative ('size' and 'life'). I guess I've gotten old as seek peace and quiet, away from the 'madding crowds!'

It was there sitting next to the river I wrote the above poem.

I sometimes wonder how long I'm going to be able to last in China? There are many things I like about living here, but many things I don't! I like the people, but not their 'modern culture,' ugh! The people are wonderful, but what they've created: too much of everything, except consciousness! The only way I will survive, is to migrate to a remote part of Tibet, far the 'honking madness!' The Chinese people… they don't even notice (the 'madness')!

People don't even realize, don't even know that they don't know! They just survive on the surface of life (distracted with the mundane), never 'digging the gold,' beneath the surface.

We (www.haaqi.com) just participated in two Government job fairs! One, was a week ago, I think I discussed in one BLOG ('Web log')?

Yesterday's was held in 'Central Park,' a large concrete open space in the center of Xi Ning ('peaceful place in the west').

We had a table along with a hundred of concerns or businesses! Because we were late and disorganized I stood on a chair behind XTRicha, and held up the 'sign' (explaining us). But, we always attract a crowd, as 'laowei' (a foreigner) is present. We handed out much material, as so many looking for too few opportunities. The good part was meeting a model (good to know there are some), and a Chinese man interested in getting involved (financially).

Afterwards I went to the Bank of China to access funds from the U.S., then to the laundry and to my 'outdoor' store. I also had my Bicycle Store 'guy,' (what is his Chinese name?) tighten some screws holding my 'fenders.' He was eating lunch when I arrived, but quickly dropped it to help me.

Here is the great difference between American and Chinese business culture. I don't know if it's because I'm 'laowei' (foreigner) with money, but the service here in China (for me, at least) is extraordinary! And they will regularly decline any money (I have to argue with them about this all the time!)!

Then I went to the Moslem bazaar, looking to give some money to street beggars (do this regularly). But, did I ever pick the wrong day and time (won't go on Friday again). I just happened to time the Mosque 'getting out,' and suddenly was surrounded (and unable to move) by thousands of 'while caps' (all Hei Chinese men wear little white caps like a 'yamaka'). I had to stand for twenty minutes while the crowd dispersed before I could move.

I did purchase another plant and some apricots, before managing to escape the area. But, I won't return to the Moslem Bazaar on Fridays again!

People think Xi Ning is 'small!' 'Small' is relative! Chinese people, because most have never been anywhere else, don't realize how over-populated China is (1.3+billion people). I do!

Monday, May 21, 2007

210507

'I still have 587 to see!'

Time to 'check in' again with 'all of you' again (the two loyal readers I have)!

Some interesting things about 'Hollywood' movies--since living in Xi Ning with a DVD drive in our computers, I've been making up for the last seven years when I hardly watched one movie! Plus, from one of the movies called, 'The River King,' an example of my own prescience (ability to perceive)…

First the movies… My basis for picking whatever: recognizable names, English or English subtitles. Generally these are old, or European which are fine with me, as no big fan of 'Hollywood' films.

Ever heard of a French filmmaker, Luc Bresson? He was described in a recent article about Cannes (Film Festival in progress), as being the most 'Hollywood' of French filmmakers.

Anyway, beggars can't be 'choosers' in Xi Ning, China, when it comes to movie fare. But, as I've purchased one hundred in the last two months, most are O.K. in terms of quality and language/subtitles. Occasionally, a 'dud,' videotaped inside a movie house with subtitles so incongruent they must have confused the movie. How can I complain, however, because of the little expense per ($1U.S.)? What does a first run movie ticket in Manhattan, New York, cost in this day and age? $20U.S.?

One thing I've noticed, especially about commercial movies ('Hollywood') there are always guns, always nudity/sex, and generally 'violence' is the solution to the drama. What does this say about us?

Last night for example, 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith,' starring 'Hollywood's' Number 1 couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie! Horrible! In one word!

This is what we call a 'concept piece' in the trade (of screenplay writers). Here are two professional 'hit' people, meeting by accident getting married as a 'front' yet never revealing there 'profession' to each other. A living lie! This must be a metaphor for marriage!

There are two funny lines, and some good acting by 'Eddie' (actor's name?) in a supporting role (Mr. Smith's contact in his 'business'). Pitt and Jolie, well… I can't call it good, maybe adequate considering the situation (they fell 'in lust' during the 'shooting' of).

The funny line at the beginning I can remember (the other line…?): The couple, in this scene, has gone to a 'shrink' to seek a solution to their marriage of six years (boring)… Mrs. Smith (Jolie) asks:

"There's this huge space between us, and it just keeps filling up with everything that we *don't* say to each other. What's that called?

Marriage Counselor: Marriage!"

That made me laugh out loud!



But in the scenario, Mr. and Mrs. Smith finally discover each other's true identity and profession! First, becoming mortal enemies, and then to survive, joining forces to kill the bad guys! There's some clever dialogue discussing their 'marriage of convenience' (aren't they all) at the 'height of battle,' the kinds of dialogue screenplay writers love to create:

[during a car chase] I never told you, but I was married once before.

Jane Smith: [slams on the brakes]

John Smith: What's wrong with you?

Jane Smith: [hitting John] You're what's wrong with me John.

John Smith: It was just a drunken Vegas thing.

Jane Smith: Oh, that's better. That's *much* better.

[pause]

Jane Smith: What's her name and social security number?

John Smith: No, you're not gonna kill her.

At one point competing for the most killed, Mr. Smith (Brad) disappointed to discover his 'wife'…

How many? Ok... I'll go first, then. I don't keep exact count, but I'd say, uh, high 50s, low 60s. I mean, I know I've been around the block an all, but...

Jane Smith: 312.

John Smith: What? How?

Jane Smith: Some were two at a time.

When asked if his wife (Jolie) can sleep afterwards:

"You ever have trouble sleeping after?

John Smith: No.

Jane Smith: Me neither."

This movie should win an award for 'Most bullets fired in a two-hour period!' (length of most commercial movies). As always the FX are spectacular, the theme, however, the mind-numbing 'violence as solution!' We now are inured to such so much, the daily news of yet another violent act in reality (we take for granted).

I wasn't at all surprised by the recent massacre at Virginia Tech University. Or, when I read about yet another guy killing others for whatever reason (just read today about a guy who killed three in Moscow, Idaho). What do you expect, with ninety percent of 'Hollywood' movies with the theme, 'violence as solution?'

American pathology is now so virulent you people who live there don't even notice (worse, don't want to know)! But, I do and write about it!

The other two movies I'm discussing here, about violence of a more acceptable nature, 'World War II.' Just as many bullets fired here, and generally through the skull, but for good reason 'a just war!' War does help keep world population from getting out of hand!

One, entitled 'Duell' (or 'Enemy at the Gates!) was about competing snipers in Stalingrad, during WWII (1944). This movie had quite a cast: Jude Law, Ed Harris Rachel Weisz, Joseph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins (who played Nikita Khrushchev),Ron Perlman, Eva Mattes,Gabriel Thomson, and Matthias Habich. This a true story is about a Russian peasant raised on a farm who learned how to shoot killing predators after their sheep. He was a talented marksman that became a 'hero' in the Russian Army for 'offing' German soldiers. On the other side was an equally talented German officer (played by Ed Harris). But, again people blowing other people's brains out!

The other about WWII, a Dutch film by Paul Verthoeven entitled, 'Zwartboek,' (or 'Black Book' in English) about the German occupation of Holland (i.e., the story of Anne Frank).

This was painful to watch, as points out the vagaries of war (treachery, deceit, cowardice, injustice, etc.). But, in the end, of course, the villain is buried alive! In the meantime, bare breasts, and collaboration with the enemy!

I sometimes wonder how many movies (I'll bet a record number) have been made about WWII? 612! I just found out from using a 'search engine!/Internet!' Amazing! 612 movies about World War II! I still have 587, to see!

Now, I mentioned my 'prescience,' my 'extra sensory ability' at the beginning of this, so here's the example:

There's a scene in a movie entitled, 'The River King,' in which I 'participated' (telepathically). The scene occurs on a movie train between a young woman and man (the man trying to befriend the woman). He wants to play a game (distracting her). He asks her to pick a number between 1 and 20, but not to tell him. I immediately said '3' (in my mind). When he guesses '3,' '3' it also turns out to be the number she had in mind. A coincidence? Maybe. But, 'coincidence' is just a word we use to describe the sometimes inexplicable!

'The world (existence) is much greater than we can imagine!'

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

140507

We had two auspicious things happen last week!

One was www.haaqi.com's first Board of Directors meeting, on Friday. The other on Saturday was our first 'Haaqi's English Club,' session (at Qinghai Normal University)! XTRicha prepared greatly for both! I had thought two weeks preparation would be better, but he managed in only one week.

The BOD directors meeting I had wanted, as to explain to the 'owners,' what they were getting into and to solicit suggestions. We had it in room #107, a carnivorous space in the 'Foreign Languages' Depart building at Qinghai Normal University. XTR had set up one table appropriated 'dressed,' even down to notebooks and pens for the members. He had also brought all the Haaqi's English Club' props for the members to see.

Only Zhang Zhen Rong was the only latecomer, and Wang Hengsheng, and Xu Ming, our two professors, were early (along with me, of course).

The meeting got off to a slow start, as XTRicha, a 24-year old with little experience at this kind of thing, unsure (read my notes which took too long). It's probably a lot to ask of him to 'chair' such meetings where older people are present. But, he did well! It was Chen Xing Zhe, however, our lively middle-aged woman who 'broke open' the meeting, with her explanation of our 'business plan' (she'd been the only one to read). I had had XTR distribute the 'Bylaws' which explained philosophy and rules, but I had hoped that they would go online and read the 'business plan.' But, I've learned Chinese people are not so much into the Internet as mobile telephones. Note: That's why our distribution of 'product' via clients will be via mayu.mobi (mobile interface).

Of course, the first subject at the BOD meeting was how to make money!

Secondly, it was expressed that what was really important was Government help! You can do nothing in China without some good relationship with the local Government.

Third, a suggestion was to help the Government promote Qinghai Province. Seems the new 'Governor,' has been sent from Beijing with the mandate to promote Qinghai. This was good news to me, as I know how to do this! Thus, my next task is to write a plan to develop, which Wang hengsheng said he would get to the Governor. If they approve, it will be a giant 'leap forward' for www.haaqi.com as they have the kind of resources needed! The Chinese Government immensely wealthy!

The meeting went on too long, however, at least for me (some three hours). But, I'm woe to stop these things once the 'ball gets rolling!'

Afterwards we took all of them, sans Zhang (she had to depart the meeting early) to dinner.

Dinner was interesting, as Liu Zhi Gong (representing his daughter who represents the family: note, a Government employee cannot be owner of a private corporations), talked non-stop. If Wang hengsheng had been the 'engine' during the meeting, Liu Zhi Gong, was the 'engine' during dinner. They say alcohol loosens the tongue… So true! But, the group 'bonded' here, as was the goal. But, after another three hours of listening to non-stop Chinese conversation, I grew weary! I spoke up to XTR, but only Mrs. Liu's intervention worked, as she was bored too!

Chinese people, Asian people, all people love to talk. Marx was wrong, it's talk that is the opiate of the masses!

Taoists say, 'Those who speak don't know! Those who remain silent do!'

The next day, Saturday, was our 'debut performance' of 'Haaqi's English Club!' This is XTR's 'baby,' as he somehow relates to this having been a part of something similar in Urumqi. He's talked about it since I've known him, now he has his own. And he worked hard to make it a success!

Since it all happened so quickly (only one week to prepare), and we didn't have any time to advertise, I didn't know if we'd have three or 100 people! As it were we had 31 students! But, most were students there at the college, and these from the English Department. The only two not, was one man we knew from Qinghai Nationality College, and a middle-aged mother. She got the flowers!

Considering, it was a reasonably successful beginning; something to build on! But, I think four hours too long 4-8P.M.)! At the end we ran out of things to do, so XTR showed a movie 'The Postman,' (with Kevin Costner). But, 80% of the way through the movie, guess what…? It stopped, the movie stopped, 'an error' with the DVD, and it wouldn't play further. So, the audience left without a 'climax!' Additionally, the technician wouldn't turn on the 'party lights!' on for some reason. But, all in all, with all we had, I think a good beginning. We will get better!

On Sunday (Mother's Day) I cranked up to Bei Shan ('North Mountain'). This is a 'hill,' directly north of downtown Xi Ning, and a day trip with Wang Qing He, when we were through here in November. He led the way on that sunny November day.

Yesterday, I was alone, and had some difficulty in the beginning, finding the road up (had to go from memory). It's not easy to find, unless you can read or speak Chinese (ask directions), then I suppose easier. I asked a truck driver at one point saying 'Bei Shan?' but he didn't understand. Additionally, you go through a maze of small residence streets, under the RR tracks, under the Expressway, over a stream, to find where the 'park' road begins. Once on this narrow concrete road it's just a matter of cranking up maybe 300M, in 6-7KM (average 04% grade), the entire circuit 13KM according to the sign.

I took the lower road and lucky for me, as less steep until the very top. And I went all the way without stopping once! I'm getting my 'legs back!'

It was a beautiful warm and sunny afternoon. On top the parking lot was almost full of cars. Part of the reason for the trip, besides exercise, was to investigate the building on top I had seen in November.

The summit of Bei Shan is a park full of Romanesque 'marble' statues and relief sculptures. I had expected something completely different the first time in November, like a Buddhist or Taoist temple, prayer flags, but none of that at the top Bei Shan (although there is one T. Buddhist Stupa on the way up). It's as if the Chinese people wanted something completely different, but naked Roman figures and fountains, a garden…? I was amazed when I saw this the first time! Above the Roman garden there's an arcade, and a promenades, and a temple building with Chinese quotes (characters) on panels on the exterior walls. This 'mountain' top on the edge of Xi Ning fascinates me! I have many questions! If only I could speak Chinese! Who did built this and why? Who funded it? How long has it existed? Why the huge reference to Roman art, on a remote mountain top in western China (where there is Tibetan, Tu and Hei Chinese in culture/history)?

But, this time I wasn't interested in the Roman garden but the huge abandoned building. So, I found a road and path to it, walking completely around this 'castle-like' structure. All concrete and bricks (as all Chinese buildings are) it's both square and round. You must look at the images of it in the 'Gallery' at www.cyclingpeace.org

At the front entrance a huge circular room with a Chinese 'cupola,' looking like the crown of a huge dunce-hat. The building has balustrades and parapets, much like the Chinese version of a modern-day castle. I didn't go inside, or even sneak a peak through a window or door, I don't know why. I was fascinated with the outside.

In the rear behind the building there's a strange square building with huge glass windows. In the middle of the room stairs up to a viewing perch. I immediately thought of an observatory as the sky here must be spectacular above the city pollution.

Then beyond two bungalows made out of wood, red in color (of course). This slightly down the hill, and isolated as in 'honeymoon' accommodations. I thought to myself, 'This is how I'd like to live!' Not as a newly married man, but isolated, a little house all to myself.

In fact, I have plans to turn this decaying facility into the 'Bei Shan Summer Institute for Arts and Culture.' It's perfect, this building and location near Xi Ning (only 10 KM), yet above the 'honking madness!' Now, all we have to do is raise millions of dollars to buy and rehabilitate!

Afterwards I sat in the nearby park and enjoyed the serenity of that Nature creates! I'd just discovered a wall of panels of 'art' (naked figures painted on tiles), I can only describe as Christian mythology (as one suggests the Garden of Eden). Again, I was amazed to make this discovery in this picnic park. China is all too interesting to me!

I sat on a hard bench the warm sun on my face while I watched ants scurry about. There's a Taoist saying that goes, 'An ant on the move accomplishes more than a sleeping Ox!'

Before leaving I took some pictures of a group of men and women 'farm hands,' we'd call them. They were planting something in cleared patches of earth next to the Castle. One of them said 'hello,' which always attracts my attention. I ended up posing both the men and the women in 'portraits.' And one great thing about a digital camera you can show the picture immediately to the subjects. The 'working class' in Chinese loves this, as they rarely ever see themselves (maybe a wedding portrait). This group squealed and laughed when seeing themselves! These are my kind of people!

I had left Ms. Fiets with the ticket takers/refreshment stand without locking it. It was still there when I returned. I gave them some candy! Note, always give gifts, even if it's just a few pieces of candy. It's the gesture that's important!

I went down the hill the way we'd cranked up in November. And one thing about this route or direction… Much steeper than the other (that I'd come up). You'll think I'm crazy, but going down a hill on a bicycle is much harder (and dangerous) for me than cranking up! Going down this hill I had to squeeze the brake handles so hard my hands ached.

Down in no time (maybe two hours to crank up) I was suddenly back in the 'honking madness' of Xi Ning.

When I returned to our flat at 28 Da Tong Jie, XTRicha was watching a DVD movie on the MacBook.

I ate peanuts for 'dinner' and spent the rest of the evening reading a book entitled, 'Tibetan Yoga And Secret Doctrines!'

My life… All too interesting!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

070507 'Golden Week' holiday: cycling around Qinghai Lake

First day, 300407, Monday: We go past Huangyuan, our planned 'sleeping town' but get lucky…

We stay in some unknown village, at least to me, about 150KM southwest of Xi Ning (20KM beyond Huangyuan)— turns to be, Ri Yue Xing.

We're cycling around Qinghai Lake, a group of five of us: me, XTRicha, Zhang Faju (our new female employee), and two Chinese boys we picked up in Xi Ning. One has the English name, 'Alex,' the other's Chinese name is Leili. Alex works for an IT company in Shanghai (but currently in Langzhou), Leili sells electronic equipment in Beijing.

The first day was interesting as we'd not cycled together before, except of course XTRicha and me. And you never know about people, their skill, endurance, etc.

We repaired the Giant bicycle for Faju, and she seemed to do O.K., this 28-year old Han Chinese girl. One of the Chinese boys, however, 'Alex,' smokes, and is slight of frame, and could barely make it. But, he seems to have a game heart, and that's what matters.

We stopped for lunch about 40 KM west of Xi Ning on highway #109, and ate outside on a concrete table (everything is concrete or tile in China). It was lovely in the sun, however, not too hot. The food I ate was fine (egg and tomato), but they complained about the noodles. Also, XTRicha complained about the price! But, for five people it cost only 40RMB or $5 dollars, one dollar a piece. Wait until he gets to Europe or the U.S., he'll be shocked! Prices and salaries all relative!

We arrived in Huangyuan, the town we had planned to spend the night in, but made a wrong turn. Here we had a meeting, whether or not to continue. We'd gone only 70KM and I asked the two boys, one from Beijing, the other from Shanghai, when they had to catch their flights back as this made a difference what to do. They said the 6th of May. So, I said we better continue, as have to average 100KM per day to get around the Lake in seven days. So, off we went looking for highway #109.

Ninety minutes later, after many rest stops for 'Alex' (he smokes) we came upon a village. We had gone some 83KM, and enough for Alex. Actually Alex was doing me a favor for I was struggling too after a five-month hiatus from long-distance cycling, and the flu (in February). From Ri Yue Xing you go up 600M / 1,800ft. (over the highest pass around the Lake) and we were in no condition to do that after 83KM and the pending darkness.

Here we found good rooms for the night and for little money. Plus, they allowed us to put our bicycles in their store below, and they made breakfast for us the next morning. All of this cost 150RMB, or $18 for 'bed and breakfast,' for five people ($3.75 each). Although no indoor toilet (you walk 20M to an 'outhouse').

You get outside of the major cities in China (Shanghai and Beijing, etc.) and prices are incredibly inexpensive, but the facilities can be primitive!

Second day; 010507, Tuesday: Over the 3,600M pass

So, by 0830, after purchasing some bottled water and me tea, we headed up. Surprisingly, almost two hours I reached the pass (3,600M / 11,000ft.) before anyone (I've trained much in mountains and at elevation). Here we cheered Alex's arrival almost 30 minutes behind us! This poor guy, who sits at a computer (IT job) in Shanghai (sea level) all year long then decides to cycle around Qinghai Lake on a rented bicycle! This no less without any experience or training! But, he's strong in the mind (persevering) and this is what counts.

Cycling long distances, on loaded bicycles, is a mental, not physical endeavor! The mind leads the body!

From here it was downhill, but Alex, because of the elevation (average 3,300M / 10,000ft.) struggled, going painstakingly slow for me. He told me, it was the first time in his life he'd ever seen a 'snowy mountain' (south in the distance). We had to stop many times for him, but I became increasingly impressed with his 'dogged pursuit.' At one point I had an idea to have his 'partner,' Leili (in much better physical condition) trade bicycles and 'crank' a greater load, but Alex would have none of that. They told me through XTRicha (although they speak some English) that they hadn't known one another before meeting in Xi Ning.

This is what kids do… Just come and learn the hard, painful way! Not much prior thought , no training, no research as to how far or hard, they just go! And maybe that's good! I did the same! Of course, not at a venerated age, I'm much more thoughtful and spend much more time learning about the situation I'm getting into. There's youthful pain and older pain!

And then the Lake loomed at 2:00 O'clock (direction, not time). I'd seen pictures and was eager to experience China's largest lake (at some points you cannot see the opposite shore).

Most of the people living in this region are Tibetan or Mongolian. We saw many stupas, and some grand! At one point along the highway to the south there's a very tall 'golden' statue on a plinth. Also, perched on top of a metal structure an automobile body (see image in the 'Gallery'). This is 'modernity' I thought when I saw it somewhat sad that it blights the surrounding nature beauty! Modern man worships the automobile! Had it been me, I would put a bicycle high on a stanchion!

Up ahead on the Lake side, a large resort complex dotted with yurts and tents decorated in bright colors. We see saddled Yaks waiting for tourists to sit on and have their photograph taken, there are boats in the water, and a big sign for a 'grand hotel.' We pass a group of native-dressed (Tibetan or Mongolian) women on horses who wave at our 'money.' We don't stop as we know this is a 'tourist trap' where the prices will be twice what you should pay.

I've learned about Chinese tourist 'attractions' (like the Great Wall) and avoid them. Qin Shi Huang's buried warriors exhibit near Xi'an is too much like Disneyland for me! Very disappointing to me, as so commercial!

Some 30KM up ahead we reach our 'sleeping village' (Jiang Xi Gou) and XTRicha gets us into a 'hotel.' Well not exactly, as these are known as 'rooms to rent.' The difference… Hotels have bathrooms, rooms to rent do not!

I pay for three beds in one room, as this is the only way for me to have privacy. But, then pulling the curtain, off it comes onto the floor. What to do? I sit having coffee while curious Chinese stare at me through the window.

The Chinese make everything known to man, but 90% of it, not very well! My newly purchased stove doesn't light, and I have no portable lighter. What to do? Zhang Faju has brought me 'kai shui' (hot water) so I don't have to boil. I call XTRicha on my mobile (used as a 'walkie talkie' sometimes) and ask him to get the owner to hang the curtain. Instead he comes himself (what a good assistant). When there is no place to stand to reach that high, he opens the window and stands on the ledge. With the window closed and the curtain hung I can undress and wash.

Note, this is one of those cycling trips in a remote area of China where there are few hotels with bathrooms. The 'outhouse' here is 50M walk. I have my 'piss bottle,' as a way of dealing with. I wonder what women do…? Wait!

I sleep pretty well, as it's quiet, but I’m up pissing two or three times during the night (standard for me).

Third Day; Wednesday, 020507: This turns out to be day a momentous day for two reasons!

XTRicha and the gang (we now have a total of eight, as three boys from Beijing have joined us) are up early we’re at the ‘restaurant’ for breakfast by 0740.

We're off by 0830, still heading west on the south side of the Lake. But, the Lake is still distant to our right, possible 2, to 3 KM if you measured.

We are eight cyclists in a row now, XTRicha leading, and me bringing up the rear. Motor vehicles pass encouraging us with, ‘Jaio yo!’

We stop to take a group photograph, as everyone wants (constant digital documentation).

The land around the Lake is barren except for an occasional ‘adobe’ (mud) house. There are Yaks and sheep herds reminding XTRicha and I of Xinjiang. There are many new 'kids,' and always so cute (what is cuter than a baby lamb, maybe a baby Panda bear). The Yaks graze, still with their long winter coats, and curious looks.

But, then the surprise of surprises, a fox (狐狸) is scared out of the bush and runs for cover. But, before s/he disappears we get a good look at a Chinese fox (black and white)!

Now, foxes are very clever animals and hard to see anywhere in the world. I've only seen one other in all my life in the wild, and this in Mexico. More amazing this is the FIRST WILD ANIMAL (excepting for birds) I've seen in China, and I've been 'out there,' quite a bit (the last two years)! So, I am happy to discover 'they're' not all gone!

There is evidence of Tibetan Buddhism everywhere, pilgrims prostrating themselves around the Lake on the highway. There are the 'prayer flag poles' (everywhere in T. Buddhist land), and small stupas, mostly to our left (opposite the Lake).

We stop at the largest one and take 'capture images' (see in 'Gallery').

It's an easy morning, until around noon. Then the wind ('da feng': a cold front) comes through and the wind gets increasingly stronger, until we can't ride, but have to get off and push. The faster boys and Zhang Faju, have gone ahead to the 'lunch village' leaving XTRicha and me with 'Alex,' the slowest of the group. The last five kilometers into the village are so difficult I wonder what I'm doing 'out here?' Sand blowing into my eyes, mouth and ears! I stop to 'capture' one image of XTRicha and 'Alex' behind me about 500M (see in 'Gallery').

When they get to me I 'order' them off and to walk. It's too dangerous to ride with all the motor vehicles passing!

We finally get to the village, and everyone is waiting for us! I would have gone ahead and eaten, but Chinese youngsters so respectful of age. The restaurant is crowded with travelers all happy to be on vacation! One thing about Chinese people they are having a good time (exploring China in their motor vehicles)! At least the middle class!

At one point a Chinese man comes to our table thinking he’s met us before. Rebuffed he returns to his group. Later I go introduce myself, as they’re all curious about Americans! Why I’ll never know? I suppose it has to do with ‘Hollywood,’ and American TV.

After lunch I recommend we spend the night in this village, the wind building. But, they want to go, and who am I to stay behind. The restaurant ‘owner’ has told us the wind will ‘die down’ in 20KM. We have another 45KM to go to get to where we’re spending the night.

I’ve cranked in wind before, and it’s always a challenge! The last was with XTRicha in Xinjiang east of Hami (on our trip to Shanghai). I’d rather have a mountain to climb than be in a strong wind. But, today this isn’t just wind it’s a cold front passing through! Thus, cold and cloudy. At one point we’re hit with sleet! Leili calls it snow, but I try to explain.

At a spot where the highway comes near the Lake we stop to partake and (me) rest. The ‘kids’ go down to the Lake edge (100M). When they return I pay for photographs on saddled Yaks. Anything to help out the locals who rely on tourism for cash. When Alex shows he doesn’t stop but continues ahead of us.

We continue on in the storm, but nearing the village the wind finally abates a little. I remember going up a hill with some help finally, rather than having the wind directly in my face! By now, however, Alex is far behind again.

Shi Nau Hai (our ‘sleeping village,’ at first glance, is abandoned, or no electricity (as near dark now). But, on the ‘main street,’ life! A restaurant owner directs us to a ‘hotel,’ and invites us to return for dinner.

We arrive at a ‘hotel,’ operated by Hui Chinese, and completely full (as we’re late, now 1900 hours). But, XTRicha knows how to handle this, offering more money. But, I’m slightly chagrined when I see two Tibetan women having to move out of their room.

Money is ‘God’ in capitalism!

I ask Leili to call Alex, and before long he appears. We now rely on our mobile telephones for everything!

We’re allowed to park our bicycles in a ground floor room. Behind us come some motorcycles. Ugh!

Some young Chinese girls appear as wanting to socialize with the boys! They are cute and curious about me. They speak a little English.

I get the best room in the ‘hotel,’ on the second floor with a view. But, it’s newly plastered inside and has a strange odor. Also, there’s no light switch just the exposed ends of two wires. I have my trusty ‘torch,’ however, so I’m not concerned. Zhang Faju brings two thermos of hot water.

It isn’t long before I’m in bed, light still in the sky!

030507; Fourth Day, Thursday: 'Oh what a beautiful morning…' (112KM)

The 'cold front' has come through and left snow on the higher peaks surrounding the Lake to the south (in the direction of Tibet). Since I'm up on the second floor, I get a view of the surrounding hills, as the sun rises. It's beautiful in its brown-white barren-ness (my kind of country).

I'm one of the first up as always, and walk to the outhouse (good time to be there as there is no privacy in such, just squatting holes). When I return I try to make coffee on my stove, but guess what? Not only doesn't the lighter on the stove work, but the lighter I purchased doesn't work either! So, I drink lukewarm coffee, in my concrete cubicle. Next door the Chinese boys are up and banging around.

I carry my luggage down the steep stairs as a Tibetan woman sweeps the ground pouring water on it to keep the dust down.

I clean my chain and load 'Ms. Fiets,' (my bicycle so named) whose been very good on this trip! It pays to take care of your gear, your bicycle, as they take care of you. I'm thinking I should lubricate my chain, but don't as I can't find where I stashed the little bottle of Shimano lubricant.

XTRicha explains that at dinner the previous evening they discover a young, talented girl who wants to perform for us. Since we're in the business (www.haaqi.com) of discovering talent I'm delighted.

On our bicycle trip from Urumqi to Shanghai last Fall (2006) we discovered Ling Ling, a six-year old girl, in another Qinghai village.

The girl turns out to be the daughter of the restaurant owner. Mao Yan Fang, 11-years old, is part Han and part Tibetan (a good combination). She turns out to be the sweetest thing, as most Chinese girls are--a wonderful smile! And with a good child come good parents, the father the one who'd given us directions to the 'hotel' the night before.

Breakfast is rice porridge, with steamed bread (I don't eat), and many other dishes. There's even milk tea (牛奶茶)!

Afterwards we go outside in the bright sunlight to 'shoot' video of Mao. She's a bit shy (not like Ling Ling) but I get her to dance and sing. This against a wall adjacent the town garbage dump (Chinese people just throw 'it' out anywhere!). A crowd has gathered as this is the biggest event in this village, since Ghengis Khan came!

Back inside the restaurant I give 50RMB to Mao's father (for Mao's schooling or clothes). Of course, we have to insist before he'll take it! It's almost a tearful parting as we now feel a part of the 'family!'

Out of the village we're now cranking northeast on a bright, but cold morning (0915).

Everyone is happier having had a good breakfast, now a smooth highway, and no wind to fight! I sing:

'Oh what a beautiful morning!

Oh what a beautiful day!

I've got a beautiful feeling,

Everything's going our way!'

We make fast time Alex now much stronger!

The next village, some 18KM, is a place I want to remember! It's on the side of a hill, a river flowing past, and a T. Buddhist Monastery on the hill. It has two hotels and seems inviting to me!

If all goes well I want to buy property and live out there (far from the madding crowds of cities).

After a quick stop (capture an image of the T.Buddhist Monastery), however, but keep going. The goal for the day, something like 126KM, and this with a late start! Thus, I think unrealistic.

We 'zoom' along, however, making good time, barren hills to the left on which there are grazing sheep and Tibetan dwellings. The Lake looming now up on the right.

At what appears to be an access road to the Lake we get off the highway to investigate. What is coming to Qinghai Lake, without actually 'sticking your toes into?' But, we have to leave our bicycles, except for XTRicha, as too sandy, and too marshy (wet). We get our ‘feet’ wet getting to the edge of the Lake itself.

XTRicha and Zhang Faju collect rocks, while I have a wonderful moment of bliss 'hypnotized' by the sun dancing on the waves. The Lake is truly beautiful, azure and pristine, a sacred place for sure! I had come to see the migrating birds return, but we're too early in the month of May. But, we do spot one flying goose, and one snowy egret near the shore.

Before departing the edge of the Lake we take many 'photographs!'

Back on the highway we pass prostrating Tibetans, Yaks grazing on the sparse grass, the area reminding me much of Tibet (Xizang). The sky here seems endless, as big as all heaven! But, here there is too much vehicular traffic during this holiday time!

Up ahead we are to join highway #315 and turn east toward Xi Ning (north side of the Lake). In the distance a train heading west to Geermu, and ultimately Lhasa, Tibet.

Onward, we stop on top of the RR overpass (bridge) to enjoy the view. Here we are joined by two more cyclists heading in a counter-clockwise direction around the Lake. Of course, we take photographs.

Heading east on #315, trains pass to our right. Its up and down, but we feel like our bikes are 'motorized' as so easy compared with yesterday ('beating into the storm).

Another group of cyclists overtakes us, and suddenly are one group going in the same direction. One, returns one of my handkerchiefs that has fallen out of my pocket (always doing such). I follow behind. He's obviously inexperienced riding an overloaded bicycle with the seat too low. And his style… Obviously a 'beginner.' I make a point of trying to help him (my fatherly instinct).

Up ahead we all stop in a village to rest and take pictures of each other. The new group decides to stop for the night in this village. We go on with 'the beginner' (turns out he's really alone).

We end up going 55KM before reaching our 'eating village.' It's up and away from the Lake, in blazing sunlight.

XTRicha, finds a good restaurant and it becomes 'mi fan time,' the welcome midday meal break (rest!). Leili informs us he wants to go another 65KM more before stopping for the night. They (he and Alex) have to be back in Xi Ning on the 6th, in three days (we're something like 200KM from Xi Ning now).

Just outside of the village the highway goes up a big hill. 'Our beginner' stops just before, but I keep cranking as I know 'momentum' important when climbing hills.

Beyond they hill I catch up with our group to ask about the Chinese boy far behind now--What should we do? Is he with us or not?. I suggest we wait for him, as we did Alex. Finally he comes, and I tell XTRicha to explain some things to him (not sure if he understands English. They adjust his seat higher. Turns out his name is Li Sheng.

We go on, now on rolling plateau, wind coming from the Lake to our right. But, nothing like the storm day before as its 'neutral' at '3 O.clock.'

At 1730 hours we stop in a village (Ha Er Gai) to inquire. The next village is another18KM, and Leili wants to go for it. But, we've already gone 112KM according to XTRicha's computer, and I'm hesitant. The inexperienced Chinese boy (Li Sheng), wisely, decides to stop here for the night. Like fools we crank on. But just outside of town XTRicha comes to his senses stops, and suggests we spend the night here. I concur, trying to explain the difference between cyclists 27-years old and cyclists 67-years old: older people are in no hurry! So, not wanting to break up the group Leili and Alex agreed and we reverse our direction, cranking 2KM back into the village.

XTRicha does his 'thing,' but at the first 'hotel,' a 'no good woman,' according to him. I send him off to find another, while the rest of us wait.

A crowd forms, curious as always about me! But, when Richa doesn't return I send Zhang to find him. Just as I do, he appears, signaling to follow. Success! He's found a new hotel just opened three days. Here, 'people good' he remarks.

I'm shown a small room with two beds. But, it's clean, and the owner will change the linen. Zhang brings 'kai shui' (hot water in themos), and I am happy to be alone.

That night the full moon shines in through my window (no curtains), and I have amazing dreams! Early in the morning I awake in the dark, the clear blue moon lighting the sky. I return to my dreams.

040507, Fifth Day, Friday: Heading back to Xi Ning (we've come three-quarters of the way around the Lake at this point)

I'm up early the sun just beginning to reveal the new day. I defecate into a plastic bag, not knowing where the outhouse is (forgot to inquire). But, what to do now? I venture outside with my 'flashlight' ('torch' in the U.K.) and almost fall off the steep concrete stairs (we're on the second floor). The outhouse is revealed at the end of the enclosure at the bottom. I dump the contents, plus empty my 'piss bottle,' then 'beat a hasty retreat.' Note, I'd rather use 'mother nature,' to do such as the outhouses in rural China are disgusting to a Westerner!

Rural, lower-class Chinese people, are warm of heart, but primitive when it comes to bodily functions. Yet, most have their mobiles that can capture images. What contrasts!

I return to drink lukewarm coffee, as still no lighter. But, I'm able to get 'online' via China Unicom. Talk about contrasts, I read 'The New York Times,' and www.jongo.com while waiting for the others to get up.

Leili is up first as always, and we talk. His English is good, as most educated, young Chinese. He explains that he and Alex have decided to cycle all the way into Xi Ning, some 165KM. I'm thinking Alex who could barely do 50KM when we started out is going to cycle 165KM / 100 miles now. He explains they have to return to work.

This is the difference between young and older people. When you're young you do nothing but sit at a computer screen, smoking and suffer the consequences! But, only for a short time! Younger bodies adapt quickly, and get strong faster. Older bodies take longer, as still I'm feeling the effects of having the flu in February! I'm nowhere near as strong as I was after arriving in Shanghai, three months on the road from the Russian Border (near Kanas Lake in Xinjiang Province). But, eventually I'll get back to that 'feeling!'

We all go off to breakfast, but in this village no rice porridge ('soup' XTRicha calls it). I abstain from eating, as a 'problem,' speaking of older bodies. My digestion is malfunctioning, and I know better to 'load up' on empty calories! On our way out of town I stop and purchase one apple (pingua) and pear (lee) to eat along the way!?

Alex and Leili take off ahead of us for Xi Ning. We're joined by the Chinese boy, 'the beginner.' We find out he's going to school in Xi' An to become an environmental engineer. He departs after Leili and Alex.

I'm next to follow as XTRicha wants to drink some milk before departing. Some 3KM out of town I stop at a river bridge to wait for them (Zhang Faju with him), and eat my pear. It's a lovely morning, except for the incessant motor vehicles!

The terrain here up and down, but greener than we've seen (many sheep 'farms'). I've decided I prefer the north side of the Lake to the South. But, of course, more people, congestion, etc. along highway #315, as it follows the RR much of the way (this track going to and fro Geermu, Qinghai and Lhasa, Tibet).

Note, there are always transportation 'corridors,' as originally man followed animal who followed the streams and rivers. Thus, you generally have four means of transportation: boats on the river, foot-animal path, RR, and highway.

Along about noon we come across a Mongolian Horse Race 'happening.' I recognized the scene as have seen similar in Tibet. I suggest we stop and partake of, as in no particular hurry.

We lock our bicycles to a barbed wire fence, a curious crowd of locals having gathered (at least 500). I first thought this was Tibetan, but we discover it's Mongolian as they dress similarly (in their sheep-skin coats). Note, many images in the 'Gallery.' They all want to have their image 'captured' with the 'laowei' (me)!

I feel like a 'movie star' in rural China, as people are so curious. I remember back in the village, when waiting for XTRicha to discuss the sleeping arrangements the evening before, a crowd gathered. They are so curious about a lighter complexioned, gray-bearded older man on a bicycle. I suppose it would be like in America, if a Martian suddenly appeared in Nebraska!

I pass out my postcard (photograph of me in Kashgar), until nearly mobbed, the postcards ripped out of my hand! They all want something from a 'foreigner!' But, generally they are polite and reserved, some even too shy to have their picture taken (especially the children).

We watch a foot race and then four separate horse races. I'm chosen, by a Chinese woman, to present a red scarf to the winner! I'm thinking, how interesting life is… One moment hunting for the outhouse in the dark, the next presenting a prize in the 'winners circle!' I'm fond of quoting Helen Keller, 'Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all!'

I record XTRicha riding a horse. He’s fearless, my assistant!

We eat peanuts on this grassy slope just off highway #315. It's a lovely, bright day, sunny but cool at 3,200M ASL. I feel so wonderfully alive!

We're presented with two white 'khatas' (in the Tibetan language), these the customary 'greeting' scarves I'm familiar with from Tibetan Buddhism. I tie mine around my flags on my bicycle!

As we rejoin the traffic on the highway, we discover the three cyclists we'd lost during the storm (they went ahead) two days ago. Here they are again, on their 'folding, small-wheeled bicycles.' Thus, we're a group of six again, losing some, gaining others. This is what is so neat about cycling around Qinghai Lake (during a holiday). It's a 'family' affair!

We start our 'descent,' from 3,200M to 2,200M (Xi Ning). With the wind at '3 O'Clock,' again not an issue (neutral). And fast we go setting a new 'speed record' (I learn later), 57KMPH / 35MPH! That's as fast as I've ever gone on a bicycle (that I can remember)!

A couple hours later we split up again, as we want to eat lunch, and the three cyclists want to continue on. We never see them again.

This stop in an interesting 'village’ (Xi Hai) for lunch. It has both an abandoned 'prison' (high wall with guard towers), and a large resort (maybe there's a 'connection?').

Here, after lunch, I take off my long pants to cycle in shorts, as much warmer now. Note, this usually amazes the Chinese, as they rarely bare their legs. Women in the restaurant can't help but stare!

Here we part company with our ‘beginner' (Li Sheng) as he has decided to take the bus directly back to Xi Ning. He's due back in school in Xi'an on Monday, and wants some time before.

So, it's just the three of us to finish, the original three starting in Xi Ning (before we picked up Leili and Alex): me, XTRicha, and Zhang Faju.

Out of town down we go for some 40KM, a wonderful ride except for the traffic.

We pass a reservoir on the left, and then follow the highway down a river canyon. I want to stop and partake of the rushing, tree-lined water, but hard to stop when going so easily and making such good time.

We stop for a drink, and I ask Zhang Faju if she's ever gone so fast on a bicycle before, and she says no, this is the first time!

We arrive in Huangyuan at 1730 hours, and find a good hotel (XTRicha is a 'magician' at finding such).

I end up in the 'Bridal Suite' on the fourth floor (above the noise). This only costs 60RMB per / $7.50U.S.! It even has a good hot-water shower! Can you imagine such in the West? More like $75U.S. or much more!

I take a hot shower (but no soap), and am in bed, slightly cleaner, by 2000 hours!

050707, Day Six, Saturday: An easy downhill glide into Xi Ning

We don't go to breakfast until 0900, in no hurry with only 60KM back down into Xi Ning.

It's a leisurely ride down the canyon, but we have to go slow as the highway is in disrepair. Since the new Expressway, the Government doesn't bother keeping up the old highway.

We stop and record (on video) some passing trains, one a freight heading west, the other the passenger train from Lhasa, Tibet (heading for Beijing or Shanghai).

Nearer to Xi Ning the traffic increases, the honking madness begining. At one point I find myself screaming epithets at a truck for laying on his air horn (painful). We're back in ‘distopeia!’ Already I'm longing to be back up at the Lake, and plan to return as soon as I can.

Cycling in China, for me, is both delightful and maddening! Plus, it's very dangerous!

But, trips like this one, cycling around Qinghai Lake, make it all worth whatever price paid!

It this case, around Qinghai Lake in six days, some 700RMB for three people, sore muscles, aching butts, tired hands, sun burnt faces, but many good stories to tell! Additionally for posterity, some video and 500 images! But, it me it’s not remembering (via media) but experiencing the moment that’s important: Like seeing the fox, that moment at the Lake’s edge, and cycled through the storm!

Best of all, such endeavors make for new (lifelong) friends!

Cycling for peace, I am,

F.A. Hutchison

‘Hutch,’ ‘Haqi,’ ‘Alexander’

www.haaqi.com