Thursday, September 30, 2010
This is just past Twin Lakes. Doesn't it look like we dressed matchy matchy?
A rushing stream above Twin Lakes.
I really wanted to go to caves while in Yangshuo, as all those peaks you see above are filled with caves. I finally convinced Rick to go. We went to Silver Cave. I was expecting the caves to be cool, like all caves I've ever been in, but they were hot and sticky. Because they're in the mountains and not below ground, they're just as hot as outside, perhaps hotter.
Though I didn't understand a word the tour guide said, I believe Silver Cave was named for this formation. A huge silvery formation that looked like it had been spray painted silver. I wouldn't put it past them. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.It's quite a large formation. All the formations had bright lights shining on them - pink, green, blue. A little loud for my taste. There were also stalagtites wrapped in Christmas lights. I guess they have so many caves they don't mind if they destroy a few formations. Although the caves were a bit gaudy, they were still the most spectacular I've ever seen.
This formation was directly above a pool that reflected it perfectly. Instead of water, it looked like there was a lower chamber of caves. It made you dizzy to look at, and everything became very confusing. You couldn't tell what was cave and what was water.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
After the training ended, I decided to take a vacation day to relax at the retreat. I had breakfast on the river, just like on the first day. Most everyone else was leaving at noon, so we had a lazy morning saying our goodbyes.
Then Kristin, Kelly, Jayaseelan and I went for another raft ride. It had been so beautiful and peaceful (except for the water fight) that we wanted to do it again. It was as peaceful and beautiful as the first time.
After rafting, we met Rick for dinner at the roof-top Cafe Luna in Moon Hill Village. Delicious Italian food. Another memorable experience listening to French music in China eating Italian. I noticed the architecture from the roof-top all looked so blocky. It wasn't at all what I expected in China; I expected curly-cue roofs and pagoda-style homes. But because of communism, everything is white block housing. Very drab and sad.
Once again, another interesting experience, if still not quite my favorite.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Here is Li, our raft driver. He starts his day having a breakfast of rice and vegetables with his wife of 40 years.
He has lived in this home for his entire life. Here he is with his grandson. His son, the father of this boy, is also a raft driver on the river.
This is the entrance to the compound where his family lives. It has been here 300 years. He is good friends with the other neighbors in the compound, all who also have lived here their entire lives. To get to these homes, you have to cross the Li River. They are tucked up on a hillside directly beneath one of the looming karst peaks.
A lot of hanging out and smoking occurs. Before rafting. After rafting. During rafting. Smoking was a key part of all our photo essays.
But eventually, Li has to get to business: Paddling plump tourists down the Dragon River. It's serious work.
He loves doing his job, and has a smile for everyone.
He also likes the plump rolls of cash the plump tourists pay him.
And after a hard day's work, he fans himself with his hat and reflects on his home (that's it across the river)...and smokes another cigarette.
OK, so those aren't real captions. But I'm not a real photographer. I just don't love photography, nor does it love me. But I had fun nonetheless, and this was one of the most likable men and families I've come across in my travels. I was so glad to spend a day with such beautiful, down-to-earth people, especially before being thrown into Beijing. It is a reminder as always that people are people no matter where they are, what they look like, or what they do.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
There was a lot of fresh fruit being sold on the streets. I tried fresh passion fruit for the first time. Passion fruits are little. It must take 18 of them to make one glass of juice. Remember that next time you're having POG. Kelly pointed out to me how much passion fruit looks like fish eggs, in retribution for my conversation with the Indonesians pictured below regarding eating dog and cooking methods. I couldn't eat any more after the fish egg comment. It is remarkably like fish eggs.
We ate dinner at the Red Star Cafe, a kitschy communist eatery. They had stir fried french fries. The food was Meh. Notice the empty watermelon juice glass in the below shot.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
We had breakfast on the river, where we dined each morning as it was the only time cool enough to be out of doors.
We then went for a hike to Moon Hill, an arched karst peak in a neighboring village of the same name. Kelly relaxed at a local rooftop restaurant while Rick and I climbed. We didn't intend to have guides, but the ladies just follow you until you give in to have them as guides. These 50-year-old scrawny ladies trip up the mountainside like it's nothing while they fan you from behind.
The fanning was worth how ever many yuan we paid them. It was hot. It was humid. I believe roughly 2 gallons of sweat poured off of me that lovely China morning. The ladies kept looking at me and saying, "Many, many!" as they pointed to the many, many drips of sweat leaking off of every milimeter of exposed skin.
At the bottom of the arch, they sold us Chinese Coca Cola at 3 times cost. Rick and I continued up to the top of the arch, where we saw this:
There were butterflies everywhere. It was misty and humid, making the peaks hard to see, but also making it look like a mystical fairyland where the jagged peaks could have gone on forever.
As we hiked back to the village, a man from Szechaun Province stopped us. He motioned for a picture, so I went to take his camera and take his picture. Then he shook his head, "no," and eventually communicated that he wanted me in his picture. I was covered in "many, many," so I don't quite think he wanted to fool people back home into thinking I was his hot American girlfriend.
As it turns out, and as we experienced many times along the way, Chinese people love to take pictures of and with foreigners. Any kind of foreigners. Kind of like how we might take a picture standing next to a buffalo and say, "Hey, look what I saw!" I was the buffalo.
We joined Kelly on the rooftop restaurant for a refreshing glass of fresh watermelon juice. Watermelon juice was ubiquitous in China. It was at every restaurant. I loved it. It was frothy with pulp and so watery and crisp. I drank it every chance I got, which was often.
After cleaning up, we met up with Kristin and the communications guys from India, Provashish and Jayaseelan. You might remember Jayaseelan from such adventures as watching Indians tap rubber trees in Trivandrum. We all went into Yangshuo village for a little shopping. Yangshuo is a "village," just like Indians call cities of 2 million "villages"; it was big. When I think village, I think Clydesdales pulling carts and women in bonnets. You know, the Beauty and Beast kind of village.
For Yangshuo, think speeding Audis, Adidas stores, and KFC, all on the backdrop of men in Chinese hats using comorants to catch fish on the shores of the Dragon River, while ladies sell passion fruit from baskets on the street and shout, "Hello! Hello!" at you.
I got totally ripped off shopping. No surprise there. I should have stuck with the Indians. Every day, they came to brag to me of their incredible bargaining conquests. "You see these shoes, Amber? How much do you think they cost? Really, guess! You won't believe it! Guess!" Not me. I bought Mike a decorative sword from a grumpy old man. (For being so gentle and nonviolent, Mike loves his old weapons.) The man was so grumpy, I was afraid to bargain with him. Plus he didn't speak English. I paid twice what I would have offered in America.
Shopping was difficult to enjoy, so hot was I. Provashish said, "Amber, you are very wet." Thank you. I love a good first impression.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
This is where many an elementary school kid has gone on a field trip, and it is who we are doing a fall festival with at Glacier. We met Tony Ferrera (driving the tractor), and he was the nicest man you'd ever want to meet; called us "friend" about 20 times straight. He took us on a ride to crisp, sweet galas.
Next we drove up Phantom Canyon, which I can only guess is named after Phantom Canyon Brewery in town. Lovely drive.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
And now on to some cultural observations from an email forward I recently received. As far as I've experienced, these are very true.
Differences between Westerners and Asians
Analysis and understanding between Asian culture and Western Logic.
Key: Blue: Westerners, Red: Asians
Westerners: Talk to the point.
Asians: Talk around in circles, especially if opinions differ
Westerners: On time.
Asians: In time.
Westerners: Show that I am angry.
Asians: I am angry, but still smiling.
Queue when Waiting
Westerners: Queuing in an orderly manner.
Asians: Queuing? What's that?
Handling of Problems
Westerners: Take any steps to solve the problems.
Asians: Try to avoid conflicts, and if can, don't leave any trail.
Westerners: The boss is part of the team.
Asians: The boss is a fierce God.
Westerners: Eat healthy Asian cuisine.
Asians: Eat expensive Western cuisine.
Now for good measure, here's a funny video about the difference between Italy and the rest of Europe. (Italy being a "hot" culture and the rest of Europe being a "cold" culture. These differences are generally true of other hot (developing world, tropical) cultures and cold (Western) cultures.)