Up, up and out of the city we climbed. Through the restored ramparts of the Great Wall and out onto a high plateau. Last night found us enjoying the company of folks who are by Chinese standards political dissidents. We don't see any of them heading to the capitol with a truck full of fertilizer and fuel oil any time soon. None the less, when the local police entered their restaraunt, the bilingual dance performance we were watching on their old TV, along with the conversation we were having took a turn to a different channel. This is coal country; here they are taking the earth and turning it into smoke and electricity in huge factories that line the sides of rivers. People smile through their black masks of dust that cover their faces. That tell tale sign of a miner that never fails to paint a stark picture of where we are as a society of consumers. We can't tell first hand but we would guess that the conditions in these mines would make their West Virginian counterparts blush with shame. As we pass pile after pile of black slag, we are greated by the welcoming, blackened faces of those
who dig through the slag heaps in search of useful nuggets. At the end of the day they probably earn enough to feed their children and possibly afford a pack of smokes. The dust is thick here and it dances black across the roads in drifts similar to skifts of dry snow on a deeply frozen road. Bleak though it may sound we are enjoying this though neither of us could put a finger on why. You can try to summarize a culture with big sparkling monuments and museums, all put together in neat little packages accessable to tour busses, but for us these "sights" often seem like little more than vestiges of antiquated sets of ideas. The people usually seem to outgrow their edifaces all too rapidly and, maybe, that is part of the reason we are here; breathing dusty air, arm wrestling with coal miners, watching balet with the falun gong.
Navigation has been the core of our adventure and brings us to the people (and they to us) more than anything else. Despite our maps, our instincts, and our GPS we flat out need (maybe want) directions at nearly every turn. Locals are usually headed our way before we can even ask for help. Sometimes they offer us water, sometimes a place to stay. Sometimes we have to wait for the cops to beat it before we can be shown our room. Either way, even the cops are good for directions and they usually deliver them with a smile. Yesterday we ended up following the directions of a girl who steered us right up to a rickety concrete ped-path tacked on to the side of a train truss. Just like any other type of exposure involving gear: trust the gear, the gear is good, keep moving, watch your step. Tomorrow we will head into Inner Mongolia Province where the population spreads out. We are looking forward to leaving these dusty cities behind but who will we ask for directions?! With the help of multiple navigational aids, infused with luck, we will probably meet up with Joe Taylor in a few days and head on into Mongolia as a threesome. In the mean time tailwinds to all (especially Joe), and, as always, think snow!
Tot: 0.066s; Tpl: 0.014s; cc: 19; qc: 85; dbt: 0.0149s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb