The Notebook of Death
Photos: Daming Si, Yangzhou
Important Buddhist temple, this pagoda built in the 1930s
by not knowing how the weather will turn out & knowing that you will become part of what has been described as the greatest annual migration of humanity in the world, either side of the Chinese New Year. With around 20% of the world's population living mostly in the eastern half of China almost all wanting to get home, or get back, at the same time, is not for the faint hearted. Not being able to buy train tickets until 10 days before you travel is an additional problem, particularly when you can't get return tickets & need to somehow buy a ticket to get back when you're already en route.....
.....by means of innumerable QQ & text messages a plan is slowly forming. George, Jenna, Mike & myself are aiming to go from Yangzhou to Nanjing or Shanghai then catch a train to Guilin. That's a 20 to 25 hour trip. Look around this picturesque area for a day or so, hoping that in winter it's not too foggy, then another 8 hours to Beihai, on the south coast of China, not that far from North Vietnam. Our friend Sunshine is looking for suitable accommodation & I'm hoping
Tourist, Daming Si, Yangzhou
Winter fashion in China, sometimes quirky, frequently eyecatching, usually elegant
to send money ahead for her to buy tickets for our return.....
…..on the way back the new friend I met on my visit to Shaanxi province in the summer, Xiang Kuan Yu, is keen for us to visit his home, Jishou, a tiny city of less than quarter of a million in Hunan province. It's a slight detour on the way home & he's keen to show us some places of interest there, including the ancient World Heritage listed town of Fenghuang then on to Zhangjiajie & (I hope) a look at some of the stunning karst peaks in the nearby National Parks. After three days off to the provincial capital, Changsha &, assuming we can get the tickets, or get Xiang Kuan Yu to get them for us, fly to Nanjing before returning to Yangzhou, a few days before the (Chinese) New Year itself.....
….. Xiang Kuan Yu, in case you haven't been keeping up to date with the China news, is the son of the 80 year old man who was still going strong after a gruelling 10 hour hike around the ridiculously steep slopes of Hua Shan, in Shaanxi, last summer. Check the photo
Jiangdu Lu, Yangzhou
Constricting an already busy junction
at the head of the blog linked below: http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/China/Shaanxi/blog-634504.html
…..using Chinese during all this correspondence is certainly good practice for me. Like many of my students' English, I can write, if not write grammatically correct Chinese at least something that's usually intelligible. The article in the link below, from my friend Sunny, points out the difficulties & frustrations involved in trying to learn Chinese. I can relate to all of this... http://www.pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html
…..”Look after your health”, “Wear warm clothes”. Chinese people tell us, foreigners, these things all the time. As for the Chinese, regardless of the weather they are out, selling stuff from ancient trikes, hastily erected stalls, trucks, vans, cars, tarpaulins laid out at the roadside. Women out in the freezing cold in quilted, tartan pattern apron-like jackets, arm warmers, face masks busy making steamed buns, spring rolls, “re gou”, (hot dogs, a literal translation of the same item in English), men & women in thick mittens & several layers laying out tarpaulins or setting up stands on pedestrian crossings, all but blocking bike lanes in some places or making bottlenecks of busy junctions. Rickety tables & plastic stools are set up for transient cafes
Jiangdu Lu, Yangzhou
Setting up shop on a pedestrian crossing
& the streets are alive. It's messy, fascinating, irritating & enticing. It's nothing like the rather sterile streets of urban Australia. Not only in the reasonably moderate climate of Yangzhou. It's the same in Harbin, in northern China, where the daytime temperature can be below -15C.....
…..the changing seasons can be plotted by an inspection of my bed. From summer, with just a sheet on top of the mattress & the fan oscillating next to it all night in the heat of summer to increasing layers both on the bed & on myself. Now covered by a sheet & two blankets I've taken to wearing a tee-shirt to bed. I might need socks too before the winter is over.....
…..one corollary of the cold weather is the clear skies with which we have been blessed for an uncommonly long while. It even afforded a great view of the total lunar eclipse, though having lost the adaptor for my camera tripod I couldn't get any really sharp photos. The same applies to the following night, when smoke haze from burning off that continues in the nearby allotment gardens gave the almost full moon a distinctly orange glow. I've put
Lunar eclipse, Yangzhou
Approximately halfway through
the photos in anyway.....
…..Miranda, the Chinese English teacher next to me in the office, laughs at something one of my students says while they are in the office for detention at 5.20pm, virtually the only time available to detain them, not a welcome duty after 3 or 4 classes back to back in the afternoon. Still, it's starting to work for class discipline, though the attendees tend to be the same old faces. As I'm ticking the names off in my black detention notebook I ask her, “What did he say?” I think she said it was something like, “si wang bi ji ben”, or “The Notebook of Death”. That's what I like to hear. Makes my job seem somehow worthwhile.....
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