Connecting Mandarin and English,
Changsha, Hunan, China
(September 7, 2008) (return
back from a little
jaunt with some five thousand of our nearest and dearest Chinese friends.
Maybe it was 1000, maybe it was 10,000. It's hard to count a packed milling
crowd of black hair when their backs are turned toward you as you are herded
in and out of the train. But they are able and agile for about 15 minutes
after the waiting room was turned into a stampede of eager travelers, the
train was rolling. However, it rolled only for a few minutes as it cruised
at about 200 km/h. The electronic sign over the door did indicate bursts
of 202 km/h. The little lights also indicated that the temperature increased
from 23C to 27C on the return trip at midnight. A quick calculation puts
27C at about 80F. At midnight!
We were greeted, oh, so warmly with big hugs
from Li and eager welcomes
from her father, Mr. Luo (Luo Huafeng). He had his own car and introduced
us quickly to a whole different China. The streets were wide, the drivers
sparser and more inclined to follow the lines on the road, the buildings
were large and clean. It also could have been in America. The modernization
appeared to us throughout the city over the weekend in cleanliness, open spaces,
tall modern clean buildings, and endless construction. Laborers were still
the primary resource in construction and people were still the primary attraction
on the streets. Changsha is a middle-sized Chinese city with about two million
inhabitants, but they do reference terms like suburbs and inner city.
We were chauffeured to a hotel near the city
square and Li's home. Li's mother, Wang Meihui, met us at the hotel with
the most gracious Chinese greeting one may hope for. The elevator zipped
all of us up to the 26th floor where we found that the Luo family had slipped
in earlier with bananas, fresh dates and other snacks. Before we could grasp
our breaths taken by the beauty of the room, Li's mother had tea brewed
and before us. After sharing family stories they headed home and we crawled
into a bed large enough to have its own echo.
Morning found us drooling over about 30 different
delicious although sometimes quaint dishes set out for breakfast in the
hotel, followed by a two hour drive through the country to Shaoshan, the
birthplace and childhood home of Mao Zedong. It's a puzzle how someone with
such a beautiful farm and farmhouse larger than that of my great grandparents
in North Dakota would suggest an economy and government where this would
be relinquished. Truly it must have been a philosophical decision. Signs
and stories of conflict with Chiang Kai-shek were about, but down the street
was Mao's library and a museum in his honor. Construction resembling the
process that Gail and I use on the farm is everywhere with tools and equipment
that comes from decades ago. There was a modern crane lifting some of the
beams into place.
One completely unplanned pleasantry was first
seeing one of the Paralympics
torchbearers come to Mao's house at the same time as we did, and then being
invited to pose with her in a picture was awesome. There no indications
that these were official photos that would hit the media but the photographer
did seem to know what he was doing and the torchbearer, (Li as a personal
name is the only name we learned) was certainly into posing. She was a grand
lady and apparently participated as an athlete years ago.
Lunch was in one of Mao's favorite restaurants
with one of his favorite dishes
which we can only describe as boiled pig fat. Needless to say for health
and taste purposes we merely sampled that one.
Evening found us at a delightful restaurant
down the street from the hotel with a stroll in the park. It was Saturday
evening but it's reported that every night is crowded like this one. At
7:30 the central fountain explodes into a dance of streams of water and
mist all choreographed to the background music. It's dark enough that a
camera can't catch the actions but light enough to give an ethereal romantic
atmosphere. A young girl strolled up to me and said "Hello" and
I responded with an additional "How are you?" That turned on the
shy button and she sought safety with our Chinese speaking comrades. As
the shyness wore off she became our constant companion until we headed to
Sunday's goal was the Changsha museum but
the line was around the block and then the number of allowed tickets was
maxed out. So we visited a university that was started with forty students
studying Confucianism in 967AD or there abouts. Among the attractions was
a room where for several yuan (about $7.00) a group of musicians would play
some ancient instruments including chimes make of granite and huge bronze
bells. What a thrill!
A note about Chinese breakfast:
read the sign in the motel in California during our recent wanderings.
There was coffee at the front desk, as well as in our rooms, a couple
sweet rolls and I think I remember some type of fruit. What I remember
was that it was minimal. I can't read "Breakfast included"
in Chinese but it was there and it was there big time. The oval
counter filled the room and the counter was covered with some thirty
or more different foods. Tea eggs, rice, noodles, stir-fried vegetables
unheard of in America, tea, juices, (albeit that they were warmed),
and freshly boiled fresh noodles to mention just a few. I forgot
to mention the side with the fresh vegetables and fruits. Yes, breakfast
was definitely included. Oh, did I mention that one could choose
overstuffed couches for the seating around the tables?
Our computers have been struggling with Internet
connections and we have been a bit busy reading papers from 270 students
- each. Hopefully we will be more loyal to our website in the future. We'll
share more tales about Mao and Changsha also.