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Changsha, Hunan, China
(September 7, 2008) (return to Homepage)
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     We're 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 the hotel.
     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:
"Breakfast included" 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.

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