Connecting Mandarin and English,
Guilin, Last Day
(October 2, 2008) (return
the standards of yesterday this one is routine. There is no visit to the
rushed out of bed early to get to the tour sites early, in fact we are waiting
for the first boat to arrive. While we waited, we had a chance to inspect
and use some ancient farm tools for harvesting rice and converting it to
flour. Moments after heading up the river,
we passed three fisherman on their long, low flat bamboo crafts. I don't
know if they are considered boats but they serve the function. On the crafts
were these ducks or gulls that would swim in the river,dive in, catch a
fish, crosswise in their bills,toss their heads to reposition the fish to
swallow it. The fisherman put a pole in the water beneath the bird, the
bird perched on the pole, the fisherman brought the bird onto the boat,
took it by the neck, basically so the bird could not swallow the fish and
took the bird and fish to a woven bucket where the man convinced the bird
to put the fish in the bucket. My reaction: totally amazing.
We disembarked a short distance up the river
and walked a path past gardens and China's version of teeters, slide, and
a swinging bridge. At the end of the path was a dragon boat and everyone
was handed an oar except the drummer who beat and shouted in Chinese 1,2,3,
(yi, er, san) pause for each stroke of the oars. That boat trip ended at
a temple near our bus.
bus and tour has us wandering through small villages now spread out like
an endless shopping mall and the beautiful typical finger-like limestone
mountains. The guide explained the history of many mountains but we didn't
understand the words. We could only understand the scenery. Our stop was
a huge banyan tree near some water. The attractions included locals dressed
in local costumes for picture-taking. Also there were racks of ethnic clothes
that you could rent to have a picture of yourself in the beautiful garb.
I'm afraid it will take more that a costume to make us look like a local.
However, as we walked around the banyan tree, which we were told would help
secure a hundred years of a good marriage, a Chinese tourist unbrazenly
grabbed Gail for a picture. Before the posing was finished, I too became
the object of a fan club.
At one of the attractions you could rent one
of the local bamboo rafts and push yourself around the pond. I assure the
challenges may have included standing and balancing on the lone very narrow
craft, but more challenging was maneuvering among the other crafts. It might
have been easier to walk from shore to shore using the crafts as stepping
A long corridor of booths, as we've so many
places in China, turned out not to be vendors displaying their wares, but
booths for photographers equipped with computers, color printers and laminators.
They were ready for their tourists.
Lunch a hour from here was next on the schedule
but as you will read below, it was a three hour ride. Meals with a tour
group in China gives a different meaning to fast food. Of course, these
meals are all pre-arranged and so as soon as we are scurried into the restaurant
and around three or four tables, the food starts appearing. In these situations
rice is first and several dishes of vegetables and meats come next. It's
family style with the additional feature of not having to put it in your
bowl; you eat directly from the common bowl. Next is departure which starts
to happen about the time your thinking about a second sip of tea; and we
on the road again. McDonalds would be impressed, and connoisseurs of Chinese
relaxed "appreciate the food and the time together" meal would
The prime feature of the Guilin area is a
mountain that fronts on the river. The river has carved out a cave at the
base of the mountain so that the river flows through the cave. The appearance
is that of an elephant and its trunk. It was approaching dark and we had
not seen this feature, and I figured that it wasn't in the tour because
there were so many other features that this wasn't any longer important.
But, that was our next spot and it looked just like the post cards except...
The post cards do not include or display some hundreds of people viewing
and climbing through the trunk, or the many crafts ferrying viewers into
the cavern, or the city in the background no matter which angle you hold
your camera. I'd see the postcard, it is great but not near as thrilling
as seeing and sensing the animated version.
We ended the day and the tour with supper
with the Li's (the family of a WOU student) and a trip to a park for performances
indoor and outdoor featuring different ethnic minorities. While the authenticity
of the performances were probably genuine, they were probably embellished
to entertainment's sake. With dragging tails and bundles under our arms
we were escorted to the railway station and upon the train about 1:00AM.
The lights were out and we quickly found our niche in the first, second
and third layer of bunks.
A note about traveling
always a question about how one can travel in a country where the
language is literally and totally foreign. "Restroom"
or "WC" are clear but sometimes one needs to count on
some language skills to avoid embarrassment when making the grand
entry. It seems logical that you hire an interpreter, or befriend
a bilingual local. We chose the latter and we were very blessed.
(some call her Eleanor) works in the office below our apartment
and approached us about enrolling in a university in America to
earn her Masters. So we suggested that she join us for this trip
to Guilin and we could all practice English. We offered her the
trip and we'd pick up the tab for her. She'd never been to Guilin
and she tells me that she couldn't sleep for several days before
because she was so excited. She has been awesome. She keeps us on
track, provides us with important information and giggles with us.
She is very good at giggling, and it's very contagious. I wish that
you all would become infected.
invited another international English instructor to join us, a single
young lady from Ireland (actually when she tries she can speak very
good English), but misfortune struck her life and she lost her purse
and some money. To deal with the situation she chose not to travel
and our substitute companion was a male friend of Hongying. Zhao
Jing (Zhao is the family name) is a part of the military near Hangzhou
but that was all we were to know. Quiet on the pretense of being
the late fourth member of the group and that his English was not
great, he blossomed later in the trip when we discovered that he
probably understood most of what we said and became a very supportive
caregiver when Denvy chose the sick route.
We're sitting in the bus with a traffic accident
in front of us. The road is just two lanes with bike trail shoulders. I've
been asked several times about my thoughts on the intelligence and effectiveness
of the Chinese. This is an example where they are lacking. Everyone has
the idea of passing the stopped vehicles to get to the front of the line.
The results is that the road is a parking lot filled so that no one from
either directions can move. The police approached the scene running on foot.
After a little while the police must have been able to move some vehicles
to the side because opposing traffic is moving by using the bike lane and
beyond. If you're reading this you know that we got to an Internet connection
to upload this. We are safe one more time.