Day 7 - Thunderstorms and Pirate Swings

Trip Start Aug 08, 2006
Trip End Aug 23, 2006

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Day 7 - Thunderstorms and Pirate Swings

Watched Lijiang TV for a bit in the hotel room.  They only have like 3 channels.  One seems to be 24 hour soaps (in old traditional sets and costumes), and one seems to be gameshows all the time.  All of them had the audio dubbed really poorly, and they all had chinese subtitles (probably due to the language difference)

Breakfast/lunch at the Prague café, we're sitting here listening to the best of Nat King Cole, such a great change of pace from the horribly uber-cheese music they continuously play at the packer's café where we've eaten a couple of times.

Another mixed couple walks in the door. I've noticed many of them since I've been here. I don't think I find it _that_ odd really. I mean, back at UO, there are gobs of culturally mixed couples. I personally think it's a great thing. I think the reason it strikes me here is because foreigners are seen differently in general. Before I came, everybody told me to expect to be stared at. And it's true, though Rebecca gets far more stares than I do. When we are together, we get some, but I think they try to be more subtle about it. (sometimes) But if I take a couple of steps away from Rebecca, she frequently gets approached and they ask to take a picture with her. Just in the time I've been here, I've heard locals that know almost no english at all utter the phrase "very beautiful". It's too bad she's so self-conscious about it. Anyway, they just kinda regard foreigners differently here. In the US, you go to a university event and you just expect to see a whole smattering of people from around the world. Here it seems to be a lot more homogenized. That's funny to write as I'm sitting here in a Lijiang café named "prague" while listening Nat King Cole and eating realy yummy french toast and there are elements of Naxi culture everywhere. It's kinda hard to explain. But here is an example, Rebecca tells me last night that they have a saying in China about the way girls hold their chopsticks. They say "the higher you hold your chopsticks, the more foreign the man you're going to marry is." I don't know if that paints a a good portrait of what I'm talking about, but it's kinda like have this undercurrent of "we're happy to take your money, but don't ever forget that you aren't one of us." yeah, I think is a good way to put it.

After lunch just went out randomly walking and Discovered a whole new part of old town.
We were shopping for random things, a wood carving for Rebecca's grandparents.  Scarves for some friends back home, and I've discovered they have this old brass locks that they must have raided from the tibetan monestaries or something.  I wanted to get a couple of those before I left.

Another thunderstorm started and we found a little restaurant that had tables outside, just barely under cover of the overhang.  And the seats would have to be described as pirate swings.  Simple wooden plank seats on ropes suspended from about 12 feet up.  We sat in the thunderstorm on the pirate swings and ate popcorn and yunnan tea.  (Well, Rebecca just had warm water).

Saw building new bldings being build.  Lots of amazing carpentry.  Sometimes with nothing more than a hatchet and a handsaw.  AMAZING wood carvings just in the sides of these buildings.  The kind of thing that you're put up in and art gallery in the US, but here it's just a basic job that somebody has been doing for hundreds of years.

In the time I've been here, I've realized that China does a pretty good job of finding jobs for people.  Time and again I've seen work that would usually be done with machines, or at least the help of machines.  But they just throw dozens of people at it, and it gets done.  There are good sides and bad to that.  But just the sheer number of people employed in China is pretty amazing all by itself.

Diner at "Mamafus"  i.e. "Mama Fu's"
Clean kitchen
-rice in wooden bucket
-kung pao chicken
-sweet and sour pork
--tasted like american BBQ
-naxi bread with veggies
--the bread this time was way better
REALLY Bad apple pie
-0.5 oz ice cream

Went to tea shop, they were everywhere in Lijiang.  I thought we'd just browse, but they want you to sample it!  So they have this whole setup where you sit down with the owner and dring tea together.  That's cool by itself, but they've got this amazingly intricate process they go through to prepare the tea and poor it for you and everything.  It's not like a Japanese tea ceremony or anything.  It's not like it's full of formality and obsessive ritual like the Japanese.  It's more like over a thousand years, they've figured what works and what doesn't.  And they just start doing their thing, chatting with you the whole time, like on auto-pilot.  But they go through all these steps that I'd never think of when preparing tea.  But it all worked great.  I ended up getting 2 types of tea, the first was the Yunnan tea we had at the pirate-swing place, and the other was tangy and strangely sweet, but still good.  Both very intersting and different than anything I've found in the states.  And just as an example, they probably had about 200 types of tea in that one shop, each one tasting different.

Went back to "The Well" bistro for some chocolate cake and ice cream.

Back to hotel room to repack everything to get it ready for storage while we hike the great wall.

Once again, it pays to ask. Rebecca asked about getting to the airport and early checkout times. And the lady at the hotel told us 5:30 was to early to get up, 6:00 would be much better. She also told us that essetially, finding a taxi that early would be very difficult, so she would call one for us and he could come help us carry our things.
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