1) The last few days Ive been in ShanXi province, traveling with the rents. Adventures aplenty! a) I spent the earlier parts of my train ride to Taiyuan brows furrowed listening to the Scottish accent- Its really quite pleasant. I ended up chatting with a couple of people traveling around the world! What a thrill. The later parts were spent sitting up waiting for people on the train to just quit snoring. Aside from the chorus of bullfrogs, I find it easy to sleep to the lull of the sometimes gentle sometimes not rhythms of train on tracks, like jazz. It reminds me of a Michael Stillman poem--
In Memorium John Coltrane
Listen to the coal Rolling,
rolling through the cold steady rain,
wheel on wheel,
listen to the turning of the wheels this night black as coal dust,
steel on steel,
listen to these cars carry coal,
listen to the coal train roll.
b) Tour bus drivers seem to all eat a nice big bowl of crazy for breakfast, washed down with a glass of "Im not afraid to die" But regardless, the first thing I noticed about ShanXi (not to be confused with ShaanXi) as I hurtled through on a gigantic tour bus? The mesmerizingly constant crops of sunflowers and corn stretching on for miles. I think it has to do with the fact that ShanXI doesnt get too much rain, and these plants are okay without. Yellow corona bursts. Standing tall and vigorous, they seemed to emulate the Terra Cotta Soldiers that I had seen less than a week before.
c) In the states, the obsession with youth and ageless skin has almost become a paranoia-- but I was struck the the wrinkles in the faces I saw here-- like someone took string to tawny clay, still wet.
d) Group tourism in China is hot, sweaty and all in all, pretty irritating. If ever there is an "us vs them" mentality, it really comes up and gleams through here, when it comes to things like photo ops, and sitting down to eat first. Really ridiculous. Whats refreshing though, is seeing how forced togetherness (we all have to eat together to save time) over food manages to alloy all these crazy metals together.
e) Went to the shooting location where Zhang Yimou's Raise The Red Lantern was filmed in a town named PingYao. Movie magic it was-- at that point, it was just about the first Chinese movie I really saw. A beauty that was painful and wistful. The actual place looked all but desecrated.
f) Stayed in a noisy hotel room after Mommy Daddy and I toasted our adventures with some YanJing beer. The hotel was across the street from the ridiculously bustling and noisy train station. Perfect. That night I slept beneat whirring neon lights honking cars and chattering people. Taiyuan is kind of like New York City :) in that I can sleep to its sounds.
g) I breathed in air so gorgeously clean it could not dream to exist in Beijing at Wu Tai Shan, home to a number of Buddhist temples and monasteries, Tibetan included. I myself am quite unversed in said religion, but just could not believe that clear brisk and strong air like that existed in China. It felt cool and familiar, like an LA Thanksgiving (without global warming).
h) Architectural marvels are plentiful in China-- we went up into Xuan Kong Si, a "Hanging" monastery. (Easily found on Google). It was built in the mountains some 1500 years ago.. and is still there. Still hanging. Still monasterical. :D Its pretty terrifying and wondrous and amazing to imagine-- how people did it.. who could really know? That and the YunGang grottoes took up our day. But wow.