A Travellerspoint blog

April 2010

Confucius Says

This morning we had a hell of a time finding Master Yang for breakfast. He said to meet him on the 2nd floor, so we hit 2 on the elevator. We came out of the elevator, turned right, entered the breakfast area, and he is nowhere to be found. We headed back up the elevator, knocked on Master Yang's door, no answer. We went back to our room and tried calling him on his phone, no answer. We went back down to the 2nd floor, scarfed breakfast by ourselves, and then Joe headed back to the room to see if anyone would call us there, and I went down to the main lobby to see if they were waiting for us to leave. I found Bing Qing in the lobby. She was sent down there to wait for us (she couldn't eat breakfast anyways b/c she wasn't staying at the hotel). She and I walked up to the second floor and it was a completely different breakfast area, and Master Yang and his father were sitting at the first table when you waked in, just finishing up their breakfast with Wei Ping. I told them that we already ate, apparently on the 3rd floor, and that we were ready to leave when they are.

Master Yang said that he was going to spend the day with Master Wong going sword shopping, but that Joe and I were going to take a trip with Wei Ping and Bing Qing to Confucius's temple and grave site. He said that he has already been there 9 times, so he didn't want to go again, but we should defiantly visit it as one of the major places to go in China. But before we left breakfast Wei Ping handed me a large bag with a winter coat in it. "SheaShea" I told him, and I pulled out this long black jacket that reminded me of my old jacket from back home that Brittany now has in England (way to steal my warmth! Or purchase it from my apartment sale! Whichever!)

When we met back up with Joe and headed out we ran into Master Wong who came to Joe with a new, larger jacket for him to try on. This one fit really well, and Joe actually gave him a man hug (that pat on the back thing). Master Wong told us "No problem, no problem, you are my friend," and little did we know that even after only meeting this guy for one dinner, he actually was.

Wei Ping pulled his car around and Joe, Bing Qing and I pilled in for a rid I thought may take 20 minutes or so, but ended up taking hours! We drove and drove and drove, down these Chinese highways that were actually really nice. Rather than using those pillions to block opposing traffic head lights they used bushes and trees the entire way! Bing Qing explained that of coarse they would use trees in the medians because they are beautiful and they help produce oxygen to counteract all the car pollution. Makes sense to me.

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Then we finally made it to Confucius's town.

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Wei Ping dropped the 3 of us off and said that he would pick us up after we were finished. I felt a little bad that he drove us all this way and wasn't going to go inside the temples, but I guess he had some business he was going to attend to locally, so it was all okay. Tickets were like 100 yuen (only 75 for Bing Qing b/c she is a student), so we could see why he may not have wanted to go in.

After passing through the main gates to the temple we found ourselves surrounded by many pagoda like temples with huge turtles with scrolls on their backs. This, the largest turtle, they couldn't even fit inside a building:

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That last picture is of the golden dragon that circles above the turtles with the scrolls on their backs and is said to live at every major spiritual place, protecting and watching over everything.

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It was said that the emperor was very jealous that Confucius's temple had these dragon pillars that were made in better likeness than his own, so he had them covered up for years and years with cloth so no set of dragon pillars would rival his own at the Summer Palace (which everyone in China simply says is a terrible translation, and then leave it at that).

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That is a picture of the hall of alters dedicated to Confucius's student's and their fathers. Bing Qing told us that honoring the son without honoring their father isn't an honor at all. Joe asked if today people were less respectful to their parents, and she said maybe a little, but mostly no matter how shitty your father is, you generally obey and respect him anyways. She thought it was the craziest thing when I told her that it had been so long since I last spoke to my father (2, maybe 3 or 4 years?) that I couldn't remember. Then she told us a Chinese story. It starts out with a normal Chinese family that is suddenly struck with a disaster and they no longer have enough food to survive. So, out of great respect of his father (the grandfather of the story), he kills his youngest son and serves him to his father. Bing Qing said that many people in China revere this man as having a good sense of respect and honor for his father, but that she does not think he is so good because it is a father's duty to protect his children as well.

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That was Confucius's well where he (or maybe his servants) would get water everyday. Then after passing through maybe 20 temples, each one built by new emperors who wanted to show their people that they were good leaders by honoring Confucius, we made our way back to the front entrance and we had some snacks. Bing Qing thought it was really gross that Joe and I would eat raw carrots and that raw carrots are dog food (sound familiar? Corey?) Then we headed over to Confucius's family's temples.

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Here Bing Qing told us that Chinese people thing that straight things are not so beautiful, so this is why their bridges to pagodas are often zigzag shaped. In honor of the zigzag Joe will now preform some Xing Yi:

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(Everyone wants to take pictures with the laowie (nice way of saying foreigners, meaning foreigner, not ghost).)

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Then we headed out and walked about 30 min. to Confucius's grave yard.

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And for whatever reason, I can only find one picture from his graveyard! I don't know what happened to the rest. So to start off, we waked through about 3 huge gates with sayings from Confucius written on them before we made it to the main walled off area of the graveyard. Entering we passed though the graveyard on mini roads that had street signs to direct you though this massive graveyard. In China they don't always have headstones for every individual body, so to mark the graves they make these large mounds of dirt. Walking past these mounds all next to one another reminded me of looking at atoms on the microscopic level. Then there would be one large headstone indicating what family or who were part of the grouping of graves. These graves are for Confucius's disciples or students and their families. Over the bridge:

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Was the way to Confucius's tomb. Walking into the inner walled off area of the graveyard you pass a petrified tree inside a small, maybe 3 foot high pagoda. This tree was planted by one of Confucius's disciples. Then in a row on the right were all of these tall red pagodas with walls on every side and windows that were ornately screened with red carved wood. These pagodas were resting places for the emperors when they would come to pay their respects to Confucius. Each emperor had his own resting area separate from the previous emperor. On the left was a huge mound of dirt that was more like a hill than a grave. This hill was the tomb of Confucius's grandson. Once you walked past all the resting pagodas and the hill that is Confucius's grandson's tomb you came to a 90 degree turn around the grandson's grave, and a marker on your right indicated that this surprisingly smaller sized hill was Confucius's son's grave. Then, just past his grave, still with the grandson's grave on the left, was the grave on Confucius. Now his grave was slightly larger than the son's grave, but the grandson's grave spanned the with of both his father's and Confucius's graves combined! Anyways, just past Confucius's grave was a building that housed some of Confucius's most dedicated disciples who stayed with Confucius years after he died, only leaving his grave site to get food and water. They stayed with him and meditated every day. They were only supposed to stay with him a year or so after his death, but one disciple stayed 6 years!

Now a tour group was coming, so I was trying to get Joe to hurry up with his bowing before Confucius's grave, but then I thought it would be better to have all these Chinese people surround Joe while he prayed and get a video of all of them getting videos as well:

Thats Confucius's grave on the left, then I pan over to the grandson's grave on the right, then around to the building made for housing his disciples.

After this we drove the several hours back to Jinan, and both Joe and I fell asleep. In Jinan Wei Ping took us to a restaurant and bought us all stuffed dumplings for dinner at a restaurant near their football (soccer) stadium. This place was crazy big, the soccer stadium, it reminded me of Jacob's field but with neon lights everywhere. Jinan is into the neon lights. After dinner Wei Ping drove us around the city a bit and we got to see those fake trees with the lights for leaves and all the guard rails lit up with swirling rainbow colors and every building had some sort of neon light show streaming up the 4 corners or even between every window! Very beautiful city to see at night. Wei Ping drove past Baotu Springs and asked if we wanted to go in again to see the lights, but Joe and I were both exhausted. "My uncle said he can get us in for free, do you still not want to go?" Bing Qing asked. "No, I'm too tired. I've got flat feet!" Joe told her, and I think she may have just thought he was being polite.

The last thing we did that night was go to Wei Ping's office. It was right between where we ate lunch and dinner yesterday and our hotel, so right on the way. In his office he wanted us to download the photos we took that day so he could see what we got to do at Confucius's temple. While we did that he showed us a video taken by a news station about him! It was really neat to see Chinese news. They had a special documentary about Wei Ping that started off with a Chinese woman talking about Wei Ping as they showed slow motion footage of him waking down a crowded street in Jinan (so typical news documentary!) Then they showed him tinkering with all sorts of electronics and satellite dishes. It turns out that Wei Ping doesn't just work for the post office, but he is an engineer they hired to invent new technology to be used all across China! Joe was extremely impressed and gave Wei Ping a huge hand shake. I told Wei Ping (through Bing Qing) that Joe would like to be an inventor too when he grows up. Wei Ping smiled big at this and gave us the thumbs up, but then told us that he wasn't an inventor, but a tinker who tweaks things, but not as good as an inventor. Well he rewired their whole system from ATM machines (China Post is more than just mail, they have hotels, restaurants, ATM's, and probably a lot of other things we haven't been exposed to). Basically Wei Ping saved China Post millions of dollars with his "tinkering" and he has his own lab on a lower floor that he wished he could show us, but only his workmates and internship students have security clearance for the lab. Then he gave us pictures from last nights dinner (we didn't bring the cameras) and we were ready to go to sleep because we were sure that tomorrow was going to be another busy day, and Master Yang was on vacation, which meant no sleeping in!

Posted by - Rain 21:26 Comments (1)

Land Where Trees Grow in Row

Approximately 123 million pairs of wooden chopsticks are disposed of in China everyday

The next morning we rushed out the door (skipping my coveted second shower), and packed into a taxi to the train station (weren't we just here yesterday? -yes). Last night Wei Ping's friend picked us up from the airport and drove us to our 5* hotel, but today he had work.

Our only pictures of Beijing (so far):

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At the train station Master Yang already had our train tickets, so all we had to do was wait. He told us we had to leave so early because if we had left any later we would have hit Beijing rush hour, and it would have taken us 4 times as long to make it to the train station. This, even though I didn't get my second shower, I was grateful for. Then it hit Joe, "The crossbow!" Last night he discovered that it was much easier to carry the crossbow in 2 parts, the trigger and shaft section, and then the perpendicular string and bow section. He could fit the trigger section easily in the side water pouch of his backpack, but the bow part was too tall, so he took it out of the backpack to fit it into the trunk of the taxi. And when we got all of our stuff out of the taxi, he forgot to take out the bow section. "We should just throw the rest out." he told me. "NO! Not after we carried that thing halfway up the mountain!" I was really against getting rid of it, especially since Joe fell in love with the trigger section anyways. It was the only crossbow who's finger rest was made out of curved wood rather than the straight chops of wood used on all the rest. Plus, he convinced me that it was a present that he would like more than Nate since Nate is more into the antique looking old stuff that really isn't for fighting, and Joe likes newer and simpler weaponry that could be made out of balsa wood for all he cares as long as it functions. So, sorry Nate, we will try to replace the crossbow with something even better.

At the station we met Master Yang's father who swears he has met me before. At breakfast in the train station I asked Master Yang if his father ever came to Ohio to meet us before, and he said that his father thinks every white girl who is a student of his is the same person. This was surprising because then he added that his parents live in Las Vegas, so I would think he would get over that whole all white people look the same bit.

Wei Ping (as we are forced to become accustomed to in the following weeks) wouldn't let us chip in for our breakfast noodles, and he didn't speak any English, so it was very difficult for me to argue. (Damn you Chinese hospitality!) Then we caught our train to Jinan, the city where Master Yang's father is from which is also the capital of Shangdong province.

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Good bye Beijing.

As we are getting situated a woman ran up to Master Yang and gave him a huge hug and started speaking rapidly in Chinese to him. Master Yang returned the hug and started pointing to me, Joe, Wei Ping, and then to his father. Well, when his finger landed on his dad the woman actually let out a little scream. His father was already beaming, apparently prepared for her reaction, and she gave him one of those tight hugs that pulls the other person side to side for a bit. Master Yang explained that it was really random to run into her, but she used to interpret for him at his martial arts tournaments, making sure that his students knew when they were to go on the stage area, making sure everyone knew what was going on, etc. He told us that she came from a poorer family, so this was kind of a big chance for her to move up in life. It seemed to have worked because she (like so many other Chinese women) was dressed really stylishly with black tights, a black skirt and suit jacket combination with a silky orange blouse and black shinny high heels. She had a seat right behind Joe and I, but she managed to talk the person sitting next to Master Yang's dad into switching with her, so for the rest of the train ride the two of them gossiped like high school best friends. It was really one of the sweetest things I've seen.

I had my book out on the train and was ready to read, but I had a window seat that looked out at China during the day! So I watched out my window to see what China actually looked like. For a long while it seemed as if the apartment complexes would never end. I asked Master Yang if there was a lot of unemployment in China, but he said no. China just has tones of people, but they do almost everything by hand, so they need tones of workers. This became more apparent when we came to the fields. Now this wasn't a slow process, we pretty much when straight from dirty and rundown apartment complexes almost 20 stories high, to open fields. It looked exactly like the train ride to Beijing. Just open fields with the occasional small dirt hut community of field workers, and then more open fields. The only trees in these fields, as far as the eye could see, appeared random, but then when you hit them at the right angle, you realize that they are all planted in straight rows, and they are all the same height and shape. All the trees in China are planted! From the trees along the roads in the city (which are many more than in America), to the trees between cities (which are many less than in America). The outlook, however you want to interpret, was bleak at best. After an hour of wondering if we were really moving at all or if someone was just putting the same foggy image of tan fields with dots of snow and barren trees all in a row on a moving slide across my window; so I opened Steven King's The Gunslinger.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera out when we hit the stop at Jingwu. You wouldn't know by the Beijing look of the city (except this town had a huge ferris wheel!), but this was the hometown of Huo Yuan Jia (the character Jet Li played in Fearless). Joe told me it wasn't a big deal, and that I shouldn't be sad that I didn't have my camera ready b/c he'd rather forget that Hyo Yan Jia's hometown was now a huge city with a giant ferris wheel.

3 hours after we embarked on our journey though China we made it to Jinan. Here we met Wei Ping's nephew who's wife worked in the train station police and was the one who got us all of our tickets (otherwise we wouldn't have gotten the days we wanted to travel, or seats, so I've been told). But that was all I was told as we walked out of the train station and they spoke Chinese to each other (this happens a lot in China). We walked a few blocks over and then headed into the China Post Hotel. "Is this where we are staying?" I asked Master Yang. "No! Not here! Here we eat lunch!" Of course, why didn't I think of that? In the elevator he explained that Wei Ping worked for the China Post Office and that he can get banquet halls for lunch very cheep at their hotels. At the 3rd floor a beaming young girl with big eyes behind small, purple, rectangular glasses met us. She had on pink pajama pants and a tan Amelia Earhart jacket. (I liked her already. First Chinese girl I met not wearing stiletto boots and ridiculously stylish clothes. As a traveller, we thank you for not dolling up). Her name was LiLi (sp?), and she was Wei Ping's niece. When introducing ourselves everyone seemed to have a lot of trouble saying "Vanessa," no problems with "Joe," but my name was catching on everyones tongs. So I asked Lili to give me a Chinese name. So from now on I am no longer Vanessa, Ness, Van, Anesa, V, or Rain. But going back to my original nicknames (ones that sound like my real name), I now am called Nisha or Nissa (its hard to tell because I think its somewhere in between the two, so for all intents and purposes (or all intensive purposes if that saying rings a bell for you more... thats right, you're illiterate, learn to deal), I say and write Nisha.

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From left to right is Master Yang's father, Wei Ping, Master Yang, Joe, and then me, Nisha. The center of the table is typical in China where there is a spinning disk that they put dishes on, and then everyone spins it around and eats mostly from those central dishes. Most people don't seem to fill their personal plates, they just pick from the middle dishes and eat. We could use one of these at Thanksgiving.

Halfway through lunch a nervous sounding girl wearing a neon pink jacket and round frameless glasses came into the room, introduced herself as Bing Qing, told us that she is happy to meet us and to speak English to us, and that she was a biology major at Shangdong University, and she hopes to travel to America to continue her studies, and she is 20 years old. At first I was thinking, oh man, this kid knows no English at all, so when she sat next to me I just nodded at her and told her it was nice to meet her too. Then after lunch Master Yang took us to our newest 5* hotel. It was only a few blocks away, so we walked to it across the dangerous roundabout before the train station. We were told that we stay in all these 5* hotels for very cheep b/c Wei Ping has connections in Beijing and Jinan with hotel owners. So rather than paying around 500 or more yuen a night, we pay around 200 (about $30). He also said that a lot of these fancy hotels were only build in the last 3 or 4 years getting geared up for the Olympics, so many of these snazzy hotels are desperate to fill their vacancies. Our hotel for our duration in Jinan had Greek interior decoration with statues and paintings adorning the lobby.

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From left to right is Lili, Joe, Me, Bing Qing, Master Yang, Master Yang's dad, then Lili's brother's wife and her brother.

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Next Master Yang said that Bing Qing was going to take us shopping for winter clothes. I was extremely glad for this because it was frigid outside! There was a nasty wind that added to the already below freezing temperature, and everyone said that it was Master Yang's fault, because last week it was in the mid to upper teens. (Way to bring the cold back from Ohio with you!) Bing Qing explained to us that we were going to take the bus to an underground shopping mall, and I started to feel a little more comfortable with her english. But then on the bus while we rode for about 15 min. I was surprised to discover that she was actually really good at english and that her speech when she walked in the room wasn't just comprised of everything she knew how to say in english, but she was just that thorough of a person.

The underground shopping mall was actually in the heart of the city under the symbol of Jinan:

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Bing Qing said that it was the largest green square in all of China (Tiananmen square is the largest square in the world, according to the Chinese, I'm not sure if everyone else concurs). She said it is very beautiful in the spring and summer, but being that it was still winter it was a little not beautiful looking. Below the square was an actual shopping mall with actual shopping mall prices, so neither of us found anything. To top off what slow and pathetic shoppers Joe and I were, Bing Qing hated shopping, so it made the process even more grueling. I told her that I was more looking for an open market with disposable jacket prices since I wasn't planning on being cold for long enough to drop $40 (about 273 yuen) on a jacket. Joe needed to sit down after about an hour of bad shopping, so he chilled out in the McDonalds (they are everywhere!) while Bing Qing and I settled for going to the super market to at least buy some gloves. I got them for American prices, but they were only gloves, so it wasn't that much money. Then after we took Joe away from his red bean pies (there are no cherry or apple pies at Chinese McDonalds, you can have red bean, sweet taro (my favorite, and a really pretty color lavender), or pineapple), we headed across the square to Boutu Springs Park, the actual symbol of Jinan (the city of springs).

Going to the springs we didn't realize how big of a deal the place was, so we were kinda surprised when they charged 30 yuen to get in. This wasn't a problem b/c we hadn't had to spend any of our cash since Master Yang came in yesterday (hotels he takes us to accept visa). Most places in China don't accept Visa or any other kind of credit card. They only accept cold hard cash, so Joe and I have been having to carry around a lot of money since we came to China, and normally this would be alarming, but in China we haven't had a problem. Everyone has been scaring us half to death about people slicing our backpacks and bumping into us thereby stealing our wallets. But we haven't had any of that, and so I think that it just goes to show you that as long as you are careful, you really are quite safe in China. We haven't even seen a single beggar! Well, until right in front of this big city tourist attraction. It was really ruthless how we handed over what would be 30 dollars to this beggar just so we could see some temples and springs, and it only cost to us $4. We could have easily handed him over 30 yuen and it would have meant all the world, but we didn't. We guarded our cash and ran inside the place, worried that if we didn't hurry he would steal our identities. (Who? Us, still scarred? Nah... well, maybe.)

In any case, the place was pretty fantastic (if you consider that it was in the negatives outside, so no green on the trees) :

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This is China's answer to Japan's rock gardens (never tell a Chinese person I said that! They really do hate the Japanese). They have these huge holey rocks up on these pedestals arranged in organized chaos.

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And here are where the springs really bubble up:

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They have little bubbles coming up all over the park, but here they have actual fountains of water. Inside the nearest temple is a history of the springs, and it said that they get higher in the summer because the increase in rainfall causes an increase in water pressure. It also had a black and white photograph of a time when the spring shot up over 80 ft. high!

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These waterlines light up at night and generally aren't part of the park. All of the bright inflatable floats have been added to the park in celebration of the Chinese New Year (we are in the year of the Tiger if you haven't heard).

Bing Qing wanted to leave pretty early so we could go on a boat ride, but Joe and I agreed that we would like to see the whole park before we left since it was really nice (and we did pay for it... and we are cheap). Which I think it was a good thing we did because we got to see this amazing mansion.

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(Thats Joe and Bing Qing.)

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(And this is part of the mansion that the Communist government took from a family and turned it into a public museum. Bad for the family, but good for the tourists.)

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Now it was getting too cold for us to be outside anymore, so we headed back to our hotel. That night we had a huge banquet at the same location as lunch, but a much bigger room because we added about 3 times as many people.

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To the right of Master Yang is the doctor who didn't speak English, but Bing Qing translated that he thought Joe's stitches were fantastically done (thank god!)

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Lili's father, Master Zhang, is between Master Yang and Master Yang's dad. This is the position of honor, the "head of the table" if we weren't sitting Camelot style (coy word choice, I know, well it was until I pointed it out at least). He is a very famous master calligrapher in China, and the last disciple of one of the best calligraphers in China who said that Master Zhang's calligraphy was even better than his own (pretty cool). The woman on the very left of the photo is Master Yang's english translator for his tournaments (notice how she snagged the spot next to Master Yang's dad... he is quite the ladies man).

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Then she got bumped by the Chinese Opera singer (again, the closer you are to the "head" of the table, the cooler you are, and Opera singer beats english translator).

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During the dinner Master Zhang unveiled his newest calligraphy masterpiece. I believe it means happiness. It is the same symbol that is used on diamond shaped posters that adorn everyone's doors in China. I think it might be just for the new year, but I haven't gotten any direct answers on the subject. Everyone was very excited about the painting... but I admit I didn't quite get it (neither did Joe, that is, until he saw him actually paint, and then it was like a whole different ball game - bad idiom, I don't know why I couldn't' think of something better.)

One of Master Yang's Kung Fu brother's, Master Wong, came to dinner a bit late, and he was who was this hilarious bald man who would soon become a dear friend to us. Near the end of the meal (which I will get back to in a moment), both Master Wang and the opera singer preformed for us. First the woman sang a song I believe was a patriotic song about China (thanks to the occasional translation from Bing Qing), and she was amazing.

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Without any voice exercises or preparation, she stood up from the dinner table and belted out one of the most amazing songs I have ever heard in person. I hate opera singing, don't get me wrong, but I do admire anyone who can pull it off as a master of song, pitch, and lung endurance! Then right afterwards Master Wong stood up (apparently with a dish he broke in the hallway with a 2 finger strike, a sign of a true master not to show off to strangers) and started telling a sing song poem about a tiger.

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Like the running of horse hooves he clinked the 2 parts of the dish together in one hand, while the other gestured along with his tale. Very entertaining, very enthusiastic, and apparently very funny (I didn't get his jokes... maybe it was the language barrier).

Back to the dinner. Master Yang started it off with introducing us as his students, and then promptly saying, as they passed out individual bools with sea cucumbers inside, that Joe is a good guy who will eat anything. Then Joe proceeded to point out that I don't like seafood, which most of the room seemed to miss (no english) but Master Yang made it a point to continue the joke (at my expense) to everyone in chinese. The entire table (about 20 people: Wei Ping, his wife (the woman with the green long sleeve shirt who is not me), his close friend (man with the zip up gray jacket), the doctor, Master Yang's english translator for his tournaments, Lili and her brother and his wife and Master Zhang, Bing Qing, the opera singer, Master Wong, Master Yang and his dad, and maybe a few others I've forgotten) all started asking me in Chinese why I didn't eat seafood and how good it was for me. Yeah, this is a great way to start out a several hour banquet.

I ended up eating a lot of seafood this evening, due to the remarks about me not eating seafood, and I even called to Master Yang's attention as I took the finishing bite of my sea cucumber! It tasted like bland, squishy, wet jello. The appearance of eating an entire animal was what really got to me (the mouth with all its little feelers was the worst part). Then I made a point to show Master Yang that I had finished my sea cucumber, while Joe had only eaten half (me? vindictive? Nah... well, maybe). After eating everyone stuck around and smoked cigarets and gave "Gan bei!" to everyone around the table.

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When Wei Ping and his wife came over to give a "Cheers" to Joe and I his wife asked me if I would like one of her jackets to wear (Bing Qing translated). I told her that would be great, and then she wanted to know what style I liked (Chinese and their fashion), I told her I liked them warm.

The night ended with us walking back to our hotel with Master Yang and Master Wong who insisted that Joe take his jacket (literally right off his back). "No, no, no, no Master Wong, its okay, I don't need a jacket," Joe kept trying to tell him, but Master Wong wouldn't budge. Now, Master Wong was about my height, so Joe started using the excuse that the jacket wouldn't fit him. He kept asking Master Yang to step in and translate, but Master Yang said "I already told the guy," and left Joe to do the rest. Eventually Joe put on the jacket and showed Master Wong that the sleeves were too short, only coming halfway between his elbow and wrist. Master Wong nodded and said "Okay, okay, okay," followed by "Tomorrow..." then gesturing with his hand on his head, "I.." and then his hand shot up to as high as he could reach. "Ahh, taller, taller," Joe helped. Master Wong said "Yes, tomorrow, I taller... then," then gesturing putting a jacket onto Joe's back "here!" He finished with his token one word line, and there was no arguing.

Posted by - Rain 01:52 Comments (0)

How About I Meet You Halfway?

Today we have a train at 5pm leaving to Beijing to meet Master Yang at the airport! So we got up pretty early and Joe managed to communicate to the hostess that we wanted to check our bags at the hotel so we could climb Taishan without them. But we were weary to leave the laptop just in the back room, so we packed Joe's backpack with the laptop, passports and snacks, and then we took the bus back up to Taishan. It let us off at the ticket office again, so to start at the main staircase we had to walk across the street and beyond the bridge to the right a little ways, past some curves in the road, and then to what we believed to be the entrance to the staircase.

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Here we find a functioning hand crafted crossbow (Joe tried it out by shooting the store wall). He really liked how the wood was fashioned together in a way that you knew someone had put it together by hand like a really good physics project in high school. So since Nate bought Joe a really nice antique looking crossbow that didn't work from Europe, Joe got Nate a not so fancy looking crossbow that worked really well from China. Then, we carried the thing all the way up the mountain strapped onto our backpack, and most of the people on the way up let us know that they liked our crossbow (we got many thumbs up, as well as smiles and laughs).

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We walked up some stairs just through the forest for a while before we came up to anything, and then one of the first things we found was completely unpredicted. We found an obelisk. A miniature Washington Monument standing right against the sitars to an ancient cluster of Taoist temples on a sacred mountain in China.

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Then I read the inscription on the right face (so cool!) and I realized that this obelisk was probably the newest thing added to the Mountain besides the shops (which are not so cool). I couldn't read much, but I could read the date:
January 7th, 1946

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I figured it was a war memorial built on January 7th to commemorate the Japanese surrender almost 6 months earlier. Then we found the description sign written in Chinese, and then English, which stated just as much.

We passed a lot of rocks with some really nice calligraphy carved into them,

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we saw some temples,

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and we passed a couple of the big multi building temple areas because they were either closed off or you had to pay to get in. Since we figured we had to be off the mountain by 3pm in order to make our train, we decided not to pay the extra money and just keep heading up the stairs. Then after about an hour we came to a gate with a ticket office. It was 250 RMB for both of us to just walk the stairs past the gate.

Joe:

Crap, that's a lot of money! We talked it over. We tried saying that we're students, but we had no student IDs. How can Chinese people afford 125 bucks for one person to climb a mountain? The Chinese upper middle class now makes probably half what we make in America, but most common goods still cost 1/7th the American prices. They just save their money for the occasional ridiculous expense. It's all part of living in a society that is growing and advancing too fast. I think all third world countries

Rain:

The nice thing was that beyond that gate (about another hour beyond) we found a temple you could go into without extra cost. This temple group was really cool inside. At first you walk in and you see 3 temples around a central incense burning cauldron and you think, this will be short and not worth paying extra money for.

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There was a small temple on the right meaning that the moment you step over the "trip" guard (they say its to keep demonds out... but I think its there to trip people), you have maybe a foot in front of you before you get to the pillow on a 45 leaning up to a statue of a Buddha (not the fat, bald, smiling one; usually a stern older man with a long beard). Then the temple on the left was a bit bigger with 3 different statues you could kneel on pillows and pray to. This temple had a little Buddhist priest in it who came up to Joe and started talking to him in Chinese. "What is he saying?" I asked Joe to 1.) know what he was saying, and 2.) so the priest wouldn't try and speak to me in Chinese. Joe was struggling for a bit, repeating what the man said over again but slower, and then the sign language kicked in. "Ohhh, he is asking if we are married." He told the priest that we weren't, and the questions continued. This guy really wanted us to get married. He kept taking my hands and putting them into Joe's as if he was ready right then to officiate on our behalf. I kept saying "No, no, no, not yet," smiling to the man as I shook my head. He was very light hearted about it, but still very insistent that he could tell that we should marry each other and that when we get to the top of Taishan we should purchase a lock to attach to the incense burner at the top most temple.

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Then Joe and I bowed to the Buddha that we felt spoke to us the most, and then we left, shaking the hand of the little man, and then being tricked into having him put our hands together. As we left he told Joe one more thing that came out something like, "You don't have to listen to me, but I think you should marry each other, but you don't have to."

Then we went into the large temple and it was literally the coolest temple ever! In the center was a large golden statue of a buddha with 6 arms and 4 faces (very Hindi looking),

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with 2 larger than life sized women on either side holding up offerings. Then all along the walls were different buddhas, but not none of them were inside alters or cases like before. Instead they were along this elaborate wooden 3D art sculpture of mountains and clouds and some Buddhas had animal spirits around them while others had large weapons or scrolls depicting which god they were.

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The photos didn't come out so good because the room wasn't lit. But you can imagine what it might have been like wondering around a room surrounded with statues all part of the same picture each having their own prayer pillow you could kneel upon and ask that particular god for their blessings. Joe picked the black buddha that looked like he was very angry as he screamed and held up a coin like a bludgeoning weapon over his head.

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I picked the buddha with the little student standing behind him holding a midget sword.

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And as we were coming out of the temple to exit the courtyard back to the main staircase we saw people ducking in and out from behind the buildings, so we followed and we found that this place was actually like a little village! There were all sorts of other buildings and trees with their little crochet's (no, they are actually prayer ribbons, but Corey got me started on the idea that they are wearing little tree scarfs), and ponds with metal lotus flowers:

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(you have to try to bounce coins off the leaves and into the flower... we tried)

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Then, more walking. More stairs. 1/2 hour later:

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Cool turtle tablet. Turtle with tablets on their back are really big in China. We will find out why later. Another hour later:

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Cool tree fallen across the walkway. This was one of the 8 trees planted by one of the emperors of China. Now all of them have fallen except for one.

Then more stair mastering,

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Around this time Joe and I stopped to preform a show we like to call Ghosts Eat Lunch. It was a big hit with this group of old women who literally stood there and watched us eat sandwiches and some walnuts. Then from this point up the number of people asking us where we came from increased exponentially. Almost every person we ran into seemed shocked to see a couple of ghosts this far up the staircase, so they always asked what country we were from (thats right America, we make you look good!)

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Now its starting to get late and I'm worried that we needed to start heading back down the mountain. We said that we would give ourselves until 2pm to hike up so we would have enough time to make it back down the mountain and get our train. But Joe was insistent that we had time to make it a little further. "Just to the next big marker!" he kept saying as he pointed at our map. But when we would get to the next marker, he would say, "Look at how close we are to the halfway point!" and he would get me to keep climbing. I tried to help him out from time to time with the backpack, but I way dying now and I couldn't take another step with the backpack (I probably wore it for a total of 15 minutes on and off the whole day).

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And then, almost 5 hours after we started hiking this morning we made it to the halfway point! (And we are going to miss our train)

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(Yes, that is snow) Then these following pictures are about the same altitude as us, but a couple of hundred meters away, and then the final is a zoomed in shot of the very top.

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We could see it from the halfway point, which made me feel like we went more than half way, but I guess it means half way in altitude, so from this point on the mountain is all stairs, where as before we would have long periods of slightly up sloped ramps.

Higher vantage point of the Halfway to Heaven Gate:

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Joe was a little disappointed with the Halfway to Heaven Gate because it was very touristy. Going up the mountain there was hardly anyone. We had the place mostly to ourselves, and there was the occasional shop selling food and charms, but that was it. Here there was a huge shopping center area and tuns of people coming up to you when you go to a temple saying "Money, money, money" (in english) as they rub their fingers against their thumbs. Before there were always donation bins, but nobody ever came up to you and specifically asked you for money. And then I realized why this area was far less sacred feeling than the rest of the journey up... they had busses! At that area about the same altitude as us but a couple of hundred meters away... there was a bus station! I didn't know that there were busses to the Halfway Gate, otherwise I wouldn't have been so insistent on turning around and walking all the way back down! Taking a bus would save us at least 2 hours if not more! Joe said he knew that the busses went this high, but he didn't want to tell me b/c he thought I might cave if I knew there was another way up (his lack of faith in me!) And if busses weren't bad enough, they also had cable cars from the Halfway Gate all the way to the top!

Walking to the bus station shops:

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Hotel and restaurants:

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Looking back at the Halfway to Heaven Gate to see the cable cars:

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This is us doing a little hiking up the second half of the mountain, looking back at the Halfway Gate, but then we had to climb back down these few stairs to the busses so we could ride back down the mountain and catch our train. Our bus didn't leave for another half hour though, so since we were both very cold and tired we decided to go back to the hotel and restaurant area and get a cup of tea and coffee. The coffee was instant, but it was alright. The tea was quite good though, but it wasn't worth the prices! We expected the bill to be under 5 yuen, and when Joe asked how much we owed she told us 40! (The Chinese really have accepted western tourism pricing. I told Joe that they are just getting back to their roots, Communism doesn't soot their ancient culture, so I kinda liked how China is just as capitalistic as America... but just not at that exact moment b/c I was really pissed about being over charged.)

The ride took us about 20 minutes, and we saw the point back at the free side of the mountain where Joe and I decided to head right instead of left (if we headed left we would have been on the same road we were just driving down and we would have made it to the main staircase... we were both glad we did not choose the paved road with all the smokey busses to climb to the Halfway Gate). Back at the hotel we got our bags with no problem, and we made it to the train station with plenty of time. We walked around showing people our train ticket, and we had people hold our hands to get to our waiting area. Then a very stern little chinese lady sat us down, told us to stay, and when it was time to go she personally came back to where we were sitting, stood us up, and took us to the proper gate (stern, but helpful!) The train was a sitdown train like the one we took from Shinjin to Guangzho, and like that train it was dark ouside so we couldn't really see much of China while we traveled. So Joe and I just read our books and pointed out the city lights when we would pass a major town (in China every town is a major one), and then 3 hours later we were in Beijing! It was a little confusing, but since we learned how to use the subway in Guangzhou we made it to the airport subway fairly easily. The airport had a separate metro that went above ground and about 30 min around the city of Beijing (kinda like how Cleveland Hopkins isn't really in Cleveland so much as Lakewood). Then we started wondering around the airport trying to figure out which area Delta let out.

"Hey guys!" We hear after wondering around aimlessly for about 10 minutes. (Do all Chinese people really look alike?) It was Master Yang! We seriously didn't spot him at all and almost walked right past him! He told us that he had just gotten off his flight and was trying to find his cousin (good timing!) So the 3 of us walked around the airport for a while trying to find Wei Ping. When we found him we hopped in a car and drove 30 back into Beijing. Joe and I both thought it would have saved us a lot of time and money (the airport metro is about 5 times the cost of the normal metro), to just meet them in Beijing, but oh well. Then we checked into a really ritzy hotel around 10pm and Master Yang told Joe that if he gets hungry to give him a call b/c he was probably not going to sleep b/c of his jet lag. However, Joe and I were pretty exhausted, so neither of us woke up until 7am the next morning when Master Yang gave us a wakeup call "You ready to go?" (does this guy know Joe at all? He needs at least 1 to 2 hours warning to be ready to go anywhere!) And with that, I say:

Net Cafes Do With The Wind!

Posted by - Rain 15:05 Comments (3)

I Wish I Had My Own Theme Music

- Family guy

We woke up this morning to a scene like something from out of a movie...

Films don't have to add a soundtrack in China, it really sounds like this every day :)

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Seeing as there was a cell phone store across the street, we decided to refill our cell phone with minutes before heading up to Taishan. A little over an hour later after visiting several cell phone stores who all directed us further down the road, we decided that we weren't going to find a store that would refill our minutes. We gave up right in front of a bus stop, and the first bus that came Joe asked if they were going to Taishan, and he motioned for us to hurry up and get on the bus (was that the answer to the question? Maybe.)

The bus dropped us off at a roundabout right in front of some pillars that led the way to the mountains, making it so the mountains were like the temples themselves. The intricate detail carved into every pillar was impressive. Dragons wrapped themselves around the clouds, some holding onto little balls of Chi that released energy in poofs of smoke that must have been the essence of the morning mist on the mountains, but now was probably only the smog from Tai'an. But maybe not, the air was so much fresher here than in Shinjin, you could actually take a deep breath and feel good about doing so.

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Beyond the pillars was another roundabout filled with busses that appeared to take you up the mountain. Now Joe told me that the story goes that whoever can climb to the top of Taishan would live to be 100 years old. Is this a testament to faith? Or is it just that anyone healthy enough to make it to the top will probably live a long time? Either way, what does it mean if you take a bus to the top? Does that take 20 years off you life expectancy? We didn't chance finding out.

We did got to the ticket office though, and it seemed to be 30 yuen for the ride up, and then 125 yuen to enter the staircase. But where was the staircase? We tried to ask the ticket office, but our Chinese was hopeless. So we just left and walked over to the map that had everything but a distinct “you are here” marker. At least in America they put a big star as the marker. Here we assumed it was labeled, but being that the map was all in Chinese, we guessed.

Fist we headed across the bridge to someone's tomb,

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but all you could see was a wall with his picture on it in golden emboss.

Next we kept walking up the street past all sorts of kiosks selling rocks with Chinese symbols carved into them, walking staffs, and all sorts of prayer beads, jewelry and Chinese knots with tassels. The road kept going up, but we took a detour into the Daoist park filled with pagodas, ponds, and dried up waterfalls (most water sources in China are now dam(n)ed).

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Side note: In present time we are in Beijing and one of our friends told us that there are 2 rivers that go into the city... but none that leave it. This causes him some concern because if there is so much need for water that the city can drink 2 rivers dry, then where does their liquid waste go? (Faucets? Is this why you shouldn't drink the water in China?)

The park was still very nice, and we can only imagine how beautiful it would look in spring when the trees become green and the flowers bloom. Well, we could do more than imagine because all the pictures on the maps and billboards are of Taishan in the spring with greenery and trees loaded with cherry blossoms (or as our friend Haorong calls them: peach blooms).

---> dam(n)

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We crossed the dam(n) at the base, then climbed up the stairs to see that above the dam(n) there was a very nice lake with a double pagoda standing in it. There were also people standing in the water even though it was close to freezing that day. The men going into the water with their swim caps and speedos would give this “barbaric yalp” before entering into the water that was always answered by some anonymous person hiking into the mountains. Then their yells would be echoed by someone else, and it would jump around you in surround sound. Their yells would start medium loud, and then when they would be close to running out of air they would get louder and louder until they end with a sharp grunt.

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We crossed the dam(n) again after hiking a little ways up the road and realizing that this path was more for the busses, and that most of the people sining their yalps were coming from the same side of the lake we started on. Here we found a narrow staircase (still not at the main one yet), and we figured that if we climbed up high enough that the map showed that what could possibly be the staircase we were on would meet up with the main staircase around the halfway point (maybe).

On the staircase we saw loads of people carrying water jugs, but none of them had water in it. Then we passed people carrying full water jugs on either side of 2x4's across one shoulder heading down the sitars. I felt kinda silly carrying my water bottle up the sitars with water already in it. It seemed much more efficient to take the light load up the stairs, and then carry the heaver stuff back down. About an hour later we figured out where all these people were going, the one waterfall left with enough water to actually fall.

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It seemed that there was a sacred spring that came out of the mountain that people would hike up about ¼ of the mountain to get to. We weren't sure if it was safe for drinking though since we never saw the source of the spring, just the tiny river that flowed through the top of this mountain valley. We assumed that with the large bridge that went over this creek that the river used to be much bigger, so to honor the once great river Joe did Daofanza (which we think translates to big fanza).

After this we found the bus road again, and we decided to follow it a bit in hopes that it would lead us to the main staircase. Along the way we found a little house with a farm and we went to walk along their path that dipped down into a little ravine next to the road. I was following the path with Joe for a bit, but then I turned back because I realized what they were farming near the path... bees. The old man who was living(?)/ working there was very excited to see us, “Hello!” he called and ran up to us. Joe attempted to hold a conversation with the man in Chinese, and the old man tried to do the same in English. After a few phrases the two of them seemed to really be able to understand each other, and I figured that they would be okay without me, so I left and began walking up the road and waited for Joe where his path meets the road again.

We hiked up this road for almost a half hour when we came to a decision. The road forked, and we could either go the more level road to the left, or curve on a steep road to the right. We figured that the harder path was the one that would get us up the mountain to the main staircase, so we started hiking up the road to our right. Hours passed and we saw no other people. The road winded back and forth up the side of the mountain, and we were pretty sure by the lack of busses passing us that we were not on the road that went to where they were taking all the tourists. “To that pagoda, then we will turn back.” Joe said as we realized that we were both getting really tired and the sun was beginning to get rather low in the sky to be this high up on the mountain. The map seemed to say that if we kept heading east that we would hit the main staircase, and the mountain range was in the north, so as long as we kept heading right... we were lost. A group of old women were singing a Chinese song while hiking back down the road, and I wished we had a English- Chinese dictionary. We passed them with some hellos and nods, it was the best we could do.

Then we came to the end of the road at a huge temple with an empty parking lot least for one car parked in back and one motorcycle. Around the temple was this wonderful secluded village that Joe had eyes like a child who just found Santa's workshop. The village seemed deserted, but at the same time it seemed spiritual, as if the women just leaving this village had reinvigorated its human spirit in a way completely separate from the touristy sections of the mountain where the people have the ability to drain the life and dignity out of a location.

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“To the pagoda?” We could still see that same little pagoda up on the hill past the village, and we did agree to go to that point before turning back, so we left the road and started heading up a decorated staircase made out of smooth black and white rocks. Up the hill we wound through terraced land for farming, and we could see a little ways up the mountain from us people were still working with plows and wheelbarrows.

The pagoda at the top was extremely energizing, maybe from the fantastic view of everyplace we had passed before, or maybe there was a energy to this spot that caused the pagoda to be built here beyond its vantage point. The floor of the pagoda had the yin yang in the center with the 8 trigrams surrounding it while reaching out to the octagon shaped sides of the pagoda. Joe bowed to the pagoda's energy and asked its permission to enter.

Once Joe finished his Bagua form we agreed that it was time to hike our way back down the mountain. When we made it back to the parking lot we started waking down the road with this older woman who we attempted to ask her where the hell we were. We got out the map and asked her if she could point to where we were, but she seemed to say that where we were was not on the map. She tried to show us the general area, but she wasn't quite sure herself. Then she wrote down for us the name of the place we just visited, and we searched the map for those same symbols, but they weren't there.

On the way down from the road when we started taking the small paths again we ended up taking different stairs down, and because of this we finally found where you could see the waterfall from before straight on.

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And we found a new pagoda made entirely out of unaltered branches.

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And then we made it back to the park at the base of this side of Mt. Tai (aka, Taishan).

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Walking back down the city road we looked for a place to sit down, get warm, and eat something. I wasn't a fan of going to fancy sit down restaurant, and told Joe that some food at the restaurant by our hotel where we know they have pictures would be fine. But Joe was insistent that he needed some meat after that hike, and they didn't have any pictures of meat. They probably had some on the menu, but since their menu was in Chinese, all we had to work with were the 8 or 9 pictures of food they had above the kitchen.

As with any good 24 year old male, he found a restaurant with a huge neon sign that blinked in different colors, and he was set. I thought the place was closed, but they called us in and sat us down at a yellow clothed table with yellow clothed chairs with big yellow bowes on the back (this is actually kinda standard for restaurants in China). The one waiter knew a little English, so we asked for something with chicken and some tea. “Taishan Chicken?” Why not? We just hiked Taishan, how much more festive could we get? A few minutes later the tea came out, and then about 10 min. later he came out with a huge plate with an entire chicken (possibly from Mt. Tai) chopped up on it. Every piece of chicken had some sort of protruding bone with skin wrapped around it. I tried to eat around the bones, but they weren't like American chicken where its mostly meat with some bone. This was mostly bone with some meat, and I was kinda not excited about it. I would have been even less excited about it if Joe had told me what he was hiding over on his plate (beak and feet). In China every dish you order is just that. Comparison: you order a hamburger and all you get is a circle of meat. You have to order the bun, veggies, and fries separately. So Joe tried to order some noodles to go with all of our Chicken. He was doing the charades of making a long string between his fingers and then slurping it up... which eventually worked “Ahhh, New-da-la!” the waiter said.

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After dinner we took the bus back to our hotel and we looked around the basement mall next to the bank near our hotel for maybe some gloves or a cheap coat (no luck, should have learned more Chinese). But we did find a supermarket where we stocked up on some snacks. So on that note, I will leave you with the Chinglish of the day:

(on the package for instant coffee)

It will captivate with relish.

Posted by - Rain 09:09 Comments (4)

Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box

- Radiohead

In the morning I woke to the televisions turning on with some pop star who looked like that girl from Smallville, singing a song that I swear I herd somewhere in my dream. We climbed down from our bunks and grabbed up the two fold out chairs and ate the snacks we bought before heading into the train station.

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But as you can see, it was kinda ugly outside, so I headed back to my tin box, hid under my really comfy covers, and went back to reading my book. Hours passed by, and it started getting even too cold for me to hide under my covers. Joe put on some pants (he had shorts on), and I put on layer after layer. Why was it so cold? Joe climbed down to get a snack at the table, and he called me down from my bunk to see for myself. It was the thing we had been running from since Colorado. But I guess it didn't really find us, we found it.

Recently Joe brought up an interesting idea about the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. He said that most of the time when you see a picture that wasn't taken by you, maybe have one word come to mind, sometimes two; "beautiful," "dark," "strange," "gross," just to name a few. Its only when its a photograph of a place you can remember what it actually looked like could a picture be worth around a thousand words. But a good writer can explain a scene to a person who has never seen what they have seen in a paragraph that would give the them greater depth into the imagery than any photograph ever could. So I guess it is a good thing that I only want you to think of one word when I show you these pictures.

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"Snow"

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Time to head back up to the covers.

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Several hours later I started to get nervous about how we were supposed to figure out which of the stop was ours (there were no overhead announcements). So Joe went in search for the answers, and as usual, we were saved by someone who could speak some english. He told Joe that we should be hitting there around 7pm, and on top of that he would come back to our cabin and tell us when our stop was next.

We were actually just sitting down to eat some spicy noodles from a prepackaged noodle bowl when Joe's friend came back to tell us we were the next stop. So we inhaled the noodles much quicker than we needed to (we forgot that the next station on a train usually meant at least an hour).

Getting off the train we followed everyone else down the stairs and through a tunnel that let out into the city of Jinan. The parking lot of the train station was big and empty, all except for this line of taxi cabs that stood between us and the rest of the city. We stood out apparently because every cab driver ran over to us saying "Hello? Hello?" We didn't know where we should go being that it was now after 9 o'clock at night. One guy who seemed to win the fight for our attention kept motioning with his hands in prayer against the side of his tilted head. "I take you to sleep." But then I spot a sign across the street and over a block that said hotel. "Only 10 Yuen! I take you to sleep for only 10 Yuen!" I tried to point out to him that I could see a hotel just across the street, but then his charades seemed to fail him. We finally just did the only thing you could, keep walking until they go away.

Crossing the street twice (dangerous as usual, most streets in China have at least 2 or 3 lanes each way (I guess it helps to build a major city from scratch, like the flip side of Europe) ours was a 4 lane and 6 lane-er), we made it to the hotel and Joe struggled to let them know what should have been apparent. We are tired, and would like a room please. Eventually they figured it out and asked for 100 (or so we thought). Quickly rethinking our race they asked for one more hundred. "Uh-aw" I told Joe (even though that was still only $30 to us). But I have seen that look one too many times, that look that says I could have charged at least double to these people, and this time, I wasn't giving in (helps when the person has a dress suit and acts nonchalant on rather than someone in raggedy clothes acting like if you bought from them it would make their week). When the woman behind the desk realized that I was asking for the money back and we were going to try a different hotel, she agreed to 100 yuan (works like a charm). Then another woman took us to our room and after unlocking the door, proceeded to leave. "Key!" I told Joe quickly. Then he proceeded to have a battle with the woman for who was best at dance dance revolution (I really need a thesaurus for the word charades). Eventually we figured out that she keeps all the keys for the hotel on her huge ring of a key chain, and if we wanted our own key it was an extra 50 yuan. Another example of how in China it is cheeper to pay a woman to walk around with the keys and unlock everyones rooms than to pay for a lost or stolen key.

So we dropped our stuff off and headed out for some dinner. There was a little restaurant with pictures (yes!) just next to our hotel, so we went there and Joe pointed at the pictures, and then when he noticed something other people were eating that he wanted... he pointed at that too. After dinner we decided that we should go ahead and buy the train ticked to Beijing now so we can make sure that we get a seat (in China they sell tickets even if there are no seats left). Heading back to the train station we realize that we don't have enough money to buy a train. On top of that, our ATM card was back in the room. So we tested out this system of this hotel of ours. No problem apparently. Then we walked down the street to the corner where there was a bank with a 24 hour ATM, and then it was back to the train station. This time we forgot the train schedule Ivy printed out for us. Joe kept trying to explain to the woman at the ticket office what train we wanted, but it was hopeless. So yeah, Joe was convinced that it was better to go back to the hotel and wake the poor woman with the keys than to stand on the train to Beijing for 3 hours. The second time was less of being not a problem, but no complaints.

Finally this time around we got the train tickets and made it back to the hotel, this time staying for the rest of the night.

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