Firecrackers are always used to celebrate- moving into a building, weddings, business openings… they all get cracking. Like the photo above, they sweep aside the red wrappings like a reminder of good luck.
And many traffic and legal rules are presented with sweet anime type characters like this:
I’m sitting on my balcony in Ping An, thinking back on the trip about the things that made me laugh or think.
My days here are numbered now. That endless supply that seemed to start fresh each morning is dwindling, like an extinct bird being preserved for memory. So I thought Id write out some of the observations before they get lost from memory.
The toilet situation has been fascinating, prompting me to write an as yet unfinished piece called “Around the World In 30 Craps”. But I loved this “how to” poster I saw in one bathroom:
When we were filming the movie, sometimes we shot in hotels. When we did, we ate the meals in the workers cafeteria. The food was not the traditional fare we westerners were use to, but it was an interesting opportunity to try new things. Michael (Kissenger) feels the way about eating chinese food that most people would about drinking their own urine and watching his face disolve into disappointment when we stood in line to have the food slapped onto our cafeteria trays still makes me laugh. But we all agreed it was great to get to experience the “school lunch’ style of eating. They don’t serve liquids – water, tea, etc. with the meal. Instead, there is always a soup and this serves as the liquid you drink if you accidentally swallow a sichuan napalm bomb, etc. There must be ten times the vegetables here- I’ve never seen so many different varieties of greens and potatoes and roots and squashes. My school has communal meals as well and I’m so glad for the opportunity to try things I would have never picked off a menu- bean sprouts and pork, stringy chewy dried tofu, caramelized taro root and the endless varieties of the soup to wash it al down. It’s been delicious every time.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of a plate lunch, but here’s another food newbie I had never seen before. They called it “chinese hamburgers’- half buns that you stuffed with the meat.
The men here smoke enough cigarettes to rival a coal factory. Cigarettes are sold in huge stores where nothing else is sold and where the gargantuan selection is displayed in glass cases like precious pieces of jewelry. In the future, they can use these glass cases to showcases the black lungs that are extracted from this wheezing population of men as they age. Here's some video of that and a couple more observations:
There’s so much out there to see.
I just want to grab it all. I am feeling particularly clingy with life right now. There’s a huge cloud of tragedy floating around our friends in New York – three separate families that have lost a loved one. My heart is heavy with the loss and all the confusing thoughts that accompany the whole they leave behind. I can give details when I see you, but in the meant time, I just wanted to stake a claim on the preciousness of life and to tell all of you how much I love you and how blessed I am to have you in my life. I know we hear how “each little moment is a gift” and smile slyly at the Hallmark nature of it, but I don’t care how trite it sounds, life IS beautiful and it is made more beautiful by having YOU in it. So thank you! Thank you for letting me share some of this life with you.
big long warm tight hugs to you all
I’ve been laying low here in Yangshou (I like how that rhymes) waiting to feel like my old self again, but I started to get restless.
I got a small window of clear nasal passages and decided it was a sign that I was on the mend, so I quickly packed and set off to see the rice paddies.
The rice paddies are those stair-like lunar landscape looking things you’ve seen in National Geographic and they’re only three hours away! I have to see them with my own bloodshot eyes.
This involves taking an hour long bus to Guilin, (the nearest large city) and then changing to another bus in a small town, where I ask the driver to let me off before the final destination and then taking a small mini van that will go to my destination once it is ‘full of passengers”, which I am told could be anywhere from ten minutes to time-to-get-a-hotel.
En route, I make a phone call on my chinese cell phone to a hotel to book a room. I ask in chinese if she can speak English and she says ‘little’. I say “I want room. Tonight OK?” and she sweetly gets information in her “Chinglish” (as they call it). I try to help by speaking a little “Gibberish” (as I call it… because God knows you can’t call it Chinese when it’s coming out of my mouth) When she realizes I am on a bus, she tells me I will not be able to get there tonight. The last mini bus will have already left. She says I “might” get a cab and that it would cost about 100yuan ($15) This means it will actually end up costing me about 150 – 200 yuan, because I know how these things go when you’re a blonde speaker of gibberish and the taxi is your only option. I decide 150 yuan is too expensive ( and I don’t like the word “might”) Instead, I will stay the night in Guilin and leave early in the morning.
I go to a hostel near the bus station I am familiar with where a room is about $11 and they have Wifi and an awesome staff.
By now, my head is pounding from the coughing. I been trying to suppress the coughing which must sound, to anyone listening, like I am trying to birth a small child through my wind pipe. It comes from a herculean effort to try to dislodge the rattling phlem that is coagulating in my lungs, after it drips from my infected sinuses.
I don’t want to admit the possibility that I should turn around and go back to Yangshou because I am sure it can be cured by a hot bowl of Guilin’s famous “Guilin Noodles” (I love the creative risks they took in naming their soup) The awesome staff recommended an awesome restaurant where the awesome soup was 50 CENTS – yes! a price so cheap, my key pad doesn’t even have a symbol for it, so I have to spell it out.
Now, I can be a bit neurotic when I travel. It’s not the only time I’m neurotic- I’ve been known to walk in the middle of the street when there’s no one on it- but it definitely balloons when long distances are added. I like to have multiple pockets on the front or side so I can keep my passport, iPhone (aka “my son”) credit cards and money on me at all times. But tonight, I am also traveling with a small orange travel pouch bag, holding my camera, little green wallet, glasses and a small red thing with bandaids and extra money.
I stop to watch a group of kids rollerblading in an empty lot. It’s the first time I’ve seen rollerblades here and the wheels of their skates light up as they spin around, making it look like firecrackers are coming out of their feet in the darkness of the night. I love how China has kids everywhere at every hour. They were screaming with laughter and falling hard enough to induce sobbing, but brushing it off without a tear shed, then getting back up to do it all over again.
I stop to take photos. This draws the kids to me and they are all zooming around me, shaking me, wanting to see the photos. Kids who are all at orange-travel-pouch-bag level while both my hands are on the camera.
And I think that’s maybe when it happened?
The next morning I realized my wallet is gone from the small orange travel bag. I tore through the room like a wild boar looking for truffles, but it was gone. I retraced all my steps, realizing I had only once even opened the bag, which was before going to get noodles and that was to double check the wallet was there. I went to the awesome staff and asked if they had seen it, but of course they hadn’t.
I’m probably wrong. I know I’m wrong to jump to conclusions.
But when things like this happen, your inner detective demands answers. So my accusatory nature will point to some kids out for a good time while some middle aged nincompoop has her hands up, her guard down and a neon green wallet staring them right in the face.
After all, kids will be kids. Hell, I got busted for stealing candy from a Globe store when I was a kid with my best friend, Karla. When her mother came to pick us up, she shamed us saying “I can’t believe these girls would DO something like this! To think, these girls were actually thinking of trying out for cheerleader! But they are clearly NOT cheerleader material!”
So maybe it’s better if I do pin it on the kids. I’ll just shame them silently. Besides, they’re easier to forgive than adults.
So what did the finder of the green wallet get? About 60 bucks, a credit card and and an ATM card. The fact I didn’t have it on me makes me want to kick my own butt with a wooden leg.
The cards are replaceable, the money is a good lesson and the wallet was a piece of crap anyway. (Sometimes I like to hold on to things just to see how long I can hold on to them and this wallet was going on four or five years, so it ended with a good story….well an interesting one, at least)
After obsessing over the wallet like a deranged stalker, I finally decided it was best just to go back to Yangshou.
On the way home, anger finally subsiding, but head still held low, I thought about what Rita Poe would say. For those of you that don’t know Rita Poe, she is the make-shift doctor all five of the kids in my family refer to as “Momma”. She has remedies for everything and they all start with or end with “a good bath’. That’s what I needed. A good bath.
But, I am beginning to believe most Chinese people don’t like to submerge themselves in water. No bath tubs, no swimming pools, no jacuzzis. I’ve looked for a spa with a ‘sauna’ or something, but no luck. Chinese people like showers.
As any of you know I am but a delicate flower from the gentle and soft-spoken land known as “Texas” and, as such, I am unversed in the cold ways of showering. I have heard there are hot springs near the fields of rice paddies and someday, with God as my witness, I shall make it to pearly gallons of sulfuric water.
But, for now, poegirl needs a quick fix. So I got one.
You know those deep plastic containers they sell for storage? They’re sort of a cloudy white plastic, about two and a half feet high, three feet long and two feet wide – they usually come with a top so you can stack them and store blankets, power tools, discarded wallets or whatever you want inside of them. They certainly do make great storage, but I have discovered, they also make a great bath tub.
Fill it up with hot water, curl yourself up into a little ball and submerge yourself into a blissful cauldron that can soak away the seething self hatred and flagellation that carelessness causes one to reap on oneself. While your innards boil to a gooey paste, your mind is transported to a place where everything is fun and wallets aren’t even necessary.
Back in my room in Yangshou, I wonder if I did the right thing coming “home” as I now think of it. I could have had a phlegm-filled, headache driven, turbo coughing day of sightseeing in Guilin. After all, I still had more money in the little red pouch if anyone needed more to steal. But alas, I am here, legs steaming red from my personal lobster boil. And as the the construction workers outside help loosen the phlem from my lungs, shaking the building with their caucophony of hammering and tile-cutting, I am reminded… be it ever so foreign, there’s no place like home.
here’s a little footage of things that have nothing to do with the story I just told ya- love you guys! xo
This is the view out of my dorm room at Meicheng College. It’s a bit more like a hotel room, really, but that’s where I’ve been spending my last few days laying low, getting over a bout of bronchitis. For now, the only school where I am teaching in Yangshou is this ‘college’ where I am staying. It is a language school that people from all over China come to and they live in these rooms. I was given a great room with typical chinese fare, a squat toilet with a shower hose next to it (note to self – don’t close eyes when showering if you don’t want to step in the toilet!!), a desk, a porch with a bit of a view and a “Chinese style” bed.
Chinese beds typically have no box springs. They have a wooden bottom and then a thick mattress on top that is so hard that when you knock on it with your knuckles, it makes a sound loud enough to make you think someone might actually knock back. But all the same, I sleep like a baby until the “alarm clocks’ go off.
Six days a week, the construction starts around 7:00 in the morning. Or at least that’s when the pounding gets so loud that it shakes my bed, but who knows, maybe they actually start at sunrise. As you can tell from all the bamboo scaffolding, there is a lot of construction going on here. Next door, a jackhammer is slowly but consistently hammering away the old cement to make way for the new. This sound is only broken up by the nerve shattering pitch of a tile cutter ripping through the air. Thank God I brought earplugs! Luckily, years of hearing the “New York songbirds” of horns and car alarms has given me an internal volume control for these kinds of things.
I am waiting for my boss “Mr Wonderful” to get back to get my day school assignment. His chinese name is Wan De Fu, but since it sounds like Wonderful, that’s what everyone calls him.
For now, I am leading a nightly discussion class with the students to get them to use their English. It’s been a terrific way to learn more things about the culture. The other day I had them describe their “dream house’, where it could have anything they wanted. I expected to hear swimming pools, flat screen TV’s, a fireplace, a soft bed…. But what almost every student named was a garden. When I encouraged more description about the house, they would add to the garden – fruit trees, roses, vegetables…
They’ve described their national holidays – I think there’s 5 and most of them aren’t traditional, like “National Day”, a holiday set up by the government, so it doesn’t mean anything to people, except they get off work.
When we discussed the hospital system, they said you get an IV. For everything? Yes. You get an IV. So, if you go for a sinus infection? You get an IV. And you must drink hot tea.
Buying medicine at the local pharmacy is always a test of faith. The pharmacist looks like young kids playing on their computers. I look up words like “expectorate” on my iPhone’s chinese dictionary, and they say something and pull a box out. It’s all written in chinese, so I’m at a total loss. Hopefully it’s working. I’m ready to get back out into the Yangshou sunshine
We’ve discussed the differences between “New China” and “Old China”- kids can all have milk with breakfast now, young people move off the farms, many grandparents are raising the kids, girls are more promiscuous (I taught them that word) and there are more opportunities and open discussions.
We’ve discussed how they go to school. In middle school and high school, students go away and live in dorms and then return home to their parents on the weekends. Primary and middle school are free, but you pay a small amount for high school. you pay for books and they are very expensive.
I was surprised to even hear one of them speak out against Mao.”I hate Mao, he killed my people”. I thought this was considered punishable sacrilege, but not in “New China”.
I took the students on a long bike ride the other day. I don’ think they expected to be huffing it so much. I didn’t remember it being so long when I did it before! Along the way we saw a cave and we all went in and explored it until we came out on the other side. I love doing that stuff, but I don’t like doing it alone. This is the best shot I got of them- they’re all really sweet and they took me to lunch!
I went to a restaurant near my hotel in Beijing that catered to western tourist. I sat there eating spinach ravioli with a creamy vodka sauce while the restaurant’s stereo had The Flying Burrito Brothers singing about Sorth Carolina. On the TV, there was a Chinese music competition where a group of girls wore cheerleader styled shorts and shook their pom poms (among other things) to pole-dancing moves set against Backstreet Boys sounding Chinese music. Sometimes it just seems like nothing in this world is very far away.
That is, until one of the cheerleaders goes out to do her “spotlight dance’ to traditional chinese opera music. I’m not sure, but I think this music is made with two frying pans and a meat cleaver. There’s not really a “melody’ just a progression from fast beating to even faster beating. Either way, it’s made even more bizarre when coupled with a a contorting Chinese cheerleader.
It’s fun to watch how things blend together here. Like the ad in the photograph up above. It is advertising an upscale apartment complex saying it is a place “where you can drink till you fall down”.
Naturally, these attempts at English are going to occasionally miss the mark and turn into “Chinglish” s they call it, but it is all still light years ahead of my Chinese, so I applaud the effort. But television here doesn’t give many opportunities for Chinglish mishaps.
Chinese TV is, to no surprise, censored. So all of the shows you see are Chinese. Unlike Vietnam, where they have everything from HBO to drab Russian dramas that make you want to turn the heat on, Chinese TV shows Chinese shows. Occasionally I have seen a foreign show on the English speaking CCTV channel that plays around the clock news programs. To their credit, the censorship helps to encourage an enormous national film and TV market But it might not help with promoting the bi-lingualism they are driving towards. I noticed there were a lot more people in Vietnam that spoke English than I had seen here in China and I wondered if it had something to with the access their TV gave them. The government control in China does give them a chance to promote tourism in their country – lots and lots of quick commercials showing the country’s must-see travel destinations.
Still, Chinese TV feeds my attention deficit disorder like a pig trough. Because I don’t speak the language, I will imagine the dialogue and impulsively change channels when I think I’ve got it. I will flick from channel to channel like I’ve got a gluttonous appetite for incomprehension.
There are generally about 70 channels, showing about 30 programs. Channel 17 might be showing the same program that channel 48 is. It took me forever to figure this out. I was always so amazed at how similar people looked.
All TV programs here are edited with a guillotine. As soon as the last words of a scene are said, it immediately switches to a commercial. There are no fade outs or lingering organ music- just a sudden shift of subject matter leaving you to wonder how drinkable yogurt fits in with the thirteenth century emperor you’ve been watching.
On any given night you can see 4 or 5 shows with some sort of performance competition or showcase. Sometimes it is herds of primary school children doing syncopated movements with frozen smiles (I have to admit I lingered on this one, contemplating the potential it could have on an American network.)
Other competitions include human beat boxers, Chinese soul singers and MTV style singing dancers pretending to respect the Simon Cowell-style critiques they end up getting.
By far my favorites are the fantasy stories set in ancient times with long robes and intricate headwear, where absolutely anything can happen …. like old grandmothers that kick ass!
I love these stories. i have no idea what they are about but they’re mystical and mythical and they make me want to exercise
But for now, I am in my room in Yangshou where the TV only plays distorted images that look a wet newspaper after it has been put in a blender. So, since there is nothing to watch, I thought I’d tell you about what I have watched.
Since I have no photos to associate with TV, I thought I’d share one I took of a small table that reminded me of how unwilling some people are to throw anything away.
Before Don and I left for China, I went with him to Radio Free Song Club to sing a song with him that I had written, called “We”.
The songs get played on a radio program that I am including a link to
You download the program (I couldn’t find the “arrows” they mentioned). The song is at about 15 minutes into the program.
It’s a country song and WHAT an amazing experience! The Radio Free Song Club is a program where a group of musicians are encouraged to write a song a month and bring it in to be recorded with an all star band to then be played later on the radio program.
I’ve never even recorded a song, so having my first experience be with a band of this caliber would be like co-starring in your first film with Lawrence Olivier and Marlon Brando. These guys more than made up for my wobbly voice. Having a fiddle added to the song was dreamy. This guy (David Mansfield) played on Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour when he was 17!… so you can imagine how incredible he is now.
You can read all about Radio Free Song Club, you can listen to past episodes and above all…. subscribe!! so that you know when the next one comes out. Don has songs in the last three or four episodes and he has a beautiful song on the next one coming up.
Hope you enjoy the song – thanks for listening!
I had been back in beautiful Yangshou one day when I got the call that I needed to leave the next day to go to Beijing to finish shooting the film.
I was shocked to find out we really would be shooting at the Great Wall. This location was one of the main reasons shooting had been delayed so much. They were determined to shoot at “Badaling”- the actual part of the wall Nixon went to in 1972.
When Don and I went to the wall earlier, our guide told us that in China, when students learn about the Great Wall, they refer to it as the “Badaling” Great Wall, so this is the area most Chinese want to see. And it felt like most Chinese actually were seeing it the day we were shooting.
They didn’t even close that part of the wall off for shooting. They just set up the camera, put the actors in place and then held back the crowds when it came time to shoot! The crowds were unbelievably compliant.
After we filmed a take, the crowds were let loose to cross the path of shooting. When they stared at us, Nixon (Darrell Duffey) would say “Thanks for voting for me” in his Nixon voice to people that had no idea who we were supposed to be, or even what he was saying.
Swarms of people would stream past and once one person got an OK to take a photo… every one else had to have one too. Can’t say I blame ’em. Hell I went camera crazy myself. It’s not everyday you see a film being made on the Great Wall! But I do think that might be the closest I will ever get to feeling like I was “on the red carpet” with all the cameras pointed our way.
There were none of the American film-shooting luxuries like ‘food’ or ‘chairs’. I was hungry before I even got there but I heard lunch was on its way, so I waited. After all, lunch on the Great Wall?? How posh would that be?!!
Finally our lunch arrived- a huge box with hundreds of small, cream-filled muffins, vacuum sealed in carcinogenic plastic. I thought back on the film shoots I’ve done back home where people demand a “meal penalty” added to their paycheck if lunch is 5 minutes late.
But no one here seemed to mind. Everyone just seemed so proud to be shooting on the Wall. For my sweet assistant, Fengqin, it was her first time ever to see it. It was beyond precious to see her fling her arms in the air like she was hugging her own history and sing out “We are here!”.
We were all freezing. My toes went numb in my one-size-too-small shoes and I had to lean on Nixon to hobble back to our starting points.
I was completely inspired by my “co-star”- a three year old girl who I say hello to and pick up in my arms in the scene.
She was out there as long as we were – no gloves, getting picked up by a strange woman that looked like her hair was made out of fiberglass and surrounded not only by a chaotic film crew, but also by gawking tourists.. She never complained, got fussy or forgot her line and she always hit her mark. I know actors more than ten times her age that can’t do that! (myself included)
When shooting was finished, we hiked the mile or so out to the exit- well, we tried… We were the last ones by the point and the exits were all shut. I thought I might get a second chance to be asleep at the wall (but please God, no more Go Girl catastrophes). Finally we made our way out and into the van for the long ride home with a handful of muffins for ‘dinner”.
Don and i hadn’t planned to see Shanghai- guess we felt like time was limited and we were looking for the ‘old school’ China. But once we started traveling and I talked to people, I really wanted to see it. So, when I got the call saying the film people wanted to fly me to Shanghai to do some more shooting, I was thrilled!
As soon as I got there, everybody else was arriving too and they were ready to go see the town, so we set off.
I took the bus to the subway station with Nixon, Kissenger and two others from the crew that spoke fluent chinese.
As we were getting on, the bus driver didn’t realize I hadn’t gotten on yet and closed the doors. I saw the doors closing and tried prying them open, but the doors just closed harder and my hands were locked inside the bus while my body was standing outside! I was afraid the bus driver was going to drive off and drag me along, so I screamed bloody murder. Nixon was inside the bus and said all he saw were two hands sticking out of the door holding money, so he yelled at the driver to stop. I was a little shaken, and my hands were totally fine, but dang and double dang have I got a set of lungs on me! Everyone on the bus was shocked. I should rent myself out to horror films.
From the bus we made our way to the subway, which is extremely logical and also written in English as well as Chinese- very easy to get around.
After getting dumplings at a popular spot called Wu Yuan, we walked to the ‘must see’ for Shanghai- “The Bund”. It’s the area along the river that’s lined with beautiful European buildings from back in the day when the Europeans ruled the financial system here. We took a ferry across the Huangpu river to go to the “Pudong” side. This is where the modern day financial buildings are They are the massive tall ones that identify Shanghai to the rest of the world. They light the buildings up at night and with watching it glisten off the water is undeniably captivating. Even more exciting to me was the fact that they had a Mac store there and I was able to go get a keyboard that I can use with my iPhone by way of bluetooth. Now I don’t have to type and edit every single thing with my THUMBS!!
Eventually, we made our way to the IFC building where we had drinks on the very swanky 87th floor. No matter what the age or presidential pedigree, here is what happens when you mix a bunch of actors together, shake and pour:
The guy that isn’t Nixon or Kissinger is Mr. Sun and he is playing Zhou Enlai- who was instrumental in the Chinese revolution and was the Premiere to Mao as President. He has played Zhou Enlai in 43 films. He was gentle, graceful and a damn good actor. We also got to work with a few other popular Chinese actors that made the extras a little giddy when they walked by.
They had brought the 30 person film crew in from Beijing to shoot these scenes here because they really wanted to shoot in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse because that is the actual spot where the signing of the “Shanghai communique” took place.
On the days when I wasn’t shooting, I walked so much I got a blister and had to look for another pair of shoes.
The fake “adidas” I had bought in Vietnam ‘knocked-off’ a big blister right on my toe. I went to the shopping center near the hotel to find new shoes. I think I would have had an easier time trying to find a nun in a whorehouse. The sales gals looked at my feet and said “You, no woman!, you big!”. Finally I found a fake pair of men’s Nikes that I may be able to re-use later if I ever join the circus. href=”https://poegirl.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/20111031-0217352.jpg”>
I went back for another walk along the bund where I found myself staring at a dozen or so purple-robed monks taking photos when suddenly a large group of midgets walked up and began taking photos with the monks. I looked around to see if Fellini or David Lynch might be shooting, but it was just real life. x z
I was lucky to meet up with a friend of a friend’s- Joanna- who teaches English in Shanghai and took me out for a little slice of heaven known as Mexican food. Shanghai is EuroMerican China with its sleek buildings and its endless malls and all that gets padded with Asian oddities like an actually good Mexican restaurant.
My friend from the film shoot, Jane, and I rented bikes one day (so my Sino cycling record is still consistent). We stopped at a place where a line was forming for a haunted house and saw a guy in the most bizarre Halloween get up I have ever seen.
Sp on that note, I'll end by saying, Happy Halloween y'all.
With a bang and no fuss
On a train, on a bus
All the years “hello / goodbyes”
These lyrics of Don’s are a soundloop playing in my head right now. We just said goodbye. I’m on a bus to Guilin, making my way to Shanghai and my stomach feels like it has been dropped into a cave. I don’t know how army wives do it. I try to hold back the tears by pinchng my earlobe.
I know it’s only going to be seven weeks and it will blow by like a high speed train, but for two months I’ve been spoilt to have Don to hold on to.
It’s not just two months I’ve been spoilt, it’s been twenty years.
You know how you can start to see a resemblance between dogs and their owners after years of being around each other? That’s kinda how it feels with Don. After twenty years of eating out of the same bowls and peeing on the same tree, I’ve begun to take on some of his traits (the most disturbing of which are the growing nose hairs and indifference to my own body odor) and I like to think his ability to call when he is going to be late is an indication that he has possibly taken on some of mine.
Although there’s no known way to know when you’re compatible enough to buy the matching dog and owner cardigans, I do think traveling together is a good litmus test for longevity. Add in budgets, ailments and a whole lot of days and you’ve got a landmine of potential terminator testers.
But Dons patience has always left space for me to simmer the seething into reflection. Maybe this is how longevity works? It takes the “fault” of the moment and turns it into a mirror? Not a Hollywood one with the small yellow lights surrounding it, but a Sleeping Beauty one, where the evil step mother is shoving it in your face.
who knows, I’m just feeling dramatically reflective right now on loneliness, so feel free to hit delete.
Now I don’t get to think “we should’ve gone MY way!”. Now, I’ve got no one to blame but myself. Now there’s no one to hear me complain, discuss body functions with or laugh at my inability to figure out when the camera is on video or photo mode. Now I have to change my phone’s computer game from “human to human” to “human to computer”.
The little Empress will miss her Emperor.
But for now, I have to go so I can pinch my earlobe as I remind myself it’s just for 7 weeks. After that, I’m shopping for those matching cardigans.
This video gives you a good idea of where we have been this last week. It’s Yangshou in Guanxi Provence in China. Our hotel is a beautiful 20
minute walk to town along the Li river. There’s a long stretch with no lights so it makes for a dreamy moonlit walk at night. Its been the perfect place to spend our last days together in China. It’s completely safe and peaceful- a relaxing break from the motorcycle madness of Hanoi.
I am going to be staying here a month when Don goes back. I’ll be teaching English in a school outside of town.
There are a few stories about the area I’d love to share but I thought I’d send this off before I head to Shanghai to finish the movie and Don heads back home.
So…. Here’s lovely Yangshuo
After two weeks of rain, we finally got some sun in Vietnam on the day we were leaving. Days before though, we had taken a two day boat trip through the limestone “karsts” that jut up out of Halong Bay by the thousands. It’s another UNESCO World Heritage site- which is another way of saying it’s so beautiful, the world has agreed to preserve it. There were 8 other passengers on the boat and they turned out to be fantastic ship mates. We had communal meals with terrific conversation and luckily they upstaged the rain. We took a late night swim off the boat, toured a few caves teased a couple of monkeys, kayaked around the karsts and spent the rest of the time floating on the boat through the area, talking and staring at these “mountaintops” (that’s what they look like) I didn’t get my camera out too much for fear of getting it wet, but here’s the one shot I got of some of the houseboats that are in one part of the bay.
By the time we got back, Don was jonesing for a real guitar so bad he began to turn into Marty Feldman.
We had brought a ukulele with us, but he needed a six string fix. Some people need sports or television or a bow flex but my guy needs his guitar. For twenty years I’ve watched him attached to one like an umbilical cord that he unconsciously doodles tunes on.
In addition to guitar withdrawals, he wanted to get ready for a few upcoming NY shows- including one where he will get to play HIS music. If you’re in NY – GO!! It’s
November 17 8:00
After he plays Syd Straw and Ed Rogers will be playing as well, so it will be an awesome night of music. GO GO GO!!
Eventually Don found a $23 guitar and has been “doodling” every since- which i love more than anything I could ever play on my iPod!!
We said goodbye to Vietnam and their fascinating street food set ups:
then, we took an overnight train to Nanning in China. Don went on to Yangshuo and I hopped on a plane to Beijing to shoot a few more days on the movie. Once I got to Beijing, I was told they might not be shooting my scenes after all, so I waited a day then they flew me back. This has been the nature of the film- uncertain and last minute. I decided to roll with the punches and make the best of the time.
I have been having issues with my hip for many months, so I figured I’d use the time to go see an acupuncturist. My sweet translator, Fengqin, went with me, but pain is hard to translate in any language. The doctor said he thought accupressure would be better, so we began what I would.later refer to as “torture”. He jabbed something pointy into the area below my left shoulder as another guy jabbed his thumb into my hip. I asked how the hell the shoulder played into this and they said it was based on traditional ideas of “symmetry”. It felt like I might be asked to cough up some kind of American trade secrets or perish under the thumb any minute. After that, I rolled onto my stomach while he pinched up and down my spine like he was trying to make a string of hickeys.
And then, because I was too stupid with pain and curiosity to say no, I was “cupped”- which are glass jars that are heated and suctioned to your back, leaving lightly bruised areas that look like this: