Letter No. 67
Wednesday morning, May 13, 2015
Baoji, Shaanxi, China
As they say in Chinglish: too much has happened since I last wrote. (It means “so much.”)
This has probably been the most emotional time ever for me in China. It could be an American country-western song if I chose to tell it that way. I travelled a couple times, lost my oral English textbook and class lists, my purse was stolen, and my little cat died. Then almost everything turned around and I got back the important things (textbook and class lists, passport, and bankcard) – except for Wan’er. If you want the details, good and bad, keep reading.
First, a short trip into the Qing Ling Mountains was delightful. It was a hot late April day and the further we drove up the winding road, the cooler it became. The leaves on the trees were all turned up in expectation of rain, and although the sun was shining, I kept saying it would soon rain. And sure enough, eventually, we were directly under a storm cloud and it began to rain. Energy Sky drove and Joker and I went along for the ride. It was so lovely with everything dressed in spring green and some of the trees in bloom. We took pictures, as is always done on such an outing, to “memorize” or “memorialize” it.
The first weekend of May was International Labor Day, a 3-day weekend. I went home with a student, David, to Feng Xiang, a town/county near Baoji. I stayed with his family in their village, which was a wonderful experience of the quiet village life – no cars, fresh air, wheat fields, and cornfields. It was so comforting. On Friday, we went to Lin Shan, a Buddhist temple near Feng Xiang. A giant golden laughing Buddha sits atop a small mountain and can be seen for miles around (next to a weather station, which can also be seen for miles around). The temple was built in the traditional imperial Chinese architecture style and we climbed from the lower main temple gate to the top of the mountain and the main temple hall. There were surprisingly few people there, given that it was a holiday, but perhaps it was because we arrived in the morning instead of the afternoon and it had been raining.
That afternoon we went to a local market (much like American flea markets, but much, much more crowded). We visited a small, local temple and listened to recorded Shaanxi Opera (not to be confused with Peking Opera, although I’m afraid it all sounds the same to me). The live performance would take place later and it was likely that it would be a concert, not an actual performance.
Saturday we rested, walked around the village, prepared food, etc. We also went to the edge (literally) of the village and descended into wheat fields which were growing where the village once stood. In the cliff walls could be seen many, many caves. I had been wanting to get close to those caves for a long time, but had never had the opportunity. Even then, we could not get into the caves because of the wheat, but I got a much better look at them. No one could tell me why the village moved out of the valley, but it makes sense to use it as fields. The caves looked rather dangerous. I could see where some form of plaster had been used to shore up the ceiling and walls in some places. There were handy shelves carved into the earth, but I couldn’t see how the cooking was done; perhaps it was done outside over an open fire. It was fascinating to get as close as I did.
That evening we were going to go to the “square dance” held in the main village square. We walked there, but were too early, so we left. I felt I had walked enough and didn’t need to dance, too. Besides, I’ve been to the square dancing a number of times (and described it to before). It’s fun, but it makes me feel extremely uncoordinated.
On Sunday, we visited the famous East Lake in Feng Xiang. It is a very beautiful place. It is a small lake surrounded by green trees, primarily weeping willows. Two of the trees are ancient willows that were planted by well-known Chinese historical figures. We met David’s middle school English teacher and her family at the lake and walked together around it. Her daughter is 7 years old. Early in the walk, we had stopped by one of the famous willow trees when she looked up at me and asked, “Are you happy?” I answered yes. After that she took my hand and we walked together most of the way. What a sweet child!
Then, a week ago, on Tuesday, I ate dinner at Pizza Hut with Tiger and a couple Chinese ladies who want me to tutor them in English. I had hung my purse from the back of my chair. When we got ready to leave, I stood up and discovered that it was gone. We looked all around the table, checked in the car, which was in the parking garage, asked the waiters, and called out the manager. It was nowhere to be found. Then we had the manager check the video, which confirmed the theft. I did not see the video, but was told that it showed a man on the phone slip the bag off the back of my chair, toss it on the floor, and then take it with him when he left the restaurant. We called the police, who responded within 10 minutes. They talked with each of us, as well as the manager. Then they viewed the video. After that, they took us to the police station to fill out a report.
The bag contained my passport; cell phone; 2 pair of glasses (one sunglasses and one prescription bifocals); keys to my apartment, bicycle lock; and English Resource Room; my wallet, my bank debit card, my bus card, and some cash. I was most upset about my passport because it would be the most difficult to replace, although the bankcard was definitely a problem, too. One of the Chinese ladies gave me an extra cell phone that she wasn’t using, so I had my phone number placed in it. That way no one could use my original phone. However, the bank wouldn’t give me another card without my showing them a passport (which, of course, I didn’t have). Thus, I was locked out of my bank account.
That day I also had lost my textbook and class lists, so it was a very strange day. The textbook and class lists were returned to me on Wednesday. I had left them in the classroom by mistake and she had found them and taken them for safekeeping. I took their return as a good sign.
Last Saturday, was the worst, though. Wan’er slipped from the window ledge and fell four floors to the cement below. I had left the window open because she had previously negotiated the ledge safely. I heard her claws scrape as she tried to catch herself. When I ran downstairs to get her, she had crawled into a sheltered spot and was severely injured. With the help of students, we called a vet and took her to the animal hospital by taxi. Unfortunately, she died on the way. The vet tried to resuscitate her, but was unable to get a response from her. It is probably better that way because her injuries were so bad – I think her spine was broken and there were internal injuries because she couldn’t walk and had difficulty breathing. I will miss her.
Then, on Sunday, my administrative boss called me from Beijing (where he was on business) to tell me that my passport had been found. It turned out that one of the ever-present street cleaners had found the passport, wallet, and bankcard in the trash. The wallet contained my boss’ business card and so they called him. The cleaner (age 57) had found it on Friday, but couldn’t read; he knew it was something important, so he waited until his sister got home. She called my boss, who arranged for us to pick it up from the family. It was pouring rain, but the relief of getting the passport and bankcard was greater than the discomfort of the rain.
This week has been more normal so far. So I’ll stop here for now and get this posted.
Love and kisses,
Qing Ling Mountains:
Energy Sky and me.
Feng Xiang: Lin Shan Temple
David and me
More pictures to follow.