OUR DAM DAY
16 May 2011
I was sitting in our cabin on the couch, finishing my book. The window to our balcony was open and a ship passed by. One of another hundred like it we had been passing all day long for the past 3 days.
The boat had a noisy engine, which is what made me look up in the first place. As I looked at it, I suddenly thought, incredulously, "Good grief--I'm sailing up the Yangtze River in CHINA!" Interestingly, at lunch a short time later, Jim, who along with his wife Marie, are at our table, turned to Char and said almost the very same thing. It just doesn't seem possible that we are in China!
I take back the disparaging remarks about the Yangtze river. It really is beautiful. Today the sun came out, the haze wasn't as thick (though apparently haze and/or fog is a part of most days here), the water was greenish-blue instead of murky brown and we were leaving behind the flatlands that went on for mile after monotonous mile and getting into, first farm land, and then the gorge area.
Even some of the boats were beginning to look more interesting.
Just before lunch, we passed under the Golden Gate bridge (or so it looked)
Earlier in the day, we had attended a lecture on the Three Gorges Dam, with a multitude of facts and figures thrown at us.
Over the course of the day we would have figures given to us over and over again by different people (this morning's lecture was by the ship's program guide, Matthew Liu).
By the end of the day, my brain had glazed over and I really didn't care any more about the figures, though the one which bothers me the most was the fact that building this dam meant reloacting more than one million people. What do you do when you have to move 1 million people from the homes where they have lived for generations? Two things help: first, Chinese are not allowed to own the land on which their houses are located. They lease the land for something like 70 years, I think Jenna said. So if you don't own your own land, your landlord can tell you that you have to move. And secondly, the people here are far more accepting and docile about such things. The anguish on the faces in pictures Matthew showed clearly showed their pain, but they had no choice in the matter.
We continued on into the gorges area...I must have taken 200 pictures, the best of which will make it to Flickr when I have a connection good enough to upload them. We first went through the GeZhouba Dam lock. Jenna says this is her favorite of all the locks and it certainly is a beautiful area.
As we headed into the channel leading to the dam, there were fishermen all along the sloped side of the hill.
We headed into the lock itself...
..and I loved the two-handed fisherman perched on top of the wall right by the entrance.
Getting into the lock itself required a lot of precision, since it's just barely wider than the ship itself. These guys were talking to the captain and helping guide him in...while they had lots of observers!
We continued on up the river (too, too many pictures to post!) and eventually reached the big dam itself, where we had a tour and got the same facts and figures repeated to us. It definitely is an impressive structure!
Of course, after listening politely to all the facts and figures and then being given 15 minutes to explore, almost all of our group headed to the most interesting (to them) part of the site.
The vendors are everywhere and absolutely WILL not leave you alone...and you are expected to barter. Walt really got this bartering thing down pat. A woman wanted to sell him a map of China, and, of course, he's a map guy. She was asking 30 RMB and he told her no. She countered with 15 RMB and he figured that was about $2 American, which seemed like a reasonable price, so he bought it. She put it in the sleeve that it comes in, took his money, and when he turned it over, the bar code and price was marked: 8 RMB! So he got it for half of what she offered, she sold it for twice what it was worth, and I have a good story for FTW.
At the end of the day, I was starting to feel unwell. Hard to put my finger on why, but sitting at dinner, all I wanted to do was go to bed, so I skipped dinner (!!!) and came up to our room, where I went to sleep instantly and slept pretty much through until 3 a.m. That means that it has taken so long to write this entry that I missed my 3 a.m. coffee clatch with the folks trying to use the internet, but perhaps there will be a connection and perhaps I can upload this (I uploaded yesterday's while everyone was watching us go through the first lock).