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26 May 2011

I don't think I'll explain that title.  I wrote it for Char.  It's enough that she'll understand.

Last night was so very weird...and I am very grateful for the Internet!  I was trying to shut down my computer and accidentally hit something and suddenly the picture on my screen was rotated 90 degrees!

I could still type on it, but in order to position the cursor, I had to turn the machine on its side.  It seemed to have iPad wannabe syndrome. I didn't have a clue how I was going to get a journal entry designed.  But I put out a "help" call to both Facebook and to Steve McMahon, DCN's wonderful guru back in Davis.  When I got up in the morning I had replies from both.  Steve suggested I right click on the desktop and see if there was an option for screen orientation.  There was. I changed it to "normal" and I was back in business again.  A couple of people on FB suggested that I might have hit ctrl-alt-arrow instead of ctrl-alt-del and that is probably what happened.  In any event, I was VERY relieved that my day started out with things right in my computer world again, and very glad that I have such great, knowledgeable friends on the Internet who could help so quickly.

We kind of slept in this morning.  I had a hard time sleeping so hauled out the big guns and listened to about 6 hours of John Denver on the iPod, which put me to sleep over and over again whenever I woke up.  The bed didn't work for me this time, but I managed to make an almost workable "bed" out of the uncomfortable leather chair an ottoman, and a small pillow, using one of those thick hotel bathrobes for a blanket.  Oh how I want to crawl into my recliner under Polly!

Instead of 6:30, we went to breakfast at 7 and had a leisurely chat over our eclectic breakfast.  I don't know what Walt is going to do when we get back to Davis.  He's been trying just about everything that he can for breakfast.  This was his second plate this morning

Starting with the pork buns and going around clockwise there are hash browns with soy sauce, something called "pork pastry," a sausage, eggs Florentine, bacon and salmon.  He says he's not going to know what to do without salmon every morning!  My meal was pretty traditional, though I can't not have a chocolate croissant and today I discovered the buffet included a big bowl of macadamia nuts.

While he was eating, I was looking at the paper and decided you'd rarely see an article like this in the Davis Enterprise or SF Chronicle:

Killing of herder triggers Inner Mongolian Protests

The killing of an ethnic Mongolian herder allegedly by two Han truck drivers in a dispute over a shortcut across fragile grazing land has triggered several protests in the usually quiet Inner Mongolia.

We stopped in the hotel gift shop after breakfast and I found a book (in English) for me to read, since I am about at the end of the book I borrowed from Char on the ship. Until today the only books I found were in Chinese.  This is even one on my list of books to read!

I told the group that there were two things I didn't want to do today:  walk and climb stairs.  My knees were begging for relief.  I told them I would be thrilled if they were going out and for them to have a good time and I would enjoy myself in the hotel room, working on photos from the trip (note:  I have 6 days published on Flickr now...if you're interested, see the links at the bottom of this page).

They all decided to go off to a nearby museum and Walt said they'd probably be back around lunch time and we could all go to lunch together.  So they went off and I had a great time sitting here trying to get photos ready for Flickr.  Around noon, Walt came to get me for lunch.

Mike suggested we go to the nearby subway station which, he promised, was air conditioned and "loaded with places to eat."  Well.  Cool it was.  "Loaded with places to eat" it wasn't.  We walked and walked and walked, sometime up and sometimes down stairs.  We found ONE food shop, an "herbal soup" place with the menu all in Chinese and no seats.  We ended up out on the street not knowing where to go.  He did find a TGIFriday, eventually, and we finally collapsed there and demanded beer.  Walt had a huge Danish beer.

The menu here was real sticker shock...

...until you realize that is Hong Kong dollars.  $108 Hong Kong dollars is about $15 American.  I have totally lost perspective on how much things cost.  Fortunately, we are leaving tomorrow.

After lunch we had to find our way back to the hotel, and managed to get lost several times.  Mike's unerring sense of direction led us into places we had never seen before (and still no restaurants).  It seemed like we walked forever.

They finally figured out where we were and where we wanted to be and we only had to march on and on and on until we got there.

I should have ordered room service. 

Char and I limped back to the hotel, both of us ready to just lie down and be still. Mike and Walt went off exploring again...and good for them.  I have lost my enthusiasm for exploring for this trip, but we certainly have done a lot of it in the past two weeks.

We had the perfect last night in Hong Kong.  Walt and Mike had found an Irish pub a couple of nights ago and suggested we eat there.  It was a very short walk from the hotel.  It turned out to be absolutely wonderful.  It had an open patio that looked out over the harbor.

There were even a couple of guys sitting there looking for all the world like a couple of ex-pats out of an Alex Guinness movie!

We sat there eating our pub grub and watching the sun set and the lights start to come on on the buildings across the harbor.

So we are ending our grand adventure.  I never thought we would ever come to China and I am amazed at how much I have learned over the past two weeks.  I will be processing it for weeks to come.  I think the underground photo above give you a big view of how clean it has been everywhere.  I decided that with several billion in population, they all need to have jobs, and many of them clean things.  We found a guy on his hands and knees in the enormous lobby of the hotel in Guilin to get a small stain out of the floor.  A flickering light in the hall of this hotel here was fixed within an hour or two without it having been reported.  There seem to be two people to open every door for you, and another one waiting with some sort of glass cleaner to remove any fingerprints that may result from touching the door.  Streets are clean.  We saw the first bit of graffiti in 2 weeks this afternoon.  It's probably gone by now. 

Hotels seem to have entire staff whose only job is to stand and greet you.  Walking from the elevator to the restaurant in Guilin we might pass four or five different people standing at several spots along the long lobby, wishing you a good morning, or a good night as we went to our room.

We were also assured over and over again how safe it was to walk the streets, as there is no violent crime.  People cannot own guns so there is no gun violence.  The country is more westernized now and I suppose it will only be a matter of time before they pick up our bad habits.

When we took our China class, the teacher pointed out that there is a great business in eye surgery, creating more rounded eyes (we passed an eye hospital...somewhere.  Shanghai, I think) and that the emphasis is on a more western look, including lightening of the skin.  I was intrigued by this billboard.

From the botoxed lips to the rounded eyes (which don't show clearly here) to the sun block with "whitening."  It would be a shame if the things that make China special disappear with a desire to look like Westerners.

There is also more freedom of speech here, but we were warned not to ask questions at Tiananmen Square because people didn't want to answer them publicly and we were told that there were somethings we should not discuss at all (such as the Tibet situation). By the same token, we had in-depth discussion of the one-child policy and other issues and even Jenna laughed at a communist country with so many luxury automobiles.

Facebook, YouTube, Blogspot and Twitter are blocked in China.  You can get Amazon.com, but you can't look at books about China on Amazon (I wanted to check out several that Char mentioned and each book brought up an error page, though looking at any non-China book did not).  And the agreement I had to sign in order to use the internet says, in part,  My use of the Internet service (including all communication and information placed and sent through use of the service) may be monitored for all authorized governmental purposes and the Hotel makes no guarantee of confidentiality or privacy of such communication or information transmitted by me through use of this service. I acknowledge that such communication or information may be examined, recorded, stored, copied and used for authorized purposes and the Hotel will not be responsible for the privacy of the information, e-mail addresses, registration and identification information, disk space, communications, confidential or trade-secret information, or any other content accessed or transmitted by me through use of this service.

I think I am going home with not only a better understanding of China, but also with a lot of questions that may require more in-depth reading.  As with our trip to Russia, I will now be much more interested in news coming out of China.

But it was a GREAT adventure and I'm so glad we came.  When I next write, I will be sitting at my desktop at home, probably with Polly yapping at me.

Flicker sets

  • Day 1 (flying and arrival in Shanghai) is  here
  • Lots and lots and lots of pictures from Day 2, Shanghai is here
  • Day 3, Shanghai, including the Bund and visit to an embroidery shop (amazing pictures!) is here
  • Day 4, Visiting the Viking School.  Photos are here.
  • Day 5, The Three Gorges Dam.  Photos are here.
  • Day 6, The Lesser Gorges.  Photos are here.


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