Monday, September 10, 2012

Around China in 30 Days--Xiamen and the Tu Lou

These are my May/June 2010 Journals, rewritten into a semi-coherent narrative of my trip through China with the UW Madison History group. It was a tremendously fun experience that I want to publicize a little bit, so I'll be posting these here.
 Around China in 30 Days
Xiamen and the Tu Lou 

The planes in China were nowhere near as terrifying as I'd expected, so the flight into Xiamen was marked only with an awful novel. A terrible, awful, really bad novel that deserves absolutely no further mention, not even a title. You'll know it if you read it, and you'll probably depressurize the cabin trying to be rid of it.
Xiamen was gorgeous and I liked it instantly. The blue sky, the ocean, the sandy beaches, the highways that inexplicably ruined miles of beachfront property... Xiamen was quite a sight. We passed a gorgeous island, and went onto a vast and beautiful campus. Not as big as Bei Da, but very nice.
Dreux spoke nostalgically of the town where he'd come as a student and studied, and so led Z and I on a tour. We went to the beach, which was quite beautiful if you ignored the huge tankers in the immediate foreground or the line of glass on the beach marking high tide. The palm trees and white sand made it easy, and Xiamen proved to be a reasonably comfortable place. The hotel was gorgeous, with beautifully appointed rooms and even a small deck. I finished the terrible book on the deck, swaddled in a blanket. But we hadn't even spent a day there when I felt some sickness move in me, and finally I couldn't fight it. I woke up exhausted and miserable, and we were herded onto a bus. I did my level best to sleep, curled up into a ball on the seat, my feet pressed against the windows, legs bent over my head. I finally closed my eyes, comfortably asleep, and the bus come to a stop. "Everybody off, we're going to eat horrible and terrifying food."
I got back on the bus and went back to sleep. As my eyes closed, the bus jerked to a stop again. Apparently we were wherever we were going. And we were walking! Oh boy, walking. I dragged myself after the group. Billy Crystal was yelling in my ear, assuring me that I was only mostly dead. Nothing like having the disembodied voice of a washed up actor yelling quotables in your ear to make you wish you were totally dead.

The Hakka Village was so beautiful that I immediately hated it. How dare it be the coolest thing we'd see while I was too tired to properly enjoy it? Massive trees, gorgeous rivers, architecture like it was completely constructed from my mental cobwebs. I began visualizing diseases and then violently converting them to atomic particles, and finally that aggression collapsed and I was just happy to be in the village. Also, I was terribly, terribly ill.
Look at this place.
Our night in the Tu Lou was fantastic. The hotel was very cool (even if everyone but me hated it and the showers were unreliable), and navigating the village gave me a very comfortable feeling. The villagers we spoke with were very interesting, and I finally managed to persuade one to talk about something supernatural as they plied me with tea. I felt my strength return slightly. The village had been founded in a fascinating way--a taoist

 I returned to the hotel and sat with Dreux and some Chinese tourists, drinking tea. They chattered away enthusiastically, and I sat quietly, doing my best to listen. There was talking and uproarious laughter, and it suddenly occurred to me that I was the topic of conversation, however briefly. Apparently (with Dreux's translation) I'd been called a "duck listening to thunder". I liked the appellation. Everything's coming up ducky, I guess.
Then we woke up, had some rice gruel for breakfast, and got back on the bus. Back to Xiamen! I don't remember the bus ride, which is weird for me. No wait! There were pipes involved. But then we were set up, back at the hotel (finally) so we packed up and headed to the island for a day of fun in the sun. Unfortunately, the sun had a prior appointment so we had to cancel and rebook. It was such short notice we could only get rain.
The island was actually great, with a huge and ugly statue that we got to see. There was a bird sanctuary/bird hell. And gondolas! I love gondolas. Not much else to report, there, until we went for massages. Krista really liked massages. I was still hurty, but the massage was a nice finish to our stay in Xiamen.
Xiamen was concluded, and I was sorry to go. Especially when we tried to get on the plane and they were confused as to whether my name was Ben or Benjamin. Apparently it was both, after some discussion.

Previously in Yenan
Next, Hangzhou

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