Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Walks in Pingan

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We decided to change hotels because, well because of several reasons.

It all started with the broken bed lamps. There was only one working bulb in the center of the room. It wasn't too bad during the day but at night it felt like a prison cell. I went down to ask the owner if we could move one room over. She came up to confirm the lights were not working and said she'd send her husband up to fix it. (This is the way these things are run. It's a wife/husband team. He's the fix-it guy and she takes the money, just like in America.) Anyway it's about 8:00 p.m. and I'm exhausted from all the hiking. I want to go to bed. So I sat and waited for him. Finally at 8:30 I found him in the kitchen cooking for some guests. (Between the two of them they do everything.)

He came up, removed the panel next to the bed and pulled out live wires. I'm thinking: Isn't this stuff 220 volts? He's going at it with a screwdriver and pliers. He couldn't fix it so found me another room. That was last night. In the morning Lynn said she left some candies out and heard some munching. Little harry rodents had located her candy stash. She slept with the light on. The night before she wasn't too game on moving. Now she was ready.

So we went to the hotel at the very top of the mountain. Hotel LanYueGe. This meant more climbing so the woman from the new hotel sent her husband down to pick up our luggage. When he picked up Lynn's bag he called for reinforcements. I told him she had picked up a few rocks from yesterday's hike. Between himself and another woman with a basket they carried our stuff up another 200 steps to the next hotel.

We got settled in and then went out for an easy hike. We walked all around lookout 1 and 2 in Pingan. It took us about four hours. It was interesting to see all the channels and waterways routing water to the terraces. In some places the sounds and sights reminded me of the computer game Myst. And get this, while on the hike Lynn got a crystal clear cell phone call way out here. China's cell service is unparalleled.

We met the friendly old man from yesterday on the hike (the one that wants the picture of himself). He was picking tea leaves. He invited us to his place for some tea. We think he said tonight or did he say tomorrow? He said 9:00. He can't mean 9:00 at night for tea. Can he? He's so friendly. He talks to us in rapid Chinese. I only get the gist of what he says and sometimes not even that. We talked about the weather and I asked if the terraces would fill up for a picture by tomorrow. He laughed and told me it'll take an entire month of May to fill the terraces. Too bad I so wanted reflected blue sky in my pictures. We parted ways from the path, he with his basket of tea leaves and me with my backpack of camera gear. "Ming tian jian." (See you tomorrow.) Ruth and Lynn bought some tea and peppers from a little old lady at the top of the hill.

We came back and had lunch at our new favorite place. They serve some fried green beans with roasted garlic. It's to die for. They are so tasty. We ordered noodles, rice and egg, and sweet and sour chicken. I got a beer because, well because, I don't trust the water. Really! Besides the local beer is great.

Ruth and Lynn decided to play a game of scrabble and I uploaded the 89 pictures I took on the hike into my iBook. I wish I could say every picture was great but I deleted over half, in fact, almost two-thirds of them. This is how I convince people I'm a good photographer, I delete a lot of stuff. I now have three good pictures of China I can show people.

While I uploaded the photographs the girls from the hotel watched my computer screen. I didn't really mind. I was hoping they'd recognize the people in pictures I'd taken. "Nimen renshi tamen?" (Do you know them?) I'd ask and point to the screen. They'd get real excited and tell me the names. Some of them are hard to say. I tried saying the name of the little one on the woman's back and was corrected several times. I think they finally gave up on me. The names are so foreign to a Westerner's ear. It's hard to associate the sound with anything I know.

While I worked with the images and Ruth and Lynn played Scrabble a group of carpenters were working on the place next door. With each fresh cut of wood the scent of fresh cedar floated through the warm air. The weather is a perfect 70 degrees. The sun peeked out from the clouds briefly and a took a picture from our room window of the girls below. You'll notice our laundry hanging out the window. That's just the way they do it here. They wash and then hang the clothes to dry. Clothes dryers are for wimps. Besides it sounds better. "Clothes washed and then naturally sun dried." It's so green sounding.

Talk about sounds. All the men here can hack phlegm very well. It's a disgusting sound, at least to a Westerner, but no one else seems to mind. Usually it's precipitated with a nasty snorting sound to collect the nostril phlegm first. Then it all gets ejected in one sirupy loogie into the street. It's wise to step aside when you begin to hear the sound. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sometimes I see a NO SPITTING sign in the weirdest places and I think Who would spit here? (Like the inside of a building.) There's talk of finning those who persist with this nasty habit. Sometimes there's no spitting though. I've seen some just hold one nostril and blow out into the street with the other. It's the same disgusting stuff mind you, just aspirated. What would the sign be for that? NO PHLEGMING? I wonder what one of those universal signs with the red line and circle would look like. Never mind.

When I think about it, it's really not any worse than smoking in public. In some ways smoking is worse. A public smoker forces everyone else to participate in their nasty habit, regardless of vicinity. Not to mention the cigarette butts on the sidewalks, gutters and highways. Really how is this any different then hacking phlegm? But I digress.

All cats love fish but fear to wet their paws. -Chinese proverb
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