It threatens to rain all day today so we decided to hang out at The Balcony for a bit.
The Balcony is a trendy sort of place that serves breakfast (eggs, toast, juice, and coffee) for just 28 yuan ($3.50). There's an upstairs (thus "balcony") which is set up like a living room. It's got a hippie pad look to it, you know, tacky but with an edge. It's the sort of place that Eric would love.
Anyway last night we all agreed to meet here for breakfast at 9:00. I'm here at nine but where are the others? They must think this is some sort of vacation or something, getting up whenever they feel like it. Sheesh.
So I spent my time wisely eating breakfast, posting to the blog, uploading pictures, checking the weather, memorizing 3,000 Chinese characters and learning Swahili.
Some of the folks didn't show until 11:45 but by then it was lunch time. So we ordered soup and a fragrant tea served in a glass tea pot and tiny cups. The restaurant played all English tunes including the Lion King tune: Can You Feel the Love Tonight. That brought back some memories from our TESOL class just a few weeks ago where we had to think up different words and sing it before the class. But that's a subject for another blog.
The sky was getting darker but that didn't stop us from deciding to take a trip up the river in an old wooden fishing boat. So, we took an hour's bus ride to Xingping and then a small go-cart of sorts down to the boats. By then the rain was so heavy the carts couldn't get us to the boats. We had to hoof it to the river's edge under sheets of rain. I put my backpack under my Northface jacket to protect my computer, digital camera, and lenses but that didn't do much for my pants. They were soaked by the time we got to the boats.
Our boat captain didn't look too sure of himself either. He was wiping his window with a scrap of tissue in hopes of a better view of where we were going. He was looking around behind him before pulling away from the shore but little good that did, you couldn't see five feet beyond the boat in any direction because of the downpour. Lightening flashed in the sky above and thunder cracked almost immediatly. I got this visual of a boat floating down the Li river with a dagger of lightening stabbing it's little metal top. I almost jumped ship but there was no place to go out of the weather as we were just dumped off by the drivers of the little carts and they'd long since gone. Why should they stick around? They weren't crazy.
The little chairs in the boat were wet too but that didn't make too much of a difference, we just sat down and made them wetter. The rain by now was so heavy we couldn't hear above a yell for the noise it made on the flat tin roof of the boat. But we just gaily jumped aboard oblivious of the deluge upon us, the eventual sinking of our boat, and the loss of my valuable digital images already collected on the trip. That's what I was thinking about anyway. Forget about life and limb, family and friends, what about my pictures?
The captain pushed off blindly from the shore and followed another boat's wake. Finally the weather let up enough so that we no longer saw rain drop craters in the water and we were able to make out the shore edge. The mist rose from the mountains in wisps like cotton candy and became translucent when the sun broke through. The water became still like a mirror and reflected the changing weather above it. We chugged up the river quietly except for the single piston diesel motor at our rear.
These peaks you see here are most famous in Chinese paintings. Even the 20 yuan (dollar) bill has an etching of these mountains.
The bus ride back was uneventful except for the loss of a wallet. There was some commotion. The wallet and passport were found but, alas, the cash was missing.
Oh, and there was the exciting music at the restaurant. Quiet at first and wonderful food but it seems that we were taking too long and the young people running the place had other plans. So they cranked up the hip hop, turned on the strobes, and literally blew us out the front door, Tim groovin' as we left. But I couldn't even talk above a scream. The music pressed against my chest and caused my heart to skip a beat. I believe that this would be a better way to bring someone back to life. Forget the expensive defibrillation devices, just pound some hip hop into their chest.
And that's the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind. - Dave Barry
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