Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Homecoming – Conclusion

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Truth be told, during the entire trip in China, I listened with only one ear to all the history that our tour guides recited.  Admittedly, if I didn’t think to write it down in my journal that I kept, I wouldn’t have remembered what had been said and done. 

Instead, because I’ve always been a visual person, I basked in the entire experience of being where I was, being in the moments.

Like when we were visiting Guilin.  We sat for a spell in a teashop, sipping yummy lavender tea.

Like being with Zen Mum and Zen Master at the Temple of Heaven and Earth.  We were told that standing at that particular level was essentially being between Heaven and Earth.  And I remember I had thought, COOL!

Kevin, our Beijing tour guide, took this photo for us.


Or when we went to see Chinese Opera.  Zen Master sat enthralled throughout the entire show while Zen Mum and I passed out.  In all fairness, Chinese Opera is an acquired taste.

Or the goosebumps that I felt as I took this photo from within the tour bus as we approached the Great Wall for the first time in my life.

Or when we were at a famous restaurant that was renowned for its Peking Duck dinners.  It took 40 minutes to cook these birds and once they arrived at our tables, it was quite a show.


And definitely during dinner meals throughout the trip, which consisted of 80% vegetables and 20% meat.  It seemed that most of the vegetable dishes centered around celery, celery and what did you say? celery.  After the second or third dinner meal into the vacation, I realized that I was quite a carnivore because I craved chicken and pork sooo much, and I really missed my meats. 

It took some getting used to, eating mostly vegetables — celery — but the cool thing was that we didn’t gain one pound throughout the trip!

Or when we took the bullet train from Shanghai to Suzhou, only to discover when we reached Suzhou, that we had been on the maiden voyage of that particular train.

Or discovering when we got on the train that it was unlike the Amtrak Acela Express, where there were no walking between the cars because there were no interior doors that allowed passengers to move around.

Or when I burst into tears when we were at the Red Theatre in Beijing, watching Chun Yi – The Legend of Kung Fu.  That was my “Amy Tan” moment of the trip.

Or experiencing the biggest culture shock of all:  squat toilets.  I didn’t take a picture of this unforgettable sight, but suffice it to say, if you can just imagine a toilet built right into the floor and all one has to do is squat, you pretty much got the picture.

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Now that was a hard thing to get used to.

Thankfully it wasn’t a concern in the hotels. 

Although our trip happened in 2007, I can still vividly remember it as if it was yesterday.  The sights, the smells, the flavor of life there.  I had naively thought that it was probably going to be like an extended visit to Chinatown, like that in NYC. 

Boy, was I an idiot.

Zen Master, Zen Mum and I had agreed beforehand to not speak a lick of English while we were there.  We wanted to blend in and see where that took us.  From sight to sight, city to city, when we engaged with the folks there, we came away with one common observation that just tickled us when people spoke with us.

Everyone thought we were from Hong Kong.

All in all, China is simply awe-inspiring.  There really isn’t any other way to say it.

Would I go back for another visit?

In a heartbeat.

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Homecoming – Hangzhou – Part 8

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This time our bullet train ride was from Shanghai to Hangzhou.  It was longer than our first time when we went to Suzhou, this time around being 1-1/2 hour one way. 

The weather was rainy and dreary all day.  Who could’ve known that it would become one of our nicest days in China?

We were met at the Hangzhou train station by our tour guide, Pudding.  Yes, that really was her name.  I checked twice, including the spelling.  She said that when it was time to choose an english name, she chose Pudding because it sounded nice.

Pudding was quite memorable, if not just for her name alone.

We went to the tea villages that Hangzhou was renowned for.  And it just wouldn’t be me, if I actually remembered the name of the tea village.  No, that would be too easy!

Then it started raining again.  The tea village and fields were owned by a famous person whose name I didn’t write down in my journal; thus, I have absolutely no recollection.  I just know he was the top tea farmer whose tea was highly prized.

Now how often do you see something like this?  Mine’s on back order as we speak.  Just so you know.

May I live here?

All the green tea you can possibly drink.

What are they looking at, you ask?  Glad you did.

Why, tea roasting, of course!  Isn’t it obvious?

Pudding said that hand-roasting the tender, fragile green tea leaves was a delicate process that took all day.  To show our fondest appreciation for all that hard work, we took home cartons of these lovelies.  The green tea is in the round canister while the chrysanthemum tea is housed in the square package.  (Don’t mind my rice cooker and coffee maker in the background.)

Remember when in Xi’an, Zen Mum and I developed a cough towards the end of our stay there?  Well, at this point it was body-wracking and becoming quite painful.  Zen Master, out of the three of us, was the only one unaffected, and he asked Pudding if there was a drug store we could go to to get medicine. 

And God bless her, she took us to a wonderful pharmacy that sold us wonderful drugs.

After lunch, we went to the West Lake to putter around it in the drizzling rain.  This riverboat was similar to the one we rode.

 We had a blast!

We arrived back into Shanghai at 6:00 PM that night.  I don’t know what it was about Hangzhou that made it so great.  Maybe it was Pudding and her eagerness about her city.  Maybe the smell of freshness in the lingering rain.  Or maybe it was the non-rush of pace in this city that made it memorable. 

It was a lovely city.

And it was a lovely way to end our vacation in China, because we were due to leave the country the next day.

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