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 – Shanghai – Part 6

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On Sunday, April 15th, 2007, we arrived for the first time ever into Shanghai, home of Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets.

 

Oohh, pretty!

It kinda felt like Chinatown in Manhattan, New York City.

And for a moment I really felt like we were in New York City.

We had arrived in the early afternoon and it was a free day for us to wander on our own.  We had split from the rest of the tour group by arriving into Shanghai a day or so earlier than the rest, while they deviated to a different tour path that led them to a different city. 

Wandering through Shanghai was like wandering through any metropolitan.  It was modern day living versus the previous cities we visited.  In hindsight, I wished we had the mind to hook up a tour through our hotel to tour Shanghai, most especially the Bund.

Oh well.

Our tour package had Shanghai as a pit-stop for visiting both Hangzhou and Suzhou.  These two cities are within traveling distance from Shanghai via train.  But that didn’t happen until the next day.

So Zen Master, Zen Mum and I wandered around the area near our hotel.  The highlight of the day for us was dinner. 

We ran into a couple from our original tour group and they had invited us to join them for dinner with a native Shanghai friend of theirs.  This was an unexpected surprise, so out of the blue that I left my camera in the hotel when we went out to dinner.

Yes, I know, I was really on top of my game.

We ended up at a restaurant that had a gaggle of ladies, giggling and extremely bubbly, usher us in from the outside.  And going along with my forgetting-to-bring-my-camera thoughtfulness, I forgot to write down what we ate and enjoyed that night.

Because it was absolutely one of the most delicious meals that we’ve had on this vacation thusfar.

And it wasn’t even anything fancy.  I remember I had a bowl of noodle soup with pork dumplings.  And among the many dishes shared at our table, the one I well recall was fried pigeon.  Zen Master and our tour companion devoured it like nobody’s business.  I had a piece of leg given to me and it tasted like chicken. 

And it was quite tasty.

Next stop:  SUZHOU AND HANGZHOU

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Homecoming – Part 1

Click here for previous related post:  Homecoming

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In April 2007, Zen Master, Zen Mum and I signed up for the The Best of China Cities – 12 days tour with a 6-city itinerary:  Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, HangZhou, SuZhou and Shanghai.

Translation:  TRIP OF A LIFETIME

As an American-born Chinese, I make Zen Master proud by being unable to speak my own language.  English is the first language that I recollect when I was a child, Chinese being secondary.  In light of our trip, I’d thought it would be a good thing to be able to speak some Mandarin.

So, you know, I could blend in and not be a complete freak.

The library is my bestest friend, and it lent me some conversational Mandarin CDs for a few months prior to our departure.

I had kept a journal while in China, and here verbatim was the first page:

Friday, April 6, 2007: 

Woke up at 4:00 AM.  13-hour plane ride painfully long.  Saw for the first time Palom Plateau – mountains near Beijing.

Translation:  Woke up early to catch bloody long flight out of either Atlanta or Chicago (I don’t remember which) to Beijing.  As the plane neared Beijing, saw rugged mountains (LAND!!) and when we finally disembarked, I threw myself on the ground and rolled around on terra firma because I’d forgotten how it felt.  Can we say claustrophobia?

And can we say:  Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

WOW!  Too bad I couldn’t get a better picture, but the tour bus was going too fast!

Oh my!

I’ve always had problems with anyone invading my personal space.  That went out the window here.  We learned pretty quickly that there was no such thing.

The final entry in my journal for this day:

SLEPT LIKE A ROCK.

Next stop:  TIANANMEN SQUARE AND THE GREAT WALL

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