Sunday, February 12, 2006

Glory Glory Hallelujah

Tonight, February 12, brings the Lantern Festival and with that the end of Spring Festival. Beginning tomorrow morning firecrackers and fireworks will once again be illegal until next year.

It would be cliche' to identify the constant fire outside my window, which while for the last two weeks has been constantly abuzz now reaches critical mass, to anything reminiscent of the so-called 'shit,' but damn if ain't shitty. I'm looking forward to the return of peace and quiet. Return? What?

For the time being I'm finding it hard to concentrate on cranking out a log concerning the last day of the travel as I'm simultaneously listening to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," or the "Glory, glory, hallelujah!"' song if you will. Wednesday will be the one-year anniversary since I arrived in China and all I can say is "America. Fuck yeah."

But we're gonna do it.

Waking up for the final day of walking around I was determined to tire myself out as much as possible for the upcoming 45 hour train ride, and thus opted to carry my pack all day. Grabbing a quick breakfast of oh-so-good dumplings, fried egg, and pumpkin/rice soup (not bad) we planned out the route: first to the Temple of the Eight Immortals, followed by the Big Goose Pagoda, then the Little Goose Pagoda, then shopping in the Muslim Quarter for trinkets before heading to the train station.

It took a bit of wandering but we eventually got to the Temple. I was happy to find my temple-philia had returned and enjoyed myself thoroughly wandering this this Daoist shrine. The stone was all a very darky carved bit of rock, well warn in parts by those hoping for good luck. Each of the individual rooms held different altars, which you aren't allowed to photograph, but each depicting a seperate Daoist deity. My favorite held the founding god flanked by the eight immortals, four on each side. But in front of the founding god stood two cylindrical cones of light. Pretty, shiny things mesmerize me, and thus sat and stared for a while.

I nailed that little bell in the middle of the coin with my first and only available attempt as I had but one .5RMB coin in my pocket. I've received eternal peace. These are the colors of a varsity athlete.

Such pinache'! A witty perspective shot! Will this blog ever stoop lower and lower?!

His truth is marching on!

Xuan Zang, the monk-hero of "Journey to the West" and the man responsible for bringing a cavalcade of Buddhist scriptures from India back to China, only then to spend years upon years translating them. His journey began in Xi'An, and ended back here in Xi'An, right here at the Big Goose Pagoda. This is where XuanZang sequestered himself till his death, working all the while at his books.

A monk gave me a cherry tomato. Cherry tomatoes are much tastier than Communion bread.

We climbed the pagoda, seven stories up and nothing after Hua Shan hike. At the top we got a real beautiful outlook on the fog. Wow. Not sure if winter is always like that there, but wow. That was a lot of fog we saw. Plans for coffee were made as we headed back out and through this Tiananmen-sized shopping ring: huge multi-storied visitor centers and KFCs, that sort of thing. But first the Little Goose Pagoda.

The Little Goose is under renovation, and the gardens are kinda dismantled for winter, so this somehow gave the place a spooky feeling at time. Especially with the fog. A few funny signs, though, which I'll post up later.

In the Muslim Quarter I packed up for the train ride: apples, dried kiwis, some cakes. A few trinkets as well, gifts for myself and others. But before I talk any more about shopping I need to show off the greatest find of the whole trip:

I found it outside the Temple of the Eight Immortals that morning. Bargaining was intense, and I knocked the price down pretty far, but if it ain't annoying knowing that you can't walk away from any purchase 100% sure you didn't just get taken. Regardless, I wasn't NOT going to buy this thing, that I had already decided.

It's a spring loaded dart gun, I believe the woman called it a "ShouPao" or "hand-canon." Crafted from copper its got heft, and the spring is rather strong so the bolt gets some good force behind it. Certainly not an in strument to be reckoned with. Many of my students have labeled it an "AnQi" or "secret weapon," the kinda thing an old kungfu master might hide up his sleeve for an unexpected attack. Coooool. I've used it as a teaching tool this week, doing a fun "stick your hand in the bag and describe what you feel" activity.

Commerce complete, time had come to depart from our Silk Road terminus of Xi'An and board a train back home; first cutting east into ShanDong then turning sharply north all the way back to Qiqiha'r, northewest from Harbin. I read Clavell's "Gai-Jin," which follows "Tai-Pan" in the Asian Saga. I read "Tai-Pan" when I traveled back from Beijing after meeting up with Jay in July so it was fun dipping back into that story. I like the idea of the "Tai-Pan" and have been known to identify with it at times. Jokingly of course. Yes... jokingly...

Thus concludes our coverage of your Man in Asia's Spring Festival travel adventures. Future anecdotes might one be day regurgitated, but we have a lot of news to catch up on. But next: Silly Engrish Signs!"


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