Tag Archives: china

on National Geographic Live!

The National Geographic Society has launched a program called ‘NG Live!’ in which brilliant photographers from the magazine’s pages present their work at the Grosvenor Auditorium, in Washington D.C. to a curious and appreciative audience.

Gardens by Night

Diane Cook and Len Jenshel presented an alluring series of exposures from gardens around the world, captured during the darkest hours of night. The soft light from the moon casts a diaphanous glow on the beautiful landscapes in the images. Gardens, curated carefully to be visually pleasant, calming and intricate, show a hidden power at night.

Fuling and Changing China

I’m acquainted with the modernizing landscape along the Yangtze River from my own travels, but gained fresh perspective from the images captured by Anastasia Taylor-Lind. Her presentation ‘Fuling and Changing China’ uncovered an engaging and striking portrait of the people, structures, and natural beauty of the region.

Ms. Taylor-Lind journeyed along the river learning about the displacement of families during the Three Gorges Dam project, documenting their struggles and achievements.

In addition to her work in China, she showed photos of her experience documenting the search for supermodels in Siberia, and also portraits of the women participating in southern Russia’s ‘Cossack resurgence.’

Alison Wright and the Human Spirit

Alison Wright could be the most amazing storyteller, both through pictures and her personal narrative, that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. Her travels have taken her everywhere, and her fearlessness shines in all of her work. The dangers she encountered have strengthened her – she was told she would never walk again after suffering a terrible injury in a motor accident in Laos, but a few years later she was back behind the camera, working during the disasters in Haiti and New Orleans, and eventually returning to Asia to visit the doctor who saved her life.

If only all of us who love photography could be as blessed with unfailing curiosity and the will to exercise it as Ms. Wright is.

An American Update

I returned home from my summer traveling two weeks ago. While I was in China, access to my wordpress account was blocked and I was unable to update “Brian Writing.” WordPress, Facebook and Twitter are blocked for reasons I don’t quite understand, but my Chinese friends assured me that people with the necessary desire can find a way around the “Great Fire Wall.”

Since my return I’ve been reading the notes I made, editing photos and video, and enjoying the comforts of not having to jump on a train, plane or bus every other day. I even had the pleasure of attending my grandparent’s 50th annviersary party this weekend.  And without a course schedule to jump into this semester, I’m also scouring the web for any job leads.

I will be polishing up some of the notes I made and posting them here, with their original dateline, in the near future.  I also created a photo gallery at bJH Photography, and a story I wrote has been published on UPIU.com.  

Until the next update, Zai Jian!

China, Final Images (A Million Hands)

Now for a bit I’m going to put away the camera.

A girl is walking past with striped yellow and green socks, up to her knees, short purple shorts, and a pink sweater over a white hooded shirt. She has a brown sac over her shoulder and her hair in pigtails with a pink clip thing shaped like a flower. Now a man slightly balding with hair combed back, in grey trousers and a blue shirt, flipping his hands as he walks. Now a Blue Mercedes Benz drives by smelling like diesel. I hear the door shut after it goes around the corner. A man is playing a wooden flute instrument, and I hear the notes and know they are the same notes of music everywhere, the tones are the same but he plays a Chinese sounding song which is very nice. Earlier a girl in a yellow shirt squatted down to photograph a pigeon. Before that a man was teaching a young boy to skateboard. A little girl runs up to her father, who is kneeling down and taking her picture, and she looks at the back of the camera.

A man with white hair carries a briefcase and looks at the ground as he walks. Someone sneezes.
Wind blows through the trees, the leaves look wet with sunlight. The sky is pure blue, the air is warm and breezy. The airport from wherever we flew was the first place I saw the blue sky in a week. The flute player has stopped playing. I haven’t checked my email since Luoyang, a week ago I think. I hear water pouring into the ground from a hose. Two girls walk with umbrella one blue one light blue. This kind of writing achieves the same purpose as photography, but takes much longer to produce. This is my only day in Beijing. I’m sure there is much to see but I’m happy to just sit on a bench.

I hear someone hock a spit. Someone walking behind me whistling. The photograph doesn’t capture sound. People don’t know you’re writing about them, taking their photo is much more obvious. Couples are very affectionate, laying on top of each other on benches. The flute plays.
Two young guys walk past, one carrying a shiny silver shopping bag, the other a bottle of water. One looked at my face. I can see someone wiping the tail of the Mercedes behind the corner of the Bell tower. An old man jogs past wearing a Puma shirt and Adidas shorts. I have seen zero poverty in Beijing. It was probably all expelled for the Olympics. A hump of pink and white stripes, containing a person, lays on the bench next door with a young guy, or maybe girl. Earlier two women walked by with three small kids. Two of them fell down, looked at each other, giggled, got back up, walked a few steps, fell down again, got back up, giggled.

A guy and girl walk by very close, the guy talking Chinese, illustrating his words by pointing into space. In the van on the way back from the wall yesterday, I could hear the driver and tour guide talking in Chinese, and I think they were debating whether Audis were too expensive or not.

The great wall was incredible. Half of it was in total disrepair, the steps degraded into crumbling rocks, making a perilous and exhausting walk. Local farmers attach themselves to tourists, peddling English words, asking for money, selling little gifts. It seemed too impossible to be manmade, but the guide said the materials were local, bricks weren’t carried far, in different parts of China, it is made of different bricks, or whatever material was available. We passed through 31 towers and crossed 10 km.

The tree I’m sitting under is a “Pinus tabulaeformis Carr.”

Looking at the map of Beijing I can’t see anything which gives me a “must-visit” feeling. What are the qualities that make a place a “destination” for visitors? Right now I just feel like sitting down. I imagine Beijing is like Washington, very intriguing for those who live here, mysterious, pretty, but kind of boring for those who don’t.

I saw a white guy who looked like my cousin. A couple walked by. A woman is pacing with a toddler in her arms, a jogger goes past with a mullet haircut and a mustache. Most Chinese lack mustaches, goatees, beards, sideburns. A woman walks by with a facial expression I can’t place. A man holds his arms behind his back, walks slowly, looking up at trees, holds a white plastic bag.
The girl who had falling children before walks by, now alone. A girl in a blue pants suit rides by on a rusty bicycle with a carriage attached to the back. Three girls walk close together, the middle one has a yellow shirt and black umbrella. I feel like a CCTV video camera as I do this exercise.

A little boy walking with his parents stops, stands at attention, salutes his mom, she salutes back.

A man with a peculiar walk goes by: he has the form of someone striding quickly, with swinging arms and long steps, but moves very, very slow. An old man in a red hat is pushed in a wheelchair, with a blanket in his lap.

I think people value the predictability in the city, in any city. Seeing a confused person wandering around without a destination disturbs them because it lacks precious predictability. Spending money in the city always feels expensive, because the exchange is so fast, and it took longer to get the money than spend it.

A man in a cowboy hat and vest walks by, looking like he should be holding a camera, but he isn’t. The pink and white striped lump on the bench walks by, she is a tall girl with long hair in a ponytail. The mullet jogger goes by, he also has very long sideburns.

Far away I see someone wearing a bright green jacket.

Petals on a wet black bough.
Petals on a wet black Sabia Vulgaris Ant.
Petals on a wet black Catalpabungei C.A. May

Stones in a great wall. Urinal cakes in a bathroom. Towels on the cart of housekeeping in a hotel. Empty seats on an airplane, butterflies in the blue sky, letters on a page.

A million hands scratching a million asses. A million couples holding hands. A million camels pissing in the desert. A million roses in bloom, a million beats on a drum, a million cars on a road, a million old men and women sticking their heads in trash cans looking for empty bottles.
A million brains splattered on the road, a million grieving husbands, a million children in strollers passing through parks, a million raindrops washing a million cars of a million shits from a million birds, a million words on a million tongues, a million boys having a million fun, a million Yuan for a million bus rides, a million bones of a million brides, a million Australians sitting in the sun, a million Chinese yawning, farting, spitting, dreaming, on benches, on tables, at kiosks, dreaming a million fantasies, destinies, dreaming a billion nightmares, ecstasies, a billion Chinese jogging, planting a thousand double gardens of a million happiness.
A million Americans, a million poems, a million silly Chinese, a billion worlds, planets, stars, doors.
Petals on a wet black Euonymous japonicus thunb.
A million losses, a million bribes, a million husbands betrayed by wives, a million security checks before plane rides, a billion smiles cracking a billion faces, Chinese etiquette lacking in a million places, American idiot, American Dream, a million people who don’t want what they need, a billion of God, a billion of Buddha, an overnight train for the sons of Judah.
A million high heels on a million motorcycles, a million hard-ons, a man walking backwards, only one Spain, only one Barcelona, only one city in the world with a million bullfights, Pamplona. A million nights on a million oceans, a million televisions, a million stations, a million homes broken, Ten billion stories, one million names, King James, King Henry, Emperor Who?, and one Spain, a million photos of a million babies, A million Chinese, a million ladies, A million stripes on a million shirts, a million pants, a million skirts, flirts, sports, drums, balls.
A million friends, a million dead-ends, Buckingham London Downing number 10, Beijing, a million, Nanjing, a million, Fifty one million, eleven one million.
A million lords of a million rings an infinite possibility of infinite things, an infinite kisses on an infinite noses, an infinite characters and an infinite poses, a million, a billion, infinity, insanity, one man, standing, shouting for all the rest, one city, every place, the planet at rest.
And China, and London, and America, and women and men, and nine thousand years of destiny, and nine doors with eighty one buttons, and pighouse, and one million books read by nobody, written by one million versions, infinite versions, of hands scratching asses.
Petals on a wet black
Prunus triloba Lindl 

Last Stop, Beijing

My last day in China, in Beijing now. Went to the Forbidden City this morning. Beijing plays the “capital” role well and reminds me of Washington with its orderly traffic, wide streets, leafy trees, restrained architecture. Getting into the city from the airport looked very similar to coming in from Dulles, roads well lit and paved, visible signs, decent driving. It feels like a different country here, not the same one that Xi’an or Shanghai exists in. The difference between Beijing and the rest of the country seems more than between Washington and the rest of the USA. In the airport I was previsualizing my return home. It felt strange.

I’ve gotten used to eating Chinese food every day, with chopsticks, and having people around all the time. Even in rural China, it seems there are always people around. I’m not sure what’s next for me as I sit here in the Temple of Earth park in Beijing, this 500 year old place. How I’ll return to my normal life is uncertain. I have new knowledge about the world, it seems a little smaller than before. And I think I know the Chinese people a bit more, with a new understanding of their culture.

In Beijing I get the sense of all the cities being connected, that leaving one for another is just moving inside the same one. I’ve thought about what it means to have been to a city, if walking around, taking photos of the same places I’ve seen in photos, the only images I know of the city being replicated, if that constitutes knowing a place, or if to really know a person has to get lost, spend time, have conversations, give and take for more than a few hours.

I feel like I’ve just finished an amazing journey, and haven’t documented everything about it. So what happens to the parts which are left uninsurable? Do they fall off into the universe never to be remembered or are they absorbed by my mind subconsciously, permanently affecting my perspective, giving me new feeling and direction. So many details of things I’ve seen that escaped my pen, and camera, that I hope I’ll remember some other way.

I’m certainly glad I took this trip, and all the indecision I had before, any worry I had about it, has been absolved.
In the future I’d like to continue learning about China, filling in the gaps I had in my mind this time.

I can sense the possible futures which might become my reality, and its beautiful not to know exactly what they are, or to have even a vague idea, but to be content and expect goodness to come.

Airborne Observations

Flying to Beijing now.

Last night on the dunes at one point I was wondering about sand damage to my camera, worried. I started thinking about what the camera’s purpose is, how it alters the memory of things. I tried to take a ‘mental’ picture of the scene.

The camera is just a tool, a physical thing someone else created that it supposed to enhance memory, but can any external thing influence memory than the brain and memory itself?

The only reason I’m still thinking about this weird and abstract concept is because of seeing the dead woman today. I didn’t have a chance to take a photo, but if I had one, would I want a photographic memory of that? It was a visceral experience, not exactly pleasant, but definitely something that will stay in my memory forever, maybe even better without a photo.

The fact that I had been practicing ‘noticing’ things just before seeing it is also odd. Had I put myself into a state of ‘vision’ by performing that exercise that allowed me to see something otherwise I wouldn’t have?

Word Painting

On the road from Zhongwei to the airport, going to describe as much of what I see out the window as possible:

Women in visors walking in a field collecting something, putting in small plastic bags. Big red travel bus. Arch over entry driveway made of steel beams, diamond replica at apex, stone sculpture outside. Man on motorcycle. Main street of small town.

Large brown dirt field filled with power lines. One story brick lots, with broken windows, some with bamboo doors. Irrigated field with crops. Blue truck with open bed, contents covered by tarp. Modern SUV. Woman holding baby outside doorway, next to drying laundry.

Girl in yellow uniform sweeping lot of gas station with large primitive broom. Corn field. Woman riding bicycle with boy sitting on backseat.

White wall with phone numbers spray painted on in red. Road is turning shitty, van bouncing alot. Small brick hovels, probably living quarters for farmers.

Several yards filled with bags of fruits or vegetables, stacked head high. Police car. Man on motorbike with wicker basket on back. Iron bars on windows. Corn fields. Man in sportcoat holding baby. Women with red and pink head scarves. Men on motorbikes carrying platters of cement blocks. Skinny trees with white bark.

Police in uniform wearing hat, smiling, talking on cell phone. Billboard with photo of green field and blue sky. Bus shelter without walls. Row of shops with Western style balcony, Greek architectural column-reliefs. Canal. Several eighteen-wheelers parked outside empty shop-like place.

Woman in body suit, wearing face mask, carrying shovel. Parked dump trucks. Two and three story buildings with basement garage/shop front. Motorbikes parked outside shop filled with glass panels. Completely empty row of shop space with glass doors. Men and women in orange vests, facemasks, digging hole. Fields of yellow grassy plant. Mud and brick hovel. Numbers spray painted on overpass.

The blue sky poking through clouds, opening up. First time sighting in several days. Road sign for Yinchuan and Guzhong?

Girl face down on pavement, next to overturned motorbike, blood and brains splattered on road, teeth fallen out, dead.

Jesus Christ. Cars passing by as if she wasn’t there.

And then the blue sky, leaves on trees in cornfield reflecting sunshine. Maybe heaven for her. Now a field of dandelions.

In Zhongwei

n Zhongwei now after 3 nights in Xi’an. I was expecting Zhongwei to be smaller, more village/rural like, but what I’ve seen is more similar to a moderate city.

I didn’t write much in Xi’an because I was busy enjoying it. By this time next week I will have returned home. Xi’an grew on me after an ugly first impression, the hectic train ride and mob scene at the station, and hazardous walk through a construction site to reach the hotel. But I spent some time alone, walking the streets of the Muslim quarter and the shopping streets, and then rode around the city wall on a bike and saw the new city existing beyond and in harmony with the old, and it struck me as a giant place, built on purpose, carefully, over thousands of years.

In Xi’an I tried to think of Americans from the perspective of the Chinese, to them we inhabit “the new world,” maybe like frontiersmen, perhaps like astronauts. It is nice to think they regard us well, but I’m not sure of the general opinion. I met some Americans at the Hostel bar one night, who had been in Korea for the Jehovahs witnesses conference and traveled to China for a few days. Not five minutes into the conversation they launched into the “truth” and Jesus and life’s purpose, meanwhile gulping Guiness and nibbling bar snacks. While it was nice to hear an American accent, and they were fairly polite, not overly intoxicated, sloppy, or debauched, the religion talk felt intrusive. One nice thing about them was two were a married couple, and despite their unfortunate peachiness, they seemed happy and were planning on moving to Ecuador together for six months, the kind of thing I have considered doing.

I decided to opt-out of the sheepskin rafting this afternoon because it’s a grey-rainy day, it requires 3 hours of transit (after the overnight train last night) costs 200 yuan, and I have my own quiet peaceful room to relax in, something I’ve been missing for weeks.

Instead of the rafting, I walked around Zhongwei, passing by some very poor homes. Next to them were newly constructed apartment blocks, so its nice to think they may have a chance to move out. Children in blue and white jumpsuits are all out walking the streets and they stop and giggle at seeing a Westerner (very few around here), and a few siad “Hullo!” with a big smile. I stopped by the Buddhist temple which was like a painted wooden jungle gym, chips of the artwork flaking away and giant golden Buddha statues seated before burning logs of incense. Underneath the complex was the Buddhist “hell,” a series of stone tunnels with speakers playing sounds of maniacal laughter, and enclaves filled with icons of torture, painted day-glo statues of Buddha overseeing executions.

I walked only with my point & shoot camera today, maybe to see if I would have a different experience, or as an exercise in memory for written work. Perhaps walking with a camera gives you expectations of what should be seen, and what you want to see, and degrades your vision from seeing the unexpected.

Just realized the first entry in this notebook is now over one year old. Unbelievable, I remember it clearly, which direction I was facing when I wrote it, what time of day it was, etc. Years are screaming by, much faster than they used to. But the further I get from them, the longer they seem to have lasted. From last September to this one, what a time. My imagination couldn’t have conceived the things I would do, a year earlier.

Xi’an and Cinema (Universal language)

The cough which started on the final day of the Yangtze cruise has persisted and is duly irritating me today. In the Chinese media cases of swine flu are zealously reported, and any Chinese official would probably diagnose me as positive as soon as looking at me. I look forward to returning to clean skies and natural air at home which is surely the cure I need.

Upon arriving in Xi’an we checked in at the City Hotel close to the center of town. There are apparently 8 million people in this city but I have only seen what looks like one or two. The hotel is in the middle of a construction zone, walking out to the street feels like it should require a hard hat. After an “orientation” sprint yesterday evening our guide Merrick dropped us near the Muslim quarter, which was filled with stalls selling food and cheap gifts. At one point, I asked a man to take his photo by holding up the camera, and after he obliged I went nuts and took photos of several more people in the area. They were all on film, so I’m not sure how they came out, but I am confident that several are quite good. 

Between Luoyang and Xi’an I think I saw about five nuclear power plants, which would explain the dismal grey color of the city despite sunshine a few kilometers away at the Terra Cotta Warriors site.

After the Muslim quarter last night I had worked up a strong appetite, and decided to try some kind of meat on a stick, from a shop front on the main drag. A picture of goats or lamb above the stall probably indicated what it was, and with a little seasoning, it hit the spot. Later I ordered a cup of noodles and a peach yogurt drink, which I discarded after deciding the ice might not be healthy. There is a possibility that all the worrying is a factor itself in my decreased health.

I decided to try some shops on “East St.” to find the worst translations of English on T-shirts possible, and deemed two garments worthy, which I purchased for about 25 yuan each. One is filled with nonsensical text and the other has a very stupid picture of a dog wearing glasses. It is the very best of haute couture Xi’an has to offer. Several shops are dedicated to selling rip-offs of American brands, like Qior-Dan, which is supposed to be Jordan, selling athletic basketball wear.

After shopping for a while, I decided I wanted to see a movie. It took several minutes of standing outside the theatre before working up the nerves to approach the ticket counter, and I finally did, and simply said “Kung-fu.” The clerk laughed, and someone came around the other side so I could point to the poster of what I wanted to see. After being forbidden from seeing something about Kung-fu cyborgs, for whatever reason, I was permitted to see something called “Eternal Beloved,” which from the poster appeared to be some kind of historical drama.

I found my way up a series of escalators, through several corridors, and into a closet posting as a movie theatre, which made my skin crawl upon entering. A few oversized chairs draped in dirty red fabric were scattered with no particular design around the floor, facing a wall from which a crooked sheet hung, which was actually the screen. Black paint was chipping off all the walls and two or three bare light bulbs in studio reflectors hung from the ceiling.

The film began and quickly got down to horse riding and spear throwing, and for the first several minutes alternated between what I assumed were battles from the past, and present scenes of a woman serving tea to her husband, screwing him, then saying goodbye as he went off to teach schoolchildren somewhere.
Soon after, as she was alone one night, a man frightfully appears in her garden, and she serves him tea.

He is some kind of ghost and as they sit he tells his own story, which lasts the rest of the movie. He is riding through the forest one day trying to shoot a pig, then he hears a girl playing the flute, so he captures her, ties her up, and marries her.

After the wedding, for some reason, while she is serving him tea, he puts her hand in a spear and tries to stab himself with it, then flees to a monastery, shaves his head, and abandons her. But she dutifully shows up every day while he prays and brings him tea, until he smashes the kettle, she cuts her hands cleaning up the mess, and then they are in love again, so she lives in a grass hut outside the monastery and brings him stuff every day and he approves by smiling very slightly.

Finally one day his father is injured by a hurled spear (in the same scene from the beginning of the movie) and brought to his son, who holds him as he gurgles blood and dies, much to his son’s dismay. The attackers then show up outside the walls, the man’s wife shouts something at them, which apparently was a bad idea, because the man slaps her and points his gun at her; and she then helps him pull the trigger and blast her to oblivion.

The man is then killed by the attackers who burst through the walls with spears and torches. So the ghost finishes telling this awful story, and disappears, leaving the woman who was screwing the school teacher earlier to look in the mirror and discover the monk’s dead wife staring back at her.

So my trip to the cinema was fascinating, despite the obvious confusion at watching a film in Mandarin, and the inconvenience of a grimy theatre, the picture was very well done, with gorgeous costumes, landscapes, sets, convincing battle scenes, and what appeared to be decent acting. I might like to see it again with subtitles, but I caught the lesson that cinema is such a visual medium, it can and should be entertaining regardless of the language. If the job is done right, the picture will convey the story without telling it to you, as the first silent films did.

At any rate, I found it a worthy alternative to stopping in one of the discos, which feature military policeman guarding the doors, in case anyone attempts to have fun, I presume, or visiting “Karaoke TV” which I understand is a thinly veiled front for prostitution.

Toward Xi’an

Hemingway said it was best to start writing first thing in the morning, I think because the compulsion continues for the rest of the day. So here I sit in the bumpy van on the way to the train station in Luoyang scribbling away.

There were 2 news stories about China on the internet last night, one that they had approved a vaccine for swine flu, and the other that they were stabbing people with syringes in Urumqi. A very complicated country. The last two nights, I had dreams about playing basketball with Shaquille O’Neil in China, and about eating a snake. “Dream is destiny?” I don’t know.

The hotel in Luoyang was nice, and already we are leaving. Last night we went to “Snack street,” where dozens of food stalls lined the street under hanging red lanterns, picturesque scene, but not so appetizing after fasting all day, so instead I broke off and found a restaurant where I successfully presented a print-out sheet of translated food items to order. 

Trying to board this train in Luoyang gives me futile hope in the future for the Chinese, as people pack in beyond the boundaries of etiquette or common sense, gouging in front of one another ,disregarding decency and personal space, a truly miserable experience. The train authorities find no need to board passengers in increments to avoid bottlenecks.

Yesterday riding on the public bus, up and down what was presumably the main drag during rush hour, I struggled to think how the Chinese retain any sense of individuality, with 1.3 billion of them, packed in busses and trains, airtight, all of the same racial makeup and with hardly any immigrants.

A fellow traveler purchased two kung-fu swords in Shaolin, and had no problem bringing them aboard the train in cardboard boxes, something I imagine that would be prohibited anywhere else. The smell of smoke also leads me to believe smoking is permitted, and train personnel are pacing the aisle selling toys, socks, and snacks.

I’m not sure if parts of the USA where crowds are most common, like NYC, allow the same kinds of behavior as one finds in China, but I doubt it. Not the places I have visited anyway.
If I try and imagine a scene in Kansas City or Oakland where people bombarded a train car as they did here this morning, I can only expect it would lead to someone getting shot, a train official losing their job, family members separated, and news stories for days. In China, it is simply Friday morning.

I can’t decide, sitting here on the train, if the Chinese are curious about myself and the other Westerners, or if they don’t give a shit who we are and are probably just confused and annoyed by our presence. I’ve noticed the cell phones the Chinese use have standard English keypads, and assume that whatever process they have for translating text messages into Chinese is very arduous. They seem to have adopted the phone as an audio/music device with more ease than Americans have, and all girls have dangling ornaments on their handset.

The Chinese character system seems complicated enough, but to try and use a cell phone to communicate text messages I would think is hopeless. On an EXIT sign somewhere, I counted the number of strokes required to form the Chinese characters to be in the 40’s, while the word ‘EXIT’ has only nine.

The bus in Luoyang and the waiting area in the train station both contained hard plastic seats covered in scratches and dirt which looked easily 40 or 50 years old. The bus was rickety with ads plastered on the walls and hanging arm grabs .

The train is now passing a village of crumbling one storey brick buildings surrounded by farms, a woman in a hot pink shirt and black pants carrying a baby walked by and a man in a work helmet. The trees in the area indicate a temperate or deciduous climate and sandstone looking short hills tumble along.

We have three nights coming up in Xi’an, one in transit to Zhong Wei, one in Zhong Wei, one in a desert camp, maybe another in Zhongwei, then three in Beijing. I have now taken more long train journeys on this trip than I have in my entire life up to this point.

Just passed a landfill only a few feet from a field of crops. I can imagine the chemicals and waste seeping down into the soil, to be sucked up into the roots of poisoned plants.

The Longmen Grottoes

In between Shaolin and Luoyang, we have stopped at a pretty place on the Yi BH033775River. Thousands of Buddha sculptures are carved in caves on the cliff face, many of which were damaged during the cultural revolution. A temple also sits at the top of a long staircase on the hill, a very scenic spot where my camera battery died. 

A famous Chinese poet lived there and is buried in an elaborate garden graveyard beside the temple. One of his poems said something about living there peacefully in nature with a shelf of books and sweet tasting wine. Dozens of little Chinese shops line the exit road selling cheap souvenirs, a large vase selling for 30 Y interested me but I’ve no way to get it home. I bought 2 t-shirts from the hotel in Shaolin before leaving for the cost of 50Y, less than 10USD.

Tomorrow morning we take a day train to Xi’an, good, because I’m still recovering from the last overnight train. I haven’t eaten all day because the options seem only to be a huge sit down meal served family style, food from the street, or packages from a convenience store. It will be nice to return home and have the option of just making a sandwich, but I do enjoy dining with the company of the group. Hard, or strange, to think in just a few days these people will only be a memory and won’t be there every morning joining me in some hassle or adventure.