Sunday, June 21, 2009

Misha's visit and our trip to Lijiang and Shaxi

It was sad to have Mom and Dad leave. Luckily, a couple of days later, Misha came to visit! It was so much fun to have her here. My children love her, and of course, it's great fun for me. She had such a long trip over... I think we decided it was a total of 36 hours with the lay overs etc. She must have been exhausted. We enjoyed Saturday with the family, and then Misha and I left for Lijiang and Shaxi. Wow, what a trip! I will try to share some of our experiences. Lijiang's old town is on the World Culture Heritage list. It is the largest city left that is all in the ancient Chinese style, from what I understand. The town is lovely, and very touristy, full of little hostels and hotels. Mostly set up for Chinese tourists, though there were some foreign tourists as well. The weather was very pleasant, as it is in Yunnan, very close to Tibet. The sky was amazingly blue. The area is full of minority tribes, the prominent ones being Naxi and Bai in that area.

There were signs like this all over the "ancient civilization town". They were all very funny, and I won't put all of them in my blog, but Misha and I found them very entertaining!

These are the roof tops of Lijiang, the ancient city.

On our bike ride, we saw people harvesting their wheat. They would put it in the middle of the road for cars and trucks to drive over, and then use fans to blow the chaff away. Very ingenious.

We spent the first couple of days in Lijiang. We walked all around the town, and one day we rented bikes and went for a ride, where we met some new Chinese friends and British friends. Many people were dressed in their native dress, and it was really fun. We had some interesting food. On Tuesday afternoon, we drove the three hours to Shaxi, where we stayed with Yunxin and his wife Jingpian in their village community center. What an amazing drive. We saw so many people out planting their rice fields. Misha and I took a million blurry photos as we rushed by these amazing farms. That evening, Jingpian made us a really nice meal.

This is me, Yunxin, and a guy that was staying with him to arrange for some students to come for a stay in the summer. Yunxin shared very interesting information.

Here are some of the beautiful scenes we saw. The rice fields were beautiful. Many people were dressed in their native costumes, just as part of their normal every day lives.

The next morning we woke up and had a big breakfast, and then started on our 4 1/2 hour hike. It was really steep and a lot of work! But so beautiful. We loved every minute of it. We were hiking to a small village on the top of the mountain. This little village was started 400 years ago by two families. There was a salt mine on the other side of the mountain, that merchants would travel to, to get salt to sell to the valley below. The local government wanted to collect a toll for going through the pass, and asked these two families to go and start a village. There is still no way in or out of the village other than by foot or horse. Now there are about 36 families. Only a couple of them have electricity from a generator. When we arrived, I believe we were greeted with about 1.6 billion flies. I have never seen so many in my life. We were to stay with the chief and his wife in their home. They were very welcoming, and she had noodles waiting for us when we got there.

It was an amazing experience. I don't feel like I can give it justice on my blog, it would be WAY too long of a blog! There were no bathrooms. They did have a tap in the kitchen for water. The kitchen was indoor and outdoor. The stools we sat on were shorter than 1 foot. There was a cute little grandma there who chain-smoked. After lunch several neighbors came over to talk, smoke (and I'm sure check out the strange foreigners). They were polite, though, and offered Misha and I a cigarette... We had hot water instead, which was really strange for them, considering they always drink tea. I think the tea would have covered up the charcoal tasting water a little, though. These were definately people of the earth. They farm on the steep mountain-side. They raise goats. They just work continually trying to scrape by. They were very generous with us. Da jie (meaning big sister, which wwas what we were told to call the chief's wife) worked very hard on her wood-burning wok to make meals for us. She even gave us the first mushrooms of the season, a very special and rare treat. The chief came home at dark with all of his goats, very tired from a long day at work. They made a little fire in the middle of the big cement room that was their kitchen/family room and we sat on little benches. Their two grandsons came for a visit. What darling little boys! They were very cute with Misha and I. They even brought us flowers and sang a song for us when we asked.

Neighbors out front for a smoke.

Sweet little boys!

Misha and I had a little trouble falling asleep that night. We were afraid we might get fleas or lice from the blankets they gave us. Also, we were just sure there would be critters after we turned out the lights. It took me a while to blow out the candle.

The next morning, we went to the little one-room school. It was actually a holiday, but all of the children came anyway. We taught them 4 english words. Mountain, sun, moon and cat. Mountian was near impossible. They were eager students, and afterward Misha passed out the books, pencils and coloring crayons to them. You would have thought it was Christmas. They were so excited and loved their new treasures.

Afterward, we were invited to the community center/theater/temple where there were ladies preparing an offering to their gods. That holiday was for good health. They believed if they found herbs that day, the herbs would be much more strong than normal and work much better. These ladies were so sweet and fun. It reminded Misha and I of enrichment. Some were praying, some were making a meal to share, and some were making paper flowers and clothing to offer to their gods. Misha said," They are doing what ladies do all over the world... Make food and make things beautiful." I agree!

After our visit with the ladies, it was time to start our trek back to Shaxi. We hiked down the other side of the mountain for 4 1/2 more hours and into the valley of Misha. Of course we had to go to Misha! It was beautiful. There was a car there to pick us up and we drove back. I have to say that was the best shower I've had in a long time!!!

We had such an amazing time. I will never forget the time we spent with the Bai people. It truly changed my view on life. We flew back the next day, and met the family at a Chinese Wedding for one of Mike's buyer's, Jessie. That was quite the experience as well. There was some interesting food there! Our family were the only foreigners. The food was extremely chinese, with bird-heads, fish-heads and all. There was also something that reminded me of what might be a beef flan. We don't really want to know what it was. Jay and Rachel went up and sang twinkle twinkle little star. We all toasted our orange-juice and pop with the bride and groom. They were very proud that they had a bilingual marraige, as they did it in Chinese, and had an English translation.

Just a few more glimpses of the wonderful people we saw...

What a great time we all had with Misha. Thanks for everything, Meesh.

Great Visit From Mom and Dad Russon

Wow, it's been so long since I have written. I have wanted to write for such a long time,but the government has put a block on blogs. I had to wait until I could get a connection through Mike's line. This is the first time they have put a block on writing on blogs. Usually they just block being able to read them.

So many things have been happening in our lives. We are now on our way back home. We actually leave this Thursday. I can't believe that our four years is coming to an end. What a truly fantastic four years it has been for us. It is hard to leave China. We have learned so many things, and shared so many wonderful experiences. What a huge blessing for us. Well, I will go back and report some things that have been going on this last month and a 1/2.

Mom and Dad came on May 4th. We were all so excited! We all had such a great time together. The children didn't have a school break, so they had to just see Grandma and Grandpa when they got home from school. But on Friday, I let them out of school so that we could have fun together. We went to Qixia mountain, to the monastery. It was really beautiful. We of course took them to Zen, our favorite Chinese restaurant here in town. It's Cantonese food, a chain from Hong Kong, and it has the best dim sum in the world. We once asked our friend from Hong Kong where we could find the best dim sum while we were there, and she said, "Zen". Well, I guess we are lucky to have a chain here in Nanjing. YUMMY! I think Mom and Dad enjoyed it, too.

For Mother's Day, Mom and I went to a spa and had a facial. It was SO nice. And fun, too. The big event for the weekend, was when the girls, and Mom and I went to the hot springs resort. The girls had been planning this surprise for Mom. What she didn't know was that in amongst the hot springs, there was a special pool...the exfoliation pool. This pool was full of hundreds of little fish that eat dead skin. A great way to get smooth feet... Grandma didn't love that and gave the awaited for face-scrunch and little screams. Nicole and Caitlin weren't keen on going in either. But Rachel and I had a nice time and had very soft feet when we got out :-)

Mom and Dad and Mike and I went on a Yangtze River Cruise. We had a great time!!! On Tuesday Chong Qing where we went to the Anna Victoria Cruise Ship. I hate to say it, but I think Mom and Dad were a little nervous as we balanced along the pontoon plank way to the ship that was at least two football fields away. They are used to the fancy cruise entrances. Well, they were very good sports! Luckily, the boat itself was very nice, and our rooms were nice, as well. We had a fabulous time!!! We relaxed, and were able to see some really amazing scenery. The first day we went to see a special Ghost Town... There is a temple there, where the god of the underground lives. He's the one who judges you after you die, to decide if you go to heaven, or if you spend the rest of your days being tortured. And believe me,some of those tortures aren't very nice!

On the second day, we went up a small tributary river in a smaller boat. We then got in an even smaller boat. The dam is huge, and luckily, we could see it quite well because the clouds cleared up for us.

We had a really great time with Mom and Dad. The trip was wonderful, but it was especially nice having one on one time with the two of them and Michael. The children were very happy to have their grandparents back, and we all treasured the last couple of days with Mom and Dad before they had to go home. It means so much to us that they were able to come and see the places we love right before we are leaving. We celebrated Dad's birthday the night before they left.

Here we are at the Monastery on Qixia mountain. Unfortunately Mike had to work...

Julie went for a walk with us one day. We went to a very strange little museum that told us more about the dimensions of the buildings than what they were for. But, it was interesting... Here is a strange sign we found in the stairwell.

They wouldn't let us take our camera in to the hot springs to get a photo of the dead skin-eating fish, but we did get this lovely photo in our matching "lounge outfits" afterward.

Mike and I in the main lobby of our river-cruise.

Mom and Dad going up the chairlift to the temple.

The temple in the Ghost-town was different than I've ever seen before. The colors were blue and white. Here is a dragon guarding the entrance to the god of the underworld.

The god of the underworld who judges if you will have torture or not...

The beautiful river...