Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Down from the Mountain

By Charles
Ending our overnight trip to the top of the magic 'Yellow Mountain', we descended by stairs and then cable cars to make a bus trip to Hong Cun Village where 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' was filmed. On the way, we stopped to examine a roadside Water Buffalo (no farmers on our bus)!

When we arrived at the village we were amazed to see the many dozens of students who sat around the town's lake in a painting class - Western style! The city and landscape were historic Chinese and breathtaking.

The highlight of this relaxed day was to be a visit to Hukaiwen Ink Factory where we got sticks of Ink made with our handprint.

But we discovered a new highlight on Tunxi Old Street thanks to Elza. Artist Mao Yin Fu was at work. In the ancient tradition, he lived and worked as a guest of the tea house owner in the front room of his business. (This charming and amazing artist even looked like an ancient Chinese artist!) Sandie bought a Wisteria treasure for her home and Nan had him produce a calligraphy for her studio. Nan insisted on having his 'personal seal' on the work so he phoned his daughter on his 'cell phone' to bring the treasure immediately. We had to be dragged away from his studio.

After dinner, a late bus ride to Huangshan airport.
It is 11:30 PM and we were preparing to return to Shanghai when it was announced that the "airplane is broken". We were asked to stick around while they tried to fix it, but finally we got into a smoky bus and were taken to a hotel at Midnight. There is only one flight a day to Shanghai. At breakfast we were told to be ready to return to the airport about noon - same bus.

China Eastern had flown up another airplane overnight just for our tour group! Everyone got four seats! Efficiently, the airline had a full compliment of attendants and our two burly security guards for the pleasant flight to Shanghai. Shall I describe the airline lunch sandwich? Three half slices of white bread with a 1" round cucumber slice and a 1" square of 'perhaps ham'! We all found it very interesting if not edible. The airline delay took away a day of free time in Shanghai but most of us were pretty exhausted and relaxed at our very nice hotel.

The next excitement came in the morning when we voted to abandon our luggage to the bus and we would take the 7 minute bullet train from downtown to the airport instead - at up to 480 kph. The train was a wonder: clean, fast, on time with beautiful stations. The Chinese had done it again! Did I mention the sound barrier pop when two high speed trains meet going in opposite directions at full speed?
We left on time for our 14 hour return to America which was cut short by the jet stream.We left almost exactly 24 hours before the terrible earthquake.

In reflection, was there anything missing for us in China? No! The Chinese were charming, friendly and graceful. The cities were booming.

Major highways had beautiful landscaping. The natural beauty was unbelievable. We were treated wonderfully as we soaked up the history and beauty of the country. The Chinese welcomed us and made our visit memorable. We shall not forget them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tiananmen Square

In unpacking and sorting out the jumble of papers I discovered this wonderful, most thoughtful commentary that had not been entered and bears no signature. I'm hoping that the writer will let me know so that I can properly credit it to them. Nan

Tiananmen Square
by Jeanne Gehle

As our group left for the Forbidden City, one could not help but reflect on its vast scale and the opulence of the life of the emperor's in contrast to the poverty of the Chinese people under their rule.
As I walked thru the main gate and saw Tiananmen Square for the first time, I was unprepared. It is the existential reflection of the Forbidden City. It's size matches that of the Forbidden City. I was told that by creating Tiananmen Square, Mao attempted to erase the crushing weight of oppression that had held the Chinese masses down.
However, in direct contrast to the Forbidden City; it's endlessness is intermittantly interrupted by the presence of a few, large grey sterile buildings crowned with traditional Chinese motiff roofs.
At one end of the Square is Mao's mausoleum open to the public for viewing. To either side of the Square are civil buildings - the Soviet era "Hall of the People", the National Museum of Chinese History, and the National Museum of the Chinese Revolution.
It was late afternoon and Chinese citizens and tourists were sitting on the Square in a line across one end waiting for the Flag Lowering Ceremony. Four Chinese Military Guards in full press stood at attention on eith side of the Flag. There was an aura of pride eminating from the spectators. What a contrast to my memory of Red Guards, Tanks & Troops storming the Square and the killing of so many Chinese students and bystanders as they protested against Mao for democracy.
Today as I watched, vendors peddaled their wares, tour guides held their flags high leading their groups proudly around the Square, familied picniced, children ran and played and kites flew high as the portrait of MAO looked on.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Goodby China - Loved It!

The Chinese People
By Jeanne Davis

Yesterday morning I heard Michael say that the Chinese people were the best part of the trip.
To me they have been the added bonus to history, culture, magnificent building and restful foot massages.
A Chinese woman was quick to remind me to take all my belongings when I became separated from the group at the Summer Palace. A Chinese speaking tour guide had me sit with his people until he found someone who spoke English to direct me. Families invited us to take pictures of their children and giggling teenage girls asked to have us pose in their photos.

I came to China without expectations for the warmth, acceptance and friendliness of the Chinese people. I am leaving with understanding and trust.

A Note from Nan

Pat Mark, Jeanne Davis and Jeanne Gehle (left to right) continue the China adventure by visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors! And then on to Hong Kong.

More Memories of China

The Umbrella
By John Lynn

A cool, rainy day provided me with one of the most memorable events of my tour of China. We had driven some good distance from Guilin to visit an old, rural village that pressed against a river. In earlier times it had been prosperous as a result of trading - primarily in salt. Today however, it stood very time worn and functioned mainly as a tourist site.As we disembarked from our tour bus, a light rain began to fall. I felt well prepared for it as I had an umbrella and a voluminous rain coat. A few people did not bring rain protection and they had to huddle under tour mate’s usually small umbrellas.

As we walked in the ancient village rain began to fall more steadily and soon a small stream flowed down the stone - paved road that we were following. I encountered one of our tour members who had no rain gear at all: she was trying to stay dry under a friend’s umbrella but her shoulders were beginning to be wet. So I lent her my umbrella and, for myself, pulled the back of my raincoat over my hair to try to keep my head dry.

Rain began to fall in earnest. I was glad my friend had my umbrella but the raincoat - over - the - head strategy for me wasn’t too practical and I abandoned it. My head got wet and rain ran down my back. As I stood under the cover of and eve, watching the downpour, a middle-aged woman approached from her near - by shop, carrying an umbrella and offered it to me. I did not notice that it was old with few rainy days left in its life. As I thought she was offering the umbrella for sale, I turned it down. She persisted. I turned it down again. Lisa, who was observing all of this, spoke up and said the woman was trying to give the umbrella to me. After overcoming my reluctance I accepted the umbrella and continued down the street. When I came abreast of her shop I could see my reluctance was entirely unfounded-she dealt in brush paintings and other items of Chinese art. Presenting me with an umbrella was, almost certainly a loan/gift offered without an expectation of anything from me at all. As such, I experienced the gesture as an expression of selflessness-love. It seemed to bridge the chasm between our cultures and their often ominous collisions. It fit well with my earlier impression of the Chinese character gained through reading Buck’s ‘The Good Earth’ and other recent works.

The umbrella worked well enough for another hour-leaking only slightly, it kept my head dry. I decided to tip her 10 yuan as “gent rent” and entered her shop on the way back to the bus. Our local guide delivered my payment to my benefactor now in a hive of customer’s. After some discussion between them, the guide emerged and told me that I could keep the umbrella. While it survived only a few more hours, I will hold it always as my best memory of our tour.

May 9 & 10‘How it Came to be That our Guide Jeffrey, Arranged for our Private “Charter” Flight FromHuangshan to Shanghai
By Eleanor Barkelew

After a relatively dry, much shorter descent from our hotel atop Yellow Mountain, we spent a delightful morning and early afternoon in Hong Cun village. Also known as Water City, a village designed in the shape of a water buffalo where we enjoyed a delectable lunch of a local fare at a village restaurant. As we meandered around the man made lake in the center of the village, we saw many young artists sketching or painting the picturesque scenes that abound in the old village. Later we had a fascinating visit to the Anhue China Ink Factory, (just before closing time). We had a nice block of free time to visit the many interesting shops along Old Street. We purchased local teas, calligraphy scrolls, art work and other special items.

After dinner in a good restaurant at the end of Tunxi Old Street, our bus took us back to the hotel in Huangshan where we had left our major luggage prior to the trek up Yellow Mountain. Once luggage had been repacked and sorted, we loaded the bus and headed to the Huangshan airport. At the airport we said farewell to William, our local guide in Huangshan, and trudged into the airport under the watchful eyes of Jeffrey.

Our one-hour flight to Shanghai was scheduled to leave at 11:30 P.M. When 11:00 rolled around and the boarding gate remained dark and unmanned, there were a few murmurs of inquiry, among the group. A young woman in an airline uniform talked briefly with Jeffrey, but there was still no sign of activity at the boarding gate. About 11:15 P.M., Jeffrey called the group “to order” for a short announcement: There was “bad news and good news”. The bad news was our plane was “broken”, the good news was “they MIGHT be able to fix it and our flight would just be delayed a while”. Another 10 minutes passed, another announcement from Jeffrey: “The bad news is they can’t fix the plane tonight, so we have two options - spend another night in Huangshan or take a six-hour bus ride to Shanghai.” Jeffrey would let us know. There was another 10 minute pause in the information flow. After intense discussion with the airline rep and some cell phone calls, Jeffrey announced that we would be spending the night in Huangshan. Since we departed for a one-hour flight, many in the group (including yours truly) elected to check most of their luggage-including what would have been carried aboard under other circumstances. In response to inquiries regarding access to the already checked bags, we were told it would take 4-5 hours-hence it was impossible!

So, just before midnight our somewhat bedragled troupe headed for a somewhat dilapidated diesel bus which would eventually take us to the Huangshan Hongta Hotel on the outskirts (that’s an understatement!) of “Downtown” Huangshan.

Thanks to Michael’s wit and talent for focusing the group on all things amusing and distracting and thanks to the general optimism and flexibility of the group, this unexpected ‘detour’ did not squelch our spirits. We would spend what was left of the night/early morning at the hotel and depart after lunch for an 1:30 flight to Shanghai.

Since many of the group had little else with them other than the clothes on their backs, LOTS of pocket tissue and some good reading material, breakfast the next morning was a mild version of “fright night”.There were NO shopping opportunities (even for bottled water or snacks) within walking distance of the hotel, and the hotel “shops” only opened briefly for about 15 minutes in the morning. However, several in the group discovered a beautiful esplanade along the river where a number of women were washing clothes and several men were fishing. Others enjoyed the “Pagoda Walk” behind the hotel.

Once we were aboard the “Dreadful Diesel” headed for the airport, Jeffrey announced that our 1:30 flight to Shanghai would be “Just for us.” So, we, a group of 26, had the entire plane to ourselves,one row per person! Our inflight “meal” was a three-decker “tea sandwich” - 3 half slices of crustless white bread with a quarter-sized slice of salami, a thin clice of cucumber and a SMALL piece of lettuce hidden in the middle of bread slices two and three. This was accompanied by a much-welcomed small bottle of water.

It was a trouble-free 50 minute flight to Shanghai (the plane HAD been broken - we all recalled!)The unexpected detour meant we missed most of our last full, free day in Shanghai, but the good news was we had our own “private juet” and the “Gang of 25” rolled with the punches!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Third Day - Guest Writers

The Tea Plantation
by Elza Gross
On a rainy morning near Guilin we spent a couple of hours at a charming organic tea plantation where we learned the fine art of brewing tea. For those of us who are used to plunking a tea bag in a cup of boiling water, we had a lot to learn. All tea comes from the same plant but the type depends on when the tea is harvested. The high quality white tea is picked when the leaf is still almost a shoot, green tea when the leaf is young. When the leaf is more mature it is used for ordinary green tea, black tea, and oolong teas. Each type of tea has diffefrent healthful properties. Each of the different types of teas has it's own brewing method. Who knew? A tea tasting was just what we needed on this cold rainy morning and we were ushered into a long room by our dainty tea guide, Helen. She explained that fermented tea such as oolong and black, or red tea should be brewed in a clay pot with boiling water. We were served a post fermented tea which had been pressed into a brick and then shaved off in pieces with a special knife. A small amount of water was poured over the leaves in the pot and then poured out to wash the leaves and enhance the flavor. Next the boiling water was added, the top was put on the pot, then more boiling water was poured over the outside of the pot. The tea is brewed when the moisture evaporates on the outside of the clay pot. We were all given tiny cups of this superb tea, while Helen explained that one must drink it in three sips, anything else is bad manners. If you drink it in one gulp you are considered a water buffalo, two a donkey, and three a polite guest. In addition to this, the method of holding the cup was important. She demonstrated how to hold the cup and the correct placement of the fingers so that the hand looked like a lotus blossom, then one raises the cup to gently take in the aroma, before partaking of the first sip. Helen's delicate maneuvering of this ritual was like watching ballet, and then 25 klutzes tried to copy her.

Next came a green tea which is always brewed in a porcelain pot with water just under the boiling point. Helen explained that green tea should never be taken on an empty stomach, but enjoyed with or after a meal, and never taken before bedtime.

We also enjoyed tasting as many thus made tea from the rare asmanthus flower grown in the mountainous Guilin area. Since the tea from this small plantation was of such high quality and not exported to other countries, we all loaded up on their specialty tea in the gift shop. This experience makes me want to go home and throw out all my tea bags. I can hardly wait to brew oolong in my new little cozy tea pot.

Buying Brushes in Beijing
by Diana Shepherd

"Off the bus-hurry-hurry!" explains Maggie (our tour guide). "Our driver can not park long or he will get a ticket." Like obedient little ducklings, we follow Mother Goose down the block to Liu Li Chang Xijie (Art Supply Street). We are in search of brushes, paper & Ink. We have a strategy-we will buy everything in one store! Nan will select all the best items, orders will be taken, then Nan and Maggie will negotiate the price. As we walk down the street, a store is chosen-Liu Li Chang #2 Art Store. We enter enmass, heading first to the brush counter. Hundreds of brushes hang in the window; it takes a while, but eventually 5 different types of brushes are selected. On to the paper and Ink - much discussion before items are chosen. Now - time to negotiate. The sales person states the prices in Yuan; Nan asks for the prices in dollars. "no-no-no, too much," says Nan; "I can get better prices in the U.S.!" Back & forth it goes; Nan & the saleswoman grappling for the best price, with Maggie as the interpretor/referee. Finally, an agreeable deal is reached - both sides saving face, Yuan changes hands. Happy artists, we leave the Art Supply store with brushes, paper & Ink in hand - smiles on our faces! A very good day in Beijing!

High Finance Negotiation Comments
by Nan

If it were not for Lauren Beyeler we would all still be in the #2 Art Store. With great authority and skill she handled the payements for said supplies as all prices quoted were for a 'group rate'. Lauren, with assistant Sandie Girl, broke down each individual's cost, paying the full amount herself and then having her grateful followers reimburse her. It should have been video taped as she was truly magnificent and I do believe I shall call her 'General Lauren' from now on! I shall always be grateful and forever remember her magnificence!!!

The Great Wall
by Ellie Lynn

"He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man." Mao Zedong

On a hot and smoggy day with but a hope of blue in the sky, I encountered the Great Wall. It looked just like the photographs, but it was exciting to feel its scale and to see how it followed the contours of the steep-sided mountains. As others began their climb or watched I saw that knees, hips, blisters and colds were the first barrier to climbing to the top. The heat and the high and uneven stairs added to the climbing challenge. About 2/3's of the way up I encountered Lauren resting. Although she really wanted to go all the way to the top, she thought she couldn't make it. I knew she could with encouragement, so I showed her my 'straight knee weight transfer' step and we plodded upward. We would see a tower at the top of the hill, only to find another one higher up when we got there. At the very top. Lauren still had the energy to climb the narrow and uneven passageway to the roof of the tower that stood near the end of this section of the wall. We were elated and proud of our accomplishment, and we took photographs of ourselves and the surrounding landscape. After our return, Nan presented each of us with a metal plaque engraved with our names to commemorate our special success.

Neither Rain Nor Snow
by Nan
The perfect setting for a birthday celebration? The very top of Yellow Mountain and so it was for Sandie Girl on May 8th!

Just brief mention of the porters who work harder than any may should have to carrying luggage, people and everything visible to the very top ... so many stairs, so much time.

Stranded in Huangshan
by Bonnie Schwartz

While stranded in Huangshan, we decided to take a walk down the street and found a little market to buy water. When we appeared at the cashier, all dressed in our lovely polyester outfits, she became very excited and started shouting over her shoulder. Suddenly, a lovely young girl, about 8, glided into the store from the back on roller blades, dressed in a pink outfit with knee socks and pants that had the words 'Shirley Temple" on them. We all smiled & waved bye bye.
Going First Class
By Nan

O.K., so the 11:00 P.m. plane that we waited an hour for didn't want to fly. No problem as our beyond belief wonderful guide Jeffrey got us into a hotel back in Huangshan. We had a much needed good nights sleep and a leisurely A.M. and went to the airport to catch a 1:00 P.M. flight to Shanghai.

The airport was completely deserted and our group had the plane ENTIRELY to ourselves! The plane was charted just for us. How's that for service!!!

Getting Coffee at the Huangshan Hongta
By Chaz. Schwartz

Awakened at dawn by a headache, I was in great need of a cup of coffee. Alas, no coffee was served at the 'western' breakfast (that meant it was served on the western side of the hotel). I asked the Banquet Manager. No coffee. I asked at the front desk. First, they said they have no coffee, then the manager made a call. "It is not included. You "have to pay." That was fine with me. "Where do I get it?" I asked. He told me to go back to the restaurant. I told him I was already there and they have no coffee. "Then-free of charge!"

by Ellie

The rhythm and pitch
of water dripping makes its
own free melody.

Talking casually
Half Finished conversations
meeting the schedule

Dark compelling forms
Push upward and encircle
Protecting presence

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Many Voices

Nan and Ro's Excellent Adventure
by Rosanna Schmidgall

The rains fell. And fell. And fell. No one escaped the soaking. Not even Nan, who always has the sun at her beck and call.

Fast forward to Guilin and the quest for dry pants and shoes. Ro takes Nan in hand and we trek through the marketplace. In and out of shop after shop until we find the perfect pants, and they're DRY! Onward for shoes. "Do you have my size?" asks Nan. "One hundred yuan" replies the young man . "No, but do you have my size?" "One hundred yuan." Bye, bye, young man.Nearing the end of our hopeless search, Nan spies her dream shoe. "Crocs!" she cries. And soon nan is wearing her beautiful green Crocs on her happy feet. All in all, an excellent adventure was had by Nan and Ro.

The Emperor's Summer Palace
by Judith Nelson
Another temperate day with blue skies as we begin our day by visiting the Summer Palace. This is China's largest Imperial garden with classical landscape design. We especially enjoyed the Long Corridor, a covered walkway nearly 2,300 feet in length. The views from its bays are each photo ops, but more incredible is the artwork that covers the entire ceiling, and each cross beam. From here we took a pleasure Dragon boat on Kunming Lake which afforded excellent views of the Seventeen Arch Bridge. We were told a lot about the Empress Dowager, about whom the best that can be said is that her beauty tip #3 is still sound: after every meal take a 30 minute walk.As for the Peking Duck,it would have been better if they had let the duck live!

Forbidden City
by Chas. Schwartz
We entered the Forbidden City through the back door to the Emperor's private garden, a magical space of twisted rock formations and towering ancient trees. This is one of the only green and domestic areas within the walls of the immense complex: most of the Forbidden City is a maze of cold official buildings and hardscaped outdoor spaces, very much like an ancient Chinese versoin of the Pentagon.Proceeding through offices, throne rooms, ceremonial temples, and the Emperor's personal breeding quarter, we emerged in the largest and most famous section of the complex, whose well preserved, gigantic buildings were reserved for ceremonial occassions involving thousands of participants plus horses and elephants. All around are reminders of the pervasive paranoia of the Emperors: the pavement of the immense squares is said to be 15 layers thick in order to discourage assassin's from tunneling in to spoil the fun during ceremonies.Gate after ceremonial gate, bridge after ceremonial bridge, demonstrate how well the Chinese dynastic rulers knew how to impress and intimidate their kowtowing guests.The last gate from the Forbidden City faces Tianeman Square, a more modern but no cherrier public showplace. Chairman Mao's two-ton portrait gazes benevolently toward his own masoleum, secure in the knowledge his body is perfectly preserved in a crystal box. This is the heart of the old and new China - a sight even more unforgettable at night when everything including one huge Palace of Congresses (government building) and National Museum (closed for rennovation) is outlined with white Christmas lights. This space,approximately the size of Sacramento, swept, but it is all amazingly clean.

A Visit to a Hutong
by Sandie Reilly
After a full day of Chinese history, some of us want to understand the story of average citizens. So, we set out in rickshaws (sp.?) to visit the city's Hutong neighborhoods of traditional courtyard houses. Robin, our guide, says many of the residents were relocated to make way for the Olympics. Recently, the Chinese government pulled back, realizing the historic value of the neighborhoods and is trying to preserve and adapt what remains of the old city.Robin takes us to one of the homes where a man and his adult son are home to greet us. At first we feel uncomfortable. Is this an invasion of their privacy? I quickly learn the father and son enjoy jobs in the 'tour' business so I take comfort that they are getting something out of our visit too. And clearly, it's a chance to learn more about us during our opportunity to learn more about them. Graciously, tea and food are prepared and many small stools await us in their living room. I scan the area for household pets eager to bring back the answers to Maggie's question "which pets are most popular for a family?" I see a fish tank, so I relax and take in the rest of the experience. The house isn't as small as it appears from the outside of the quadrant. When I first walk in I see a flush toilet and washing machine in a small service room. This seems like a modern home to me. Robin explains there are 5 rooms in this home. A kitchen, bathroom, living room and two bedrooms. The most striking decorations are the Chinese Brush art paintings that hang on the wall. Proudly, the father says his mother is the artist. Our destiny is revealed, we are meant to pay this family a visit!The father tells us he's lived in this home for 28 years. His parents live nearby in an apartment & his wife is at work in a restaurant now. We ask about his pet fish because he is standing in front of the tank & we can't see it contents clearly. He laughs & motions that his fish is sleeping!! Oops, we likely aren't staying for the sushi course.After asking the standard questions; "what do you do for a living," etc., we are directed to see the other "pets" the family cares for. Robin displays two tiny wood cages, one for a cricket and the other for a grasshopper. Chinese people enjoy keeping them as pets for the chirping sounds of song and sport of fighting? Yeah, that's right! Robin's face lights up as he reveals the tools necessary for the care and feeding of the cricket.Our comes the "mini me" sized food & water bowl, pooper scooper, love box & prod stick used to anger him into a fighting champion. At this point, I feel I'm part of an audience at the Tonight Show as Robin, with great comedic skill, puts on his little show. After a quick tour of the other rooms and our sincere thanks to our hosts we leave crouching cricket and sleeping fish for our final date for Peking Duck.The trepedation I first felt when learning of our evenings plans was replaced by a vedry real sense of balance & harmony in Chinese life.

Peking Opera
by Chaz. Schwartz
Six of us piled into cabs for the hour & a half cross-town journey to a performance of "Beijing's Famous Peking Opera".More like vaudeville than Western Opera, the evening featured two unrelated sequences. The first was an act in two tellings. The story of a love-sick 19 year old nun who has run away to chase her lover as he pants down the Autumn River toward a distant town. She meets a tricky elderly boatman who decides to have a little fun teasing her, but ultimately helps her catch up to her lover. The story is told in a combination of song, dance, and pantomine on a bare stage brought vividly to life by the performer, rich beautiful costumes, and minimal props.The second episode is an adaptation of one of the famous tales of the Monkey King. In this one, Buddah sends 18 disciples to catch the monkey, but his magic is powerful and he's able to defeat them each in turn with truly amazing dance, acrobatics, and martial arts moves.A small live orchestra accompanies the performance. The whole thing was a real treat.

Loong Palace Hotel Shop
by Chas. Schwartz
The Loong Palace, on the far northern edge of Beijing, is an oversize complex that's closer to the Great Wall than to the Forbidden City, in the heart of Beijing. The lobby has several shops, but nothing like a place for notions and travelers' needs as is found in most hotels. I went into the most likely shop hoping to find slide film and aspirin's. They had neither, but they had many unexpected items such as model race cars, 17 types of condoms, and several brands of knock-off viagra, one of which was called "American Brother."

The Art Store Experience

by Sandie Reilly
We came...
We saw....
We bought!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Yangshou Village in the Rain by Bonnie Schwartz

Our adventure in Yangshou Village began in the lobby of the hotel where everyone scrambled to open packed suitcases to take out boots, umbrellas and parkas as we watched the pouring rain bounce several feet in the air and clatter on the stones. When we arrived we realized that was only a sprinkle!

The intepid group traipsed down the flooded streets, ducking under stores to try keeping float. Old old lady in a blue jacket invited Elza into her house while the rest of us went to see the Chinese doctor who treated Michel's cold with large clay cylinders heated by flame and then stuck to his chest - sort of like the spines of the dragon. The doctor handed out sticks with cloth on the end to several people to cure headaches.Annie, our guide, took some of us across a bridge to a villager's home where we learned about their family traditions, ancestors and weddings. On the way we stopped at the nice wine store where a man was steaming a large cauldron of rice and and mixing it up with a shovel to ferment the rice. One scene remains vivid in my memory. While we were on the bridge overlooking pastoral views of water buffalo and horses, a little pony walked by the buffalo. At first, they had a staring contest, then the pony reared up on his hind legs, turned around and playfully bucked out at the buffalo and trotted away ... that is life in Yangshou

Memory of Guilin by Dorothy Shepherd

Fantastic dragon mountains, interesting old architecture, and everpresent building cranes symbolic of the new China.

Magpies in Guilin by Lucia Moskal

So here we are in Guilin, land of high bumpy mountains straight out of a Chinese Brush painting. One of our tour stops was at the riverside to view the Elephant Hill formation. Off in the distance across the river we could see the silouhette (sp?) of the head of the elephant with its trunk sloping to the water as though the giant animal was taking a drink from the river. There were many costumed locals we could take pictures of, or as our tour guide called them, "minorities" with silver headpieces and bright colored clothing. Eleanor Barkelew and I decided to leave the quay and climb the stairs to wait for the bus as everyone else was still taking pictures and exploring except for Nan who had also gone up to look for the bus. At the top, only a few local people were there, but neither Nan nor bus were in sight. What was going on in the middle of the square was clearly a domestic despute, very loud shouting. A Chinese woman, about 40, casually dressed, was yelling at a Chinese man, dressed in dress shirt and slacks, i.e., not a street worker. Another woman was standing by as the woman continued to screech, parrying back and forth, gresticulating within inches of the man as he stood silent. This went on for at least 10 minutes, back & forth. The scene changes when the woman left. The man just stood there. Two minutes later the women came back, the woman starting in on the man again, other people standing around not intervening. Another ten minutes of screeching, just like a group of magpies, protecting their nest, the last act in this local domestic drama.
Note from Nan: Sorry not to blog but I'm occupied as shown!

Today we are in Beijing and leave tomorrow for the Yellow Mountain; we arrive late. Weather has been perfect. Chinese unfailingly polite.


There is no avoiding the pull of the internet, the blogs, the YouTube imaginings. It's as if we're all 'On the Road' with Jack Kerouac each in our own world of meanderings. When we tell someone to 'get a life' it might be a bit difficult when you're dragged into other people's 24/7.

I've come to realize two foundational principals, there are no accidents and everyone has a purpose. More and more I'm desiring everyone to come into a full realization of their purpose as we all find our way on this little jewel of a planet.

For me, as a professional 'Western style artist', I stumbled into Chinese Brush Painting after a trip in 1980 to Monet's home/garden. Seeing all of his collection of Japanese woodblock prints was an ahh haa moment for me and when I returned to the States I started painting in the Chinese manner and never looked back. The first year was extremely painful for me as I felt that I should be able to master the technique since I was a 'trained' artist. Not a chance ... that just gets in your way.

Now, after teaching close to 3,000 students and having my book 'The Ch'i of the Brush' published by Watson Guptill, I can say that every one of my students does better their first day than I did my first year! Why? Because I insist that they leave their critical parent outside and just enjoy the journey, respecting the work that they do. I never let anyone throw anything away because that just ingrains frustration and defeat.

We really only begin to learn when we stop and figure out how to 'save' a painting. It works every time.I am so proud of my students, their receptivity and eagerness to express themselves is a continuing blessing for me.So, back to finding your purpose. Perhaps it starts with realizing 'it's not about me'. It so easy to want our needs met and to filter everything thru this attitude. When we realize that we're here to be of benefit to every life that we touch the universe really provides the ways and means.

The best part is that it's really exciting to not have yourself on your mind all the time!I'm re-reading a wonderful book about authenticity and in my next meandering I'll tell you about it. In the meantime I'd love to hear about your journey and am here to answer any and all questions about Chinese Brush Painting.