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The Final Leg

Posted by on September 29, 2012

This three-week journey through central China capped off my 11-month stay in China. After it, I returned to my China home of Zhuhai for two days of preparations, reflection, and final good-byes to all of China.

Bu first, my three week trip ended with a brief bit in the historic city, Xi’an.

An ancient capital and the eastern point of the legendary trading route, The Silk Road, Xi’an has 3100 years of history. There’s a week’s worth of sites to see here; I only had 40 hours. But, I did get out to see some interesting things here in Xi’an:

First, let’s learn to pronounce it. In the pinyin (alphabetized Chinese), the “x” sounds like “sh” but tighter. So “Xi’an” sounds something like “She an”. And then remember that Chinese is a tonal language so you gotta sort of sing it.

Being an old, old city, Xi’an has an old-school security measure: the city wall. Today, the once-contained urban area sprawls far beyond this boundary, and automobiles make their way below it.

Nonetheless, it stands strong:

It’s a big wall, as they like them here in China. Atop this construction is a wide walkway/bikeway—heck, even a roadway if needed. It was wide.

When up there, I saw some white tourists who struck me as the Yankee-type. I was half right. They were from the American south:

Nothing screams southerner like that shirt: ‘Stuck on a Truck at Toad Suck’.

Turns out Toad Suck is a festival down in Alabama. It’s like the Woodcarver’s Festival in my hometown, Blackduck. But whereas Blackduckers carve wood, the Alabamans don’t actually suck toads—to my knowledge anyway. But they do have food, booze, and music. Yeehaw! And the pinnacle of the event is a contest where folks put their hands on a truck; the one who keeps their hand on the longest wins it.

The winning times have been lengthened a great deal over the years. (100+ hours this last year–no sleep, no drugs.) Some might say it’s the downturn in the economy driving people to new means of owning a car. I’d say ‘pshaw’ to that, and choose to believe it’s the continued evolution of the human race, reaching new heights of physical capabilities.

[On another note, I never saw too many Americans tourists in Asia. Europeans and Australians were more common.]

Heading back from the wall, I caught a shot of this structure:

The Drum Tower and the Bell Tower are located in the city center. Forgive me, but I don’t recall which one this is!

Continuing on, I heard some music inside a darkened building. Obviously, I had to enter:

She had the voice of a door that needed to be oiled. I don’t say that to be critical. In fact, from what I’m told, this is the standard wail of classic Chinese opera. I may not get it, but apparently they do. And artistic tastes aside, for the Chinese it’s also about identity and culture.

Tell me what you think:

The next morning I went to breakfast and sadly (or not) this was the most compelling thing I noticed:

Oh boy

Chinese folks wear shirts with English on them and have no idea what they say, let alone what they mean. Most times the messages aren’t as eye-catching, but this also wasn’t the first crass shirt I saw. But hey, at least there were no typos on this one.

And on this strange note, my three-week, central-China trek comes to a close. Soon after breakfast, it was off to the airport to fly to Guangzhou and then bus to Zhuhai.

Now let’s have a ball looking back on this trek:

From Zhuhai:

I started right down there.

This train took me part of the way.

To Beijing:

A lovely summer Sunday at Temple of Heaven Park

I believe it was the right side of this path that only the emperor could walk upon.

Forbidden City

CCTV Tower in the business district

The historic, ‘hutong’ alleyways of Beijing

Then to the Summer Palace:

After a week in Beijing, I took a train to rural Henan province:

station in Beijing

“Zao sheng hao”: early morning on the train after riding all night long

Here in Henan province is where I met 99-yr old, Jing Yuan:

And kicked it with the locals:

By train out of the plains of Henan:

my train company

To the mountains of Hubei province:

The town of Wu Dang Shan

Where I practiced tai chi for 8 rich days:

what form!

And after this, it was back to civilization in Xi’an.

It’s incredible where life will take you if you go with its flow. Getting on the bus out of Zhuhai with my luggage, a couple rough plans, and an openness to meet others and follow curiosities, opportunities were presented, situations arose, one thing led into the next.

I see my trek as an example of what life as a whole can be. Of course, this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveling is all well-n-good given the resources, time, and lack of domestic responsibilities I had. But now stretch this three weeks to encompass a lifetime and then dilute the relative drastic nature of my experiences—going from urban to rural, from wealth to squalor, from modern to ancient—to include the broader, real-life endeavors such as marriage, parenthood, and career. I do think it’s translatable. These real-life endeavors just delve into the deeper drives for personal and professional growth and fulfillment. So no, I don’t believe the drama and excitement of life’s journey decreases with responsibilities, occupation, or age; they just transform.

With that in mind, I got back to “real life” and had 48 hours remaining to prepare for the travel back to Minnesota and to say goodbye to all of China.

Next time, I will reflect further back—encompassing the entire previous year.

’til next time,


One Response to The Final Leg

  1. Sue

    What a journey you have been on Brandon! Interesting to see how other parts of the world live. I’m not sure I could get used to listening to that music though. Oh, and that t-shirt that girl was wearing about being easy….that cracked me up because she didn’t look like she would wear something like that!