Tom & Holly Travels
since 2004
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你好(Ni hao)

   Well you know me, I like to make sense out of things so went to the lecture about Buddhism. The first two temples we visited back in Shanghai looked to me like people worshiping idols. At least I now know that it was started by a real person, Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, from India who was enlightened after great suffering – 563 BC. There are only five rules in Buddhism; Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, no sexual misconduct, no drugs or alcohol. Sounds good, but if you are lay Buddhist you don’t have to worry about following these rules except on the 1st and 15th of the month. Buddhism has about 1.7 billion followers and we probably saw about half of those yesterday when we went to the temples. Buddhism is about purification by freeing oneself of poisons in our lives and achieving perfect enlightenment.

   So yesterday was a Buddhist holiday for the Queen Buddha of Mercy. It is a statue with arms and eyes everywhere. She had an opportunity to go to heaven or stay on Earth and help people. She decided to stay and yesterday was her birthday.  The temple areas were so congested with people it wasn’t funny. So I kept asking different guides, is she based on a real person who did good things. “No,” so back to my belief that they are just worshiping idols. But these people praying in the temples yesterday were very serious.  More serious than the Buddhist monks we saw. On the other hand, these people may just like to burn incense. You buy an entire bundle of incense sticks. The bundle is so large it takes both hands to hold it. Then you light them on fire and the bow three times to the north, south, east, and west.  Then you throw the sticks in the now huge fire pit, buy more sticks and repeat the process. I had to dodge all of the burning sticks which of course made me quite nervous. Plus, just what China needs is more pollution.

    Yesterday when we went to the porcelain factory we drove for two hours through the country side. It was very interesting. We learned that under Communism, each farmer was given one sixth of an acre to plant. The government told you what to plant and how to plant it. As our guide said, what happens under Communism is that when people work for everyone, the quality is like they are working for no one. Even though today’s farmer in China has more responsibility which means they can made more decisions, they still only have one sixth of an acre. They plant canola which are beautiful yellow flowers, early rice and late rice. I was wondering why you would see small patches of canola and then rice. Now I know. That small plot is the only land they have to work. Of course the government owns the land and you can live there for 50 years. After that I don’t know what you do. More government, if you live in the city you can one child only. If you live on a farm and your first child is a girl, five years later you can have one more child. Also every farmer burns the stocks when they harvest so more smoke in the area.

   At the hotel where we had lunch it was typical Chinese style. They have a lazy Susan in the middle of the table and they put bowl after bowl of food. It is quite sporting as you may be spooning your food onto your plate and then someone spins the lazy Susan. The veggies fill most of the area and of course one must have bock choy and green beans. They also have some weird looking bean that tastes sort of like a peanut. As you can see many times we just guess what we are eating. We found it is best to never ask what we are eating until he meal is over otherwise we might not eat. One thing we all know is they have huge bowls of rice. Yesterday they had meat on a skewer that looked like chicken but didn’t taste like it. We found out later it was rabbit. Not a good thing to eat on Easter. Back on the bus we all decided to joke about it. It was too late we had all eaten the Easter Bunny on Easter.  I think they were screwing with our minds. Forgot to mention that your plate is about the size of a saucer.  All very sporting.

   Speaking of Communism, when we were first introduced to the ship, our cruise director told us that don’t worry about the air conditioner in your cabin. Doesn’t matter what you set it at, it is under Communism design and everyone gets the same air.

…if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes in the spirit in which the gods may offer it.Freya Stark

Confucius say – Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.


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