Yesterday afternoon, I went to a cooking demonstration of dumplings and learned that the people in the north of China eat dumplings made with wheat flour so are taller and stronger than people in south China who eat rice. The dumplings were delicious. I have the recipe so may try some when I return. The sauce was very good.
So far, all of the Chinese food here in China has been very very spicy. I have to laugh when I see ‘organic’ something on the menu. With this pollution, there is no way anything is organic. I have seen nothing that looks like what we call chow mien. We had chicken cashew for lunch, and it did not taste like ours. There is no General’s Tao Chicken in China, and fortune cookies are an invention of a Chinese restaurant in China Town, San Francisco. Our guide, Huang, had his first fortune cookie on a plane from the states to Shanghai. When he opened it up, there was no fortune inside. You can tell that really bothers him because when we were at the Buddhist temple, he found a monk to try and explain why this had happened. Huang is Buddhist, and I get the feeling that they are very superstitious.
Today we went to the Three Gorges Dam; it was very interesting. It took 17 years to build with constant pouring of concrete, 24 hours a day, for 300 days. It was truly an international project and the “crane” became the bird of China. Of course I guess a mechanical bird is good, since spotting a live bird in this pollution is very rare. Anytime we see a real live bird, we all stop and take a photo; they are that rare.
The Three Gorges Dam was built to protect the 400 million people downstream from flooding. When we can post photos to the internet again, you will see the 97 steps up to the city of Wuhan where we have visited, and that would not have been enough protection. The city of Wuhan would have been completely destroyed. The dam does supply about 2% of the energy in China but remember that 80% still comes from burning of coal. The water level in summer during the rains is 300 meters difference from the reservoir side to the river side. We will go through a five stage lock system this afternoon, and it takes four hours to complete the process if we are lucky.
When we were in Egypt some people who had visited China with Viking said that Viking owns China, and we are very glad we are with this company. The lock system had been closed for twenty days for repairs, and when it opened there were over 700 cargo boats in queue to go through. Still it will be three more days until passenger ships can go through the locks, so very glad we are with Viking and they greased the right palms. I guess that is also why Viking supports several schools along the river plus helps China in other ways.
For the next three days in China, the Chinese are celebrating their Memorial Day. It is different from our Memorial Day in that the Chinese celebration is for all passed ancestors, and is called “sweeping of the tombs.” First, they shoot fireworks to wake the dead. After the dead are awakened, they bring flowers, food and strong whiskey. Our cruise director, who went to university because he wanted to avoid the leeches in the rice patties, told us as a child that whenever his mom would make a good meal, she brought a full plate out to the tombs of her parents. The tombs are right behind the homes in the country. She mumbled something while he and his hungry brothers stood patiently by. Finally, she would feed the living members of the family.
When the Three Gorges Dam was built, 1.3 million people were displaced when 145 towns were destroyed to build the dam. Our cruise director had explained that relocating that many people was no problem under Communism. Can you imagine this in America? He showed us many truly moving photos as people watched everything they had ever known being washed away. Today some of the displaced people claim that is was a Communist trick just to displace them, and there is really no dam. They say that because there are only a handful of days where one can actually see the entire dam because of the ‘mist’ as they call it. We call it pollution.
Our local tour guide today for the dam was a child when his family was displaced. His family had been farmers for generations, so it was extremely difficult to move to the city. I can only imagine. Then he said that it was important for us to visit the dam early, because they expected 10,000 Chinese visitors to come today for the celebration of “the sweeping of the tombs.” In the country side, which had been flooded with the building of the dam, the tombs of their ancestors were obviously destroyed. The local people bring flowers on these days to throw into the water.
Our local guide also told us another interesting story. His marriage was arranged when he was seven and his future wife was five. When he went to the university he met a girl, and they fell in love. He asked us to guess which girl he married??? Did you guess??? He married the girl from the university, but you can tell he feels somewhat responsible for and prays for the other girl. The arranged girl’s parents do not speak to him of course, but she did marry, and he prays she is happy.
Also, we saw lots of toddlers with open bare bottoms. They had pants covering the rest of their legs but nothing on their little bottoms – girls or boys. We asked and learned that in the country babies wear diapers until about one year or until they can walk. The diapers are old clothes that are used because they are soft on the babies skin so we were told. From about a year to two and a half bare bottom pants are used. Now these toddlers were being carried, so you can picture this scenario for yourself. In the country, this age child just squats where ever to do their business. I guess that is why it is important that they can walk. In the city, children wear diapers, so in the country, I will watch where I am walking. Very very few dogs, but kids.
Seek and you will find. Don't be willing to accept an ordinary life.Salle Merrill Redfield
Confucius say – Ceremonies are the first thing to be attended to in the practice of government.
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Tom & Holly