Monday, July 5, 2010

Thought for the day: All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable that makes you see something you weren’t noticing, which makes you see something that isn’t even visible. — Anonymous

This bleary-eyed scribe and fellow Volunteer Jim didn’t dally during our visit to Dali over the weekend, but our flight back to Kunming in the wee hours last night made sleeping late a prudent way to gather the energy we knew we would need for the afternoon’s visit to the Hump Memorial, an all-school field trip.

Our students practiced in the morning for Wednesday’s Speech Festival, decided what to do for the last day’s celebration, but seemed more subdued than usual because they, too, were recovering from the weekend.

The curving road to the Hump Memorial, in the hills above the city, was interrupted by dusty construction and speed bumps, which made the bus ride less than comfortable, but we amused ourselves by singing and chatting with the teachers that filled the flipped-down seats in our vehicle. When we arrived at the steps leading to the memorial, we were a bit startled to see men with tiny red flashing lights at target points on their camouflage uniforms, but they were laughing and swinging their apparently plastic rifles in a casual manner; they may have been a civilian corps of some sort.

After reading—or attempting to read—the weather-beaten explanatory panels about the Japanese attacks on China beginning in 1937, the building of the Burma road, and the Kunming-based Flying Tigers who flew supplies to quickly built airfields, taking photos became the most popular activity, with our teachers wanting to “Take Photo” with each and all of the volunteers in various groupings. The school’s official photographer was snapping photos as fast as he could, too.

After placing bouquets at the memorial, we all walked to a meadow to dance, first learning, from May, the rhythmic steps of a Wa dance, and then doing French-Canadian and Russian dances led by Dixie. Despite our advising the teachers to wear practical shoes, many of the women wore their usual feminine high heels, somehow managing to stay upright while sashaying around the grassy circle.

For the Global Volunteers, dinner at a Muslim restaurant was next on the schedule. The Peking duck, thick West Lake Beef Soup, eggplant disguised as a fish, and seven other colorful dishes delighted our palates, whether or not they were of authentic Muslim origin.

This day ended a bit oddly for me, as typing this journal entry was interrupted at 10 p.m. by a burp from the nearby water cooler, and water began leaking from the top of the machine. After I had soaked up the small spill with a towel, another burbling brought more water out of the container, and the almost empty bottle looked even emptier. My attempt to phone the reception desk didn’t work, so I reluctantly dressed and went downstairs, wondering how to explain the mystery if the attendant on duty didn’t speak English. I was in luck, and the Chinglish-speaking assistant called the maid on duty, who removed the water bottle and container, wiped up the spill, then installed a new container and full bottle; she even made sure that the hot water mechanism worked.

A long day is ending, and now I’ll rest my bones on the three quilts that inadequately pad my authentic Chinese bed in this complex country where seeing something obvious leads to seeing something I haven’t seen before, which leads me to something that wasn’t even visible.

– Nancy

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