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...Well... # 5 just came rolling out. In this one I want to look at some pretty things about China. And there is no better place to start than here.......In a print photo these colors would be richer but I don't think any color corrections no enhancements can deepen the quality of these smiles. They say that the eyes are a window to the soul and I believe that is so. And in the depth of the eyes there may be volumes of information speaking to the individuals experience of the human condition. But in the genuineness of these smiling faces I see a side of myself and humanity in general that is simply soothing. I don't know what the occasion is (with the flowers), this was just a momententary stop on a bicycle ride, but these girls rushed across the road and we exchanged photo opportunities with one another, my photo of them and their friend taking a photo of the three of us. I said they rushed across the street... why?? Here is some of why; You know, I am a decent looking guy and certainly no trophy. But despite my being a little long in the tooth, short on hair and possessing a full girth, here, in this culture this list of liabilities are assets. And then the simple fact that I am a foreigner makes me some what of a novelty if not a prize. I tell you straight out... I love it!

...Being a foreighner in China is interesting in ways I would not have thought about if I were not one here. For instance, we all look alike to them. When I first came to China I wore a Dallas Cowboys cap (...from the good ole' days when they were kings) assuming that everyone in the world knew who The Dallas Cowboys were. But here in China the assumption had no reflection. For two weeks I wore the cap everyday anyway expecting someone to blurt out "yeah! Cowboys". But no such blurtes occured. A month later I returned to China and to "my hotel" and strolled into the Western resturant to the warm welcomes I assumed were awaiting me. The staff was friendly enough but not as happy to see me as I thought they would be. About a week later I happened upon my Cowboys hat, donned it for the day and dropped into the resturant. The waiters and waitresses all but stampede toward me with excited greetings! I was dumbfounded untill I realized it was the "hat me" that they recgonized and not the "me" me. So, they only thing that they know about you if you are a foreighner is that you are not Chinese. But they cannot tell by how you look nor how you speak if you are from Italy or France or Canada or the USA much less Texas (...where ever that is). I have a friend, Anthony. He and I have similar physiotypes. Often I will go some place and the people will say "you were just here" and I will say, "no I wasn't" but they will insist... really it was Anthony. I tease him that I will go and rob the bank and let him do the time! We are both socialy pretty popular and both equally amused at our eligibility... for I look at anthony and he looks at me and I say "I just doin't see it dude" and he says "I don't see it either" then we laugh and say; 'but they do!"
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...On some days China is beautiful. On other days it is just as beautiful just a little difficult to see. In this shot I am up in Yangshuo, a town famous for hosting Bill Clinton's visit to China and then famous throughout China and travel books for its beautiful scenery, bike and hiking trails and rock climbing. It is winter time and there is a legitimate overcast to the day but I know from experience that there is a lingering haze that will not burn off. Still, there is no way of getting around it, this is a pretty place. Unless you give the Chinese a free hand in turning a buck. And then they are more than capable of placing the absolutely tacky smack in the middle of natural beauty. Here, on the right they have not missed such an opportunity. Even if the material can be justified look at its application. Little extra tacky pieces of wood tacked over gaudy violet material. But I know how they think and this is good enough, functional, practical and it floats. Whadda' ya' want! a 5 star hotel!... still, I really do wonder why isn't it red...

...And then again my shot. In my own defense, I can say that since this shot I have dropped about 15 pounds. But despite the obstruction, in the background you can see the famous Guilin mountains of South West Central China. The are very different from any mountains I have ever seen before. They go straight up and then straight down. Like huge mounds of dirt and rock that you can walk among. That's why the bike trails are so neat. You can ride all day on relatively level ground among seemingly endless valleys among seemingly endless walls of mountains. Its magical and then we have proof that around the next bend may be Merlin's purple tent...
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...This is the sister area to Youngshou, Dali. Beautiful isn't it? Its a 30 hour train ride from Yangshuo to Dali. From South West Central China to West North West China. My friend returned with these photos. I have not had a chance to visit but I will soon. Till then, I don't have much comment to offer.


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...Wait a minute... how did these California shots get in here..... Actually, this is the only place I have been in China where the fallout from the dust cloud of absolutely startling growth of an emerging nation has not settled over. Here the water is clean, the sky is blue and the trees are green and uncoated by a layer of nondescript fallout. This is Yantai, on the East North East shores of China. In the distance is South Korea. When I visited I was told that few Western foreigners come here. Most of the tourist are Japanese or Korean.

 

...I stayed at this beautiful hotel and relaxed. The service was so good that the laundry persons even stictched up holes in my T shirts. No one has ever done that for me. Except my mom. As night descended I felt a little lonely and longed for home.. no the USA but...ChangPing

 

 

...For now I am from ChangPing, the main train stop about half way between Shenzhen and Guangzhou in the Pearl River delta, home of SARS, tens of thousands of factories, millions of displaced Chinese workers, nameless nondescript airborne particles, streets thick with secondhand jalopies, massive dump trucks, BMW's, Mercedes, herds of 125cc motorcycles, stickwelders lighting up the night sky, acres upon acres upon acres of injection molders, CNC mills, blaring horns to rival Gabriel, thousands upon thousands of truly beautiful Chinese women (that's a later story) and their hair stylist working in and adjacent to enough 5 star hotels that they could obliterate the Milkeway... that's my home.... so let me outta here............... I gotta get back to..... CHINA...

 

My home...the rat race of China...and this rat lost...
...I cannot guess as to why the rat is still laying there. I couldn't detect any signs of life so it ain't a pet. I guess they just bonked it and will dispose of it later. One thing I know for sure, the rat has a different status in China than it does in the USA. Its more of a live and let live thing. If a rat runs across the road a car may swerve feigning that they will run over it. But as the driver feigns they also chuckle. For they know that there is little hope of succeeding in running over the rodent. In fact, they are impressed with its quickness, its cleverness and its resiliency. On a darker side, in poorer parts of China in villages it is completely normal to wake up with a few marks where the resident rat family has taken a nibble from the host! Hey, it grosses me out too! But, down here on the upside down side of the planet things are not the same as back home. And I have learned to not project my values onto values of the Chinese nor to judge them as if I were right and they were wrong.

I am going to leave you with this last shot... there is that smile again. The same kind of smile we started with.
...look at the fellow on the right. Is he negotiating traffic or gazing into his future? I guess the smiling guy read his daily affirmations or chanted a mantra or meditated an hour before work. Doesn't he look in a good mood? Pretty solid. But remember, its me, Mr. know it all with Sherman and the way back machine.. here to tell you "like it is". And here is what that is; simply waking up is affirmation enough for these kind of Chinese people. Hey, its gonna be a great day, I got my trike and I got a load of junk to sell to the junk man, I had my noodles and tea and my old lady is back at the shack getting ready to shop for dinner... what more could a fellow want! I am at times jealous of their simple life. And then, as an English teacher I see the evolving Chinese... and they are evolving into the same calamities that grip the Western version of the humane condition... the luxury to worry, to want to buy insurance (an exploding business in China), to keep up with the Chaos, to view the rat as a dirty rodent, the dollar as god, the poor at losers, grandparents as sweet but old and stupid, the things out of their reach as what they must have... but these guys are asleep at the wheel, dumb but happy and not a word of English in their vocabulary... losers!!