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china Travel

DOG DAY

The weather was cold, but less than yesterday. I had lunch with Teresa today, I probably wouldn’t see her anymore. Due to her grandfather’s illness, the next day she would have rushed to her city. In the afternoon I went again to the E-Mall and chatted with the people there.

I had dinner with Kang Li and finally I ate dog’s meat, but I could not say it was special because it was a soup. I probably would have liked it better if it was fried or grilled. The color was like beef, as for the flavor could not feel due to the herbs that stole the natural flavor of the meat. I was very anxious to eat, but I was imagining the poor animal, I had to create courage to put it in to my mouth. I was able to pay the bill again, sometimes the locals don’t allow me.

The next day the weather was neither hot nor cold but with a little sun. Then, I went to buy the train ticket to Hangzhou for the next Monday night for RMB 294 or USD 38, it was 24 hours of travel and 1558km. There I would stay at Sébastien’s home, the Frenchman I met in Kashgar. I was also going to meet a friend from Brazil there, also descendant of Taiwanese.

I arranged to have lunch with Isaac, Regiane and the Lesser Quintet here at home. I bought the street lunches spending only RMB 19 (USD 2.5) for eight people plus the coke 2 liters (USD 1), the lunch was enough – still left rice. In the afternoon I met beautiful Rebecca downtown. And I had dinner at a Korean restaurant with beautiful Caroline, the Sino-Filipino-American.

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FAREWELL MARATHON

Monday was cold and a little rain in the morning, the rest of the day was without rain. I had lunch with Jean, Candy and Roah, Dana and Emily couldn’t show up, Emily because of the flu. They gave me a little farewell souvenir. This is the group of younger girls, I will call it the “Minor Quintet”, aged 17 to 19 years. I was able to pay the bill.

After the Cantonese class with Teresa, I went out to dinner with the Cantonese – Teresa, Lili and Steven – it was missing only Roy and Rebecca (although not Cantonese she spoke the language).

I made another jump on the E-Mall, because I made friends there, too. I bought a used mini notebook for USD 155.

This week was going to be a marathon to say goodbye to the people I met here, mostly Chinese with whom I went out more and had more intimacy.

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SUNDAY, LORD’S DAY

I went to a Christian service in the morning in a hotel, it happened only once a year here in Xian, there were about 200 people, I had to take passport to enter, after all it was only for foreigners, there were people from everywhere, White, Black and Asians, it was a short message and a good worship!

The lunch was already scheduled with Claire, Tracy, Sophy and Cindy. Jiji could not come. I was well accompanied, they were all post-university English students, but with different background (dentist, doctor, computing, administration and accounting). I’ll call it the “Major Quintet,” they were between 22 and 24 years old. We ate typical Chinese food, some dishes did not exist in Brazil. And once again I couldn’t pay the bill.

After lunch Cindy and Tracy had an appointment, so Claire, Sophy and I went for a walk in the Great Pagoda. Later I was supposed to meet Kang Li to help me buy a used laptop at the E-Mall, so we all went there.

At the dinner, me, Claire, Sophy, Dani, Flá, Rê, Martina (Croatian, football player’s wife) and their daughter Zara, went to a clean Uighur restaurant, with beautiful atmosphere and typical dance.

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CLIMBING TO HUASHAN

Hua Shan is a mountain two hours from Xian or 120km, the translation is “Flower Mountain” – it has this name because the five peaks resembled five petals of a flower. Considered one of the five sacred mountains of Taoism. For more than 2000 years, many pilgrims come here, nowadays many prefer to ”climb” by cable car.

We woke up at 6 am. I had to wake up at that time, at the same time as the English, because they eat breakfast like any normal person. I didn’t have a habit of taking it, always preferring to sleep anymore. Already at this time there were grandmas trying to sell a few things, poor life!

Around 7:00 a.m., we began our arduous climb. The day started cloudy and was opening up. I was hoping it was pretty cold, but one t-shirt was enough. It took us an hour to walk 3km, the beginning was the easiest part, would have another 4km ahead.

The path was getting steeper and steeper, there were stairs to the top, the infrastructure was good with toilets and tents along the way, there was no need to bring food or water, so it could have saved the weight of food, clothing and raincoat, but the prices of things went up proportionally to our climb. After climbing a lot, we reached the staircase of the “Thousand Steps”, even more difficult with stretch almost vertical, but it was supported by handrail.

We went to the North Peak or Terrace of Clouds Peak, after 3h30m walking and 1614m of altitude; to West Peak or Lotus Flower Peak, 2h15h walk from North Peak and at 2087m altitude.

On the way to the North Peak there were few people, we met half a dozen people along the way, young Chinese in not very sporty clothes, who wanted to take pictures with me instead of taking with the English, this was something unusual! Both the boy and the girls took pictures with me, just because I was a Sino-Brazilian. Lucky for the English who got rid of the cameras this time, they couldn’t take all this flattery anymore. But arriving at the peak there was a large crowd, many Chinese of all ages who came up by cable car in just ten minutes! All these people, old people, children and other nerds were slowing our way to West Peak. The funny thing was to see all these people hiking here in social clothes, even in a suit and tie!

After snacking (I ate bread with peanut butter the whole stretch), we went to the West Peak and the weather began to close with clouds and fog. It was really quite tiring, thousands of steps, glad we could see something and shoot before snacking, because there (West Peak) could not see anything else with the fog.

When climbing from North Peak to four other peaks, the pilgrim would necessarily have to go to the Golden Padlock Pass. It was a tradition to buy a golden padlock, engrave the name on it and lock in the iron chains on both sides of the passage, so that families and friends would pray for their safety and health, there were thousands of locks. There was also a giant golden padlock 4m wide by 1.5m high on a large rock, was made of pure copper and was forged by 9,999 padlocks left by visitors.

We return to North Peak to take the cable car down to the base. Unfortunately there was no time to visit the other three peaks, the south, the east and the central. I expected a much more difficult walk and without stairs, already my friends told me that this mountain was the most dangerous in the region, I did not know what they were talking about, there was nothing dangerous with so many stairs and chains to support. If they knew Agulhas Negras Peak (RJ), they would know what the word “danger” really means. I was missing to see beautiful scenery with high mountains, rivers and trees, and having the sense of accomplishment achieved was gratifying. Now I know why Chinese landscape painting is so different from that of the West, because the landscape is different. Here you can see rocky mountains with a row or few trees, as in the Chinese paintings.

Exhausted, we went back to Xian on the 6:00 p.m. bus.

Top of Hua Shan.

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THE ONE-CHILD POLICY

In China and in many countries around the world, parents’ preference for their male child is a deeply entrenched tradition from feudal age. To the son (man) is concentrated the responsibility to keep the parents as elderly, to enable them to a solemn burial, to make the offerings on their graves for the needs after death, according to the Confucian tradition. Only the son is the sole heir to the family’s estate.

In January 1980, when China’s population was already over one billion, the central government launched the “One Child” policy that tried to plan births with a set of measures to limit one child per couple. There were a number of advantages for those who were limited to a single child, and for those who had more than one child suffered fines and civil restrictions. By promoting the one-child policy, the government certainly had no intention of resurrecting feudal concepts about women’s inferiority, but it ended up reinforcing its inferiority and that is what is happening in China today. If a couple can have only one child, therefore they will want a male son, this being a cultural requirement still deeply rooted in the Chinese people. If, by chance, the baby is a girl, a very serious ethical and cultural problem arises for the couple: if you stay with her, you can no longer have the male child. The sad reality is usually the death or abandonment of the newborn girl.

The number of girls missing would already be in the millions and the causes are easily identifiable: they were victims of infanticides, abortions caused by their parents when they discovered that the fetus was a girl or were abandoned at the crossroads of the streets when they were newborns, the same is true for defective boys. Some parents hide them and do not declare them to the state, in danger of sanctions and imprisonment if they are discovered. The most moneyed pay a heavy fine and are forgiven. The number of abortions is estimated to be around 20 million a year in China.

India, now with 1.13 billion inhabitants, has not taken any birth control action but whatever the policy, it will have the same problem as female infanticide. It is estimated that by 2035, India will pass China in terms of population. Whether or not you adopt policies, don’t ask me how the population of the earth will be fed in the future.

In the afternoon the redhead, Matthew and his wife – all English – and I, we went to the train station from which the bus left to the small town of Huayin. We decided to spend the night in this town and wake up early to climb the Hua Shan. The locals thought I was the guide. Matt spoke Chinese better than I did, I think his wife did too. The hotel was one of the worst I’ve ever stayed in my life for $2.5 per person, no chance of bathing, the English were barely caring, I think.

Matt remembered Mr. Smith in the movie “Matrix”, some friends told me that I remembered Neo also from the “Matrix” or a Chinese actor unknown to me.

In Huayin you could see grandma trying to make a living selling climbing gloves and maps till late of the evening, so much pity. After all not everyone earns retirement in China.

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THE DAY I BECAME A MOTHER

In the morning I visited an orphanage with Jan, the redhead curly hair girl wore glasses. It was an orphanage run by foreigners, so it had a good standard of quality and service to the children and it was maintained by a foreign charity.

The children in the range of 2 to 4 years old are needy and adorable, they just wanted to play and lap, too bad I only had two arms. They called any adult “mother,” including me. There were newborns and other ages, but the maximum age allowed in the orphanage was up to 15 years. Some were abandoned because they had some birth defect, such as leporine lips, autism or learning difficulties. The children are released for adoption, some already have adoptive family just waiting to come and get them, most of them adoptive parents are from Europe or USA. After playing with the children, they had lunch and I helped put them to sleep in the cribs, it was no easy task! There was one that was spider-man, he was climbing the crib, then he decided to take off his pants and underwear several times! They already found an abandoned child at the train station. Unfortunately, the abandonment of children is a chronic problem, especially in developing countries, even in Brazil I have heard news of abandoned babies in garbage or in a lake.

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THE HUNDREDTH DAY

I could see the sun and the clear sky, I will never understand the weather! It’s been a hundred days since I started my journey, just thinking that there are 158 days left to finish, I was disgusted. I wouldn’t have time to go everywhere I’d like, it’s impossible to reconcile long-term tourism with short-term study. With eleven countries ahead and less than five months of travel. It was another reason to travel more, to know more countries and more places!

Jane finally got off my back. She constantly texted Chinese people on her cell phone, she wanted to meet me and hang out. I sent her a short and straight message asking to stop sending meaningless messages, she knew I couldn’t read Chinese. I’d ask anyone on the street to translate. Uff! Peace at last!

It was Thursday, English Corner day. I went there to have fun among the locals again. I’ve written before that there were many young women there who are students. In my cluster today there were only girls, in fact there were always more girls, sometimes some boy appeared. A guy came along who had seen it last week, but he didn’t stay long, at the end another guy who spoke Spanish (Antonio), and also Isaac.

I knew all the girls today, there were two groups: one was of girls graduated from various courses who were studying English, including some of them had come home on the day of the movie party, aged between 22 and 24 years; the other group was English-speaking students that I had met since the first time I came to the English Corner almost two months ago, aged between 17 and 19 years. When I told them the next week was going to be my last week in Xian, some of them were sad. Well, I ended up having lunch with both groups and Isaac.

The Chinese have no malice as in Brazil, they are more naïve, Asians in general are like that. Of the girls I liked all I met, they have an inner beauty perhaps because they are purer, some also have outer beauty. Although the Chinese are more full-bodied than the Japanese, external beauty here is something kind of rare, I must have taken a month to find some girl of very beautiful appearance, referring more to the face. In any case, the places have a rarer internal beauty to find in Brazilian or foreign. I feel a affection for all the girls I’ve met, except for Jane and some boys too, I didn’t like them all (the boys).

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THE SCARE

The weather was rainy and cold! Funny how there could be such a beautiful day between two days of unrelenting rains.

In the morning I got a fright when two condominium security guards knocked on my door. The security guards here dress like soldiers, initially I thought they were from the government. They wanted to know the names, when they arrived and what the foreigners were doing in the condo. Well, with my Chinese disguise I did well, but I was almost wrong, I couldn’t write Chinese and ended up writing in English anyway. I did not quite understand what they wanted, although I was not the tenant, I gave them f Flavio’s data, since he has foreigner face (even having the Japanese grandmother) and I do not. They asked me where I was from and I generally replied that I was from the South (of China), they must have understood southern China rather than South America. Anyway my origins are from southern China in part and part from Taiwan, which is also in the south comparing to Xian. Flavio and Regiane looked like Uighurs, or the Uighurs looked like them.

The foreigners here had to register at a police station when they were staying for a long time, otherwise they would get a fine. As I did not register I was afraid, but then I knew it was only for count of foreigners in the condominium, so they counted one less, since technically I’m foreigner.

Today I created the courage to eat the lunch box of the street, it was very good. At dinner I ate a greenish gray noodles, the guy made at the spot squeezing the dough into a mechanically driven machine. I also ate something else that looked like fried pastry dough with meat. I was going to see the results tomorrow, I thought I wasn’t going to have bowel problems.

I bought a 40 Gb pocket external hard drive I was seeing yesterday at the e-Mall. I hadn’t seen one in Brazil yet.

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THE TANG DYNASTY SHOW

The weather forecast was far away! The day was beautiful and cool, no rain, no clouds and no fog. We had lunch at McDonald’s, it was me, Flavio and two Koreans. We ordered the Korean snack, because today was not the day of the Brazilian snack. It came out expensive for the local standard, RMB 18!

I came along with Kang to the e-Mall to see the electronics again. She and her friend who worked there always ended up helping me look for things and haggle.

At night I went alone to Tang Paradise Park to see again the holographic movie of the fountain and watch the show of the Tang Dynasty, it was a theatrical piece with dances and beautiful choreographies, telling the story of emperor Tang, there was no singing, but it was worth it despite being more concerned with filming than paying attention. It almost got to the foot of Broadway, it was good.

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A LITTLE CONFUSED

Despite the heavy fog, today the temperature was pleasant. In the morning I went to walk in the “e-Mall” to see the gadgets, then I met Alexandre to buy some USD from him, and I made the transfer to his account in Brazil. My brother didn’t know if he’d come anymore, if he came, I’d ask him to bring me a few USD and especially deodorant that was rare around here.

I had doubts about:

•            If I would go first to Chengdu (inland,) or Shanghai (on the coast), then descend further south towards Hong Kong. I also didn’t know if I would include India in my itinerary. I decided to shorten my studies and lengthen my time in travel, yet I didn’t know if I would be able to “embrace the world”. I hadn’t started planning my route yet, I thought about improvising everything, like I always did. I’d leave the big suitcase here in Xian and travel only with the backpack, pick up my suitcase on the way back to Beijing. I’d only be here for two more weeks in Xian. I was thinking of making a goodbye party and invite my new Chinese friends, coincidentally, mostly English students, with the exception of Kang Li.

•            During today’s class Teresa explained to me that the “zhong zhu” (or “ba zhan” in Taiwanese) was not typical Taiwanese food, but from southern China, and that here there was only the sweet, not the salty. Anyway I hadn’t seen any yet, except at the Taiwanese restaurant, but she would buy two for me.

•            I went out with Rebecca, a beautiful Chinese girl who I thought was from the majority Han, but she told me she was of the Li ethnicity. She said I’m a Han, her family was from Fuzhou, my father’s land. We dined typical Hui (another ethnic group) food from Xian in the Muslim quarter, behind the Drum Tower.

While I was writing my blog, in a few words I put a hyphen, as they could be filtered or monitored by the Chinese government. Back in Brazil I felt a relief to be able to express all my ideas with freedom.

Here the Chinese only greeted each other verbally, until handshake was not so common, kisses were not even thinkable! As I grew up in Brazilian, it seemed that there was something missing. Steven exclaimed, “Do you also shake hands when you say goodbye!?”. For him it was more than enough a handshake as soon as he met someone. Steven and another girl thought it was very different that I used deodorant or perfume. They did not have this habit, perhaps because they really had no need, since most of them did not exude any natural odor.

The next day was monotonous, without sun and fog, it did not rain and it was not so hot. We had lunch together, Flávio, me and Jan, the English redhead who introduced me to Steven.

In the afternoon after napping I went again to watch the fountain show at the Great Pagoda. I walked back, I must have taken over an hour walking and eating along the way. I was annoyed when I tried to dine in a fancy Tibetan restaurant, as I could not read anything, they had no menu in English and had no other tables occupied by guests to point out the dish I wanted, I left the restaurant without eating.

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