Food Market. Bus Ride. Angels in Yangshuo, China

28 Oct

Dry heave. Gag. Vomit. I mean, this could be it. Saying goodbye to meat forever. Katie Lou, I’m putting it on paper. Vegetarianism is knocking at my door. Today was a good and bad day. Love the adjectives. My brain is fried. Keeping it simple. On a train bound for another large city in China. Six bunk beds to one train compartment. I’m in the middle bunk. No head room. Starting to rethink no-class rail travel…

The day was good in that I was taught how to prepare a traditional Chinese meal by a legit, working chef. Bad, because I went to the Yangshou outdoor food market and confronted caged dogs waiting to be slaughtered. One look at the dogs and the shirtless teen wielding a machete and my stomach curled and legs shot out from under me.

Why did I look? I knew the dogs were in there. The Chinese chef-lady told us as such – “dog is in corner…you look… no look.. no care..” Why do I do these things. I mean I had issues with seeing guinea pigs in cages in Peru. And, hello, dogs take it this to a whole different level. I blame the little devil. Need to blame someone, so he’s the best bet. Little angel was whispering on side side, “no look…” And, little devil was a tad bit more convincing, “just one quick look…won’t kill ya…” Now, I’m contemplating vegetarianism. Tell you one thing, I’m reducing my meat intake.

Ok, so the food market was bad. Just down right icky. The ducks made me sad. Chickens made me hurl. The only live creature having little impact on my nervous system were the fish.

Someone told me way back when, the Chinese thought Westerners were heathens not because of our rudeness and need to rule the world but because of our meaty aroma. It’s called BO – Body Odor. It’s said vegetarians emit more fragrant smells, unlike our fellow carcass consumers.

Not sure if that is true, but it sounds really good right about now. Just another reason to stop eating meat. Save $ on antiperspirant. I have found in Thailand antiperspirant is a mere novelty. Went to TESCO and they only had 2 types among the rows and rows of soaps, shampoos, anti-hair falling creams and skin whitening gels. Bhutan, I did not see any. Maybe some truth to this.

So, besides the animals, the actual market was beautiful. Ripe with fresh veggies, fruits and random roots I’ve never heard of before. No matter. I took a zillion pictures to help me remember. So, when I walk into Publix, I will show the teeny-bopper a picture and say, “find me this, now…” Right. My goal is to cook more. So, I may have no home and no kitchen when I return, but I will have a wok. I’ll come to your house and cook for free. Any takers?

After the market, little chef-lady led us back to her restaurant where she handed us – you guessed it – a wok, gas fire burner, large knife, noodles, meats, veggies, spices and said “let’s go baby..” It was a riot. We’re outside cooking, overlooking McDonald’s and KFC. There is something wrong with that image. We rolled dumplings. Fired up bamboo steamers. Spiced the food with digestible spices. Yea…this is going to be a good blog for the cooks out there for I can’t spell or pronounce 98% of the foods. All I can tell you is they gave us the recipes in English. And, I have pictures.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it was some of the best Chinese food yet. It may be because it’s cooked by Chef Amanda — in that I knew how much oil, spices and veggies are going in. It felt healthier. So, it tasted better.

After the cooking school, we all sauntered back to the Imperial Hotel with full tummies of food and beer. Our next stop was a train station with the rest of the 1.3 billion vacationing Chinese to go to another large city to board a boat to the Three Gorges Damn.

pics from cooking:

One problem. Since Yangshou is overcrowded with Chinese tourists, Olive said we will have to walk to our micro-mini bus – “it’s just up the road.” Yea. Heard that one before. Try Siberia. Moscow. And, all of Russia. I broke my backpack/luggage after MASH – my fearless Russian tour guide – uttered those words. Remember, got lost in the Moscow metro? Thank GOD for the creator of Duck Tape.

Just as I thought. Two miles later. Still carrying a 44 pound bag as I navigate down cobble stone streets and around thousands upon thousands of tiny tourists walking, driving, smoking and cycling. Sweat dripped from my brows and pits. Yep, been eating meat for I’m starting emit a rank odor. Think positive. I’ll smell just as bad as everyone else on the overnight train.

We finally got to the bus. Olive said the bus driver got lost. Could not get through the crowds… Or, something along those lines. The American “customer-service and this unacceptable” voice entered the brain. I quickly sniffled it once I sat my sweaty creases on the cotton/polyester bus seat. Trying the Buddhism “let’s be present and in the moment” gig. And, starting to reconsider because being “present” means I’m “fu—” hot and annoyed. Being in the “future” means being clean, cool and comfortable. “Being present” is not a preferred option.

The bus ride to the train station was heart-stirring. Our group has been talking and joking about seeing the “REAL” China for days now. We’re getting the China the government wants us to see. But, not the “REAL” China. Sad thing is I’m not sure if we want to see the “REAL” China. And, what are we to do with this “REAL” China information. Tallgirl is over analyzing again.

We got a small taste of REAL China in route to the train station. Blinding poverty. Poverty does not discriminate. Change the Chinese signs to Spanish, Romanian, English, Arabic, Russian, or Thai…and she’s equally indistinguishable. Heaps of plastic bottles casually tossed. Trash burning in metal containers. Laundry hanging from trees. Moms harvesting rice with one hand and holding their child with the other. Young and old men sitting and staring.

And, then you look past the scanty conditions and your eyes are filled with rich nourishment. And, rich work. Miles and miles and miles of green rice fields, banana fields, orange fields – nourishing over1.3 billion people. Stark contrasts. Yes. Did some thinking on the bus ride. Even sprang a few tears.

Here I am, staring out the window wearing just a bra and flimsy camisole to cool off. Tears are running from my eyes. My face is blowing up like a red balloon. Fumbling for the pocket toilet paper to absorb the tears and wipe the nose. Taking all of this in from distance. More tears. Now, full fledged crying. Never can say the Day girls aren’t emotional. It’s in our DNA. Ask Dad.

Yes. I cried. I cried for these farmers. For injustice. For little choice. I cried out of gratitude and wonderment for my rich blessings for I do not deserve this abundance. I cried for the honor of living in the US and being an American. For the freedom to say no. And, for having the option to say yes. For God gracing me with a loving, supportive family and crazy, interesting, lively, chaotic friends.

I cried because I’m not doing enough to make a positive difference in this world – with the gifts God gave me. Cried because I’m working off of a God inspired plan and, quite frankly, I’m scared shitless. I cried because I was feeling a little misunderstood, unrecognizable and lost in a land of 1.3 billion – maybe like these farmers.

At the end, I cried for the recent loss of my great Uncle who had passed a few days prior. All of these thoughts. All of these emotions blasted me like a never-ending wave. Oh, I’m going to miss Uncle Tom. End to a great era. He served in WWII. The “man that knew everything.” He tended to his garden in Searsucker pants and Buddy Holiday glasses to the very end. Best green beans and Brunswick stew, EVER…

Then my sobs turned to giggles. I could hear Uncle Tom’s voice talking to me in his Southern drawl as I was calculating and debating “Chinese Equality.” I could her him in heaven getting on with my Grandmother, Cousin Ann (recently passed), Aunt Duckie, his brother (my Grandfather) and the rest of the Skinner family. I can hear them rejoicing and laughing – laughing at me and my somber mood. Laughing at me trying to simplify what “this journey means” into a digestible sound bite. I could hear all of their voices.

Grandmother was talking first. She told me to go ahead and put on that red lipstick in China. She would find way to pay for the soiled hotel linens for I “never know who I’m going to meet.” They told me that my journey was God inspired and I have nothing to fear – they are all with me – my traveling angels. And, they started to tell me about the other angels that surrounded me on my journey. Granny – my Dad’s mom who was an avid traveler – comforted me too. She told me over and over again that she is by my side every second. She never leaves me for she’s a seasoned traveler and is helping me navigate this crazy world. She reminded me about my Archangel and he’s taking care of the details. Not to worry. Uncle Tom came back and elaborated in more detail about the turbulent history between the China and Japan. Cousin Ann was there telling me about her favorite books and how I must get to India next time. I could hear them all laughing.

Southern China passed me by as I listened and conversed with my family of angels. I asked them to forgive me for I do forgot they are with me. I seem to reach out when I’m distressed and I need to work on being more aware. I thanked them over and over again for their help for I could never do this trip by myself. I can hear all them say, “Damn straight, honeychild…”

People ask all the time, “so how did you plan this?” My response. “I didn’t. Much larger than me. This trip – organization – came about in 3 or 4 weeks time…” Once I knew my house was going to sell, it was balls to the wall in planning. All of it has been divine. I could not have done this all alone. My word, I did not even have Lonely Planet guide book – the bible of all travelers. Reactions are interesting, depending on the person’s belief system.

I truly miss Uncle Tom. I miss my grandmother and granny. I miss them all. But, am comforted they are with me. Guiding me. My traveling angels. And, Grandmother, I promise to work on putting some color on my lips. You are right. I never know who I might meet and that “washed out look” is not becoming of a woman of my height and paleness. Thank you for reminding me you are there – watching over me.

Back to the bus. I cooled off. Sweat stopped. Put on my shirt. None of the marrieds even noticed I was sitting in my bra and camisole. I wiped the tears from my eyes. No make-up means no mascara running. Another reason to ward off make-up. I feel much better. Ready to conquer another sleepless night on a train and few sleepless nights on a boat to a dam. Let’s do it baby…

3 Responses to “Food Market. Bus Ride. Angels in Yangshuo, China”

  1. susan 30/10/2010 at 9:20 am #

    awesome Amanda… yes there is a reason you are doing this, enjoy the moments , make memories- There is also a reason you are meeting these new friends- you will forever be changed

  2. MaryStuart (sister) 02/11/2010 at 11:01 pm #

    i will have to comment on this later. I am too overwhelmed with crying that I can’t see the keyboard…… yes, we are emotional girls. I really miss you!!

  3. Allison 12/12/2010 at 3:47 pm #

    Wow, just wow. I feel like I was riding the bus with you. Thanks for your perspective on the poverty there, here, everywhere, and the raw emotions so well expressed! Your family is/would be so proud.