11.07.2008 - 11.10.2008
Yangshuo has sucked me in.
Everyone said it would happen but I hardly believed it. I orginally was planning to leave early on the morning of the 10th, after 4 nights here, but have stretched it and am leaving on the latest flight possible back to Guangzhou on the night of the 11th. I'm going to stay as long as I can. It really is a wonderful place and my hostel is a true family away from home.
Within the first hour here I had my first 'family dinner' and from then on, I knew I'd always be 'home' by 6:30. No one misses family dinner. People have, of course, been fading in and out from the family. But the family feel remains the same.
We've said goodbye to Rose, the short red-headed British woman, with a love for South Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons like I've never seen. Her husband Mick's absence is also keenly felt at the table--a balding, red faced Brit with a laugh that is contagious who worked for decades for Tampax (Rose said she got free tampons for life) and once bought a tux at Walmart. Between the two of them I laughed until I cried every night--nothing was off limits. I am very well acquainted with Mick's techniques for using a squat toilet as a man. Apparently, he was having issues and now just removes his pants entirely, just for safety's sake. If you'd like to know more, just ask They were so much fun and now a good portion of dinner is occupied with reliving the times when they were at dinner and the things they said.
The lovely family from Quebec here, Michelle, Charles and their children Nicholas(11) and Florence(9) started in Europe with London, France, Prague....they'll touch parts of Asia, Austrailia and South America before heading home. Nicholas just lost his third tooth on the trip. But apparently, the tooth fairy doesn't fly as far as China...only Prague. So he's keeping a tab for her that is up to 24 yuan.
A while back (days and dates mean nothing here, I only just realized I'm checking out tomorrow) a group of us asked Mr. Wei, the owner of the hostel, to teach a tai chi class. It's so much harder than it looks! We all stood out in the street outside the hostel trying so hard to mimic him but looking very much like fools. Even with dance training I had no idea what I was doing. And at times I thought, 'He could make up whatever he wants and I'd never know the difference!' I felt that might be the case when I was told to 'shake my knees in a circle'. Hmmm.... We did draw quite a crowd of onlookers including many children (one who tried to practice with us) and a woman who claimed to be 103 years old while showing us her dance moves.
After that was a bike ride out to the country side. It ended up being more off-road than on and was challenging with the shouldn't-this-have-a-banana-seat-and-streamers-on-the-handlebars bike we rented for 10 yuan (a buck and change) from the hostel. By the end of the 3 1/2 hour ride my thighs were burning and my butt must have been seat-shaped. The 'trail' we took is like a sick joke on Amazing Race. It is marked with red spray painted arrows. An arrow might be on a tree, or a low rock, or the side of a house...and they appear with no regularity. So, much of the day was spent getting lost which provided some gorgeous views as well as a little panic on my part at times. We found so many small villages with people farming. We were passed by cows and bulls on the road, chickens were everywhere, stray dogs and cats sounded off as we rode by and little children were always shouting hello. We even found a little cave/grotto thing. So, hindsight being rose-colored, it was a wonderful time!
The downtown is so cute and chill. There are a million stalls selling scarves--all look the same but if you asked anyone, theirs are really the best. Prices are sky high and you HAVE to bargain. I got a painting for about 80 yuan (maybe 11bucks) down from 180 (about 25 bucks). I also got two pair of earrings and a necklace for the equivalent of about 6 dollars.
I spent an entire afternoon just sitting in the balcony of a cafe people watching. It's a great city to relax in, which is why most people end up staying longer than planned. In my hostel alone, most people end up staying a week or two.
The girls from the hostel decided to go out for drinks one night. We were like celebrities for the night and at every club we went to we were taking pictures with people and people were buying us drinks and wanting to talk to us. One set of guys even bought my friend Monique and I roses, gave them to us and promptly left. I have no idea who they were. Even funnier though, is how early the town empties of Chinese. Most went to bed by 11:30pm (on a Saturday night)! After that, the majority of people in the streets were ex-pats.
We didn't make it to the caves with the mud pits yesterday...plans are always fluid and subject to interruption for napping or sitting and pondering life. Today I'm heading there with two med-students doing residency in Canada, Madeline and Jess. We'll probably go climb Moon Hill (700 steps...at least there are steps) later today as well. And then I'm assuming I'll sleep for the rest of my natural born life. At least that is, until family dinner.