Let’s play a game: Two truths and a lie.
Since I’ve been in China I have done the following things:
Gone night swimming in my underpants in a river surrounded by mysterious Karst mountains with an old man named Mao.
Caught a cable car up a Himalayan mountain.
Seen a man whistling softly in the early morning light, responding to the dawn chorus of birdsong; then pulling out his slingshot and killing one.
The answer, probably obviously, is that I cheated, and they’re all true. China is amazing, and anything is possible. I’ve been here almost 6 months now, and my time is almost up for this adventure. I have somewhat neglected this blog, so first this is a “now” post, and then I’ll do a series of posts of the art projects that have occurred since we last spoke, dear anonymous internet friends.
I’m writing this from a train, hurtling through the Guanxi countryside. Naima, Hildy and I just took a brief trip to Guilin where we stayed in a small quiet village in the middle of a massive tourist operation. This trip has been a study in mountains, and these mountains are the ones you see in the old paintings of China; unreal in their shape and irregularity. Previous to this trip, my adjectives for mountains were limited to tall, round, small, and pointy. Now, however, they are skinny, leaning, appley, tortisey, bloopy, boppy, sneaky, triangular, square, and bizarre. (as well as tall, round, small, and pointy)
Adjectives for these mountains really don’t do them justice, so I will stop trying, and leave a few photos to speak for me.
(Our internet is being very very very slow, so I will continue to update photos as I can. The really pointy mountain photos just won’t upload! Please check back to see more pics of the crazyness)
We spent a few days hiking in the mountains, going caving, swimming in the river, and finding small freezing streams to dunk ourselves in as a respite from the clammy heat.
One night we took a night boat to drink tea and stargaze, with the aforementioned old man named Mao. We got on his “bamboo” (read PolyPipe) boat, motored out 20 meters from the shore, and then he shut off the motor, poured hot water into paper cups furnished with local green tea, and proceeded to strip off and jump straight into the dark water. The effect was somewhat less than expected, as he landed standing up with water only up to his knees… After many entreaties Hildy dangled her feet in the water and I went for a night water walk, while Mao washed his clothes in the river, and interrogated us one by one about our marriage prospects and children, (or lack thereof). 2 hours later I think he still didn’t believe us. No boyfriends, no children, unheard-of.
It’s a good analogy for the whole experience of this trip to Guilin, as it was so close to amazingly relaxing and peaceful, but included aspects of the truly bizarre and slightly annoying. I’m pleased for Mao however, that in his older age he can get paid to go night swimming. That’s a pretty good place to be in life. Something to aim for, methinks.
We’ve had an adventurous time since Hildy (Naima’s sister) arrived, we’ve spent 3 days hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge, which was amazingly beautiful. We’ve taken a night bus that saw Hildy downing a bottle of herbal liquour, me cradling my banjo all night, while Naima was between 3 teenage girls and a mother with two small children on one giant bed. We’ve argued valiantly but in vain to convince an airline to let us on a plane they said we missed but we disagreed. (By the time we’d lost the argument, it was hard to say we had not missed the plane, however. Their tactic was sound.) We’ve had pedicures and unexpected massages, swam in pristine rivers until we saw someone mixing their pesticide on the banks, and we’ve been so frustrated with the non-transparency of transportation that we swore in public where little old ladies could hear but not understand us. We played with a pig, watched the neighbourhood kids do a traditional dance in our courtyard, ate bbq late at night and watched a movie that our host family all starred in, we learnt the ‘heel and toe polka’ as a trio, and spoke in Mandarin Chinese mixed with broad Australian accents. It’s as close to a secret language as I think you can get.
It’s tempting to wax lyrical about the beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge, of the misty mountains and herds of bleating goats; to describe the inexplicable joy of a panoramic view of endlessness after climbing in dense forest for 2 hours. To talk about how He JiXing and He JiYu were so joyously delighted with their own provinces beauty that they’d run ahead of us and we’d hear JiYu yell “BEAUTIFUL! PIAO LIANG!” from the upcoming peak, and look up to see a tiny 16yo in the distance, jumping and waving and soaking in the majesty of this place so close to his home. I’d like to talk at length about how having our level of language ability makes such a difference to my enjoyment of travel here, but also means that annoying conversations such as “really? No husband or children? But you’re so old!” can be understood clearly, which is a bummer. Innocence really was bliss in that instance. There’s so much to be said about the clash of cultures here, of the selfie sticks in front of ancient temples, of ErHu and bass ukelele duets, of bamboo boats made of PVC piping, and fast trains displacing whole villages. But this is supposed to be an art blog! So I will leave some photos here, to whet your appetite, and continue with cataloguing the art projects pronto.
But first: would you believe I fainted while walking up a mountain, and cursed the fact that no one was selling anything in this particular part of the national park? How about going caving with a topless ‘uncle’ who smoked the whole time? Then there was the time I was told I was unwell because I was too pale, and then was compared to a Taiwanese woman to prove their point…
I’m going to struggle to find lies for ‘two truths and a lie’ from now on in…