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笔记Notes and Observations

  • While in 绍兴Shaoxing during the Mid-Autumn Festival day in 2004, I took a random walk around town and wander into this small neighborhood. Under the bright late evening moonlight I made my way around carefully due to the heavy road contruction in the entire area. The neighborhood was depressing because most of the road were turned and covered or fenced with old boards. But that day was Mid-Autumn Festival. Everyone was out. Tables were set up in front of each household with candles and all the festive foods in place to grace the ethereal moon. The dark streets had no public light, so the pockets of candle lights glowed uncommonly beautiful along the cluttered streets, like the moon in the charcoal sky. People chatted and laughed while eating the treat, clearly enjoying the cool night. Being alone I felt a little out of place. Fortunately, the first family I met invited me to join them. They put me on a chair and introduced their foot-wide round and very intricately designed almond shortbread. Where I came from mooncakes were eaten, but here giant moon-shaped shortbread were shared. I like surprises and I eat anything. Needless to say, I was delighted. Later, I asked their permission to take a picture of what you see on the left. I set my Hasselblad on the tripod and took a quick photo. Ever since then I had fond memories of that day, epecially during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

    --- 浙江绍兴市Shaoxing city, Zhejiang Province - 2004. (Writing added 2008/9/14)

  • A heavy rainstorm quickly sets in as my bus nears 青龙县Qinglong county. Thunder soon follows and would not stop til hours later after I had settled on the county. There is no bus to 承德Chengde from 山海关Shanhaiguan Pass, but there is one in Qinglong, so here I am. This small quiet town is already flooded as I head out of its bus station; streams of water sweep through the streets making it impossible to cross without submerging half my knees. Meanwhile the heavy rain pours on. Everyone stands still on the doorways and just waits. As for me I run from one building to the next looking for a room to spent the night. After 30 minutes, I finally find one, which happens to be just across the street from the station. It is a combination of family restaurant on the ground floor and rooms on the second. A mid-age woman takes me up to check out the room. She only has a few rooms and the room we are going to look at is the only vacant one. When she opens the door, it bangs on the big floor fan; a nonworking TV sits beside it. Not far from these is the bed; above the bed are the windows with a view of the main streets outside. I walk a step to the bed; its cover is riddled with stains and flies are crawling feverously hither and thither on it. I ask her if she can change it. She steps out and quickly comes back with another cover which she spreads neatly on top of the old one. "Is it alright now?" "A little better."

    She wants 15 yuan for the room where it should only worth 10, but I am all soaked and the water has been dripping from the hallway to this room, so I don't feel like talking much. Suddenly the raindrops outside strangely change into ice particles; and the millions of it starts landing everywhere, knocking wildly on my room's windows. The woman looks blankly toward the gloomy sky, them turns to me, "So the room is ok?" I nod. She hands me the key as she asks, " Have you eaten yet? We can prepare some food for you if you like." I decline.

    I drop my bags and tripod, and head out for food. But just as I was about to lock the door, I discover that it does not lock. Hmm. I walk down the hallway to try the other doors, some are locked and some are not. I peek at one room that grab my interest: it is as small as mine but much tighter, with bunker beds on three sides of the room and just enough space in the middle to step out the door. In other places, this is usually the workers' room; here I learned that it belongs to the family members.

    On the ground floor is a couple of customers eating. The family members all sit listlessly watching outside. "Going out?" the woman asks. "Yes, I want to look around." Then I explain to her about the door. "Don't worry a bit, we are all a family here, your things will be safe with us." I am never concern with the owners, if I doubt their integrity I would leave however difficult; but you can never know who might rent those rooms. "You can't leave with those sneakers," she says while I stand aimlessly watching the girls slamming on the flies, "come up with me for a pair of slippers." I follow her up to the room where I stole a look. She takes out a pair from the many lying around. I slip it on; it is a third of a toe too short. Ah! I am too hungry.

    --- 青龙县Qinglong county - 2006/07/05

  • At one stop a man pulls up a large chain and a few nuts and give it to the driver. "What is this?" "Don't worry, someone will ask for it." The driver bends down and examines it; he sort of casually touchs it while he takes a few puffs from his cigarette. Without further words he nods, then slides the things aside while the owner walks away. Two hours later as we are nearing a gas station, a man stands by the road and waves to bus. The driver sticks out the window and mumurrs through his cigarette, "what is it?" "Someone left some nuts and chain for me." The driver frowns, "what nuts?" Then someone from the bus makes a sound and points to the pile near the doorway. "oh yes." He opens the door and the guy pulls it out. Both wave goodbye and the bus moves on.

    --- 路途从包头至榆林On the bus from Baotou to Yulin - 2006/06/15

  • While speeding through the mountains, a local woman in the bus tells the driver to drop her off by the bridge. "There is a bridge ahead." The woman peeks out the front window, "Not that bridge." "There are bridges in the front and there are bridges in the back, which one?" The woman then peeks front and back, "it looks like the one in the back."

    --- 路途从山海关至青龙县On the road from Shanhaiguan Pass to Qinglong county - 2006/07/05

NEW -- July 21, 2010

The beautiful city of Suzhou crisscrossed with narrow water canals