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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Where have I been?

Where have I been? I haven't been writing about this trip, that's for sure, or at least the most recent parts. Apologies, but hey, not in the mood. Really just too busy writing and moving around to want to sit at the internet for long periods of time.

The last week-and-a-half took me from Dali back to Kunming, where I spent one busy day organizing everything for my Myanmar trip, which will launch next Wednesday or Thursday via a 175 USD bus trip across the border. A bit pricey, yes, but cheaper than flying for my purposes. From Kunming I went to a place called YuanYang, or more exactly, XinJieZhen. This area is famed for its long-cultivated (by Hani people) terraced fields, which when full of water glow and sparkle in the sun, and appear a multitude of colors. They are amazing. The road took me then to LuChun, and then to JiangCheng. Along the way are stretches of terraces that you could not believe, as much art as farmed land. I would have loved to walk that entire stretch, except that it was raining really hard and my time is kind of limited. Of course, because of the rain, the roads were at times washed out, and most of the time sloppy piles of mud with recent landslides inching across the surface...it was not fun. From JiangCheng I took another long bus ride (in the rain and up and down horrendous roads) to Jinghong, where I am now.

The last leg of this trip took me into what I will call Southeast Asia, China style. Jungles and rainforests, thatch roofed houses interspersed in towns with tile buildings, but then out in the fields looking just like Laos (which is not very far away). Brown muddy rivers flowing past (and here in Jinghong, the Lancang, better known as the Mekong, my favorite river). Bright flowers and elephant grass taller than Yao Ming, huge leaved palm trees and banana trees, and men walking around in flipflops with their pant legs rolled up, faces hidden by straw hats, women in sarongs. [Check out this link, also given below, for Xishuangbanna.--ed.]

What is it about this kind of place, or perhaps my reaction to being near the Mekong that just slows everything down and makes it feel just about right? A beer at sunset by the river. Some wats...a few orange robed monks playing cards on a grassy bank near the river, naked boys jumping and playing in mud...all of it. Also, green, green fields being sprayed and planted with tomatoes, beans, eggplant, and corn, lined by banana trees.

I have been looking forward to leaving China, to a change of pace, and now I feel like it has come. Today I got even more of a sneak peek at the last month thanks to the street near my hotel that is lined by shops run by people of Burmese descent, or people who have come from Myanmar.

So, a few more days in this area known as Xishuangbanna and then a long bus ride to Ruili, which is where I cross the border. After that, you can expect to hear very little, I suspect, until I am home. I guess we will see, though...

And as an afterthought, a few people of late have been emailing about info regarding China or Taiwan, both travel related and teaching related. If anyone else has questions, feel free to write, or as I've said before, go back into the Feb through June archives for a lot of info and pictures...

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