Thursday, December 27, 2012

Suji and Mr. Yang

We asked the front desk at our hotel to suggest where we might go to eat lunch in LeShan.  They immediately pointed out the front door and around the corner, down the street.  We headed out and and walked along a street filled with restaurants and food stalls.

Dinner a 'la cart?  Ha, ha, ha!

As we walked past one particular restaurant, a woman pointed upstairs and agitatedly spoke to us as we passed by.  There are often 'hawkers' who try to get you to eat in their restaurant, so we just ignored her and headed on down the street.  We got to the end of 'restaurant row', and the man at the restaurant there pointed us back up the street like he knew where we ought to be going.  We were a bit confused, but we went back up the street to the agitated woman, who with her body language, convinced us we should follow her.  We went down a side alley, past this garbage heap into the back of all the buildings where there were several cooks busily preparing meals.
See the woman leaning into the garbage heap?
Would you eat food cooked here?

At this point, we were getting very concerned whether our children would ever find out what had happened to us.  But we turned left into the building past the gate, and we saw this sign:
Oh, yeah!  I remembered that I had read in the Lonely Planet guidebook about an elderly Chinese English teacher named Mr. Yang who ran a restaurant in his living room and would regale you with tales from the Cultural Revolution while you dined.  We were in luck after all.  In this huge city, we 'happened' to run into him.

Fortunately, we were not sold into slavery, but enjoyed a wonderful meal and visited with Mr. Yang.  He can't hear very well anymore, but after we ate, we agreed that he could take us on a private tour the next day to his nearby home town of Suji.

We met in the morning at our hotel, and he brought along one of his former English students, Jennifer, and two other young girls who wanted to practice speaking English and could help us along on our tour.  We bestowed upon the girls their "English names".  It's so hard for English speakers to say and remember Chinese names, that most of them have adopted an English name.  Mindy and Joanne were delighted with the names we gave them.  I even named Joanne's brother Sheldon, because he wanted an English name, too.  We choose names based on the letters and sounds of their Chinese names, and sometimes on the meaning of the name.  We headed out of town on an old bus...
and a "san lun che" (3-wheeled car)...
and then by foot through a "typical" Chinese village with shops and merchants lining the road.  It was Saturday so the Miao Miao Kindergarten didn't have students.  Too bad.
We went to the home of a professional calligrapher.  He asked us to write our names and wishes, then proceeded to create a personalized scroll for each of us.  What a treasure!
His home reminded me of ones I saw in townships in South Africa.

The master at work.


He even gave me a turn--Joanne & Mindy approve my characters.
We left his home which immediately opened into a maze of one of the biggest 'farmer's markets' that I've yet seen in China. 
Notice the dog, and the flaming boiler--don't know what it's for.

Live chickens, ducks, hogs.....

Plucked and ready to take home--ducks.

Meat on the tables--surprisingly, there are not many flies.
Suji's Farmer's Market

Be sure to notice the woman using the scales to weigh the vegetables on the video.  It seems so primitive, but it's every day in Suji and much of China.  We walked on and suddenly switched to a modern mall with shops and stores lining a pedestrian area--completely different from where we had just been.  We heard a "Salvation Army"-type band playing and marching down the street.  We stopped to watch a group of middle/older-aged women who were marching in rhythm and drumming together to advertise a new cell phone store!  Well, it surely captured our attention!  We've seen these advertising methods used before around town.  Kindof a fun way for the ladies to work together at a job--get some exercise, too!
We walked down a narrow lane through an ancient alley to a courtyard home that was 100 years old or more.  An 80-year old woman still lives here in the old way.  The courtyard is surrounded by rooms that different members of the family live in.  We were free to walk through and see them all.
Center courtyard

Living Room with vaulted ceiling?

Guest bedroom--yes, that's a very hard bed!

Master bedroom


It was like walking through a movie set or something--absolutely fascinating.  Next we crossed over the oldest bridge in town--no guardrails and all kinds of foot, cart and vehicle traffic.

Notice the "homeless man" off to the side. 
As we walked through town, we saw all kinds of interesting sights--some from previous centuries, others just a simpler way of life.
A bakery--open air--she's greasing the little molds.  Ovens are rare here.  

Washing things out in the filthy river.

A photo op with the "boys" playing cards--it was Saturday so some got to relax.

Dogs run loose; cats are tied up like this little one on a red string.

Shave and a haircut; straight-edge razor; and the barber wears a coat because it's open air.

Piles of potatoes on the side of the road.

A cobbler

Mr. Yang pointed out the traditional Chinese architecture, and the wooden moldings with carved images.  Several were destroyed when the Red Guards were demolishing anything that was historical.  

See the dragon face?

All that walking around--now we needed some refreshment.  Mr. Yang took us to a traditional Chinese tea house for a cup of Jasmine Tea.
Use the lid to keep it warm and strain the tea.

Kirk bought some chrysanthemum tea as Jennifer watched him.
As we wandered back through town, we came upon the most amazing sight.  Is this the 21st Century?

Hand-made Batting

Can you imagine doing this every day for your job?  Wrapping threads around posts to make batting.

Straightening bent rebar to be used again, hopefully not on something too important!

Looks like something Grandpa Harold would have loved!

A welder in his shop.
 And one of my favorite sights anywhere is always the little children.
A popular fashion item is the arm bands which keep your coat clean.  EVERYONE wears them.

Don't you want to take her home?  That's a little hot dog she's eating--but not the kind you know!

This cap had built-in curls for the baby--this is the calligrapher's granddaughter.
Suji has a school for the deaf with some familiar hand symbols--I thought it was called American Sign Language!

We went to a restaurant next where we bravely allowed Mr. Yang to order.  He got us some "squirrel fish" which was prepared sweet and sour, and it was actually very, very good!  We were impressed.  Most fish here is eaten with the bones--you just chew and swallow them--but the squirrel fish was prepared without the bones.  It was yummy and we had a nice meal.

We drove back to LeShan in a bus and were dropped off at the station where we caught our bus back to Chengdu.  What a delightful find!!  We can honestly say that if you want a one-day tour of China that will give you a real, honest look at the real China, Mr. Yang is the man to see!  We hope we can go back again, and he invited us "as friends" to visit him often.  Thanks, Mr. Yang!

The date was actually 2012-12-08!  The students sent me this photo.