Third China slideshow

Facebook has become a useful place for me to record things happening in my life. But I still resent opening it up to a lot of folks beyond family. The more people I add, friends from the past and especially Facebook enthusiasts, the more stuff gets sent to my site unsolicited hiding tidbits from my closest family and friends.

A friend offered to set up a separate Facebook Page for my school board campaign in which I would be a coauthor. Ali, my Facebook page manager, was kind enough to endorse me in a letter to the DNT editor today. Thanks Ali. Sadly, it didn’t make it into the DNT’s electronic paper for me to link to it. The page is pretty boring and I had hoped to put my Chinese “scrapbook” videos on it to give it something interesting but haven’t figured out how to do this. Fortunately I have a decade’s worth of experience uploading things like that to my blog. Here’s the third edition of our China journey:

Day’s 5 and 6 began with a flight to the capital of China during the Japanese invasion and World War II. Chongqing was known then as Chunking. It was bombed mercilessly by the Japanese who never had the manpower to overrun it with its armies. It was too far from the coast for them to reach it except by air. It was Japan’s million men under arms in China that America needed to keep there lest they be sent to the Pacific Theater where the American Army and Navy would have to deal with them.

That’s where Vinegar Joe Stilwell comes in and how it was I gave the Barbara Tuchman bio on Joe to our Guide. I still have half the book to finish reading to Claudia. I downloaded it to Kindle. Tuchman did a wonderful job explaining why the Chinese and the British who addicted tens of millions of Chinese to opium, and setting a precedent for the narcos of Latin America, didn’t get on as the war approached.

Chongqing was like the other five metropolises Claudia and I visited. A never ending stream of 30, 40, 50 story tall apartment blocks many of them under the shadow of “the Chinese national bird,” the crane – construction cranes – which are still raising them up at a breakneck speed. These cities had whole ranks of these apartments housing hundreds of thousands of Chinese in clusters of high rises spreading out beyond the horizon.

And what cities! Before we began traveling down the Jailing River into where it forks into the Yangtze Chongqing’s downtown skyscrapers burst into a light show that outclassed Vegas. The five cities we saw up close contained 100 million people between them teaming with formerly rural folks. Beijing is currently do its best to prevent them from settling down roots. Some of Chongqing’s growth was due to the million or more people who had to leave the original banks of the Yangtze when the Three Gorges Damn was built. That reservoir is backed up all the way to Chongqing 380 miles up river from the damn.

Sampans and Ping the duck are no more although you can still find signs of historic China. Men with bamboo polls slung over their shoulders clamored to help our fellow passengers carry their gear into the ship balancing luggage on either end. When I woke early the next morning and stepped out onto our personal 4 by 8 foot deck the first picture I took was rendered gauzy by the moisture which immediately condensed my cell phone’s camera.

Our first stop along the Yangzte at the photogenic Shibaozhai Pagoda had an extra perk – an authentic Chinese fire drill. Normally it would have been a standard safety drill but on this occasion we were being filmed and judged by the government with a simulated fire. Fire boats squirted Yangtze river water our way. We were obliged to line up and leave the ship with our life jackets on. There was a massive reviewing stand with a dozen dignitaries watching the evacuation under a billboard about riverboat safety. Fire engines stood nearby and crowds lined the river bank to watch the hullabaloo. All through the hubbub a woman wearing a “cooley” hat crouched by our dock furiously scrubbing clothing at the river’s edge. Our guide told us she was probably saving electricity by not washing them in a washer. That would have sounded ridiculous except that we had already seen hundreds of electric motorbikes driven without lights on in busy Xi’an at night to save batteries. The Chinese have plenty of appliances. Our guide speculated that 90% of the Chinese had air conditioning.

The heat of the day and a bug requiring Imodium kept Claudia on board while I hiked over to the Temple. To save it as the Yangtze river level rose the Government built a “coffer dam” around its base so we began our climb up many feet below the river level. Going out solo had one benefit. Claudia was not with me to arch her eyebrows as I bargained for the cheap merchandise in a hundred stands that lined the way to the Temple.

The temple seemed to be an oriental version of Wall Drug. Built out in the middle of nowhere to attract travelers and their money. I bought a knock off of a horse sculpture I’d seen in Xi’an and a t-shirt with Barack Obama wearing a Che Guevara cap. I thought it was cool but if I’d seen it at Trump rally I’d have been annoyed.

The following day as we cruised to the dam I learned to play mahjongg. On my way home I read a story in the China Times about the game being designated an official “brain game” like Go or Chess. Maybe so, but the easy version I learned was more like gin rummy.

We spent the rest of the day drifting through the Three Gorges on route to the Three Gorges Dam. We began our descent after dark so close to the walls of the locks that we placed our hands on them as we were lowered at the speed of a second hand on a grandfather clock. We were asleep before the fifth and final lock.

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