How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


Xian, Part 1 – Old City Wall (and more)

Before leaving for the day’s tour, I exchanged $100.00 Canadian to 547 Yuan and paid no commission. A Bank of China specific area was available at the reception desk. The man was pleased with my brand new polymer Canadian bills unlike the ones I’d converted at a machine in a previous hotel. The machine didn’t like polymer bills. Too slippery?

Our first stop of the day was at the old Xian City wall, which stands 12 meters high (13.1234 yards). A lot of stairs to climb to the top surface (15 meters or 16.4042 yards wide). We saw pedestrians and bikers, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Due to the short time allocated to look around, we didn’t walk far. There wasn’t much to see on top where we’d entered anyway.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (On top of the wall)

 © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                        © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (On top of the wall – bikes for hire)

On one side we looked down on modern buildings and the other a market in progress. Buyers and sellers moved in and out at a brisk pace. The location made me think of a wide alley. Old buildings had been removed and continued to be knocked down.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (bright weather for market day)

 © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                              © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (brisk shopping and selling)

Next we visited the Shaanxi History Museum: thousands of artifacts, too many people, and stifling.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                                  © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (entrance in museum)
© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (magnificent wall)

Steve, our tour guide, felt ill and stopped at a pharmacy for something to settle his stomach. Instead of leaving us for the day, as I’m sure he might have preferred, he soldiered on, lime-white faced.

 Our third stop in was the factory where the Terracotta Warriors were made. Reproductions of the originals (we will visit next week) are made by way of molds. No two faces are alike. The dedication to fine detail is incredible.

Warrior Wannabe

                             © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (A tourist warrior wannabe)

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                             © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (Life-size, headless and eerie)

Lunch:

  • Eggs and tomatoes
  • Beef with onion
  • Rice
  • Vegetable soup with spinach(?)
  • Noodles
  • Spicy chicken with celery and hot peppers
  • Tofu
  • Cubed potatoes with caramel
  • Sweet and sour fish
  • Mystery meat on a stick (delicious)
© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (Sorry this is fuzzy. Too much beer?  lol

Xian Quick Facts:

  • Total population of China 1.4 billion
  • 200,000,000 Chinese still living in poverty
  • Floating population, living in country-side live on $2.00 a day and scavenge cardboard, paper etc.
  • Some farmers built rooms out of scrap on their property to accommodate the scavengers
  • Scavengers collectively work together to afford a room like this
  • If you own an apartment, your kids inherit it after you die. Cannot sell for profit.
  • If you are a real estate developer, or magistrate, you’ll manage to sell it
  • $300,000 USD + four-unit apartments were given to farmers moved off their land (so the story goes)
  • Some farmers did so well in new environment (new location), they became millionaires (so the story goes)
  • First day of Sweeping Festival begun (April 5-7)
  • Now more people are cremated
  • Traditionally one day for Sweeping Festival bit extended by government for travel to grave sites of dead relatives and loved ones.
  • http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/14Traditions278.html
  • Cars with 7 or less passengers go free because of Sweeping Festival
  • Vehicles with more than 7, still have to pay toll
  • 6 billion trips are taken around the country during holidays and New Years
  • Our bus driver’s father is a millionaire farmer. Why is his son driving a bus?

~* ~

Next on May 5th, Xian, Part 2 – Terracotta Warriors (at last)

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Shaolin: Kung Fu Training and Shaolin Temple

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Already I was confused regarding the day. My iPad said Thursday but its calendar highlighted Wednesday. My laptop also showed Wednesday. Sheesh, different time zone. The reason for my disorientation was our itinerary had been flipped and I could not keep the changes straight.

This is where we slept the previous night. Pretty swanky hotel, but we saw no other guests.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

From the hotel, we drove to the Shaolin School of Kung Fu. Our guide, Lisa, told us the attendees were 95% boys with 5% girls. I saw no girls.

Lisa wore the same clothes as the day before: red track pants and a red quilted jacket. Too warm for the humid weather.The forecast for the day: 20 degrees.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

We sat inside for a thirty-minute-plus Kung Fu performance. The place was run down inside and out, needed paint and refurbishing. I took a couple of videos but deleted them because they were too blurry.

The little guy in white, the youngest but a rapidly advancing pupil, demonstrated clutching a bowl-shaped object to his midriff by muscle control. To prove authenticity, a pole inserted through a hole in the object (was it a bell?) allowed two young men to lift it shoulder length and carry the boy as he hung firmly attached, belly-up.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4-s8TBB6dw  (4.49 min) A peak at Kung Fu training.

Quick Facts:

  • Shaolin Home of Shaolin School of Kung Fu
  • Established 495 A.D.
  • 10,000 students
  • Ages 3 to 18 (complete education here, equivalent to finishing high-school)
  • 95% boys / 5% girls
  • Half-day school / half-day Kung Fu training
  • This is a private school (parents pay for room, board, and tuition)
  • One month holiday in February during Chinese New Year
  • Parents can come to visit on weekends
  • Costs (10,000 Yuan) under $2,000 U.S. per year
  • Attending this school is good for finding a job later
  • Can open own Kung Fu school in other countries instead of finding a job
  • Famous personalities from this school: Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan

Pagoda Forest / Shaolin Temple

A short distance away we visited the Pagoda Forest. Rain drizzled as we walked around. Young girls giggled and stared, and begged to have their picture taken with the foreigners (‘the big noses’).

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagoda_Forest_at_Shaolin_Temple

This is what the tombs look like. The size depended on the monk’s life achievement and the number of  financial contributors.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

Quick Facts: 

  • Graveyard with 248 tombs for important monks
  • Depending on life’s accomplishments = size of tomb
  • Depending on number of supporters (donations) = size of tomb
  • Tombs built during an eminent monk’s lifetime, not after death, and added to till he died

Some highlights at the Temple

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8. (The well is picture below)

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.  (This is the preserved well.)

Protectors of the Temple

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

An Altar

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

~ *~

Next on April 28:  Xian

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Luoyang, Part 2: Longmen Caves

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We were supposed to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors, but our schedule had been switched.  Our new guide, Lisa, met us at the airport in red sweats and a quilted  jacket. It was warm (forecast 25° Celsius). Our luggage loaded on the bus, we headed for the mysterious Longmen Caves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QdYUkvT19g  (length 4.37 min)

OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf_ZzgwxrmI  (length 30.12 min)

We walked a long way from the bus to the grottoes. The day was humid with a hint of rain. I wore flip-flops until we got off the plane. Yes, those cheap dollar store kind to wear in the hotels, proof of how little I’ve traveled. We had slippers at every hotel. Duh. Had I known I’d be wearing them out, I’d have packed my fashionable pair. I switched to my runners on the bus. Soon my blistered and bandaged toes, although wrapped in three bandages each, growled and complained.

Bridge at Long Corridor © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Bridge at Long Corridor
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

The area we walked was a long and wide to accommodate hoards of people. It was a well-maintained park setting with flowers, trees, surprisingly pristine, alongside the River Yi. Again we saw no wrappers or garbage anywhere. No empty water bottles lay around either. Recycle containers were everywhere and well-used.

River Yi at Longmen Caves © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

River Yi at Longmen Caves
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

So much destruction had occurred to the caves and carvings over time: vandalism, smashed faces, missing heads and time/weather-wear. Stolen pieces had been mysteriously secreted to museums in various parts of the world, but are slowly being returned.

Our tickets to Longmen Caves allowed a choice between a postcard and a pack of peony seeds. I chose the latter as a souvenir because peonies are the city flower. There is a natural rock in this area that looks like it’s covered in peonies.

Peony Stone © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Peony Stone
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

I hadn’t planned to climb to the top as my feet balked at the hundreds of stairs (thousands?), but curiosity changed my mind. When would I have the opportunity to see for myself what I’d traveled so far to see? Going up wasn’t too bad. I don’t think anyone noticed how I gripped the railing with both hands. Coming down was another matter. Heights and I are not on friendly terms.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles A few caves

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
A few caves

Would you guess the biggest Buddha is 17 meters tall?

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

This is a close-up of the largest Buddha, Losana, or Mona Lisa so-called by the locals because of the smile.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Below the many stairs are shops with tourist trinkets of all kinds and postcards etc.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

By the time I’d walked, photographed, snooped in the shops and sat to rest my feet, my tummy reminded me it was starving. The humidity continued and the rain stayed away. Soon everyone gathered together. There was no more to see. Dinner awaited somewhere. I hoped we didn’t have far or long to go.

~ * ~

For an in-depth history, you may like to check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longmen_Grottoes

 

Next on April 14th, Luoyang, Part 3 – Dinner and Stories

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Luoyang, Part 1 – Domestic Flight

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

So far, our English 8 Gang has traveled from Toronto to Chicago to Beijing, approximately 7,041 miles (give or take). This does not include the bus trips in the three days since our arrival in Beijing to Tiananmen Square; Forbidden City; Temple of Heaven; The Great Wall; Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, and old Beijing Hutong.

IMG_0792

The night before we scrambled to assemble our suitcases and sort out what we’d need for the morning and left our bags in the hallway for pickup as instructed. It seemed odd the next morning when the bags were in the lobby–sitting there looking abandoned and crammed together for protection. We could have brought them down when we met in the lobby after breakfast. What a headache for nothing. No tour was planned for the morning.

Bikes galore

                                                                            Bikes galore

We were off for the first of our domestic flights to Luoyang. Robert, our guide, came with us to the luggage drop-off and as far as Security, which made it easier to find our way through the airport.

Someone brought up tipping (the tour guide) at dinner the night before but no conclusion had been reached. A new tour guide waited in Luoyang. Before Robert said goodbye, there was a scramble to cross his palm with Chinese money.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luoyang_Beijiao_Airport

I stood behind Sue at the Security Check and was yelled at to step back behind the yellow line. Scared me silly. Okay, unnerved me because I don’t understand Chinese. When my turn came, the (young) clerk looked so stern, I was nervous, but I also felt she was milking it. You know, a power trip? I waited while she took her time before returning my passport and boarding pass. Once through, the body scanning wand went off. What’s going on? Deep breath. The problem:  my purchased-in-Canada-made-in-China earrings.

Russ waited in line behind his wife who cleared in no time though she has knee replacements. She carries a letter in the event the Gong Show starts. We waited and waited for him in consternation. Finally, we watched him being escorted to another Security Desk. When his carry-on had been x-rayed, they couldn’t figure out what set off the alarm. Turned out, he had a camera charger which wasn’t labeled with voltage information (there is a maximum allowed) and it had to be turned in. The security guard, who escorted him, laughed silently. I saw his animated face and shaking shoulders. Even the fellow at the desk, taking possession of the charger, was apologetic, but rules were rules.

Our arrival at the airport was 10:00 a.m., too early for 12:30 boarding. Take-off was 1:00. Would you believe we were given a meal on such a short flight (about an hour and a half)? Then again, it was time for a mid-day meal. The boxed lunch consisted of rice with scrambled egg mixed in and a piece of chopped ham; a dried fruit bun; coffee; water, and cookies. A lot of Chinese were on our flight. One guy, I watched across the aisle, wolfed down his food as if he were starving.

We arrived around 2:30 p.m. I estimated we’d flown 420 miles on a ticket worth about $143.00 USD. We did not pay this. Our trip was all inclusive.

Another new home

                                                                   Another new home

 

Lots of fantastic pictures next time.

Next on April 7, Luoyang, Part 2 – Longmen Caves

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Beijing Part 10: The Hutong and a Rickshaw Tour

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After the disappointment of Olympic Park, the day became more interesting. We visited The Hutong, once the old walled city. The buildings were ancient, many were decrepit. We drove through the shopping district but did not stop. As the bus meandered through the old town’s narrow streets, we learned a new subway station is planned for the area; buildings are being torn down and replaced. Renewal is everywhere.

Our first stop: a rickshaw ride.

That's a lot of rickshaws. This is still a popular draw in the Hutong.

                          That’s a lot of rickshaws. This is still a popular draw in the Hutong.

I had been worried about runners pulling us in traffic, as in cars. I suppose I’ve seen too many movies. Ricksaws had progressed to pedal power.

Sue and I not sure what to make of this. We're not exactly featherweights.

                Sue and I not sure what to make of this. We’re not exactly featherweights.

The roads are bricked and narrow. Other customers other than our Group 8 had come for a ride.

Someone else enjoying a ride. It's a wonderful day for it.

                                     Someone else enjoying a ride. It’s a wonderful day for it.

The alleys were full of contrasts: falling buildings and new cars  You wouldn’t believe the electrical boxes and the plugs inserted in them helter-skelter.

An artist's work on display

An artist’s work on display

We all know alleys are a playground for wandering, stray cats.  I saw none, nor any dog either.

Restaurant tables and chairs. Too simple. Let's bring all of the inside out.

Restaurant tables and chairs outside. Simple. Let’s bring the inside out.

Sue and I whispered behind the driver’s back how guilty we felt having this not-so-young man peddling for all he was worth. We had been instructed to tip him, but no more than $2.00 USD.

The driver wasn't young but he must have been in good shape for all that heavy peddling.

The driver wasn’t young but he must have been in good shape for all that heavy peddling.

 Our driver,  a warm and generous guy, was happy to have a picture with Sue and me.

We weren't sure if he understood anything we said to him but he gave off happy vibes.

We weren’t sure if he understood anything we said to him but he gave off happy vibes. That’s the man-made lake in the background. How many people and how long did that take?

The things people throw out. I didn’t see anything wrong with the girl’s two wheeler, but I also didn’t jump out of the rickshaw to inspect it.

Looks like home. All ready for garbage pickup.

Looks like home. All ready for garbage pickup.

I cannot recall if this is a restaurant or a temple.

Not a great photo because of the narrow street and my amateur photography.

Not a great photo because of the narrow street and my amateur photography.

A video you might enjoy on more hutong background  (29.05 min).

 

Next on March 24, Beijing Part 11: A Special Peking Duck Dinner

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


46 Comments

Beijing Part 9: Olympic Park

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

The Olympic Park

The Olympic grounds had been built on razed farmland. We were told all the displaced farmers had been given jobs and a better apartment than the farmhouses they’d lived in. Everyone’s happy; a win-win.

To get to the entrance of the Park, a busy four-lane highway had to be negotiated by foot. The bus had been parked on the other side. Although busy, the hazards of crossing presented less chance of being run over than in the midst of the city if you timed your jaunt.

At long last, we were free to wander the grounds. I found our time there boring, however. The sun smirked overhead. Paved walkways, expansive stone-tiled, and bricked thoroughfare stretched miles ahead, too bright and stripped of any shade. Thank goodness for hats and sunglasses. It felt a clear day and I noticed no smog to date.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtjogMtnrjw  (published Feb. 2014, 2.53 min)

or

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12e3c6mAzfQ  (published May 2014, 9.45 min)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

 I recall hawkers in the open and sellers of tourist knick-knacks in stall, after stall, after stall, along one side of the center road. These were actually white tents four or five feet wide with a flap raised on some as a sunshade. At intervals, empty stretches separated one cluster from another. The disappointment lay in discovering they all carried the same products! Every one.

One of the last ones, a larger tent, provided a digital photo opportunity for a mock emperor and concubine, or possibly his queen. Ernesto and Lorena, known for their carefree style, donned the costumes provided and had their royal photo taken. One size fit all as the ‘costumes’ tied in the back like hospital gowns.

Another frustration: no open exhibits.

As we left the Park, the ladies inquired about washrooms. Somebody spied one and pointed. “No, you won’t like that one,” Robert said. “See there? That’s a good one.” We’d heard a similar declaration several times now. I wondered in what way it might be different and not to our liking.

The Birds Nest National Statdium

                                                         The Birds Nest National Stadium

No matter what was served at any of our meals, I would never starve. It struck me, though, lunch and dinner dishes were quite similar, with lots of repeats. Time will tell.

Lunch was served at a restaurant not far from Olympic Village. From where we sat, I saw back-to-back orange hoods / like half pods or huge footballers’ helmets and wondered what they were. Phone booths. Say what? Two by two they appeared on the sidewalk, back to back, closer than girlfriends. Migrants and low-income workers use these Public Phone Booths.

Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant

             Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant. 

Lunch:

  • White rice
  • Tea (always hot and ready)
  • Pork meatballs
  • Chicken with cabbage and carrots
  • Kung Pow chicken
  • Rice (with duck meat)
  • Deep fried pork
  • Cucumbers with chicken
  • Deep fried battered fish
  • Egg drop soup
  • Sliced watermelon for dessert

Some Quick Facts about Telephones:

  • Everyone has a cell phone, sometimes two
  • Use text message vs. phone because it’s cheaper
  • Use’ You Chat’ a lot
  • Two providers: China Mobile and China Unicom
  • Phone fee 200 Yuan per month or $40

Housing:

  • Apartment rent 2 bedrooms: $1,000 per month (all USD)
  • Condo rent good location: $1,600 per month (depending on that location)
  • Condos, 2-bedroom, 1,000 square meters, 1 toilet
  • Condos cost $6,000 per square meter
  • 1,000 metres = $600,000 per condo
  • A house and garage, minimum price 30,000,000 Yuan or FIVE million U.S. dollars

Up Next on March 17: Beijing Part 10: The Hutong

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


67 Comments

#BlogBattle 4 – Prompt: Iridescent

Find the Rules at Rachael Ritchie’s blog: http://wp.me/p7rsge-cB

Genre:  Fairy Tale

Prompt:  Iridescent

Words: 990

Oliver Goldglimmer

Flapping knobby hands, she coughed and sputtered. The air cleared of sooty smoke, Olive Goldglimmer blinked at her surroundings. “Oh, that hurts.” She rubbed her tender tailbone. “Might I not have a soft landing once in a while?” A vigorous chorus of robins overhead drowned out her words. “I’m talking to myself again, aren’t I?”

Olive studied the multi-hued flowers above her. “So sorry. I didn’t mean to crash into you, pretties.” Feet straight out in front of her, she slumped over her knees to relieve pressure from her battered vertebrae. “Where the heck am I? I’ve never been here before.” Rubbing a cheek, she further smeared her soot-sprinkled face. “Have I?”

A fleeting thought occurred to her. Finger pointed in the air to hook it, her eyes bugged out at the sight of the string tied there. “What’s that for? Let’s see, I-I-I… Can’t remember. Can’t do spells. Can’t fly… Might as well die.”

“Divine colors, these flowers.” Fingers reached upward to stroke the velvet stalks and feathery softness within her reach. My home is in grazing fields filled with red clover, yellow buttercups, and lush grass for those big animals—cows, I think. Sorry, I’ve squashed a few of you. I better get off, hadn’t I? Dear, dear.”

flowers-1641322__340-pixabay

Olive rolled her squat six-inch body from one side to the other, pushing off with an elbow. “I did not forget how to stand. Been doing it all my life, haven’t I? Come on-n. I can do this. Come on-n.” The rolling motion found her face in the dirt. She giggled. Her knees knew what to do. A push with her hands and she tripped over her long, shimmering gown. “Dear, dear. The young fairies have the right idea with their short skirts. Not appropriate on someone of my age.” Erect at last, she swayed to steady her balance. Her gray-streaked hair, once cranberry, had fallen out of its pins. Tiny fingers hastened to secure it back together and out of her face. “I must look a sight. Still talking to myself. Well, so what.”

“Sorry flowers. I didn’t mean to crush you.” Lined face softened, she blew a kiss, one foot already poised to toddle through the forest of blossoms. Home. What if I’m lost for good this time? A flicker of brilliance in the crushed greenery attracted her attention. “Oh, dear. Oh, dear. My pouch of found and rescued treasures.” She flushed with guilt and pleasure, the pouch clutched to her ample bosom.

“I remember—I cast a spell… What was it? I had it… Oh, dear. Oh, dear.” Oh, for Petey dragon, never mind. It’ll be a long walk home.”

Olive trudged and trudged. The sun slid toward the bruised horizon like a raw yoke on a fingerprinted wall. The temperature cooled. Birds chirped less, weary from their daylong concert. Floral smells scented the air. Olive pushed on in a never-ending field with not a creature in sight.

Someone or something whistled, drawing to her. The sound pierced her ears. A teenage boy, she guessed, in torn pants and a faded plaid shirt, repositioned his straw hat. A blade of grass in his corner of his mouth, he looked neither left nor right.

She flew into his face and tumbled earthward. “Yoo-hoo. Ouch.”

He brushed at his face as if flicking off a fly.

“Hey, you. You, Tom Sawyer person, you. Stop!” Olive skipped behind him to catch up. That’s when it hit her. “He can’t see me.” In desperation, she grasped a pant leg and hung on. Swish-toss. Slam. When had he stopped?

He growled, combing his surroundings. “Who’s there? Where are you?”

“Down here. They call me Olive. I’m lost.” Olive pulled with all her strength till she found his shirt pocket.

“I don’t know what or where you are but get away from me.” He switched the stalk of grass to the other side of his mouth and tramped on. Dusk drifted downwards like a gray fog, stealing the little light left. The moon rose cheesy yellow, face in a smirk as if It had heard a bad joke. A stone’s throw away, a dark shack surfaced out of the ground.

Olive sensed rather than saw her aura light up a hair-thin stroke at a time. It must be the last day of harvest because this happened the same time last year. Her heart swelled with dizzy exhilaration, knees weak and bendy. All her magic had not vanished—not yet—though her ability had lessened. She had not minded ageing, nor the forgetfulness, nor the loss of vitality—well, a little. Losing her spark, her zest for life had caused sadness, yet she understood the map of life.

colorful-1325269_960_720-pixabay

She shook off her reverie. The boy approached the cabin. In her excitement, Olive fell out, arms waving, wings fluttering. Up. Down. She floated. “Wait, wait.”

Hand on the doorknob, the boy dropped his chin, paused, and turned to the darkness fully arrived. A crazed yell tore out of his throat. He yanked open the door and slammed inside. Up-down, Olive floated, a streak of vacillating glow like a light posse.

The door squeaked open. A rifle barrel preceeded the boy. “Stop. What are you?”

Olive reared up and flew into his face. “Don’t shoot. Let me explain.”

* * *

The boy had listened and nodded.

“I live in a place called Aurora. Will you help find it?”

“My pleasure. I know my way around a fairy tale or two. Name’s Tom Sawyer. Pleased to meet you, Olive Goldglimmer.

Maybe for the last time, Olive’s wings opened iridescent and supple as in the days of her youth.

“Come inside. Can’t do anything tonight. Hungry?

“I could eat. Have you nuts or berries?”

“A real fairy. Shoot. Never heard of any your age. Know something? You remind me of my grandma—the one my author wouldn’t give me. Everybody has one, don’t they? Even me.”

The End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


57 Comments

Bejing at Last (Part 2)

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

At last, we arrived at the hotel and were given an hour to freshen up before the welcoming dinner in the hotel dining room. Would I stay awake that long?


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The hotel is classified 5-Star and this is the lobby. Although splendid and attention-grabbing, it was not spectacular.

Table number 4, awaited, set for eight and covered with a red tablecloth. A yard-wide-diameter glass Lazy Susan (size approximate) adorned the center.

I heard neck vertebrae snap. Sue and I gawked at each other. The waitress attended to the men first. She shook out each cloth napkin and placed one corner beneath the dinner plate—smaller than a bread plate—with the opposite corner on a lap. Picture a square napkin held by one corner with points facing north and south and east and west. This placement also protected the overhang of the tablecloth, I imagine, should anyone dribble while eating. Fallen food could s-l-i-d-e down the napkin and into your lap, but not onto the floor. What do you do with the resulting ‘leftovers’? Mash them into the napkin?

Recreation of place setting

Re-creation of place setting

Did I hear the ruffle of rooster tail feathers? I bet the men in our party hadn’t felt this special since Momma kissed a boo boo. This goes to show how different our east/west worlds still are, and will in all probability never change, or I might be wrong. I giggled into my hand and figured the men might as well enjoy the attention. We females rolled our eyes. It’s possible no one even noticed we did except us.

Once everyone’s serviettes had been organized, the subject of drinks came up. Choices of beverages were water, a soft drink (Coke or ginger ale and never diet) or beer. Once the apportioned amount per table was used up, too bad. The waitress opened two small bottles of water but this wasn’t enough for all the thirsty visitors. Substitutes for soft drinks and/or beer instead of water were unfathomable to staff; no swapping and no flexibility. Our guide, Robert, offered to go to the store to buy more but the hotel staff wouldn’t allow that either. (More on drinks later).

We were called the English Group 8. Another group followed us some time later, a full busload called the French Group from Quebec and area. Busy at our own table, I still overheard a loud voice call: une, deux, trois upon their arrival. Why were these adults being treated like children, I wondered but pushed the thought away.

First dinner in China (menu incomplete due to my befuddled brain)

Robert hung around to describe the platters of food (family style) as they were placed on the Lazy Susan before he left for the subway and an hour’s ride home.

  • Hors d’oeuvres: anchovies sandwiched between thin slices of pork (a guess)
  • Tiny cucumbers, about an inch long, (looked like beginning baby growths) served as a salad
  • Bean salad, French cut
  • Cabbage something (tasty)
  • Corn soup (no corn found, and no corn flavor)
  • Sweet and sour pork (most familiar taste)
  • Cauliflower
  • Fried rice with peas
  • Beef slices
  • Pork, thick slices of boiled bacon (boiled fat, ugh)
  • For dessert: raw pumpkin slices (unflavored, not well-liked) and dates

Dinner over, neither Sue nor I recalled what time we called it a night. I imagine we collapsed into bed soon afterward, thankful for a pillow and a comfy bed.  The unnerving thing is neither of us has any recollection. None. We can’t even embellish a story under threat of pain or suffering.

Take a gander at this, our bathroom with a peekaboo wall. What? Why?

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You’re going to scratch your head and we did as well. After finding this oddity, no-one we asked gave a straight answer. Not even our tour guide. He mumbled something about watching television from the bath. An expensive glass wall to enjoy TV if you ask me. A Venetian blind hangs in place to open or close. Here the bottom half has been turned down for privacy. Check out these links for comments:

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/asia-north-east-asia/topics/hotel-bathrooms-in-china

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/travel/05headsup.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

A few additional facts about China:

  • China has FOUR municipalities: Beijing (the capital), Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin
  • There are 55 nationalities, PLUS the Han People who are the majority at 93%
  • The rest are minorities
  • Mandarin is the main language.
  • Although written the same all over the country, the dialects are different. Everywhere.

~*~

Next On January 27th: Beijing (Part 3): First Tour Day

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


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Beijing at Last!

Rapid transit arrived inside the terminal every three minutes.

Rapid transit

Rapid transit

Directed by Robert, our arrival coincided almost to the minute with the train’s appearance. Luggage dragging people that we were, we rushed on and were transported to the parking lot where our mini tour bus awaited. (I have no recollection of exiting the train or getting on the bus.)

We zipped down the highway surrounded by young trees already dressed in delicate greenery. By comparison, Ontario was still in the throes of winter on this March 29th, but I squashed the thought as I gawked in awe. The highways were clean and neat with row on row of countless new tree plantings. To my limited gardening knowledge they were two to three-year-old saplings. I seem to recall some weeping willows (or not).

The Chinese writing is overwhelming

The Chinese writing is overwhelming

It must have been at least a good half-hour or so before the city limits loomed ahead, although. I hadn’t paid much attention to the time. What caught my eye immediately were countless gray apartment buildings: cement shells, without an outside finish; empty openings instead of window-filled; forlorn and abandoned-looking construction sites. There is a reason for this our guide, Robert, told us when I asked him.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the buyer,” he said. “He can choose the cost and type of windows, doors, cupboards, flooring walls etc. he is willing to pay. In addition to hiring a sub-contractor to finish the interior of this carcass, the owner is responsible for hooking into the main water and electrical system.

Unfinished apartment buildings

Unfinished apartment buildings

“But why are so many unoccupied. How long have they been empty?” I asked.

“More and more people are moving into the cities every day. They haven’t come here yet.”

“Who builds these things? Where does the money come from?”

“Sometimes the companies run out of money, it’s true, and must wait till they find new resources.”

Our bus progressed through streets crammed with buses and cars and masses of people. I watched young and old city-dwellers ride bicycles in terrifying traffic, sometimes with loads of cardboard or wood tied in a pile behind them. I saw no helmets and an assortment of non-practical shoes. I noticed a number of girls riding mopeds with waist clutching male passengers. Really? Does this mean more girls own the motorbikes?

Another interesting sight: tuk tuks, which looked like someone had wrapped a sheet of tin around a motor bike for a car-like body with a roof. Actually, these vehicles were not run by pedal power after all from what I could make out. I still have no idea what they were / are.

Newer, old and knocked down buildings stand side by side. As we moved through neighborhood to neighborhood, Robert informed us a lot of the old city was being torn down to make way for the new. During the long drive to the hotel we viewed rubble from many such scrap heaps awaiting removal.

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I noticed a certain rhythm to the traffic. Each time we came to a stop light, our bus driver, pulled the hand brake. Why? We were on a level road not on any incline or stopped midway downhill. All the drivers around us honked horns all the time and after a while I became aware of something else. This was their way of letting the other drivers know, ‘I’m coming through.’ The drivers weren’t angry nor irate. No screeched brakes shrieked. Bikes and buses seemed to play a game of chicken. Three or four lanes appeared to accommodate five or six lanes of traffic. I covered my eyes. Buses and cars dodged in, out around us, but not one transport truck was in sight.

Some quick and interesting facts:

  • Beijing is the same latitude as New York City
  • Beijing is the capital of Peoples’ Republic of China
  • It is the third largest city in China
  • China is shaped like a rooster. Beijing is located at the neck of the rooster and is known for fresh water pearls
  • 20 million people / 5 million cars
  • Since the Olympics, 3 million more cars on the road = work = wages = cars)
  • Odd / even license plate policy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_space_rationing_in_Beijing
  • First car market here was the German Volkswagen
  • The second was Buick from the U.S.

~ * ~

Any mistakes are my own. I admit my attention span and hearing are not always on alert. These few facts I jotted down as I thought I’d heard them.

~ * ~

More about tuk tuks (three-wheeled transportation)

 

Next on January 20: Beijing at Last (Part 2)

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles 2017

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


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Are We There Yet?

The Flight

I had no preconceived notions regarding the long trip ahead. The Malaysian disappearance, still fresh in the news, I refused to ponder the distance, time, or mystery of sufficient fuel to complete such a long flight. No point in dwelling on what I couldn’t control. I refused to mull over anything—numerous times. Had I allowed my apprehension to take hold, I might have never taken the wild limo ride to the airport.

We boarded a United Airlines Boeing 777 (I think), Flight 851, non-stop as in direct to Beijing. My seat: 41E in Economy (center aisle, middle seat). Sue asleep, I begged the guy on my right to allow exit for a bathroom break and for strolling to keep my blood moving. When both he and Sue snoozed, I climbed over Sue. I watched three or four complete movies (whose titles escape me), began others but lost interest, and read to pass the time. I could not sleep. I’m the type that needs to stay awake to make sure everything is copasetic. The sandman peppered grit into my eyes. Eye drops helped but. not enough.

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We had two babies or pre-toddlers who fussed little for which I am grateful. How the mothers managed is beyond me. The couple in the seats on Sue’s aisle side was difficult to ignore. By their appearance and attire, we guessed they were Amish or Mennonite. One seat was empty, which afforded the wife to lie across the seats her head in her husband’s lap. She had the nastiest head cold and coughed and sneezed the whole way. It’s a wonder her ears weren’t plugged for how could she fly?

Smushed in the middle seat, I juggled my purse, the offered pillow and blanket, a light jacket (it got cold off and on), my book and/or my iPad, I had little room to manoeuvre. Arms tucked in close to my body, I realized why sardines don’t have elbows either. I’d worn full body compression wear beneath my yoga pants and top as a precaution again swelling. My feet sweat in my running shoes, though. Had I been born double-jointed, it might have been easier to untie them.

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft Clipart

As the engines roared, I crammed the pictures and stories from the movies into every corner of my brain to restrict anxious thoughts. The fellow on my right watched our flight progress on the screen instead of movies. I noticed our flight path headed upwards to Alaska instead of due east and assumed we were lost. My seatmate noticed my near-panic and explained, but what I heard was garbled. My brain refused to process the information. I believe he said something about gulf-stream.

We’d eaten three meals and downed countless glasses of water. An hour or two before Beijing, I speculated the water tank (rain barrel?) must have ran low for the water tasted swampy. I cut myself off. It stuck in my throat. Yuck.

Thirteen hours and 35 minutes elapsed. Beijing airport materialized at last and our imminent descent announced. All window shades were thrown up with enthusiasm but no-one clapped on landing. I wanted to applaud and then kiss the ground. The time difference threw me. I hadn’t expected daylight although I knew we were to land at 3:40 p.m.

Has our luggage made it from Toronto?

Has our luggage made it from Toronto?

We deplaned with the couple we’d met in Chicago, Russ and Bonnie from Wasaga Beach. Russ, who had memorized the layout of the humongous airport, helped us find the baggage claim. Shortly afterward, we met Jim and Carolyn from Ottawa. Our tour guide, Robert,  holding a sign: English 8, awaited us. Ernesto and Lorena from Mexico arrived a half-hour later. Sue and I made eight. By 4:30, we headed to our hotel by tour bus.

I hadn’t slept a wink. Hours without sleep: 44

* * *

Next on  January 13th: Beijing at Last

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles 2017

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.