How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


Cruising the Yangtze, Part 1

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

My apologies for the scarcity of photos in this post.

I awoke at 5:50 A.M. Outside, the weather appeared dull and overcast with a veil of hazy fog—not smog—I hoped.   I called it misty because we were on the water after all. The previous night, we’d set sail around 10:00 p.m. but were stationary when Sue and I set off to breakfast.

Image Courtesy of RJ, Early morning mist

Sue had played with the alarm clock the night before, not sure how it worked. To her relief, it buzzed at 6:20 exactly as she’d set it. but we hadn’t needed it. I have no idea why we woke so early. Might it have been the low hum of engines stopping?

The shower tiny, but efficient and shoved into the corner of the small space, had a rounded, two-door closure, which met each other in the center for a snug fit. I’m pleased to report the water was hot and stayed inside the enclosure though I had sparse elbow room to move around.

Breakfast

We made it to the Early Bird breakfast (7:00 – 7:30) for the free coffee and arrived at 6:55. It was pleasant to linger over three coffees and sweet rolls. Why were we told the coffee was free? All buffets were inclusive as part of the complete tour package.

I didn’t take inventory at our later breakfast (8:30 – 9:00 A.M.) but had a hard-boiled egg, buns covered in sunflower seeds, strawberry jam, yogurt (plain and watery, but sweet—maybe too sweet), white cheese slices. No need to rush to the Early Bird the next day as the coffee was free at the regular breakfast as well.  I had a giggle over this. What was Ivy, our presenter the previous night, thinking when she advised it was only free at 7:00 A.M.? Maybe it was the way she said it that we’d misunderstood. I had the feeling she was quite proud of her English and I confess it was quite good and 1000 percent better than my Chinese. Maybe she meant coffee was available for early risers?

Click HERE to read about the Battle_of_Red_Cliffs

I chose to pass on the morning excursion to the Red Cliffs (9:00 – 11:00), not because I had a need to be alone, but because I wanted some free time, and to wash out a few things and relax. Sue, however, looked forward to this tour.

Click HERE for images of red+cliffs ruins in Chibi

While I enjoyed my afternoon lazying in a deck chair on the balcony, the maid came in to make up the room. I told her she didn’t need to; we would. No. She had to. Throughout this trip, I noticed rules were written in stone and never changed in any way. No adjustments nor skipping or replacing items or details. After making the beds, the maid made her way into the bathroom and came right out again. “One towel and one face cloth missing,” she said. Eyes wide, her hands and voice trembled. I almost laughed aloud.

“I washed some tee shirts and wrapped one in the towel to draw out the water faster.” I pointed to the second deck chair.

“You can give to Laundry.” She pulled herself together and reached for the pricing brochure on the desk.

“Maybe next time,” I said even as I had no intention of following through with my lie. I unrolled my Tees and handed her the towel and face cloth. Her body relaxed from head to toes.

The Yangtze is a true yellow and dirty, harboring floating junk here and there. All the junk was small with a few branches, not large chunks of anything. I couldn’t help picturing someone emptying a bucketful of cigarette butts as I saw those as well. In spots I noticed large and small ripples as if there were a sandbar underneath—I hoped not. I knew the ripples weren’t from the ship stirring the water because we weren’t moving. I waited for the excursion group to return.

Image courtesy of RJ. This boat is a mystery.

Rusting barges and tugboats transported coal, sand, and gravel alongside and then past our ship. I couldn’t imagine anyone fishing in this river. Would they? A blue ship with three white decks cruised by. Automobiles took up every square inch of deck space. I don’t recall their makes or models. and remember wondering if any every slid off.

After Sue left on the Chibi tour, an alarm sounded over the intercom. A loud announcement in several languages advised this was a fire drill but to stay in our cabins. The drill was for the ship’s crew. Soon after, we were given permission to leave our cabins. I decided to go to Reception to use the Internet.

The second floor presented a throng of crew members in life-jackets over smart blue uniforms. My guess is a health and safety meeting was in progress. A handsome, thirtysomething male in a navy uniform (the only one with gold braiding on the cuffs and outfitted with a life-jacket as well), stood aside to allow me past. Shoot, Don’t you just love a man in uniform? Each and every one replicated a super handsome male or was that just me? Face burning, I plodded through the testosterone-filled lobby to the front desk. On the way back, I stumbled along again, as they all appeared to watch though their meeting continued. For once, I found myself the only female in a room filled wall-to-wall (maybe not quite) with smiling, receptive (maybe distracted) men. Sigh.

~ * ~

Next on July 28th: On the Yangtze River, Part 2

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


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.


43 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 13

Another week has whizzed by. I don’t believe it either.

This week’s prompt is …rope… + up to only 1,000 words

For details, check out http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

To Plant a Rose

Stubborn as cement, the clay refused to budge. Stella stamped her feet. In minutes, trails of perspiration had invaded uninvited places all over her body. Smacking the spade to the ground, she swiped her dripping brow, fascinated with the moisture collected there, then rubbed it against her shorts. Why does this have to be so hard? Either it rains buckets or doesn’t rain at all.

“What are you doing?”

Stella jerked to attention with a yelp, short of tripping over the shovel. “You’re awake.” She flicked an eye over her husband, The Mathematician, clad in slippers and ratty bathrobe, and flinched. At least he’d poured himself a coffee.

“What are you doing?” It’s hot already.” He tightened the belt of his robe, but exposed his salt and pepper chest.

“I need to plant this rose before it dries up…”

“So what’s the problem? Let me.” As her husband advanced on her, Stella shuffled backwards, eyes blinking, a hand to her throat. He drove the spade into the ground with surprising force, but it ricocheted out of his hands. The handle shot into his face. He growled and back-peddled, a hand to his cheek. “Forget it. Can’t be done.”

Stella covered her mouth and nose stifling overpowering giggles. “Maybe we’ll have more success if you tried a foot farther down on either side, or behind.”

The Mathematician rubbed tender hands together, which had never met a blister, now as red as his face. An engorged vein in his neck pulsed and appeared on the verge of exploding. He flicked sweat out of his eyes. “It’s too hot. I’m taking a shower.” He tightened the belt of his robe and shuffled down the driveway like an old man.

Stella smirked. I wonder why he thought to help today? His hands have only known a pencil at worst, or his computer at best. She bent to wipe her forehead with her t-shirt. Hair soaked through, she shook it hard, then picked up the shovel. One more try. This time the spade slipped into the earth with less resistance, though only half-way down the blade. She wrinkled her nose at the sour smell of the clay and repositioned a couple scoops of earth. Her third swing hit rock and bounced back in her hands. Ow! On her knees she felt with her hands for the rock to judge its size. “Too big to dig out.”

“Kinda hot isn’t it? Want some help?” The neighbor’s son on the far side leaned against the stone wall, which separated their backyards. Shaded by their cherry tree, he readjusted the red baseball cap he wore backwards.

“Hi, George. I think I’ll go in for a while. It’s hotter than an inferno, isn’t it?”

He wiggled his wiry black uni-brow. “I can loosen some of that clay with my steel spike. I’ll be right over.”

Stella wiped her face with her t-shirt again and wrung it out, sunk deeper over her heels. The 20-something neighbor’s son ambled up the driveway with what appeared an old-fashioned spear. “Show me where.” His cheeks dimpled as he smiled down at her.

Stella explained about the rock. “Anywhere here, either farther left or right. At least a foot deep and about eighteen inches wide.

George poked the ground looking for a soft spot. He stopped and cocked his head.

“What?” She reared up then, her brow pleated.

“I hit something. Feels weird.” He grabbed the spade and worked fast. Green plastic, like the corner of a garbage bag, poked out of the dirt. They gawked at each other. George scraped at the dirt by layers, but the handle slipped and the point ripped through the plastic. A putrid odor wrapped itself around them. They saw the rope wrapped around the garbage bag. “I think we need to call the police.” He stumbled away from the suffocating stench.

“What do you think it is?” Stella’s voice quaked.

“Don’t know.” George’s face and ears flushed crimson, his forehead glistened with dripping sweat, t-shirt soaked through. “Doesn’t look good.”

“Pull up a chair. I’ll make the call and bring out some lemonade.”

He sank into a lounge chair, and flung the spade to the ground.

* * *

They’d moved their chairs deeper into the garden. The cherry tree provided little shade now; the garage provided little more. Each slurped lemonade as the ice melted in the jug. Fifty-three minutes after the call, a lone officer ambled into the backyard. The cavity in the garden grabbed his attention. He passed beneath the arbor and the reek from the hole slapped him in the face.

Stella and George sprang up, her husband’s face a putrid green, rose slower. Everyone talked at once and then stopped. Stella told her story, ran out of breath, and George finished.

“What do you suppose it is?” She led the way to the hole, but stayed back from the smell and covered her nose.

The policeman, hands behind his back didn’t move any closer either. “Don’t worry. It’s not human remains. The odour is sweet like an animal, probably a dog.”

“You’re sure? Why bind the bag with rope?”

“Didn’t want to hold it, maybe.”

“What do we do with it? Will you take it away?”

“Me? Oh no. Call animal control or put it out for trash pickup.” He took out his notebook and pen, tipped his cap and was gone.

“The Mathematician found his voice. “I’m not touching that thing. Call animal control. I’m going inside.”

“I’ll throw more dirt on the hole to keep nosy animals away and cover the reek.”

Stella nodded. Thanks, George. All I wanted was to plant a rose. Creepy. Hope the cop is right and it’s not human remains.”

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.


34 Comments

Yangshuo: Day 18, Part 1 – River Li

After breakfast the bus drove through the Yangshuo countryside on the way to the River Li.

Quick Facts

  • Yangshuo is known for pomelo and persimmon trees
  • Smoking and drinking the hardest vices to control
  • Cigarettes very cheap: as low as $1:00 per pack
  • 90% of men smoke
  • Restaurants have ‘No Smoking’ signs but cannot enforce (afraid to lose customers)
  • Cigarettes bring in taxes (so no smoking not yet imposed)
  • Phoenix Tail Bamboo is used to make clothes and underwear, softer than cotton
  • Chinese people are never quiet; always talking about everything around them
  • They cook and eat dog here, using lots of spices to flavor the meat (i.e. orange peel)
  • People in the country don’t like their pictures taken because you are stealing their spirit (shorten their lives)
  • Don’t like pictures taken of babies, especially, but sometimes, they will charge money (?)
  • Because of tourists, the locals make a good life
  • Vegetable stands everywhere tourists pass
  • Homegrown vegetables + rice, fruit
  • Countryside littered with paper and garbage until you reach the city

Tidbits

At the concert the previous night, no-one clapped, no-one shut-up; everyone had a camera taking pictures and videos. In the dark a sea of cameras lit up the dark like candle throughout the audience.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All land is owned by the government. If you want to build a house, you must apply to the Village Committee (like a village government) and apply to lease the land for 70 years. Sometimes, you can renew the lease and pass your house, apartment, condo or especially farms until the government has other plans for the land your family has lived on for hundreds of years.

We stopped at an old farmhouse along the way to the River Li for our cruise. Here a Caucasian tourist tries out the old-fashioned broom.

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Down a country road, lined with stands of food and trinkets for sale, we followed Lily, our guide. The people stared at us and we tried not to stare at them. Our cruise boat was old, rusty, not what I’d call clean and run by locals. The gangplank appeared to have wood rot (holes in it) and I stepped carefully. We sat topside instead of inside on old wooden chairs and new benches as the weather was co-operative. Of course, there were trinkets inside for tourists as well as soft drinks.

We were about 25 tourists onboard. One woman with her son and daughter and another mother with her daughter (all in early teens) and a couple families of flip-flop-clad Australians with six youngsters between six and 14 were all onboard. I felt in good company. No way could I have worn runners. My feet at this point of our trip felt broken.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We passed water buffalo on the shore and for the first time, noticed countryside litter: plastic bags and empty cigarette packages. Electrical towers were seen in the weirdest places, in the middle of nowhere, but farmers still live in the old ways. They have a well, but no plumbing.

Winter (January / February) are not good for tourists. It is too cold and there is no heating system here. One must sleep in a coat. On the other hand, summer is hot and humid and the opposite around July. Another drawback, the water level is high on the River Li and not good for water travel because it is too fast and dangerous.

~ * ~

River Cruise Additional Links:

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangxi/guilin/li_river.htm

~ * ~

Next on February 27: Day 18, Part 2 –More Yangshuo 

For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


44 Comments

HOT Flash – Cracked

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

“See that guy with the coke bottle glasses.”

“Ya?” Ralphie scratches his brush-cut.

“Come on.  He’s headed for the Chinaman’s restaurant.”

A chained German Shepherd yanks at his restraint and snarls.

Petey hurls. “Yuck, he’s cracked. Who eats garbage?”

“His mother’s the church cook, I heard. Doesn’t she feed him?”

~ * ~

We are nearing the end of the Fall Quarter of Flash in the Pan. The theme is Disturbed.

The word limit for Cracked is 50 words. I used all of them.

Check how to join:  http://mommasmoneymatters.com/flash-fiction/


46 Comments

Hot Flash – Crazed

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

Skinny and Ichabod-like, Herman hated Val, the dreamboat. His teaching methods baffled everyone. Val questioned an explanation; Herman hurled chalk. Swearing clouded the air;  students booed.

“Get the principal,” someone said.

“You’re crazed. Take your hooks offa me.”

Herman hoisted Val by the scruff, like refuse, onto a coat hook.

~ * ~

This is the new Fall Quarter of Flash in the Pan. The theme is Disturbed.

The word limit for Crazed is 50 words. I used them all.

Check how to join:  http://mommasmoneymatters.com/flash-fiction/


63 Comments

Flash in the Pan – Mad

The 60-inch television flashes and blares.

“Take the garbage out, Stanley.”

“In a minute.”

“You said that yesterday. The kitchen stinks already.”

“Next commercial.” He works the buttons on the remote. Click. Click. Click.

“No, now.” Hands on hips, Dolores stomps in between the screen and her husband.

He tramps into the kitchen. Overstuffed bag clenched, he returns and dumps the contents on the carpet.

morgueFile free photos.

morgueFile free photos.

“Have you gone mad, Stanley?”

“Well, it’s out, isn’t it?”

~ * ~

This is the new Fall Quarter of Flash in the Pan. The theme is Disturbed.

The word limit for Mad is 75 words. I used all 75.

Click: http://mommasmoneymatters.com/flash-fiction/ to check out the rules and how to join.