Melanie Spiller & Coloratura Consulting
A Tonic for Ramshackle Wordsmiths
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Letters from China: January 13, 2010
I am surprised that people are not particularly short, but they do all have black hair and dark eyes, so I am conspicuous. One in our party is 6'5", so between his height and my blondness, we get stared at a lot. It's kind of fun, though. People say "Hallooo" when they see us, so proud to have some English. Some of the signs are in English, but very few people seem to speak any (we have a good guide). The government is clearly working on making English a second language here.
We were in Shangri-La for the last two days--very beautiful and very cold. I guess it's really close to Tibet because that was the ethnic minority there. People wear these beautiful costumes that you'd think would just be for dress up, but they are working in the fields and things in 'em. They also burst into folk dances in the town square, sometimes just to celebrate that it's noon or that the sun came up. Good stuff.
Today we drove from Shangri La to Dali, about 5 hours, and you know all those terraced rice paddies that you think of when you think of China? That's pretty much what the view was the whole way. Very green (yes, in January and below freezing). Also, you know those calligraphy brush paintings with all the flat-looking tall mountains? Those are pretty darned close to what the mountains look like when the sun gets behind them. I hope my photos come out.
I have learned a few words of Chinese--hello, thank you, No thank you--and people seem to get a kick out of me saying those. The food is really good. We have had a LOT of noodles. More noodles than rice.
The air is always full of smoke from wood-burning fires. Few people (and few hotels, apparently) have heat. Do not ask about the toilets. It's enough to make a person stop eating solid food.
Things are super cheap here. In about a week, I've spent about $20 for trinkets.