Thursday, November 20: My Zhuang guide and I continue along the trail around the rim of the rice terraces, and my back is hurting the whole time. I periodically stop to stretch in different directions, and she continues to rub the small of my back when I bend over.
You may wonder why I don’t mention my wonderful guide by name. To be honest, she tells me her name, but I don’t quite understand her, and then of course I forget it as soon as she tells me. I don’t know why but Chinese is still just as unintelligible to me as it was on the first day I got here. I have learned a few words, but only to get by. And even though I’ve been taking Chinese classes for one hour once a week, all we’ve learned so far is Pinyin and the tones and sounds, which I have great difficulty with. I can’t even differentiate some of the sounds. My attempts to learn Chinese give me a lot of sympathy for my poor Chinese students who are trying to learn English. The two languages are about as far from each other as two languages can be!
As she walks ahead of me on the trail, my guide keeps pulling at the ferns growing along the hillside and plucking them off and dropping them on the path. It’s almost like Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.
At one point, we reach a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of shops where there is a public restroom that is surprisingly clean and even has a Western toilet. You must be able to tell by now that Western toilets are hard to come by in China, as I get excited every time I find one! At the shops, I buy a bottle of water and a painting of a Zhuang woman carrying baskets through a tropical forest on black fabric. I also find this cute little baby in a stroller and I wonder how on earth someone has gotten the baby uphill in this stroller, as there are so many steps and no cars can drive in the village or up these trails.
Somewhere along this path is the Seven Stars with Moon lookout, but I’m not really sure exactly where it is as I don’t see a sign. I have seen signs TO the viewpoint but I haven’t seen any AT the viewpoint. According to China Highlights.com, “Seven Stars around the Moon” is formed from eight small piles standing separately in the middle of eight rice paddies. The middle pile, filled with water, looks like a bright moon while the others are compared to seven stars.
After we leave this lookout, we are heading down steps back into the village, and we pass a lot of shops selling handicrafts along the way. I’m not in the market to buy anything today as I just want to get back to rest.
My guide stops to talk to this Zhuang lady who is selling some peppers or some kind of food along the walkway. The lady’s lower gums seem to be detached from her lower jaw; I can see this when she talks. Although she doesn’t look it in this picture, she seems very happy despite this problem. She chats quite animatedly with my guide.
Then we’re back in the village where I see cute shops and some interesting sights.
We stop for a chat with this lady who also asks for some money for me and the guide if I want to take a picture of her.
We have a seat at a lookout where we can see the pretty village below us.
Finally, it’s about 12:15, and we return toward the hotel. I see some cooking going on in the streets, and people washing vegetables in a stream. I also see this foot massage place which I note, but when I try to find it later, I’m unable to do so.
It’s lunchtime but my stomach and back are still hurting and all I want to do is lie down. I go to my room, where I take a long nap. It feels good to burrow under the covers and sleep for a couple of hours.
When I wake up around 3:30, I’m still hurting but I’m feeling hungry, so I go back out to explore a bit of the town and search for a restaurant that had looked appealing along the way.
When I find the restaurant, I order some “stir-fried vegetables,” which turn out to be cabbage and onions, and some rice.
As soon as I finish my meal, I suddenly feel my stomach about to give way, so I pay my bill and head downhill quickly to my hotel. I barely make it back to my room! Oh my gosh, what a pain to feel so sick while traveling! I lie down again and nap for the rest of the afternoon and early evening.
Later in the evening, I think I might be able to handle just some toast and some hot water. While sitting in the dining room of the hostel, I meet a retired doctor named Ron Perrier who is traveling around the world and is in China for stint. He is also a fellow blogger and here’s his blog: only where you have walked have you been. He asks me about my health problems and makes a few guesses about what it might mean that I have both stomach problems and a back ache. We have quite a long chat and he gives me some Ibuprofen to help me with my pain. Even though I feel horrible, I enjoy meeting this fellow traveler and sharing some cultural observations. We talk about spitting in Chinese society. He says he has found that spitting to the Chinese is just like the vomiting impulse to us as Westerners. The Chinese feel if they get the urge to spit, they must get rid of the phlegm as soon as possible, just as we do if we feel the urge to vomit. We Westerners have learned to swallow our spit and we don’t feel it’s acceptable to go around spitting on the street, but that’s not the case with the Chinese. We talk about many other interesting topics and observations, but if you’d like to see more on his take on life and travel, I suggest you visit his blog. 🙂
I go back to my room where I take the Ibuprofen and read the current book on my Kindle: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford. I sleep and sleep and sleep, hoping to feel better in the morning so I can hike to Longji Ancient Village and the rice terraces there.