When we got off the train it was a bit earlier than scheduled, so we had a few minutes in the dark outside the train station before Todd showed up. There wasn’t anyone trying to take us anywhere which was nice, peaceful. We could idly guess if Todd was at the Jiu Dian or the Bing Guan. It turned out he was at the Bing Guan which wasn’t as seedy as it appeared at first glance. Even silhouetted in mercury vapour you could tell when Todd was coming. His height helps. And his ambling kind of walk. And his jacket. He arrived and we headed back to his room for chatting purposes.
We ranged over a host of subjects including Neil Gaiman and his time in China with Todd, what’s been happening on my travels and stories of library paging, which Todd did all through high school. Deb later revealed that she’d been a page too, as had Michelle and Phil Bender. Very strange but indicative of what a transitory job this can be. Good to know I guess.
After an hour and a half (the electronic chimes following the pattern of the bells at St. John’s college only began marking the hours at 7am) we got in a couple of cabs to head down to the college. Oh, right we picked up James & Michelle & Deb too. James is so easy for me to get along with, or at least be clever with, which may only be a substitute. Once here we met Darryl and had breakfast and sat. We talked cameras and stories were shared about whatever. “When spring comes the pretty girls come out,” said someone who was quoting their students. “Just add water,” someone else added. “And evening is when the pregnant women come out,” said another person. “Just add…” said I. Chuckles abounded.
It felt very natural hanging around here with these people. Lots like I’d never left. Holly said it’s taken her a few years for her to realize this is her family. Maybe she’s right. Maybe we needed this time this longer term. But that’s just a couple of friendships. I don’t know where I’m going with this. All this talk in the next room (Julie’s asking Catherine if the guys feel any connection between their personal lives and their Christian lives. Now she’s asking “Why have we allowed society to value what success is?) makes me worry I’m not done with the past that may not be done with me.
I met William this morning and though Holly tells me our theology is vastly different and I shouldn’t ask what he’s reading if I don’t want to get angry, I like him. He’s got this grinning laugh and joking manner I get along well with. He’s sort of a funnier Jared, or at least trying to be. And he’s got that Sean loudness to him to talk back to the starers and Nihaoers which I like. It makes me laugh which is all I really want. I feel like (theology aside) we could have been great friends if our CEE/MPC times had overlapped. Way more than me and Dan. This afternoon he was talking about his classes and what is good and what his troubles are and my brain just shuts off. Maybe it’s that he’s boring. I don’t quite know. We should be better friends. We have similar interests. But I suppose interests aren’t everything.
William led the bike tour of Jiangyou after much searching for bicycles. The place with the tandem and tridem bikes had already rented out their tallest ones. At another place “less than a mile” up the road we dug through the tarps and back rooms for suitable cycles. They weren’t as good as they could have been but they were worth the 1RMB ($0.17) I paid for the afternoon. We rode through muck and up roads through canola fields (small ones, dare I use the word agrarian?), William guiding us on the route he’d planned out the week before. I love Chinese bicycles in their gearlessness and knee-hurtingness. We can go slowly and not worry.
We curved by the coal power plant with its huge cooling towers (I was singing that song from the Simpsons power plant strike “And we’ll march day and night/by the old cooling tower/They have the plan/but we have the power” over and over while we stopped in our flocks and took pictures.) We arrived at a soysauce plant and Phil tried to get samples and Holly got used to Sichuanhua.
It feels really a lot like spring when you ride a bicycle through fields. I love that and can’t wait for spring to happen in Winnipeg. This is my extra spring. And it’s out here in the country, the healthy (though smoggy) country. There’s a dedicated steam train for the coal power plant that goes in or out at least once an hour. The first time it steamed through the flock of waiguoren to the crossing made me feel like part of a flock of waiguoren.
And we passed a bridge/pipeline crossing the river and went to William’s soccer field and got back to the school. All pictured up and ready to eat at the Christian Lady’s restaurant. Which was great. We eat so much for so little money and at the end the Jia Chang Doufu arrives, mercifully unsweet.
In the afternoon I found where I was sleeping and hung around with Dan. When we headed out to see downtown Jiangyou we occupied the back of the bus and William played tourguide and yields through stop signs and the Mall Mart. We wandered through the church behind the Mall Mart and the markets and saw the Car Bar where they may stage boxing or ultimate fighting. There’s a park along the canal where we saw a Tibetan guy in a cowboy hat hawking medicines to people with hands open empty plastic bags. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of them and later Holly talked to someone and only found out they were from Tibet. Then we headed through winding markets with shoes and locks and stuff down to the statue of Li Bai who never refused wine. Because of his Taoist inclinations.
Dinner at a Muslim restaurant after losing everybody. We certainly are a group that doesn’t wait around for everyone to be ready. Dan was in the bathroom and emerged to find an empty apartment when the downtown excursion had begun. At Li Bai after examining the benches with no seats, only bolts Dan and I looked up and saw a receding cloud of foreigners. We caught up and left Darryl behind and then when we hit the canal we lost the Benders as well. We met up with William who’d gone to find Deb. And eventually we were in contact with everyone and ate another huge heap of food. My guts are so full of Sichuanny goodness.