Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chengdu trip to Du Jiang Yan

We had breakfast with the conference again. Shanliang called to say the van that was to take us to Du Jiang Yan had something wrong so we would leave later than planned. Rich LeBlanc, Phil and I joined Shanliang and our driver, a tiny man who clearly had no idea about the area. He had to ask passers-by for directions to even leave Chengdu. Because of the late start, it seems we wouldn’t get to see the pandas. I was disappointed by Rich didn’t really want to go see them.

When we got closer to Du Jiang Yan we saw more and more evidence of the earthquake that hit this area in 2008. We couldn’t follow the signs, and again the driver had to keep asking how to get to the historical site of an irrigation and flood control project that was build in 200 BCE. We parked in a muddy lot and walked to the site entrance and waited while Shanliang bought tickets for us. The site is a world heritage site and the gardens were quite lovely. I had made first experience with a toilet-paper-less non-western Chinese commode. We walked to the river walk where we could see evidence of the early construction. We had to cross a swinging suspension bridge that kids made worse than it was. I really felt wobbly when we got off. We walked the length of an island and then decided to take the path back on the opposite shore which involved a lot of climbing. However, we had great views and went to several small temples. The damage from the earthquake was quite evident.

At the end of the trail we came to the Temple of the TownGods which was full of 6 fanciful characters and had a holy water pool at the exit. We walked through the old town meet our driver. Shanliang said the restaurants near the river wouldn’t be “healthy” and thye would cheat the tourists, so we drove toward Chengdu and stopped at one that he thought would be ok. We had the ever present lazy Susan banquet and this time with a large steamer of rice. It was Sichuan after all and the food was very hot. The restaurant was filled with small parties in the rooms off the main eating area. In one the toasts were going fast and furious and a guy got roaring drunk. He could barely stand when we left. As we exited the restaurant we saw employees squatting down doing the dishes outside with a garden hose!

Leaving the town was exciting – since the roads had been destroyed and not all repaired we went in back streets and followed a cab to get out through muddy pavement-less alleys. Turns out is was a dead end. The cab was merely going for gas!

Long Zhang had requested that Rich and I meet with him and Ming at dinner to talk about cooperation with the conference and answer questions about curriculum with other educators. It was a buffet like the first night.

We began our packing to leave. Phil packed first so he could help me. This was very smooth.

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