Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lessons learned in China

It's important in all of your travels and experiences that you take away a message from the universe that leaves you that much wiser, if not wiser, that much more cautious and if not cautious at least makes you pause when you revisit the same kind of experience.
Now you may wonder about my photo selection for this post...this is how overly exposed I felt. Many of my own "pink" parts were exposed in a most unattractive fashion. This post is concerning my massage in China. There are some things you should know about Chinese massages, they are NOT like the massages I've had in the past. I requested that my tour guide book me a hand and foot massage. It should be safe right?
The massage would take place in the safety of my hotel room, so little room for blushing there, right? I invited Kathy to come visit with me since I didn't want to be  alone in my hotel with a stranger. There are many things you should not try with a language barrier, at the top of my list is a massage. I should have known things were not going as I planned when she held up a robe and indicated through pantomine that I should remove my clothing and get into it. Like a lamb to slaughter, I did what she asked. Having had hand and feet massages in the states I figured this was so she could have better access to my neck and shoulders. It's best not to assume things in a foreign country.
So I'm laid out on my bed conversing away with Kathy (someone I have only met on this trip) when my masseuse leans forward undoes my robe belt and flashes all my parts at Kathy, while I am screaming, "Kathy, turn your eyes away or you'll be blinded." Out pops my right arm, shoulder and everything else on the right side from my clavicle to my hip bone. Yikes, this is a very thorough hand and foot massage.
The massage proceeds exposing more and more skin, I now have a sheet draped over my robe to provide some kind of modesty and to keep my white skin parts from blushing bright pink from embarrassment. We proceed to the foot portion of the event. My feet are wrapped in garbage sacks filled with hot water from my bathroom, rubbed, massaged etc. At this point, my skin is literally itching to get some kind of undergarment on. So I break and put my bottoms on, thinking that that area of my body has seen all the rubbing it needs.
While I am grateful for the clothing, it did not fit with the rest of the event. I return to laying on my bed, my feet facing the masseuse when she proceeds to flip my legs up over my head, multiple times. While I am not the most modest of persons I can promise you I would have been mortified to be doing that in the raw. So now you can see why I chose a picture of those little pink pigs all exposed. So after the laughing and crying over this event, I am that much wiser and much more cautious about language barriers, exposed skin and hotel rooms. It's not a good mix.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Visiting the Terracotta Army

Another must see spot when you visit China has to be the amazing Terracotta Warriors. It's mind-boggling to imagine that a ruler would require 700,000 people to work for over 36 years to create an army of over 7,000 soldiers to protect his tomb. Even more mind-boggling is that no two warriors are the same. They may share a rank as can be identified by their clothing as well as how their hair is done but each one carries a different face.
This is the obligate picture that proves I was there. The Terracotta Army was found by farmers that were digging a well in 1974. The warriors had been buried for over 2,200 years. They were created to defend Qin Shi Huangdi's tomb. His actual tomb is believed to be a mile west of the pits and has not been excavated yet. He was considered a tyrant during his reign. It is believed that 48 concubines were buried alive with the emperor as well as any worker that knew the location or design of his  tomb.
There are 3 known pits. This pit is Pit 1 and contains over 6,000 warriors as well as a few horse and the remains of chariots. Each soldier when buried was painted in vivid colors but exposure to air causes an almost immediate fading and discoloration. The earth-walled corridors were once roofed with wooden rafters. After the emperor died this pit and the others was looted and set on fire. Of all the warriors only one remained undamaged. It is the kneeling archer. All the other warriors have required some kind of repair.
I think of these as the "warrior zombies". The friend that I traveled with thought it looked more like resurrection morning with the warriors lined up to be made "whole" again. Each warrior is unique and there is a continuing effort today to painstakingly reassemble them.
This is the "front row" of infantry men. The first line of defense for the emperor in the after-life.
 Each warrior probably represented a real soldier. In the Chinese army each rank wore their hair in only one way. Truly, talented artisans must have created these amazing statues. If you ever choose to visit the warriors, pack a snack and plan on staying all day. It's the least you can do when you visit a wonder of the world.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

You can't visit China without visiting the wall...

So one of the sites that I most looked forward to as I prepared to travel to China, was the Great Wall of China. I guess I was not alone in this desire because this is what I first saw on the wall.
 The Great Wall is a series of earthen ramparts with a unifying wall that was completed somewhere about 221-210 B.C. Yes, it's really that old. I don't know why I thought I would get a private viewing but I couldn't imagine having to share it with so many people. It was a little unnerving.
After riding a tram from Bandaling to get to a less populated place, it was really shocking to rub shoulders, elbows, knees and hips with so many people I wasn't related to.
 With unscalable mountains on either side of the wall it was created to provide defense to the Chinese nation. It proved ineffective in the 13th century when it was breached by the Mongols. I admit, I'm not very good at Chinese history but it's difficult to imagine the Wall not even being in China, but Mongolia during the 13th century.
The Mongols were no fans of the wall and were instrumental in it's destruction. Many areas of the wall are crumbling ruin. The area I visited had been restored in the 1950's and 1980's.
The Great Wall served as early internet. It was a means of communication with each rampart watching for messages from either side. They used smoke, flares, drums and bells. Troops could rapidly move across the country moving from one tower to the next.  The towers provided living quarters and storerooms for provisions.
One thing I never quite got used to is how often my picture was taken by random Chinese people. My blond blue eyed daughter had warned me but until you are spied on, stalked and stared at like a bug in a jar, you don't really get it. If they were kind enough to request me in their picture I smiled, but if they put their cell phones on their shoulder and walked past, I would turn away. My daughter after experiencing this for five months, started making scary faces.
 Here's the team I traveled with. A great bunch of dental professionals and even better people.