Coming down out of the mountains we were happy to see Ruili lying in the green lush valley below…a larger city than I thought…a Chinese/Burma border town with a mix of Han Chinese, minorities and Burmese traders hawking jade and various smoking substances. The streets were not all marked in Pinyin…the communist-designed phonetic romanization of the spelling of Chinese characters…and we spent half the afternoon looking for a hotel listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook before we finally registered at a hotel owned by the Chinese water and electric company, Li Shui, meaning Sweet Water.
That night we found a Burmese street restaurant and ordered five dishes and an alcoholic cherry drink all for a little over two dollars. Back at the hotel, we fell into bed exhausted…but were furiously wakened at various intervals during the night…by prostitutes hoping to find male foreigners!
The next day after eating breakfast noodles in the market we walked down an ancient cobblestone road to the old part of Riuli called Mengmao where a lovely old man fell into step with us along the way. He took us first to see the elaborate carving of the concrete grave monuments. Huge modular slabs of decorated concrete were being fitted together at one factory after another along the road for single and double graves. Then we walked up the hill to his own grave site where he waved us good-bye.
That night on the way from the Gem Market, five middle school students (about 17 years old) started talking to us as we walked along…hello…where are you from…what is your name…our English names are Zhong (John), Paul, Fantasy, Do Na and Steven…can we help you…listen to us…we have a good idea…all of us ending up eating delicious Burmese fried dumplings and egg cake and exchanging email addresses at a Burmese restaurant. About 10:00pm we were all on our way home when Zhong remembered it was his birthday…listen to us…we have a good idea…catching up to us and bringing us all back to his parent�s home for cake with light delicious frosting. Then we all struck out for home again…the kids reassuring us that when their parents found out that they had been practicing their English with a couple of foreigners that the parents wouldn’t be angry about the late hour.
“Listen to us…we have a good idea!” So early the next morning the kids picked us up at the hotel and took us in the fog to their school to show us around but the headmaster was already visiting with some Japanese visitors so the guard wouldn’t let us enter. The school was out that day so the students could practice their dances in preparation for the “city party” which would celebrate the tenth year that Ruili had been designated as a “city.”
We asked the kids why the schools always had the names written on them in English…the country had joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) they said and wanted foreigners to come visit the schools. Then again…listen to us…we have a good idea…as we went to a brand new internet room that was offering free internet on this it�s first day in operation…on the way buying us french fries with chili and a little plastic sack full of Asian Pear relish. We ate Over The Bridge Noodles for lunch…the waitress bringing to the table a tray of thin sliced meats and vegetables and noodles to be “cooked” in a very hot bowl of broth. That afternoon we all took a taxi to the Ruili City Park near the Ruili River (or the Irrawaddy River to the Burmese) where you could see Burma across the river.
While watching hundreds of students acting out various Chinese stories in the dances and music, Jana and I think we must have talked to every young person in Ruili who wanted to practice their English…do you like music…what is your favorite rock band…our favorite band is HOT (High-five Teenagers) from Korea…do you know what high-five means…then I showed them high-five which they liked..then I asked do you know the “brother” handshake like most young people give each other in America but this was met with blank faces and was going nowhere…we like American country-western music they said…we like John Denver and in our last English class we learned about The Carpenters…do you like pets…dogs or cats…do you like sports…we like sand volleyball…and tennis…and PingPong…Paul saying the Chinese weren’t as good at PingPong as they used to be…I like swimming…Jana said she liked running…Fantasy saying oh, that’s too hard…listen to us…we have a good idea…
We fled back to our hotel in a tuk-tuk before the afternoon was over…our throats hoarse from talking…and drank a Budweiser with a Chinese label in the warm sun in the backyard patio of the hotel.
The next morning, relieved not to be traveling by bus, we caught a plane to meet Bob in Kunming where we would proceed on to Chengdu Sichuan Province the next day by train. The only event of note on the train was my losing my sixth pair of reading glasses while bending over the squat toilet…hearing the clink and catching a glimpse of tortoise shell as they clinked down the metal pipe to the tracks below.
Tags: Chengdu, China, Conversations, Festivals & Ceremonies, Food, Hotels,Hostels & Guesthouses, Ruili, Sichuan, Touching Experiences, Trains, Yunnan