Big Bells

February 13, 2019, 21:59

Went to the Hubei Provincial Museum of Wuhan today. Saw some porcelain, some old stuff, some sweet-looking bells, a bunch of ax-knives, pictures of revolutionaries, and some ancient skulls. And there was a board that caught my attention: “Sages and philosophers around the fifth century BC.”

Shang Gao (Western Zhou Dynasty, 1046-771 BC), mathematician

Guan Zhong (645 BC), statesman

Sakyamuni (586-485), founder of Buddhism

Pythagoras (580-497 BC), mathematician and philosopher

Confucius (551-479 BC), philosopher of Confucianism

Lao Tsu (6th century BC), philosopher of Taoism

Chen Zi (5th century BC or earlier), astronomer and mathematician

Zeno of Elea (490-430 BC), ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician and casuist

Mo Di (480-390 BC), philosopher of the Monist school

Socrates (478-399 BC), philosopher

Plato (427-347 BC), philosopher

Aristotle (384-322 BC), philosopher

Hui Shi (380-305 BC), philosopher and logician

Meng Ke (372-286 BC), philosopher of Confucianism

Zhuang Zhou (369-286 BC), philosopher of Taoism

Haven’t heard of half of these names because half of them are Eastern and I’m not Eastern. I’m Western. Would like to know more about Eastern philosophy, especially regarding the works and ideas of Confucius. Also, I want to know if these names, dates, and titles are accurate.

Sixty-seven bi (jade in round shape with a hole in the middle) were unearthed. The bi, the most important of the six kinds of auspicious jade ornaments of the Zhou Dynasty, was used at rituals to worship Heaven. In the rules on rites at that time, the big bi measuring one chi two cun in diameter was to be used by the king or presented to the king by a feudal lord. The bi can be used for decoration or worn as an ornament.

I didn’t buy any souvenirs. Should’ve bought coffee from the belt of the world. I’ll keep my eye out for a nice, jade bi I can wear around my neck.

Cigarettes & Sashes

February 11, 2019, 13:13

I’ve got nothing

To do

But explore

(Oh Lord)

And I don’t want

Nothing more

Gonna see some green wetlands

Besides that

I’ve got no plan

Strolling through a Chinese city

Humming a little ditty

I think the wetlands are closed

Weren’t no open entrance

I could find

Instead, I pay three for Yuyuan

Another park full of elders

And gulls, girls, & boys

They cast their lines into the bay

Or turn their fingers on instruments

And cigarettes

I watch & listen as they march

Something like a melody

Slow, desperate, & dysfunctional

But artful & beautiful still

Today is my last day

To enjoy the sun

In this Land of Eternal Spring

Now I perch

Taking in a 胡琴 (húqin)

All two strings of female vocality

A stone table & four seats

Nine ladies & two gentlemen

Swing their red sashes

Tied at the waist.

Poison

February 10, 2019, 19:53

What is a minority? And would an American minority be okay with a tourist attraction dedicated to replicating and honoring their culture, language, and beliefs? That’s what I saw today—except it was Chinese, of course. Many of the significant minorities of the Yunnan Province being recreated for an audience. Only 90 RMB. Worth it. Got a bunch of cool photos. The translations on the signposts were sort of helpful. Much about “immortal souls” and “nature gods.”

Blue glass bottle, red and white label, red cap, 53%vol, 150mL, courtesy of Beijing Red Star Co., LTD. A swig here and there. It tickles and burns and causes me to question myself. Why do I ingest this poison? It’s not for the feeling, which is minimal thanks to moderation. Is it the sensation it leaves on my tongue and in my throat? Or is it because I am utterly, physically alone and have no one whom I care about to judge my behavior? And is it wrong to begin with?

竹筒饭

February 10, 2019, 13:23

Yunnan Nationalities Village. I’m either in Lahu or Jinuo Minority Village. They have a kitchen in a replicated building. They’re selling chicken barbequed between bamboo sticks and some kind of sticky rice (?) steamed inside of bamboo stalks. They call it 竹筒饭 (zhútǒng fàn or bamboo tube rice). They crack open the bamboo with a hammer, and the husks are used as fuel for the fire to cook the next batch. I’m waiting for that next batch; I want to try it, whatever it is. Twenty minutes later. 10 yuan for one. It’s rice, purple and sticky. Somewhat sweet. Smells natural and smoky. Hot. Also has some kind of legume (peanuts, maybe).

Monkey City

February 7, 2019, 21:05

Had a Thai massage from a woman named Angela. Learned more about my back—the lower part, specifically, which I can now say is injured. Not her fault. It’s been like this for several months now. Don’t know what caused it. Might need physical therapy if it gets worse.

Flew from Chiang Mai to Kunming. Got cash from an ATM, bought a metro ticket, walked several blocks and found “Cloudland International Youth Hostel,” where I’ll be staying for the next five days. Walked around today. It’s the Chinese Lunar New Year, and the city is weirdly quiet. Many of the shops are closed because their owners have departed to be with relatives until the holiday is over. Lots of fireworks in the night.

Back to using a VPN for internet access. I didn’t miss that. Now whenever I want to post something or check my email or do a simple Google search, I’ll have to wait for ExpressVPN to do its magic. It takes time, that’s all. And it usually doesn’t work on the first go.

Played pool with Toby from Finland who studies engineering in Nanning. Where else would I be able to do such a thing? We both need pool lessons or more than a bit of practice. He wanted to go to Tibet (as did I), but unfortunately, things are dodgy there for tourism unless you have an agency to tailor the experience. Lhasa would be lovely; I’d like to see the Potala Palace someday.

Falling /// Rising

February 3, 2019, 18:03

A Voice Memo

It is six o’clock, oh-three, on Sunday, February third. I’m sitting on a carved out stone—carved, flattened stone at a high point of Wat Pha Lat waterfall, west of Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s about four miles from the old city. My Chrono says forty-eight minutes: that’s how long it took me to run slash walk-hike up to this point.

I walked around and took some photos of the temples and the sculptures, and then I ventured down the waterfall to see if there was an actual waterfall; I found that there was not, that the waters must be low at this time. The rocks are metallic, kind of shiny, my guess because of the components of the water that flows over them. There are many dogs, here.

Venturing down the waterfall, I had two paths to take: the left which had the water and the right which did not. Of course, I took the right, seeming the safer route. I took my right foot, and I lowered my butt to the stones, crawling like a backwards crab. My left foot did not gain traction when it looked for a spot, and I slipped and lost all control, and I fell, and I slid down some slippery rocks for about ten feet before coming to a stop. I scraped my right knee, my right elbow, my right forearm, but otherwise was unharmed. I am dirty and sweaty, and the sun is going down.

Ten minutes till sunset. I can see the city of Chiang Mai, the shopping mall where I worshipped this morning at The Gathering. The shopping mall where, in the basement, there is a food court. The shopping mall where I ate rice from The Brown Rice Ladies alongside a man named J. B.

I see a large airplane now—I saw it before I heard it—departing from Chiang Mai airport heading North, likely into China. This is my route, come Wednesday.

I thought about taking an oath. Today I read of Jacob and Laban, and the covenant they made at Mizpah. A departure, a compromise, a peaceful end to a relationship fraught with deception and lies and theft.

There are five covenants made in the book of Genesis. I’m learning that covenants are often used to make peace because they require something of both parties. God uses covenants with Abraham and Noah and David, signifying the coming of Jesus who would be the ultimate peacemaker. Isaac and Abraham both make covenants with Abimelech over land and boundaries. Jacob and Laban make a compromise over flocks and wealth and material things and family.

I thought about making an oath, about using this place as a witness between God and me, vertically. But what oath would I make? What oath can I make that I could ever keep? I am a mere man, made in the image of an Almighty God. I am small in this world, this vast world.

I’m sitting on a flattened, carved stone. There is water running about me, and it gets darker now. The wind begins to chill my skin, drying the dampness from that water from my fall. The hairs stick to my skin on my legs and my arm. It dries in my beard from when I splashed water on my face.

What oath could I make that I would keep? What covenant could I make that I would keep? What do I have to offer God that he does not already have? I offer my life. I offer yesterday, and today, and all the tomorrows stretching into eternity, into the end and the beginning of all things new and good and holy. I offer my life, as it is, as it will be.

I put the pen back in God’s hands. I want to obey. I want to hate autonomy. I want to need God and a relationship with his son—a right relationship born on the foundation of love and mercy and grace. I want to believe.

Purple is my favorite color; I see it now, mixed with blue and yellow and orange, and a very hazy sunset over the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I see green—I see a green God. I see serpents and Buddhas and idols and false gods. I see a bridge between them. God sees me; he is my witness in all things. I give him.

Dad Move

February 2, 2019, 14:49

“The things one notices,” says Rebecca. She likes to talk this way—academic and distant—because she has a Master’s degree and is used to writing in the tense of “one” instead of “I” or “you.” She studied linguistics and education; she wants to be a primary school teacher. So does Lia. They are both German, in their late-twenties, and my roommates, here, at GongKaew HuenKum Hostel, which is popular for Chinese visitors. It’s a cute space: outdoors and open. But there are mosquitoes, and it’s quite warm.

I bought a fanny pack, which I wear over my chest instead of on my waist because that’s too much of a dad move and it’s how all the tourists do it. More convenient and less sweaty than a backpack. It holds a map, my phone, some cash, my keys, and my brother’s Canon PowerShot A2300 HD digital camera. I can’t tell if it takes better photos than my iPhone SE, but I’ve always wanted to use a real camera. (Just looked it up: the Canon is 16MP, and the iPhone is only 12MP).

Joe is here with his family. Good to see him. Some of his former students are attending Chiang Mai University, so he spends time with them. He’s staying outside the moat but will move to my hostel tomorrow morning. I want to meet the rest of his family; his mother seems nice, and the two of them like to josh and jest.

J. B. reminds me of my Gramma: he talks about the energy of the universe and healing and a bunch of hippie noise. He grew up in Illinois, lived in Hawaii for 37 years, and has since been hopping around Asia. He is quite knowledgeable about the Thai people and culture, and he certainly likes to talk. Once going, one can only nod their head and mumble assent as he lets loose a barrage of fun facts and advices. But I enjoy listening to his voice, and he invited me to toss the Frisbee around if I was interested.

An Incomplete History

January 30, 2019, 13:15

A history of Chinese immigrants to Thailand, as told by the Museum Under the Golden Buddha of Bangkok.

“Chinese traders travelling by junk from their homeland came to settle in many parts of the Thai kingdom.” I assume “travelling by junk” is a poor translation referring to the type of boat they would sail into the port of Bangkok.

In 1782, Rama I founded Rattanakosin and many Chinese had to move to a different part of town, but there was a labor shortage within the Thai community, so the government turned to Chinese recruitments. During this time, the Chinese were the only people group allowed to enter the country freely, in part due to their “unrivaled endurance and diligence” while being “adept in trade.” When a Chinese person entered the country, they could either become tattooed at the wrist or pay the “phuk pi”—a government tax—to become like Thai citizens, able to work and move freely.

Under Rama II, Bangkok became a hub for “junk building” and trade, generating much wealth for Thailand. Rama III followed in his father’s footsteps, adding to the Royal Treasury. He also had a special interest in Chinese art, influencing its popularity in Thailand. During his reign, in 1825, Great Britain sent Captain Henry Barney to compel the Thai government to abolish its foreign trade monopoly policy.

Fertile Thailand. Those coming in for the first time “relied on help from relatives or acquaintances hailing from the same villages as they struggled to settle in the new land.” Many found work as “coolies”—unskilled laborers—or peddlers of cheap products or food. Grocers, sellers of noodles, rice gruel, porcelain, paper lanterns. Some of the Chinese who became wealthy started “Chao Sua”: houses for incomers in need of patronage. From these houses and the family system they produced came many secret Chinese associations.

At the end of Rama III’s reign, the steamship gained ground allowing for Thailand to trade with the West, in turn decreasing the Sino-Thai trade coming from China. But that wasn’t the end of it, as the steamship also brought in more immigrants looking for work. Eventually, the Chinese community became quite established, and a new road was built called “Yaowarat” which became the center of Chinatown in Bangkok.

Milk Jug

January 29, 2019, 23:02

Well, I’m not going to Chengdu and Xi’an. No pandas, no Sichuan spicy food, no Terracotta warriors. Too expensive and it’s Chinese New year, making travel difficult. Overloaded railways and I’m on a budget. Plus, I think there’s only so much big-city-hopping I can take. So, Chiang Mai to Kunming to Wuhan to Shanghai.

Chilled and walked around Siem Reap on the 27th, took a day-long bus to Bangkok yesterday, met Jon Lott in line at the Cambodia-Thailand border. He’s twenty-seven and has done some cool things: hitchhiked across America and wrote a book about it, searched for the lost treasure of Forrest Fenn and totaled his car, teaches in Chengdu. His mother runs a nonprofit in Africa somewhere, and his father is a handyman. His brother works for a college, and his sister does something I can’t remember. Jon and his friends created a sport they call “milk jug.”

I lost Jon Lott in line. I was wearing shorts (not allowed) at the Royal Palace of Bangkok, and they forced me to buy some pants. In the process, Jon went ahead, and we were separated, likely never to see each other again. He’s going to learn how to sail, and I’m going north. He was a nice fellow, full of exciting ideas and a wish to run a polyamorous, open commune when he gets a little older.

The Palace was pretty and crowded. It was gilded, golden, green, yellow, red. RICH. There was a reclining Buddha longer than any statue I’ve seen, an emerald Buddha draped in his winter garb, and thousands of tourists and Thai’s. Queen Sirikit’s Museum of Textiles was elaborate and French. Cocktail dresses, evening gowns, lace, ornate, beautiful.

Bicycle /// Angkor

January 26, 2019, 22:02

I’m in Seam Reap now, and I got in a bit of trouble at Angkor. I climbed the wrong thing and was taken to a covered area to be talked to by a security guard and a man wearing a “Police” hat. They were nice and talked about heritage, while also reprimanding me for my actions. “I’m sorry, I did not know,” I repeated.

There are four salamanders/geckos on the walls in my hostel. I’m sitting at a table in the bar area, and there’s some house music playing, but I have my headphones in, and I’m listening/watching LTAT, the Saturday episode of Rhett & Link.

12:12

This is nowhere I ever thought I’d be

Beside a tree, sitting on the banks

Of Trapeang Srah Sang

A little lake several kilometers

Northeast of Angkor Wat.

I took off my shoes and socks

Waded in, snapped a photo.

Prayed a poem, wrote it down

After fingering the dirt and mud

Between my toes.

14:18

Sitting cross-legged on Ta Keo

A temple-mountain-pyramid

Possibly the first to be built

Entirely of sandstone by ancient Khmers.

I’ve seen what I came here to see—

            but maybe there’s

            more to come.

My Giant mountain bike has carried me far—

            through a dark jungle

            on roads of pavement & sand.

I will read, now, before heading “home.”

17:44

“Am I annoying you?”

“Yes, honey, you are.”

“Humph.”

A bad joke, I know.

It just sort of slipped out

While waiting in line for Phnom Bakheng.

(The wife asked a question to her husband

I answered for him, a stranger.)

This ride better have a loop-de-loop

It was like waiting for something at Disneyland

Or the DMV (that symbol of waiting).

But this sunset is worth it

(I’ve seen better—thank you, clear Oregon skies.)