New Day Herald

Day 6 of the China Trip with the Travelers

Article imageThis is the fifth in a series of articles and images from NDH correspondent, David Sand, on the road in China with John-Roger, John Morton and 108 traveling peacemakers.

August 19, 2000

Things really started popping today–I told you this trip would get rolling once we left Beijing. This report is may be a bit long, and there are a lot of photos, but there are a lot of gems here–some great John-Roger shots, John Morton mini-seminar, beautiful Chinese gardens, picturesque Suzhou street scenes, J-R swapping childhood stories with his brother Delile, Jesus working as a rickshaw driver–but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s attempt to start at the beginning.

So we get to breakfast this morning and Phil Danza and crew are setting up sound for something or other. Turns out that John Morton has decided to speak to us. He talks about keeping in mind our purpose here–it’s not about the food (there was a big issue about it last night, with people complaining about the food and John offering to pay for a new meal in the Italian restaurant downstairs) or about our reactions to some of the discomforts we’re encountering, but it’s about being a blessing to this place, about leaving it better than we found it.

He talks about how a lot of the water in this city of canals is stagnant, where it used to be flowing at the time in history when Suzhou was really flowering. That stagnation symbolizes the tradition-bound culture of China that hasn’t been able to adapt to changing times. He asks us to imagine a growing, flourishing China; and that in spite of some of the things we see around us, we are still in our own paradise, in “the garden.” He talks about the theme of this trip being a “return to the garden.” And he talks about being inspired to look away from the negativity he was seeing during his morning run by watching the sweetness of an old Chinese man playing with a little child. The talk ends with a blessing. So, in the usual way of things in MSIA, we’re given a chance to indulge our negativity for a while, and then a little crisis provokes a turnaround and we’re set back on the path of Light.

We’re inspired and ready now to return to the streets of China, more specifically the streets of Suzhou, called the “Venice of China” for its many canals. And it’s fascinating to watch how the energy moves: We meet in the lobby and walk to our pedicab (bicycle rickshaw) ride through town.

Zeus has a brilliant idea: he puts his rickshaw driver in the seat and he pedals the bicycle himself. All the rickshaw drivers think it’s hilarious, we’re cracking up, and we ride through the streets with Chinese people pointing, laughing, having a great time with the game.

Later on when Zeus gets tired and decides to ride for a while, he rides around massaging the shoulders of the rickshaw driver, entertaining the laughing and gaping Chinese on the streets.

The pedicab ride is a beautiful way to see the real Suzhou and how the ordinary Chinese live; we weave in and out of traffic, through back alleys, corner shops, past canals and blocks of apartments–and there are lots of smiles as we catch people’s eyes.

Our destination is the “Humble Administrator Garden” an exquisite complex of buildings, gardens, and lotus ponds. It is truly a masterpiece–every time you turn a corner there is another breathtaking view. I’ve got about 15 or so photos here–I think you’ll find it worthwhile to check them out–it’s a feast for the eyes.

Our first and most important job, however, is keeping John-Roger cool in this sweltering humidity–and some of the kids and adults take turns fanning him in the garden.

In keeping with the energy shift, Pamela Tarantine is back in action, in her first day out of the hotel and into the sightseeing trips.

Just before we’re about to leave, a perfectly-timed thunderstorm hits as we board the buses for the ride back to the hotel for lunch. And, thank God, we’ve been liberated from Chinese food and we’re eating a buffet in the hotel’s Italian restaurant!

A half hour or so of free time and we assemble in the lobby

for a walk to another garden, another chance to experience the streets of Suzhou,

and another beautifully-designed chain of ponds, trees, bridges and courtyards.

Then just as we’re about to leave, J-R and his brother Delile start talking about growing up, and everybody crowds around for about a half hour of story-telling. Delile tells the story of the coalmine fire that left much of his body burned, trying to save another miner, and years of operations and skin grafts. Then they start talking about their family life as kids, how J-R attempted to run away from home in his little snowsuit (all bundled up, just his face showing) and how when Delile asked him what he would eat when he was on his own, J-R replied “Rocks and Christmas trees.” There are stories of their parents, girls they dated, fights, etc.

An hour or two of free time and we’re ready to walk to dinner. More Chinese food. You have to understand that this isn’t Chinese food the way we know it in the States. It’s difficult to describe, and I won’t try. Suffice it to say that the last course is a soup made of what looks like baby eels, white and a few inches long, with actual, visible eyes and tails. This last course puts us over the edge–everybody’s shouting and cracking up, and a crowd forms around Clarke Franke, who decides to eat huge mouthfuls of the stuff right out of the serving bowl, just to prove he can do it (immediately followed by a beer chaser to kill the taste). We take cabs back to the hotel in the pouring rain. Tomorrow night I’m eating at the Italian restaurant.

Click here to view Children of China Special Feature

Click here to view Day 5 of the China Trip

Click here to view Day 4 of the China Trip

Click here to view Day 3 of the China Trip

Click here to view Days 1 & 2 of the China Trip

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