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August 26, 2006 - Guyuan, China

Crouching Banquet

This morning I was up at 6:30AM. I had overslept an hour. More accurately Wang Yu had let me sleep.

We had plans to hike to the top of the nearest and tallest mountain and see the temples there. At 5:30AM.

The late start didn’t really bother me.

It was a pleasant surprise to feel a chill in the air. Almost nippy. Reminiscent of Fall. A nice change from Nanjing - one of Chinas “three furnaces.”

The walk was a mile or two - quite pleasant as we left town. Asphalt was replaced by gravel. And again by hard-packed dirt and then by grassy track. We passed farmers guiding donkeys through the fields and small square patches of onions, garlic and corn. Ten minutes from neon signs to this.

We reached the foot of the mountain and were greeted by a steep brick path. Wang Yu had warned that because it was Saturday it might be crowded but we were only met by 3 or 4 other people. The walk up was amazing. On the way there were a few smaller Buddhist temples. One for prosperity, one for workers and even one for gold. The path continued switchback for a good while - the morning chill staving off my propensity to drop into rolling sweat at the drop of a hat. Cresting the top we could overlook the floodplain that Guyuan occupied. Rising from this valley on each side, each mountain was immaculately terraced, efficient to the T. Being such an arid climate, most the terraces surrounding Guyuan held wheat rather than rice. As I have quickly learned this wheat is the pride of Guyuan - and the heart of their noodles.

Walking back we stopped at the market to buy some pears and grapes and I looked forward - surprise - to cleaning my new kitchen. I had grand plans to clean today and cook tommorow. I arrived home at 10ish.

10:35AM. Wang Laoshi calls. Official School welcome banquet. For me. At noon.


The banquet was at a local restaurant - we had a private room where I met the School Headmaster and a number of Directors. Lunch was great - and the training we got at VIA was spot on - don’t fill up early. The food just kept coming. For 2 hours.

It was good meeting some of the faculty that I will be working with and the Headmaster - who also happens to be my neighbor.

Every couple of minutes there was a toast and about half way through some dice came out. I still don’t know the name of the game but it is deceptively complex. Two covered shaker cups, each player rolls and keeps his 3 dice hidden. One player then calls out san ge san (3 3’s) or however many of whatever number. I mean how hard can that be?

Add into the mix wild card ones, bluffing, straights, san ge niga (3 of nothings), the dreaded si ge niga and some beer…

I think I have it half figured out.

To top that off the “host” - me - is the one that gets to play everybody else at the table. So there I am calling out dice to each successive person at the table. Mind you that each loss is half a glass of beer.

Check back in a few months, but I think I can get the hang of these banquet things.

Tumbleweeds... and no comments. How 'bout livening things up?

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