Friday, June 20, 2014

our moving castle, part 3

Meet Will Smith!
Friday, continued. Flew smoothly to Hangzhou, immersed in nice-ness, clean-ness, bright colors. Rode with S in town car to the real 外婆家 (grandmother's house), a glossy little apartment all familiar amenities and more, such as Teacher Katherine's luxury toilet with the massage function. First lunch: things are sweeter, darker, and smaller here, sort of like the people. S and I (after getting wi-fi) walked to McDonald's for a soft-serve, and then to the flower-and-fish market, a two-story bazaar that puts Yamagami's and their dinky cacti to shame. And... WE BOUGHT A BUNNY!
For one week only, of course. He was grayer than the rest, so we named him Will Smith (clarification: I named him Fresh Prince, but S insisted on the former). Despite the pee and poo, I loved our little friend who lived in the blue kitchen corner.
lakeside plum blossoms
Family walked cheerfully to West Lake. Brief spat over subway-side berries, but general glows all around at blossoming lakeside. So many people during that holiday weekend, and 75% of them came in couples, I wager. Magical ride in open-air car with S around the lake, with spring breeze, people-watching (story-formulating is the best fun there is), and memory digging. Then we went on a date, solo (I was reluctant, silly me), one of the best yet. How could it have been anything but the best, at this lake in the (relative) west? We settled by a window in the pretty teahouse for an omelette, noodle soup, and a red-bean-anointed ice mountain, accompanied by a pink sunset over lake. But nothing out-glowed the words. Afterward, we walked arm-in-arm along (and on!) the lake, as natural lights faded and orange ones came on, coloring the lake my favorite tones: warmth against gloom (of dark water of indefinite depths). Failed to hail taxi, headed home (followed random helpful 哥哥), then got a haircut!! Right outside the apartment complex! Hurrah, cute male hairdressers. S looks like A-GAN (Chinese for Forrest Gump), according to his mother. Much zzz. The evening's vesper bells: Dusty Blue, again, and Danzon No. 2.
Will Smith is a cage-free chicken!
Saturday began in the bunk-bed, and with and Hangzhou-style breakfast! Lots of flour and oil mmm. Set off for countryside tea farm: an outdoor pavilion nestled between mountains. Tables, round and ready for sippers, bearing pumpkin seeds and glasses. A circle of young adults, perhaps on retreat, studied the Bible at adjacent table. Tea-pickers, like straw dots, roaming the green corduroy hills. Scene set for reunion; soundtrack: a bit of shy violin (the first time I'd played in weeks). Al fresco lunch of pond creatures! Happy Will Smith hopped freely in the grass, and made many young pals, including Timmy's foot. Ate flowers and pink oreos incessantly.
But the tippy-toppest part of the day--perhaps of the trip--was a 2000+ step hike (I counted) (all the hiking trails I've been to in China are steep stone stairways). Number of hikers inversely proportionate to altitude. Eventually, it was just S and me, two walls of bamboo, gnatty pools, crisp air. Light green, stone gray. Climbed on and on.
one foot over the other
There is something heavenly about climbing a mountain together: your feet and lungs in sync, the occasional helping hand, the patience, the persistence. At the almost-peak, we danced to Howl's Moving Castle. Wind whirled the movie into a better reality. Exhausted but entirely lucid, entirely content. (Peed during descent--need to know). Thank you, God, for walking with us.
Dinner in a violently velvet banquet hall. Noteworthy nosh: 酒釀湯圓 (sweet rice wine and egg drop soup), durian pastries, logs of sesame rolls. Conversation fueled by vodka; A-GAN was prime tease target (baldness, Lasic eyes, HAR HAR). Ariel demonstrated Hangzhou dialect--I conclude that car sounds like hammer. Nice new friend: distant cousin, 15, scholar of soccer, beautiful penmanship, watched Forrest Gump before. A hand-shake goodbye. And at last, the cherry: a foot massage nearby, er, salon. Boy oh boy, I could not stop giggling: my lower limbs never been so limber-ized. S got a back massage that worsened his condition, hoho jolly jolly. Long (hour-long) story short*, our feet became baby butts. I collapsed like a jelly on the bunk-bed. To top off the day: a toothbrush dance with Samuel! *Foot potions: essential oil, milk, and ginger flowers. Scalding. Drinks: chamomile tea. TV: game shows, pseudoscientific infomercials. Masseuses: ripped.
West Lake at dusk
Sunday, church day. First, we hobbled to breakfast at shop known for its mantou, which were sold out by our 8:15 arrival. Delicious mi fen, wonton soup, and bao zi, speedily shipped and supped upon. Speed. Went neighbor's home for house church (more amens and sliding intonation. Fruit platters, communion). Sang Hallelujah! Hallelujah! for only a few minutes before being shuttled to glossyx100000 mall with ice skating and an IMAX theatre. Ariel and I floated into H&M, deliberated socks, and ate at Pizza (Jabbathe)Hut before digging into a positively squishy mango shaved ice at Apple Street, a donut shop. More fanciful browsing before shuttling home. Read The Good Earth for the afternoon with ill-ish Samuel and his dad in the living room, played Egyptian War (speed, speed). Samuel slaps like a maniac--very much in the zone. We "played" everyone else out of the room.
Nighttime! Ariel and I puttered to "InTime" shopping mall's food court for dinner. 'Twas a eater's heaven, with foodstuffs galore! First a stop into Watson's, the lovely turquoise pharmacy; marveled at imitation Baby Lips. Tonkatsu for Ariel, tomato eggs for me. Jealous of neighbor's fish and pickle clay pot. Cold Stone mud pie, which I demolished when Ariel was using the restroom (so, so sorry... Nothing, not even the bond of Tong Xue, survives my stomach's stirrings). At home, S was speaking to a new friend (same age, gap year; his father had passed away) that looked like Po, and entered high school for drawing. Accompanied S to "InTime" again, this time for his dinner. Japanese restaurant had never-ending tea on tap. Smoky arcade: spend 6 coins on Speed Racer. S is deft driver of fake cars.
Like loons, we walked to West Lake at 10 pm. 'Twas sprinkling (and the slithy toves...), but we were not deterred. Confidently, we headed "straight," and eventually found the lake, as deep and intimidating as the sea, black as obsidian, interrupted by only a few garish lights (most were out. Lakeside residents sleep at a decent hour). Strolled along, arm in familiar arm, assailed by a flower peddler (see melodramatic account on GDocs), lured by music to a wicker cafe for lakeside tea and pumpkin seeds. Lo and behold, we lost our money, and couldn't pay for the snack. Many sheepish stutters later, we left, having paid only half the yuan requested by the menu, all the money that we had. The night was deeply set, and we struggled to find a taxi. When we did, we were careful to disguise our moneylessness. The nervousness was palpable. Had taxi driver park inside complex; Samuel ran for money, and we sunk into homey sofas.      

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