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Tour de China – Day 8

Location: Dengfeng, Henan, China (34.46308°N, 113.04591°E)
Mile:
398 (at bicycle club meeting)

2005-09-21@06-27-26
No sleeping in here. Up at 5:30am to get to breakfast, which was quite an experience. In fact, for humor’s sake I may coin a new axiom: crazy as a buffet in China. It was literally a mad rush at the breakfast line. For a few seconds I though the food on my tray might be grabbed in the confusion. There was no sense of order. It was get your tray and dive in to get the food. It’s as if the food would suddenly disappear any moment! Crazy, man!

Following breakfast, was the parade. I have never been famous. I was never popular in school. I was never the prom king. I was never the football star. But for a few hours this morning I believe that there was at least five cameras or video cameras trained on me at all times. I was the ONLY foreigner in the parade of three thousand elderly bicycle club riders from all over the country. We marched down the road groups by provinces. I carried the middle of the banner for the Yichang bicycle club. Lining the parade route, besides thousands of Dengfeng residents, were formations of kids, ages 4 to 24, from the different Shaolin schools of the areas. They were each, in unison, performing some pretty amazing kungfu moves. You DO NOT what to steal any one of these kids lunch boxes. I think I might be an even match for one of the six year olds. Maybe.

2005-09-19@09-58-06

The parade ended with us all in a huge group standing before the long line of stairs leading up to the Dengfeng pagoda. The Mayor and a number of officials gave speeches welcoming us to the city. Then we all sat on the stairs while some Shaolin kungfu students put on an hour long performance. It was pretty incredible. The youngest student was 4 years old (leave his toys alone) and the oldest was 79 (don’t pull his beard). None of them flew, like in Crouching Tigers, but they came pretty close at times. The girl students in pic were all quite adept at using the sword and whip. One DOES NOT pull their pigtails.

This afternoon we visited an exhibit commemorating the Chief Policewoman for Dengfeng. She died last year, but she was responsible for cleaning up the gangs and bandits that had plagued the city for years. (Not sure why the city didn’t just send out some of their Shaolin gradeschoolers to take care of the problem.) It was interesting, as much as I could understand (all in Chinese). I saw videos of truckloads of bandits being paraded around city before being taken care of.

The evening ended with me going to a nearby sauna. Now, I have to confess that I am an avid sauna-goer in Asia. (It’s too expensive in the States.) In China the men’s and women’s saunas are completely separate. And it’s sans clothes, so people somehow feel comfortable talking about nearly anything. They usually have a number of showers, a dry sauna (sometimes a wet or Turkish sauna) a large hot pool, massages (same sex) and a resting room (where you don a robe, order some tea, chat, and watch TV). For $2, stay as long as you want. You have to be careful about the saunas you go into (some offer…extra services), but once you find a respectable one, it’s a good time to relax and practice language.

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