A Warm Welcome
Sorry, again, that this posting is late. Chengdu was uneventful at the beginning of this period because I fell ill. But after that it picked up pace.
So as I said, I fell ill so I spent the first week, the beginning of our spring break, laying around my room eating noodles and blowing my nose, whereas a lot of my classmates went out and about in Chengdu. Some students even went elsewhere; Beijing, Korea, Sichuan Bana, and even Cambodia. Before I got better, Nancy, Tong, and I went up to Jiuzhaigou for our vacation. Both my roommates had gone before and they described these beautiful clear lakes and waterfalls that just entranced us. So the three of us decided to go.
The bus left at 7:30 am on Tuesday and for the first hour we saw nothing but city scape. Then suddenly mountains sprang from the horizon and for the remaining eight hours we drove through Sichuan mountains. I was the only person awake for the whole thing, mostly because I was the only goon who’d never seen snow-capped mountains and didn’t know how to contain myself. Our driver had scheduled stops, but he stopped nearly every two hours and at each stop someone met him at his door with a cigarette. China doesn’t care about side effects of cigarettes, they smoke them everywhere; even the plumber lit up waiting for me to pay him! It’s my apartment, don’t smoke! Anyway, we arrived at the park at around 5:00pm and began looking for a place to stay. We had a list of about four, the first one we visited was definitely not what they advertised on the website. The area we were in was under construction and there was an ten foot hole in the front of the building…. we moved to the next one on the list.
That hostel still felt a little unnerving… Not because of the location, or the inside quality, but because there were swastikas plastered everywhere. It took a random encounter with an Australian to finally understand why. Jiuzhaigou is largely a Tibetan settlement and that particular symbol means ‘purity’ in Tibetan. Hitler actually ripped this off and used the symbol in his war. So, in a way, they were swastikas, just in the original form without all the negative connotations.
The next day we set off early to visit the park. We only had one day before we left and everyone suggests two days. We chose to hike along the east side because there were more lakes and waterfalls to be seen. Naturally, as foreigners we are usually gawked at, but I’ve never experienced it like Jiuzhaigou. Not a lot of foreigners go there… actually we probably met all of them; Nancy, Tong, Australian, the couple from the bus, and me. I was definitely the most different looking. Everyone else in that list has dark hair, I’m as blond as snow is white. As soon as we entered the park, I felt all eyes fall on me. Before we got on the bus to go to the fist waterfall (Approx. 3miles from entrance) people were leaning over the side rails. At the first stop, I began to understand, this was going to be a long day. I was pulled aside for nearly five minutes, before my friends got tired and began to move on. I had to run after them! Because we don’t know what we were doing, we missed the next bus and were on the wrong side of the lake for the hiking trail, so we walked along the road and even jumped the barrier into the valley. No one was there to stop us…
After many minutes of hiking we came across the second waterfall, one you could only get to by hiking! And a little while later we finally came across our first lake. Clear blue water surrounded by mountains. The view was spectacular. The further and further we walked into the park, the deeper the lakes and the more elaborate the waterfalls.
The next morning we boarded our bus for the return journey. The park had just received a thick layer of snow and the longer we were on the bus, the more and more snow we saw. However, at about the third or fourth hour the snow vanished and we were left with just the view of the mountains.
That following week I did nothing. Studied a little and sat down to write this; however, I was stuck with a bad case of writers block so everything I did manage to write was very bland and only factual. “I was sick, but when to Jiuzhaigou. It was pretty.” After a week of class I sat down on Saturday, around 8 am, to see if I’d overcome my block. I was just settling down with breakfast when my room began to shake, violently. I hit the floor trying to remember the ‘triangle of safety’ I read about before leaving and waited. It felt like thirty seconds but everyone keeps telling me the quake continued for five. Only a few things knocked over; my dresser mirror, a glass bottle I have in my window, and my empty water bottle. As soon as the room stopped shaking, I saw people evacuating the building so I joined them outside. Clearly the early quake woke a lot of people because most men had come out in their ‘tighty-whities’ but women were all dressed, not wanting to go outside looking indecent I suspect. Most people on the way down didn’t even lock the door behind them. I met up with a few of my peers and we waited for the aftershocks to stop. After about three hours we deemed it okay to go back inside.
I found out that we had a 6.6 magnitude quake with the epicenter in Ya’an which is about two hours south of the city, their casualties and damage are much worse than Chengdu’s. So far I believe the fatalities are around 160 and injured 5,000. I’ve heard we’ve had somewhere around 2,000 aftershocks which means it almost always feels like we’re in an idling car, with a few strong enough to shake the building.
As this is my first earthquake, I was and am still very unsure what to do. That weekend I spent most of my time outside reading. The Hunger Games actually. I found it helped curb my anxiety. In addition to all this, this week has been nicknamed “presentation week.’ All my classes with a presentation are having them this week, so I’ve been a ‘little’ preoccupied.