Sunday, September 14, 2014

Face-Kissing Sunflowers, Cheers & French Fries, Siguniang Mt. Magic & an Unexpected Rescue

Greetings Friends!!
Oh gosh! So much to share! Even with only a few days going by, there’s so much in each and every day! :)

So first, after completing our 15-day trek and flying from the highest airport in the world (in Daocheng Yading) to Chengdu, several of us from the trekking trip enjoyed another day of rest, laundry, and….mango lassies! :) Yes, the hostel we stayed at, Holly’s Hostel, I think has the best mango lassies in China (well, I guess it’s the only place in China I’ve had them….BUT they are quite delicious….and was one of the top 2 things on my list when we got back to Chengdu (#1 do laundry, #2 drink a mango lassie! :))

Others in our wonderful group continued on to the next part of their journeys …Ting to Taiwan, Bond to Australia, and Ardai (after another day with Carrie and me) to London. Carrie, one of my good friends and also a fellow Qigong teacher, and I are continuing the next 2 legs of our journeys together. (We’re having so much fun traveling together too!! Carrie took 3 months of Mandarin before this trip and she is doing great!)

On to Siguniang!...& a Surprise Police Adventure
So our next stop on our journey was to travel over another set of mountains to the small village of Rilong at the base of beautiful Siguniang Mt (4 Sisters mountain). And that journey in and of itself is a whole other story!!! Just as we got to the base of the mountains to start winding up on the mountain roads…from ~1,800 ft to 14,000ft!, we came up to a check point. Carrie and I were in a van with a driver, Wang Shifu, who often travels back and forth between Chengdu and Rilong and 5 other Chinese men also getting a ride (and no, it wasn’t a very big van…even though we had 8 people in it! :)). Once at the check point, our driver hopped out and told Carrie and I specifically to stay in the van. We thought that a bit odd, but I thought, “Well maybe that’s to avoid an annoying passport check or something.”  Well, then our driver basically disappeared. A few minutes later, a police came up to our van, hoped in and started driving us away up into the mountains on a very, very, very rough dirt road. “Well, this is odd!” – I thought. Carrie looked to me for an explanation as maybe I heard some talk in Mandarin to explain this, but I said I didn’t really know what was happening. I asked the kind gentlemen sitting between us and he first said, “Oh, we’ll met up with the driver later.” But then 5 minutes later when this police was still roughly driving this van down this horrific road, I asked again and he sheepishly smiled and said he actually had no idea what was happening. Oh dear! Well, I won’t go into all the details here, but after about a 30-minute crazy, bumpy, jerky ride on what I wouldn’t even call a road (and 3 unfinished tunnels!), we did get to another small village and a paved road (phew!), and this police man hoped out and our driver somehow re-appeared and hoped back in his own van! Later Carrie and I both shared that while on the outside we remained calm-looking (as to not get the other one nervous!), we were both saying prayers and mantras and calling on all sorts of protection on the inside during this rather jarring 30 min segment! But alas all was well and we eventually arrived at the beautiful village of Rilong at the base of Siguniang Mt. :)

Face-Kissing Sunflowers! :-D
Upon arriving, we explored the old town, hiked through some fields and along the river and admired the many beautiful flower and veggie gardens (we were finally at a low enough elevation (still 10,000+ft) where veggies could be grown :)). Below are some pics of this area in town...and some most beautiful sunflowers! But look! Be careful - if you get too close to these flowers, they may just kiss your whole face! :-D !!

Carrie! :)
Yum!!! So many fresh veggies!! :)
I love how people just built walls and gardens around these massive stones that dotted the valley landscape here! :)

Huang Hao & French Fry Cheers!
We got to stay with a most welcoming dear family who are good friends of Szu-tings, Xiao Zhang, her husband (I didn’t get his name :(..) and their darling 2 boys, Huang Hao (3 yrs) and Huang Yi (8 yrs).  They are so adorable!!! The older one Huang Yi was in school in the neighboring county during the week, so we just got to see him on the weekend, …BUT Huang Hao, the young one, is a vocal, feisty and joyful little one who would delightedly come running to us when we were around in the evenings and having dinner with the family. One night, his mom, Xiao Zhang, made Carrie and me a batch of French fries (thinking this is a favorite snack food of all Americans :)), and Huang Hao came up with an ingenious (and exhaustless) game of “Gan Bei” with these fries! :) So, “gan bei” in Chinese basically means “cheers”. Yet it literally means “dry cup”….so when someone says “gan bei” (cheers) and raises a cup with you in China, it also means to drink the cup until dry as a way to fulfill the “full” cheer. :) So, in Huang Hao’s ingenious game, even though Carrie and I already had very full bellies from dinner, we were to do the same thing with fries. Huang Hao would instruct us to each get a fresh yummy French fry in our hands and then we’d “Gan Bei!” – tap them together and pop them in our mouths in one bite…followed by giggles and laughter and another enthusiastic demand for yet another “gan bei” with another plump, freshly fried French fry! :) It was a delicious and hilarious game,…despite my very full tummy! :)

Here’s a few more pics of these two -- and some of the whole family and one of the yummy dinners Xiao Zhang made :). These boys are sooooo CUTE!!

This area is just gorgeous!! In addition to Siguniang Mt., there are some national parks, including Haizi Valley (which we did a horseback riding adventure in) and Shuangqiao Valley. This area is still at a high elevation (10-12,000ft) but not as high as our Genyen trek (14,000-15,000ft). And gosh, it is so so so beautiful here! Carrie and I loved it right away! The energy is much softer than Genyen, yet these expansive valleys are also lined with high, snow-covered granite peaks. 

Pink Fluffy Blankets & Bonbons :)
Our first full day there, though, actually ended up being an unexpected rest day. Getting up early, we both packed our bags and a lunch and hopped down the stairs to wait for the local bus that Xiao Zhang’s father just cheerfully explained how ride to take us to Shuangqiao Valley for a day of hiking in the national park. BUT! When we walked out the door, we felt big drops of water falling us, looked up at the grey sky with a bit of dismay and then to one another and said, “Oh no! It’s raining!” :( !!! After hiking, trekking, camping, cooking in the rain (and even some snow and sleet!!) while in Genyen, we both felt we had just barely dried out…and now it was raining again! Hmm!!! At about the same moment, Carrie and I both had a similar thought of getting and staying warm and dry in the super soft, VERY fluffy pink and red roses (and did I say fluffy?! :)) blankets on our beds upstairs, and …in about 2 moments we both verbalized our thoughts and agreed to change our minds on our day’s plans and trotted back upstairs, hopped into our fluffy blankets and had a delightful rest day while the rain poured down outside! We dedicated the day to writing, picture sorting, sipping sweet tea and eating bonbons….oh, I mean rice crackers and yummy sesame stick candy! :-D Haha!

Meet Xiao Qing…a Horseback Riding Adventure
The next 2 days we were blessed with magnificent weather, and took a magnificent horseback riding adventure into Haizi Valley (see pics below and meet my sweet white horse I rode, Xiao Ping :)) and the next day hiking in Shuangqiao Valley.

Me and Xiao Qing :)

PIGS!!! :-) so cute!

Shuangqiao Valley ~ A Yak Bathing, Snow Peaked & Larch Tree Wonderland
Shuangqiao Valley is just magical! Carrie and I agreed it’s like the Yosemite of China! As mentioned, there is a special softness to the energy here, yet also a grandness in the expanse, magnificence, and immense size and presence of the surrounding jagged snow-capped peaks and glaciers. The trees glowed and shimmered softly and the roaming yak bathed so nonchalantly in the frigid, swift and gorgeous blue-green glacial river waters flowing through the valley. 

At this park, one must enter in one of the park buses. Each bus has a tour guide and the bus will stop at 5 scenic spots, first driving 35-40 km in and then making stops on the way out. There are also trails so visitors can hike part or all of the way and hop on a bus later in the day. Carrie and I were eager to hike so our tour guide recommended a stop to get off at to start hiking, though she warned us that the buses would be few that day and reminded me we needed to be out of the park by 4 p.m. “That should be easy enough,” I thought. Carrie and I left our “tour group” and started our hiking. It was grand!! And after a while the weather began to change, and I was feeling a bit tired so we went to the road to make sure we’d catch the next bus. Well! We walked 1.5 hours and as it approached 3 p.m. and we were still 19 miles from the gate and we hadn’t seen a single car or bus!! :-( “What?!” we both thought as it started raining, “This is China for heaven’s sake! There are so many people here…why do we feel like we’re the only people left in this big national park?!” We started walking down the middle of the road just to make sure we didn’t miss an opportunity for a ride….and to make sure they didn’t miss the opportunity to give us one. :) At one point, an elder woman in a little 3-wheeled putt-putt/tok-tok bumbled past us and we thought –“Oh! Maybe we can ask her for a ride!”… But then she pulled over and disappeared into a cozy hut with a smoking fire coming out of the chimney and seemed in no rush to come back outside. Hmm… so we kept walking. Eventually around 3:15 p.m. a packed bus did come bumbling down the road and Carrie and I waved enthusiastically (standing in the middle of the road!) and they did stop and managed to squeeze us on the bus. :) All these people on this park bus were visiting on an organized tour and when we all got dropped off by the park entrance, they so generously offered to give Carrie and I a ride all the way back to our place in Rilong on their big tour bus!! That was so sweet of them! :) (And Xiao Zhang was very surprised to see us appear --- hopping off of this big bus that stopped in front of her place :)!)

An Unexpected Rescue
At the end of this part of our journey, we got a ride back to Chengdu with Xiao Zhang’s older brother (I’ll just refer to him as Gege). It was a rather small car for 7 people, but it was a sunny, beautiful day and we made several stops as we drove over the 14,000+ft pass to head down to the city. After our 3rd photo stop, we started our descent. I was sitting in the back and Carrie was seated in the middle. All of a sudden I heard Carrie say, “She’s not okay! Something has happened to her. She’s not breathing and she’s not okay!” Being that no one else in the car spoke English, I started translating what Carrie was saying immediately and looked up Gege’s wife in the front seat. She was limp, her lips were blue and she was completely slumped over! Gege, at first, was just saying she was sleeping or that she had a bit of a reaction to the elevation, but then he too saw her face and blue lips, and was scared. She had just been eating a piece of bread and then started coughing. Carrie watched her and then saw her go limp. She thought that maybe she was choking, and jumped out of her seat to start the Heimlich maneuver. Gege started hitting her back. Carrie then lifted her head and in a few moments she started breathing again, though slowly. Her pulse was down to 15 beats per minute!!

Carrie is a licensed physical therapist, Feldenkrais practitioner and master Qigong teacher. Once the other riders also saw there was a problem, there was a lot of discussion going on, so I explained Carrie’s medical background and what Carrie was saying. With a pulse at 15 beats per minute and her going in and out of consciousness, Gege’s wife was in a critical state. The others quickly got on board to support Carrie’s direction, given her medical background and let her take the lead. Carrie had Gege keep driving as the she knew his wife would do much better the quicker we got to lower in elevation. Carrie made it her job to keep Gege’s wife awake and at least in a semi-conscious state so she did not drop back into unconsciousness and stop breathing. She kept tapping her cheeks slightly, keeping her head up and putting cold water on an extra shirt to place on her forehead. If she tried to slump over again, Carrie would pinch her and get her at least to semi-consciously respond, all while talking softly and gently to her with much, much care. While driving Gege mentioned she had had heart pain once before when going up to such high elevation, but never such a strong reaction to altitude as she was having today. His face was tense with worry for his beautiful wife, though he stayed on task and drove us swiftly and safely down, down, down. As we got down to 8,000 ft, 7,000 and 6,000ft, Gege’s wife became more and more conscious and her pulses back to normal (72 beats/minute). She was very weak and had a pounding headache, but she was alive and breathing. Carrie, I believe, saved her life.
By the time we got to Chengdu and said good-bye to our “rescue team”, Gege was very, very grateful to Carrie, as was his wife as we had all taken turns telling her what had happened (she didn’t have any recollection other than her massive headache). I am so thankful Gege’s wife is alive and well and we all made it through that part of the journey safely and well!!

So after another evening (and of course mango lassie -- Carrie had 3! :)), we hopped on a plane and headed to Zhengzhou to study and be with my beloved Chinese family, Dr. Zhao, Ayi and their whole beautiful family! :) It's so great to be back here!! :) Here's a few pics and many fun stories to share in my next update!! :) Below Dr. Zhao is happily wearing a beautiful belt I gave him hand-crafted by Mick Dodge's (Barefoot Sensei) friend Karl in the Hoh Rainforest. :) My friend Jean and I introduced Dr. Zhao and Mick when Dr. Zhao came to the states in 2012 -- they immediately became like dear brothers - they love and respect each other so much! And there's one of Ayi proudly wearing a beautiful necklace my dear Mom gave her. Mom was thanking them both for being my dear Chinese parents and teaching me so much and caring for me so well when I'm here. I agree!I I too feel so much gratitude!!! :)

Thank you again for joining me on my journey!! So much, much LOVE and bright Blessings to you all!!! More soon! :)

Much LOVE,
Kailun 凯伦

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