One hell of a dinner....

    One week to go, and hopefully I'll be off to Tibet for a few days. It is only two hours by air from here, but administratively, it has been a bit of a headache getting it arranged. It has been a trip that I've wanted to do for a very long time.

Enclosed is a photo album slide show that I took last week, before the weather turned shitty. It will give you an idea of what the Shaolin Village looks like, the training center, and the surrounding mountains. It is a land of extremes, as is all of China, from incredible poverty to the rare Mercedes Benz, indoor restaurants to "outdoor restaurants", and just plain scary "restaurants", comfort to survival. You can see very typical Chinese culture, and also see western influence (the "prostitute" was a late arrival to a dinner that I went to with She De Qing and his friends. She was for his friends. We left before anything "unmonklike" occurred). The dinner was quite the event, during which I had the very lovely experience of eating pigeon. Great legs. Yumm. I highly recommend it. The fish was good too. They bring this poor unfortunate fish out to your table, let it flop around the table to show that it is alive, and then cook it. They bring it back, looking much as it did when it was alive. Not cleaned, skinned, or gutted. Then you pick at it. If the head points to you, you get to eat the eyes. I slowly turned the Chinese serving table to ensure that it wouldn't be looking at me. Not bad. It does get a little disgusting when one of the Chinese picks up the head and chews on it. They seem to like chewing on pigeon heads too. It was offered to me, but I politely turned it down, and headed back towards the rice. There's a limit as to how much culture I want to assimilate. And rice wine. God that stuff is awful. Everybody is always toasting something. And with every toast, you get to pick up this damn little cup, the size of a thimble, and slug down this tablespoon of rice wine, which the servant girls always try to keep full. Two slugs and I was starting to feel it. So, when it came time to toast, like, every five minutes, I'd put the little little glass up to my lips, and press it tight against them, so that the rice wine stayed in the cup. This fooled everybody, including the poor little servant girl, who, after a while, could not figure out how I was getting my little cup filled all the time. It was an event. It was also the only "real" food I had in the past two weeks.

I cut training short yesterday, and cancelled it today, as I try to do battle with a very stubborn bronchitis/URI. Many of us are ill, as the weather changed for the worse quite drastically a few days ago. The lack of heat in the rooms, and the rare hot water, now that the Buddhist "holidays" are over, (the tourists left, so they don't heat the water just for me), make it all the more difficult to get better. The monks are treating their illnesses with medicinal herbs, I, with antibiotics. They're getting better, and are working out again. I'm in bed. I'm not sure what to make of that. In any event, it is not slowing me down all that much, as yesterday, De Qing got me into the Shaolin Temple for what was a very major event. Some sort of big Buddhist religious thing, something along the lines of "invitation only", from what I could gather. It was a very formal event, into which much preparation had occurred. The Temple was spotless, as I've never seen it before. And, all of the reconstruction was done, in a manner similar to construction from centuries ago.

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OK, got to go. Time to pour some hot water on some freeze dried noodles and beef. Hope you enjoy the pictures.