Gill’s Reflections on Chengdu

Suddenly we have to say goodbye & get on a plane for Chengdu, Szechuan Province.

I’m getting the idea of airports. See very little between one high-rise smog city & the next. Our hosts meet us & I get in the car with people I don’t know, who don’t speak English, here on the other side of the world, feeling very safe. I’ve even got over worrying where my next meal comes from because it allways has arrived, beautifully & reliably, for 9 weeks now.

I am transported to a weedy home garden, where I believe the smog is mist, where the double level, free standing house is oldish & imperfect, where Jir- mae has cooked a beautiful, traditional meal which we eat in the dining-living room on kitchen chairs. Afterwards Jirmae, her husband & her 9yr old son share the traditional Tea Ceremony with me in the open air on the roof deck. After posh apartments, I relax & breath.

Next evening they take me walking to the neighbours, along a small tree lined street, accross a paved recreation area & through another community garden to share Tea ceremony on the deck, under a wattle (!) tree, with other Wayfarers Hosts. We sip tea, chat & make music. I think I’m in paradise.

Jir-mae is practical & self taught. She writes English better than speaking, so there are delays while I find my glasses to read what she says… She reads music using a sol – fah system and numbers rather than a stave. One night Jir-mae shows me the Chinese Character for Love. I copy it with the brush & ink. She says she loves me which I understand to be unconditional love. I feel I’ve been given a huge gift. Here, somewhere in Western China, amongst gardens & smog & high-rise, I recognize what I already know.
Jir-mae has an Indian Guru who has taught her. Sometimes we share silence together.

The school is landscaped & pleasant, with veg & fruit gardens, chooks & happy kids. We all share school- cooked hot lunches of traditional Chinese veg, rice, noodle, mushrooom & meat dishes. We wash our own dishes using a brown clay like powder which we assume absorbs grease & abrades food scraps.

They love our contribution to their music, the concerts are allways full. They ask each of us to sing something individually & the children present us with gifts. They take us out sight-seeing to the Panda research centre, lunch at the Dean ancestral home & to the museum of recent archeological finds of the 2 – 4000yr old ‘Shu’ culture which has been uneathed near Chengdu. Ceramic pots & brass military masks & re-created scenes of Shu life. The Dean home is in Chinese coutyard style gardens – I could have spent longer there after eating our Szechuan style cooked lunch.

Suddenly, again, time to leave Chengdu & farewell people I probably will never see again, so sadness.

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