Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This little doe comes to visit me each morning. She seems to know when I have the camera aimed at her and hides from me. My yard is Certified Wildlife Habitat, and between Karen and I, we’ve  seen every animal except a possum and a bear come to drink water. Cougars, bobcats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, dogs, cats, birds. Even bats and lizards. This low water year, the water in my pond, and other vessels,  needs to be replenished every other day, which Karen does.

I’m coming at my subject a bit sideways, here, but Jim brought this beautiful hammock all the way from Central America. It has hung between a couple of trees for the last two summers and a squirrel came down the tree and chewed part of the threads. Sorry, Jim. I was pretty amazed at that. She  chewed some of the support strings as well. I don’t blame the squirrel. I’m sure she is nest-building.  Red tail hawks decimated my squirrel population a while back and this one has moved in to begin a new generation.

I’m always bragging about Murphys being such a nice place to live, with its beautiful park with a creek running through it. But, San Andreas has a beautiful Turner Park too, with multiple entrances and areas to enjoy because it runs along a small creek. I met friends yesterday, with whom I worked at the Calaveras Enterprise in the 1980′s  and was reminded of the wholesome community we share. Dedicated park volunteers were blowing debris and picking up stuff people leave behind when I got there. How cool is that?

This cute elephant bridge leads to a playground for the kids. Part of why this is such a great place to live is the huge body of volunteerism that makes places  like this possible for everyone.

Sue Walker has a new last name since we met at this same spot last year. I was surprised my friends knew about my accident on May 27th.  We spent an hour playing catch-up while we ate our bag lunch.

We manage our visit in an hour since Deborah Mullen comes from work during her lunch time.  I heard that our former editor, Sandy Lema died while I was on the road, and I forgot to ask them if that was correct?

That hour went by way too fast!  I’m going to make an effort to get home earlier next year to attend the main event. We grabbed one of the friendly park volunteers to take our picture before we parted.

This is a group photo of Enterprise staffers from Reunion 2011.
After leaving the park, I had some blood work done and then went to the beauty shop to get my hair cut. I reminded Sue, who was cutting my hair, that the purpose of a beauty salon is make people beautiful.

I thought she did a pretty good job, don’t you?

Then I stopped in Angels Camp to visit my friend Linda Foster. She is painting her house and needs help deciding what color to choose.

The picture doesn’t show all of her possible choices.  But, I think it was more than nine.  Decisions, decisions. And you know?  She didn’t even notice my beautiful new look? The older we get, the harder it is to get beautiful.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Leaving Stone Drum Village, we take a short sweet flight to the Provincial Capital of Kunming, (Koon-ming) a city of eight million people with another six million in the surrounding territory. On the plane I sat next to a young Chinese man who spoke perfect English. Vicki tells us all Chinese learn English in school since Mau. He and his friend were on vacation in Korea. He claimed it was scary. People on the streets avoid eye contact with you, afraid to look at you and very repressed even in a bar or restaurant. Military guards were in evidence everywhere they went.  They felt like they were being followed. You are not allowed to take pictures of buildings.  He was tempted a few times to take a forbidden picture, but didn’t. Then, when he got to the airport, the guards looked at every photo in his digital camera before letting them go. He was glad he obeyed but, it was an unpleasant vacation.

Our city guide takes us by bus to the center of old town Kunming to see the bird market. We pass by a famous curved building called the Sister Building. He walks so fast, I can’t hear half of what he is telling us because I’m trying to fill my eyes.

I managed to grab a quick shot of this guy selling dog and cat pelts. Argh! I know, we all grimaced. I wanted to stop and buy old Chinese coins from a vendor, but I was getting left behind and had to abandon my purchase and run to catch up with the group.

This area of Kunming has modern ads and minority frescoes on the street wall which is what is left of the old part of the city. The government demolished  most of the older part of town in 1953. It looked like the Hutongs of Beijing,  built on a courtyard with a common well and underground water running back to the river. The old people have to use city water and they hate hand carrying their water home  in big plastic jugs.
At this point, my memory disk is full and my camera bag is back in the bus. The bird market is not to our liking very much anyway because bird flu is in all the news and we see people  wearing masks. We saw birds in cages hanging from just about every business doorway, including restaurants. Stacked tight cages of bunnies and kittens, none of which we were excited to see. Most interesting were very large crickets in beautifully made wooden cricket cages, which they race. Rats, too, which they eat. “White meat”  snails with beautiful striped shells for sale. Vicki tells us this is the poor section of town. We move on to the flower market which is much more to our liking. The rest of the city is quite modern after being rebuilt after the Japanese bombed it.  Kunming  also has the base where the Flying Tigers were cosseted during WWII. And, it was once part of the Golden Triangle, a famous opium growing area.

The City Tour takes us to a beautiful Green Lake  Park, mobbed with people. Huge flocks of seagulls winter here but haven’t come in yet in huge numbers.

We love seeing cute kids. And the Chinese, with a limit of one child, dote on their beautiful children and love showing them off.

It is a lovely place to relax, play cards, dominoes, mah jong. Have tea. Most Chinese have small apartments and houses.  They socialize in their public places.

And  exercise together. It seems such a healthy practice, both, being outside and exercising regularly.

Green Lake Park is beautiful and enjoyable. People watch and feed the birds and koi.

I’m tickled by this Chinese woman dressing her child in a blonde wig cap as they feed and watch the koi.


We eat at a restaurant that minimizes the heat of asphalt parking by burying cement blocks and growing grass in them.  I  wanted to build my driveway in Murphys that way but the cost at the time, labor intensive, was too high.  We eat an area specialty called fish skin, which is quite spicy and tasty, along with the usual noodles and vegetables. A surprise was watermelon for desert.
Back at our hotel, we nap and read  before getting ready for a very famous evening show called the Peacock Extravaganza that features 200 ethnic peoples. The Peacock Dance is a tradition in this area  from the time of Kublai Khan. Fabulous costuming throughout, but especially this woman peacock dancer with an enormous drum moving in very strenuous  body positions. The dancers have painted bodies, the background is stormy suggesting how early peoples feared  thunder and lightening. They made loud noises to scare off evil spirits and wild animals that also fear storms. The stage settings for all of the dances are rich and dramatic.

In this moon dance, human figures float down from the ceiling appearing to fly,  flapping their iridescent wings like huge butterflies.  They dance a ritual child sacrifice  and a sensual babies birth. They danced the Muslim people bringing Buddhism to China. All done with grace and beauty. This show travels all over the world with its 200 performers.  We paid a $20 bill to see it. Stunning.
Tomorrow-the stone forest.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


It is Halloween. Vicki wishes us a Happy Halloween.  It’s strange  to think  of this American Holiday in the midst of  a an ancient city, dining on fried dumplings and sweet black  rice in a hotel with no glass in the windows.  We hate to leave this beautiful mountain village of Jiliang as we are still aglow with unforgettable memories of our time here.
From the bus, we see overladen donkeys hauling goods, people walking the roads, scenic villages, cows, horses, children drying corn or grain outside.  Most pictures from the bus are too blurry to keep.

We look back at the Eastern Himalayas, our last look at the beautiful mountain and marvel at the many exciting experiences we had in this special area just 250 miles from Tibet. So close. Tour mates discuss our next trip and we swear it will be Tibet. Someone recommended the movie, Seven Years in Tibet, Lady Yang, about a famous concubine, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and so it goes as we head for the airport  to fly to Kumming. (koo-ming.)

At the Naxi Stone Drum Village, we stop for lunch.  The restaurant is crowded with Naxi people. Service here is more casual than other restaurants we’ve been to, Vicki tells us. The food simpler. Did we care?  The place was fascinating with its chili pepper curtains, dividing the outdoor diners from the indoor diners. We are seated inside a  small room with a wonderful view of this interesting gathering.

The faces are intent as they play mah jong. We realize no one is eating lunch but us.

Everyone plays. Women tend to stick to tables with women, but mix when the numbers are uneven.

This old fellow sits and watches the game, quietly smoking his opium pipe.

Viki said it is unusual to find this group of people gathered  here and she asks around and finds out a government official is set to visit the village and the “seniors” are waiting in the courtyard to hear his speech.

I sneak a peek into the open air kitchen.

There is no refrigeration. Everything is fresh or stored in vinegar.

A photo bonanza for us, as we watch the activity and listen to them chatter among themselves. They totally ignore us. This table of women is playing some kind of card game and have apples to snack on. One woman is asleep at the table with her head bent low.

When the government official arrives, they listen with rapt attention.

Their meeting ends about the same time as our lunch.  Wanning, with an interpreter tries to engage this elderly gent as everyone leaves the restaurant.  But,  the dialect is obscure, and she nor the interpreter can understand anything he says.

Now the Naxi are very curious about us. They do not shy from the camera and enjoy seeing themselves in our little screens with smiles and much straightening of their clothing. No hands come out for money.

We walk around the area to see what we can see and stretch our legs. This gentleman apparently has a car. He took out a bench from his trunk and proudly showed it to us. Or, maybe he was hoping we would buy it. We couldn’t tell. A car here is quite rare. We see almost no private auto traffic on the roads.

As we load into the bus, a beggar woman stands outside our window gesturing her need for food in her plastic covered dish or to sell us something Viki speculates.  Vicki says it is too late but those in the bus who have snacks demand to stop and hand her some salty nuts, candy bars and a few yuan we offer. Vicki disapproves of encouraging begging and she says it is also very unusual to find a beggar in this remote village.

As we get back on the road in the bus, we see these two Naxi women walking back to their homes. Everyone seems to enjoy relatively good health and good spirits. Walking is their main mode of travel. Tomorrow, Kumming.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


The Hun Dynasty is from 200 B.C. Most Chinese are Han Qiang (han-chung)) The greatest challenge to China is the Tibetan people.  China seems to step all over itself when they try and crack down on Tibet with the  whole world watching. There was a border incident just after we left where two Tibetan’s were killed. Yunnan Province borders India, Burma, Laos and Vietnam and was once the powerful kingdom of Nanzhao that defeated Chinese armies and controlled the trade routes to India and Burma before Khublai Khan. America’s Flying Tigers were based here and thwarted  the Invasion of China by Japan in the 1940′s.  The province of Yunnan has 25 different minority groups. China is  still  leery of minority people who might try to be independent and form their own government. It is so peaceful and beautiful here, we find it hard to understand. Viki tells us that at one time China was set into strict class lines. Her grandfather was a scholar and was sent to Shenyang Province and lived with the Uygurs or Greware people, under very tough living conditions. He married there and  Vicki’s mother was born there and married  an Ethnic born in Urumki. He was persecuted and sent to a “struggle” meeting and made to live in a cow shed. He tried to kill himself but Grandmother was strong and he survived and eventually the family was allowed to move to the city.  When Viki  was a child, learning how wonderful Mau was, she once heard her Grandfather say, “Mau is a bad guy” knowing he could be killed for saying so.  One of her Uncles was a Red Guard and considered her father a traitor and accused him of crimes and persecuted his own brother. When Mau died, everyone went crazy. Some wanted revenge, others shed tears. Afterwards, they wondered how stupid they could be. Life under Mau was unpleasant for most people. We really appreciate Vicki’s  openness  about China’s infamous past and faux pas of the present.

This is the walled entrance to Jiliang where modern vehicles can drive. Buses are not able to drive into the city.

Tourists unload and walk into the city or load into a smaller vehicle. I took this picture mainly because the  baby boy is wearing split pants. You can’t really tell. But Chinese children traditionally were  not diapered. Some still wear split pants and are set down to urinate or poop and the parents pick up the waste and deposit it somewhere just as in the old days when human fertilizer was saved for the fields. The government, according to Viki,  discourages the practice and most city babies are diapered.

And, as expected, modern vehicles share the road with the more common bike-trucks.

The river and the ancient water ways dominate the city which sits at the confluence of three different rivers.  Before the fire burned half the city down, every street in Jiliang  was narrow for people walking or on horse back with a waterway beside  the walkway.

Entrance to each shop next to the waterway is a rudimentary bridge, often old planks.

The streets are teeming with customers and no one would even think it was dangerous. The U.S. would bring it up to code and ruin this ancient city, we think. It is at least 3,000 years old.

In front of this shop is a character asking people to pay to have their picture taken with him in his native costume.  His pipe reaches to the ground.

I’m entranced and sneak a picture of him. Isn’t he gorgeous? Oh, to have the language!

Water loving willows grow profusely and grace many of the old buildings.

But, most of the activity is on the square.

These sturdy little horses are called Jiliang Horses and are a desired commodity among the mountain people of this area. At one time they were a trade commodity along the famous Silk Road. The horses outlived the market for silk and eventually tea trade dominated the Silk Road.

These horsemen had parked their steeds and didn’t mind having their picture taken. They appeared to be working wranglers or traders of some sort.

The square is always filled with entertainment, like this  Naxi group dancing  and singing. I curse myself for not taking more pictures. There were tumblers, jugglers and magicians with a vessel out for donations much like break dancers and musicians do in San Francisco. This day is Oct. 30th, a double nine (lucky) lunar holiday. (I have no clue what that means.) It is wonderful to have a day in this ancient city that began as a stop along the Tea-Horse Road, a network of high paths and dangerous passes over the mountains into Tibet and other parts of China. The tea was packed in bricks and bales and we still see it sold that way in bricks, bales and huge hat shaped rings.  We couldn’t figure out what the bales were until we left Jiliang and asked Vicki who explained that those tea shops we saw, with myriad tea pots and cups, were really selling tea.

Michal and I do some last minute souvenir shopping and arrange to meet Wanning and Judge Dean Determan for dinner on the moat adjacent to our hotel which is the only food court in town where all the exotic foods, the music and night life happens. The paving stones were once washed by a trick of the ancient water system where the town streets and square was flooded and rinsed  debris back into
 the river. 

 Wanning shows us her haul, beautiful scarves about six feet long and three feet wide for $4 each.  She leads us back to the shop at dusk and we get them for $3. She says, “And I’m Chinese, I’ve been taken.”  We all laugh. On our way back for dinner, a vendor tried to sell us fried grubs, inch worms and cockroaches for a snack, but we declined.  We instead opt for a dish Wanning and Dean recommend with a tomato broth and noodles with bits of water buffalo and beef. But before we decide, one animal on the butcher block looks familiar but we can’t identify what meat it is. “Dachshund,”  says Vicki who is always around on the fringes of our activity to answer questions. We  groaned but Vicki is very forthright and doesn’t try to protect our western squeamishness or apologize for their customs. We decide the people in this area like their pets too much.
We  keep gawking fascinated by every thing we see.  The octopus, urchins, shelled creatures we can’t identify. Fish with heads and eyes and fins still intact. The insects and beetles, turtles and strange colored mushrooms. Pickled vegetables we have never seen before. Seeds and pods and edible grasses and baked delights in neon colors. We can’t decide which is most fascinating, people watching or cruising the food court; listening to thousand year old  music, or the hum of exotic languages;  “hiyee!”   sharp musical calls from waiters scurrying back and forth between tightly packed tables. The glow from ambient lantern and torch light;  people stooped or sitting cross legged  in dark corners.  We know we are glimpsing the threads of an ancient past, with no definition but magical.  Unforgettable.