Thursday – A day for contemplation
This morning we met at school and headed for the Baoguang Monastery in Xindi, an hour’s drive from Chengdu. The monastery is run by Buddhist monks and provides an oasis of green, calm, quiet peace in the middle of a noisy, bustling city. As you enter, the city falls away and you hear birdsong, and the temple walls embrace you. We purchased candles and incense sticks, and followed the lead of others- light two candles, place them in the rack, then light three incense sticks with the candles, make a wish or say a small prayer, and place the incense sticks in the huge iron cauldron.
We were in no particular hurry this morning, and we let the mood of the temple carry us. We found ourselves quieting down, slowing down, and letting the place define our mood. Comfortable chairs were found, we purchased bowls of tea, and got down to some perfectly fine journal writing. Everyone found time to gather thoughts and put them on paper.
All of this contemplation made us quite hungry, and the Buddhist monks here are famous for their delicious vegetarian food, and we tucked right up to the table. Plate after plate of food arrived- some dishes fiery hot with szechuan peppercorns, and some terrific surprises- tofu that tasted like no tofu we’d ever had, and the comforting surprise of a simple dish of celery with cashews.
We left the monastery and drove back into Chengdu to the Wuhou Temple. Another opportunity to leave the city behind, this temple greeted us with row upon row of flowering quince bonsai. Beautiful salmon pink flowers bursting into bloom on old tree trunks only two feet tall. The temple and its surroundings were renovated in 1865! Again, a bit more time for journal entries, watching people, and, of course, being watched! Visitors from away are still a bit of a mystery to people in Chengdu, and parents and grandmothers often stop and show us to their children! We take all of this in stride, and smile like the citizens of the world we are aspiring to be.
After the second temple, we headed for Jinli Street, a warren of shops and snack opportunities. One of our students had his ears cleaned on the street, complete with tuning fork and all manner of hardware and weird brushes! We stopped in one shop where the specialty is silk. We saw silk worm cocoons being unwound to make silk thread, saw silk comforters being stretched into bed size, and watched artists paint fish and flowers and butterflies on scarves and handkerchiefs.
We are seeing much, experiencing everything, trying everything, and beginning to coalesce as a group. We are seeing each other differently now that we are fellow travelers- we have so much in common in this strange land- Chinese mothers who dote on us and worry that we might be cold, or tired, or hungry, Chinese fathers who don’t speak much English, but take us out for walks in the evening, Chinese dogs who lick our faces just like American dogs. What a country!