One area in which America has distinguished herself is public safety. Case in point: on July 4th, every city has well-organized safety-first fireworks displays. Some people buy legal or illegal fireworks and set them off on their own, but safety precautions are usually followed. For instance, adults set off anything dangerous, kids just get to wave sparklers around. But in China? Five-year-olds are handed Roman candles to fire over the heads of chaotic traffic. And when they get bored with that, they chase each other around with them. American New Years' celebrations are typically marked with a few hours of private self-destructive behavior and a short period of public nuisance. Chinese New Years' celebrations are an entire night of public nuisance followed by several days of "Oh hey, we found this pile of loud firecrackers lying around. Let's set them off in the middle of the street."
Xishuangbanna is, as expected, warm, humid, and full of fruits. We ate two fruits mollybzz
had never encountered before. (Molly afficcionados will be impressed by this occurrence.) We then wandered around the local botanic gardens and soaked in a 24-hour hot spring pool. The next day we took a bumpy two hour bus to Damenglong, a dusty rural village in a Dai minority area. After a rough night of gastronomic revolt, we visited some Hinayana temples during cleaning time. We taught a monk some English, were fed by his mother, ate two mandarins from the temple offering, helped sort rice and fruit from the swap-meet/temple-offering event, and chatted with part of a large family living in a few shacks among the rice paddies.
Also in China? The bus driver stops to buy a lighter because he lost his last one after smoking a cigarette on the bus and he wants another. Molly paid him for the ride to Xiaojie (to which he said he'd take us), even though he took us all the way back to Jinghong saying "Xiaojie is no fun."
Tomorrow we bus to Kunming and will then take a train to Nanning, Guangxi. From there, we head to Guilin, picturesque karst capital of China.
I hope you're enjoying the Year of the Rat. If you've done anything awesome, leave a comment and tell me about it!