Update: Joann’s description of our river steamer is here.
Addition: In the 21st century experience in Starbucks, I not-so-subtly grabbed a handful of “Slimmer Sweetener” (leap back a couple of decades before we “traditionally built” people got in on PC terminology) to take with me to these parts of the country where no one has heard of Diet Coke or diet anything.
Also I should have mentioned that next we’re being driven to Huili, where Esther served her last term in China. THAT will be another step backward in time from what we’re told–the walled old city remains. Also since that’s the most recent place she lived, it’s our most likely place to find people who knew her.
Traveling China may as well be time travel–fly into Shanghai (and here and here) on a 21st century jetliner and then start hopscotching backward and forward, decades at a time.
1– 2012. Flight from Shanghai to Yichang (and here). No problem–still 21st century. No hint of the dizziness to come.
2– 1989 (1939?). Chinese ferry from Yichang to Chongqing. Ferry doesn’t mean transporting vehicles, just people. Don’t think cruise. Think people mover. Maybe 30 mph up the Yangtze. Leap backward 3 decades, about the time this boat was new and the railings weren’t roped into place, when walking the undulating floor didn’t make you seasick before you ever set sail, and maybe the space heater in your quarters produced heat and the wall lamp over the desk actually lit up. Or really, it might not be that different from Esther’s experiences on a Chinese river steamer. Watch for Joann’s comments about the ferry.
3– 2012. In Chongqing, go straight to Starbucks for breakfast and WiFi. Then on to lunch with friends at McDonalds. Don’t be too hard on me. I ordered the least American thing I could find on the menu–spinach chicken wrap with a serving of corn for the side and fried taro pie for dessert.
4– 2012. High speed train from Chongqing to Chengdu, 2 hours. Joann made this trip by train a few years ago — 15 hours.
5–1982. Hard sleeper train from Chengdu to Xichang, where we are today. Hard sleeper is what it sounds like–a bunk on an overnight train. The “mattress” is about the same softness and thickness as your doctor’s examining table. No problem in the doctor’s office, because you don’t stay there 7 hours in every position you normally try to sleep in. Oh yes, and there were 2 bunks above mine. Generic pain reliever PM made everything okay.
6–1990. Joann says the main impression of the bustling modern part of the city of Xichang reminds her of the China she knew in 1990. I’ll take her word for it.
7.–1947 (1647? 2000?). The old part of Xichang are pretty nearly the same streets Esther Nelson would have seen when she visited her friends here, Levi & Ida Lovegren, in the late 1940s. The old city used to have a wall around it that was built not decades ago, but millenia. We walked a section of the wall, looking down on some of the same rooftops that were here when Esther visited. Except the portion of wall that still stands is a replica built in the last few years–a very 2000-ish thing in China, building new things to look old.
Mrs Piper walking down one of the streets of Xichang
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