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Saturday, July 27, 2002, CST

Day 3, Bungle in the Jungle and Visit to the Zhou Village


We have not successfully acclimated to local time yet, and everyone reports awaking at 3am, which is mid-morning PDT. We got to see the hotel in the daylight for the first time, this morning, and there are families and concessions everywhere, as this is a resort destination. Xi Qiao is an extinct volcano, with mountain hotels, lakes, temples, a tramway, and lots of hiking destinations. This hotel is about 6 years old, but like most things in China, ages very quickly. Regardless, it is very comfortable, with a remote control air conditioner, cable TV, and modern plumbing. Also, because it is a vacation destination, most of the signs are bi-lingual. Just down the street, is a kiddie amusement park. I think they even call it fairyland. Even in China, it is not enough to have a beautiful nature area, without installing some artificial attractions. After a breakfast of delicious dim sum, we boarded our bus to take us up the mountain.


We are traveling up the mountain in search for the kidís great great grandfatherís grave site. This is not a cemetery, but a place that one could locate a plot of land for a grave, and they are scattered all over the mountain. We ascended about 1200 feet, past attractions, and gardens, to the top of the mountain, where there was a 2 story gazebo we could use as a lookout. On the way, we passed a new Goddess (Gun Jum) statue about the size of the Statue of Liberty, perhaps a little larger. Quite a spectacular site. Anyway, once at the top, we got our first inkling of what was in store for us, as it was determined that we were in the wrong location, and our adventures had only just begun.


Off on another road, and past some mountain homes, we ended at a narrow, muddy, dirt road, and we would take the last couple ofhundred yards on foot. Pretty soon we found a steep little trail into the jungle, and our guide got a hoe to hack some steps and clear the brush for us to pass. Another hundred feet, down the mountain, we found some broken urns, and this was it, or so we thought. It took a while for the older folks to get down the steep, jungle trail, but as soon as Grandpa got there, he informed us this was not the spot.Our guide, was the son of the man who worked on the mountain, and had located many of the ancient grave sites. This man, had passed away, since grandpaís last visit, but the son assured us he had the same knowledge. Back up the mountain, and down the road some more, we came to another trail. This time, everyone stayed on the bus, except Douglas (Grandpaís lab manager, who has been taking care of us), myself and the guide.No one wanted any more wild grave chases, unless we were sure it was the right place.We hiked down this trail, and past some small fish ponds, and really cool buildings. It was looking more and more like romancing the stone, as we hacked our way deeper into the jungle. Did I mention mosquitoes and other insects? The mosquitoes were swarming, and there were neat bugs all over. The spiders were as big as my hand, and their webs were about 4 feet across. They felt like they were strong enough to catch a small bird. I also saw some cockroaches, that looked like the hissing roaches, in the SF zoo. My dream of exploring a Costa Rican jungle was being fulfilled. Of course the whole time, while I was enjoying this, I was also suffering in mosquito bites, heat, and dripping with sweat. To make a long story short, we hiked like this for over an hour, and descended about 800 feet, until we convinced the guide this was not what we were looking for, and even if it were the correct location, no one in out party would or could make this hike. No more jungle hikes for us, and I guess we will no longer be able to locate the grave site.


On the way back down the mountain, we stopped at the Giant Gun Yum, and they were lighting firecrackers, burning incense, and praying.. This was not your ordinary homage, however, as everything had to reflect the large scale of the giant Gun Yum. The incense sticks were about 2 inches in diameter, and 5 feet long! They were using a blowtorch to light them. After some cool drinks, and pictures, out next stop would be Luzhou, the Zhou village.


Once we got off the mountain, we were on a main 4 lane road, and it would be roads like this all the way to Shunde county, where the village is. I had meant to bring my GPS, to get exact mileages, but we did not return to the hotel, so I didnít have it with me. It wasnít very far, however, less than 20 miles, until we started seeing modern businesses, that looked a lot like silicon valley.These large glass buildings were furniture manufacturing facilities, as our village is in the Lecong (Lok Chung) district, which, over the last ten years, has become the furniture manufacturing capital of all of China.As we got closer, These industrial parks made way to a regular city, lined with furniture stores. It was at least 2 miles of Ikea, Levitz, and Scandinavian Designs, on both sides of the street. Somewhere at the end of this strip, we crossed into Luzhou made a right turn, about 2 blocks into a city, stopped at the Luzhou branch of the China Agricultural Bank, and Auntie Sum, and Auntie Foo Loy were there waiting for us. Cell phones are widespread, here, and Douglas had been using his to let her know our progress, all along the way. We got off the bus, and made our hellos, and introductions, when it was time for them to lead us to the village. Instead of driving to a farm village, as I expected, we all got off the bus, and walked across the street to an alley, which was the entrance to the older part of town, and this was our village.


I really wanted to take a leisurely stroll, and take it all in, but it was raining, so we were all huddled under a few umbrellas, and not dawdling. The village is not the same as the farm villages I had seen in other places, as it was in a city.All of the streets, (alleys, really), while narrow, were paved, clean, and bright. It was only a few blocks into the village when we came to my Grand Uncleís (Uncle Howardís father), house. Because I had seen pictures, this was something I recognized, as we looked at my Grand Uncle and Auntís pictures on the wall.There was a fluorescent light hanging from the ceiling, and periodic bolts of lightning would cut the electricity for brief seconds.No one was living in the house, and it is my understanding that no one has lived here since the 1930ís.It was clear that this house was the product of American made money, as it was above the typical standards of the surrounding houses. It had tile floors, nice woodwork, and was 3 stories high. The stairs were open, and you could look down to the first floor.From the roof balcony, we looked out over the roofs of the other houses, and could see into the modern part of the city. The closets looked like they were used for storage, as they were full of tools, and modern construction equipment. When I compared the house with pictures cousin Tina took, 5 years ago, nothing was changed. The stacks of boxes, and household items were in the same place as then. If you took her pictures and overlaid them on mine everything would fit perfectly.


Next, we went next door, to my grandfatherís house, which was occupied. This house was smaller, and more typical of the surrounding village. We saw all of the things I had been hearing about since childhood. From the wedding bed, to the well, much was left intact, even though someone was trying to live in this house.The resident maintained an alter in the main room, and we lit incense, and burned paper offerings. Nothing like a campfire in the rain, heat, and sweat!Next stop was the village temple, like we saw in the Hall Village. This one was larger, and because of a fire in the 1970ís, much had been rebuilt. There were Gung Fu and Lion Dancing trophies in a case with color pictures, and in the back, were dragon racing boats, and lion dancing pedestals.On one wall, in the main room, was a plaque with an outline of the village history, and a list of contributors to the rebuilding, after the fire.Our family had sent money in each of our names, and in a long list of Zhous, they showed me my name. I was disappointed that the weather was so bad, and people were getting uncomfortable, so after the obligatory group photo, we walked back to the bus.


Back at the hotel, the kids went bowling, and I slept with a lifelong dream fulfilled.


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