Monday, September 30, 2013

Takeoffs and Landings

When we arrived at Beijing National Airport on September 22, we were greeted with an unpleasant surprise: our flight wasn't leaving from that airport. It was leaving from Nanyuan Airport, a solid hour and a half away. 

Cut to uncomfortable shuttle bus ride back to Dongzhimen Station and sardinish metro ride to Xiwuman followed by a bizarre pseudo-taxi ride to an airport down a decrepit street on the outskirts of Beijing.

Needless to say we made it in time for our flight to Chengdu and a long night sleeping on the chairs in the airport.

When we got back to Nanyuan Airport, after a turbulent flight, we were greeted with umpteen cabbies who kept saying "Mei yo" to our destination - Beijing Central Railway Station - and many a scam taxi driver offering to take us there for 100Y. We finally got a cabby who didn't "Mei yo" us, but he took us first to the South Station and then to the Central Station, so it ended up costing us 97Y anyway (ridiculous). 

We get there and we hadn't bought our return train tickets to QHD because, truthfully, we weren't sure when we would get to the station. We got in Line 41, which looked the same as all the other lines except it was moving faster.  We stood in that line for about 20 minutes. When we got to the counter the woman working said, "Buy tickets?"


"Counter 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48." The lines stretched to the door. 

After standing in Line 43 for the better part of an hour, being jostled by people weaving through the lines, standing behind a guy who smelled like week-old boiled cabbage, and watching - no, hearing - some attendant back up spit bibs twice in the middle if the floor, the woman behind the counter didn't speak English. So we waited - Jake patiently and I less so - for her to fetch someone who could assist us. And wouldn't you know it was the woman from Line 41.

All the morning D-trains (a.k.a. the fast, clean trains) were filled and all that was left before 1:30 p.m. - mind you, almost exactly 12 hours subsequent to us purchasing tickets - was one seat and one standing room spot in the Y train. At least it wasn't the K train (a.k.a. the slow, dirty train) or as I like to call it, the Shit Train.

So we got our tickets for the Y train and headed past the scads of homeless people into Beijing Railway Station. People with apparently similar itineraries to ours but who had obviously arrived first were sleeping triple, quadruple, pentuple, sextuple wide in some cases on the benches, leaving the rest of us to bunk on the station's questionable floor for a long night only to be awoken at 5:30 by a woman with a megaphone personally visiting everyone and demanding they stop sleeping.

What a weird place.

XingXing and BangBang

The Chinese name for the giant panda is dá xiongmao which literally means "bear cat." These archaic creatures have survived over 8 million years, 3 million years longer than the average lifespan of any creature. This is pretty much an evolutionary miracle because the panda essentially devolved over time. 

At its most primitive form a ferocious carnivore, these now docile vegetarians are still classified in the carnivorous order because their teeth and their stomach are made for chewing and digesting meat respectively. Around 8 million years ago, the giant panda became omnivorous and now almost exclusively eats about 60 of China's 500 different types of bamboo. Unfortunately, bamboo is low in any sort of nutrients for a large, warm-blooded mammal and the panda's digestive tract can only absorb about 20 percent of the meager nutrients (predominately sugar) that it does contain. As such, the panda spends pretty much all of its day sleeping so as not to expend any calories, and eating, so as to absorb as many calories as possible.

For all intents and purposes, pandas are evolutionarily challenged and probably shouldn't be living. In addition to their questionable dietary choices, pandas are also sexually reluctant and, when they do mate, require a specific match. If these bears do mate, a female panda in the wild will likely only give birth to one cub, and, scientifically speaking, that cub will be born prematurely. 

At 1/1000 the weight of its mother (for comparative purposes, human babies are roughly 1/30 the weight of their mothers), the baby panda is born blind and remains that way for quite some time. Unfortunately for the baby panda, it is dependent on an animal who takes time to develop maternal instincts, who often swats the baby around because it cries, in the best case scenario only endangering it.

In captivity, pandas undergo artificial insemination and, like humans, are thusly more inclined to multiple births. Additionally, the scientists have a better ability to nurture and care for the newborns, taking them out of harms way and supplementing their diet with cornbread and specially designed baby formula.

It's estimated that only about 1000 pandas remain in the wild, and while I admire the vigor and passion of scientists who have devoted their lives to panda maintaining, a large part of me questions the usefulness of this endeavor. 

Already dubbed "living fossils," these bears have outlived their shelf date by 3 million years, and that makes me wonder whether their seeming process of devolution is nature's way of saying, "It was fun, but you've gotta go now." Don't get me wrong: pandas are beautiful, diverting creatures who look like living teddy bears and I certainly don't wish for their demise. But I do wonder if all the efforts we're making for their conservation aren't better served elsewhere. 

Anyway, the whole point of this blog, and I guess this was a really roundabout way of saying it, but all day at the panda research center I kept singing the only line I remember from Yoav Guttman's song (he was on the same trip to SouthAfrica with me in 2004 and brought along his guitar) about pandas. It goes like this: XingXing and BangBang, why won't they mate and create a little panda and save the panda fate?

Happy Kitten Store

I have seen umpteen animal-related occurrences in China that have just broken my heart, but in the relatively sleepy town of Leshan is a cat sanctuary.  Aptly named The Cat Club, this half cafe, half free range cat apartment serves up free coffee, juice, soda and snacks and charges you just 24Y hourly to play with and snuggle their dozen or so cats. 

The owners are fabulous and do their best to inform you (via iPhone English) the cats' breeds - Russian Blue, Scottish Fold, English and American Shorthairs, and Persians - and that the cats are bathed weekly. 

The environment is very comfortable, big plush chairs and nice, glass tables, where the kitties roam freely, alternating between sticking their small faces in your coffee cup, trying to steal your snacks, and crawling all over you. 

In a country that, thus far, has delivered only grimy, homeless cast-offs, this place truly stands out as a philanthropic institution worthy of note.

Suffice to say it's my dream job to serve up coffee in a place that houses and cares for cats. I can't imagine a better feeling than knowing that one dozen felines are awaiting my arrival at work. I would never take a sick day! And it gives me hope that here, in this nation where animal rights doesn't seem to be a real thing, such an institution seems not only to be succeeding but flourishing.


Emei's Endless Stairs
Emei Shan is a formidable mountain - so formidable its peak isn't even visible from the bottom - wrought with lush, green trees and peaks that ascend past the clouds. Seemingly endless steep steps - some that are so long you can't even glimpse the end - carry you up this holy Buddhist mountain, leading us from temple to monastery. Amazingly, as we huff and puff our way up the stairways, we pass people carrying substantial, rickety packs on their backs, loaded with rice, vegetables, toilet paper, and other necessities for the still-inhabited monasteries. 

We began our climb at the foothills of Wannian Temple, and when we reached this place, packed with gawking Chinese tourists, we commented, "Wow, that took no time at all!" then looked at our map - "Andy's Map" - to our next destination. Andy's Map is first encouraging, then extremely discouraging before it gets encouraging again. The next stretch, which looks to be roughly the same distance from our beginning to Wannian, is two hours. Two hours of hiking up, up, up, stair after endless stair. The map estimates 5 hours to our night's destination, Elephant Bathing Pool, but it just took us two hours what looked like, judging from the first ascent, should have taken 40 minutes.

There are so many stairs! And just when you're thinking your legs will give out if you have to climb even one more monstrous flight: a small reprieve. Two to five stairs at a time, interspersed with flat landings requiring 3 or 4 joyous steps.

After Wannian Temple, we were essentially alone. The rogue, humble seller or an occasional traveller, but nothing like the normal droves if Chinese tourists, who walk in packs that cover the width of the stairway and push you out of their way because you dare to walk single file through their brigade. But for a while we had a clear path. Just us, trees, the sounds of nature, and the pounding of our hearts as we climbed the million stairs. 

When we finally reached Elephant Bathing Pool it felt as though we'd been walking all day, despite it
Elephant Bathing Pool
only haven taken 5 hours. 5 hours, 9.5 miles. Not bad for a day. So we paid for our rooms and a woman led us to a dark, cold dorm with five beds laid out haphazardly. Mercifully, electric heating pads. Unmercifully, damp beds, no heat, and cracks in the floor boards and holes in the wall. Jake wrapped a t-shirt in a plastic bag and jammed it into the most noticeable hole, but I was not dissuaded.

We moved outside to breathe in the scenery and be out of that dark, dank room, which reminded me of every book I've read based in or about the 18th century. Outside was beautiful. Here was this immense monastery, nestled over 2000 meters above sea level and from it, we could see another monastery in the peak of a slightly lower hill and the dense, rich mountains surrounding us. 

"We better see some monkeys tomorrow," Jake said. We had been warned about the myriad Tibetan Macaques who trail the forest in search of handouts. One girl at the hotel we were staying in in Emei Town had even shown us a bruise from where one had attacked her in pursuit of the orange in her pocket. "I'm bummed we didn't see any today."

"Do you think we can get our money back if we don't see any?" Half joke, half serious.

We explored the monastery for a while, peaking into different unoccupied rooms and braving the bathrooms; primitive to say the least. We ate expensive apples - they had cost us 18Y earlier up the mountain - near the small bathing pool after which the monastery was named and met its resident turtle, who I named Bob. Bob is exceedingly wary of people but highly entertaining. His comically large feet are magnified by the water and his shell looks to have a painting if a dragon in it. 

By then it was nearing 6:00 and our tummies were rumbling for something more substantial than the apples. We wandered into the dining room where a cook urged us to sir down then served us a fully vegetarian meal of green beans, some sort of sour root with chili peppers, squash, Bok Choy boiled in oil and water, and a communal cake pan of rice. 

Photogenic, Sociable Macaque
We were about half way through our dinner when the monks rang the dinner gong and some other visitors showed up. Confident and assured, in strolls a Macaque who, with virtually no hesitation, jumped up in the table holding the cake pan of communal rice. One of the cooks grabbed a broom and with what I can only describe as a battle cry of, "Aaaiiiiieeeeeeeee!!!" chased the monkey from the room. (Remember, they're all Buddhists, so they're potentially among the only people in China who aren't going to hurt the animals.) But the monkey didn't go very far. He found a spot in the courtyard and was joined by his monkey friend, who decided that the ancient fish declaration was a great place to sit. 

We hurried to finish our meal so we could gawk some more st the monkeys. Eventually the cooks chased them outside and we followed, and outside was a monkey paradise. At least two dozen monkeys, including several babies, were making themselves comfortable near the bathing pool and on the outside fixtures of the monastery.

Monkeys are absolutely incredible to watch because they're so innately human. With their long fingers, expressive eyes, and incessant itches to scratch, coupled with their playful, social nature, it's almost like you could jump right in and they wouldn't notice. 

We must have watched the monkeys for two hours, particularly one. He hopped up on the side of the building, perched precariously on a narrow piece of cement, and just stared with thoughtful eyes towards us.

"What are you doing, monkey?" Jake asked, then responded, "Oh, just thinking about life." I dubbed
Thinking About Life monkey
him Jerry, a.k.a. Thinking About Life monkey. There was also Tasting My Wiener monkey, who spent an uncomfortably long time alternating between playing with his junk and licking his fingers, Posing For Animal Crackers monkey, who, I swear, knew what a camera was and fully understood that he was the entertainment, and Hurt Leg monkey, who hobbled deftly on three legs, holding one back foot up like he'd sprained it. At first I felt bad, but the monkeys came back the next morning for breakfast and Hurt Leg monkey seemed to switch hurt feet. First it was the back left, then the front right, so I renamed him Asking For Sympathy monkey. 

After the monkey business, we had some tea and got ready to hunker down for the night. After squatting over a sliver of a hole in a room lined with them but with no stalls or doors and that smelled like a jar of putrified human waste, there was nothing to do but slowly lower myself into the damp bed and wait for the sunrise. I tried not to think about why the pillows, blankets, and mattresses were so very damp. I tried not to think about the number of unfavorable creatures that could crawl and slither through the cracks between the eroded floorboard and the walls. I tried not go think about the musty smell that permeated the room and my clothes. I tried to think about the heat rising up from the electric heating pad. I tried to think about how I was wise to leave the overhead light on, however annoying it may be, and how Jake was smart to pack the eye masks. But at 2:49 when I woke to go to the bathroom, holding my breath the whole time, all I could think of was three hours until sunrise.

A few monkeys arrived before the sunrise, and amazingly, Thinking About Life monkey returned to his same precarious perch and looked at us with the same thoughtful eyes as the sun rose behind him. 

The second day was supposed to be easier than the first, just six miles up and 2.5 miles down, but the ascent was, to put it mildly, endless. After reaching the first landmark, Leidongping Bus Station, where the droves of Chinese tourists returned, buying snacks and souvenirs for their short hike to the cable car station near Jieyin Hall, we felt encouraged. Apart from the plethora of Chinese tourists saying, "HellO?" and "Nice to meet you!", we also met many who encouraged us on. "Just one more hour if go fast," said one man who was descending. One more hour go fast my ass. More like two more hours go like a snail because the steps are almost fully vertical and very, very steep.

The Golden Summit
And then, mercifully through the mist shone a huge golden pagoda; Pu Xian riding his elephant, towering into the clouds, touching the heavens. Devout Buddhists slowly ascend the stairs to the Golden Summit, stopping every third or fourth one to kneel and pay reverence to their god. Those who have reached the top gold their hands in prayer and walk in deference clockwise on the red rug surrounding the periphery of the gargantuan pagoda. The air is a mix of mist and incense smoke, from the myriad offerings lit and burning for Buddha. Incense alters and at least 20 elephant statues guide the way to the monument, which once was so clear and now was covered in an ethereal mist.

Mt. Emei is a pilgrimage from some, being an historical mountain shrouded in Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. It was on this mountain that many of the religious martial arts, including Monkey Boxing, which imitates the actions of the macaques, such as, as one plaque explained, "drunken monkey pooping one arm." It was on this mountain that many of China's now-revered philosophers and religious thinkers, like Lao Zi, took refuge when their thoughts were not popular among the Chinese populous. It's easy to find the spirituality of this mountain, shrouded in mist and mystery. And I feel truly lucky to have seen it and experienced its grandeur. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hi, I'm Tyra Banks and I'm Personally Redefining Real

ANTM Cycle 19 "Fiercely Real"
Contestant, Yvonne
For my 100th blog post, I decided to admit a guilt pleasure: America's Next Top Model. I know, I know - it's pretty much against everything I stand for, but I really get a kick out of watching the competitions.  ANTM has featured "plus-size" models from its origin, probably due to the fact that the show's host and creator, Tyra Banks, has dealt with an enormous amount of body-shaming. The once-Victoria's Secret angels, turned Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover, turned business mogul with more flesh than the modeling industry is used to, sticks her neck out for her "plus-size" models, and one, Whitney Thompson of Cycle 10, even won. 

Quotes Banks, "It's my mission to expand the definition of beauty. To show unique, atypical, fiercely real, quirky, clumsy, five-headed girls through all of my many media projects and businesses. So watch out for what I have in store next!" (For the record, "five-headed" doesn't mean girls with five heads.)

Fiercely real??? Compared to what? Unless this is a competition where a woman, regardless of size, is competing against inanimate objects, I hate to break it to you, Tyra, but everybody's real. Or as real as you can get in the modeling industry, which, as you might surmise, isn't very real at all. 

ANTM Cycle 10 Contestants. Find the "fiercely real" one.

ANTM Cycle 19 "Fiercely Real"
Contestant, Alyssa
Tyra's titling of her "plus-size" models is reflective of the mantra that often oozes from the lips of any woman who isn't naturally skinny: "Real women have curves." Actually, genetically real women were born with female reproductive organs. And, in my opinion, real women have the desire to identify as a woman. LGBRQ implications aside (and there are many), and to reiterate Dance's With Fat blogger, Regan Chastain's idea, from that fat woman perspective, we really can't expect anyone to treat us and our bodies with a modicum of respect if we're turning around and doing the exact same thing. Hypocrisy is ugly, yo. 

Trust me. I understand the temptation. Chastain, among others, notes "thin privilege," the unfortunate but very real fact that thin people are better treated in Western society than fat people just because they're thin. However, thin privilege isn't going to stop just because a bunch of disenfranchised women are shouting, "Real women have curves!"

But I digress-ish. In addition to Banks' fiercely real models having no genetically or identifiably realer qualities than her "industry models," there are a couple of other problematic things with this terminology. 

ANTM Cycle 10 Winner,
Whitney Thompson
First of all, let's look at ANTM winner Whitney Thompson. She's 5'10", and her measurements are 36-32-43 (breasts, waist, hips). Another ANTM fiercely real model was Toccara Jones. She's 5'9" and reports her measurements as 36-30-46.* According to the CDC, the average American woman is 5'3", weighs 166 lbs., and has a waist circumference of 37.5 inches. I'm seeing some substantial differences in the women Banks is representing as "fiercely real" and the average reality of a population. I personally think the term should just be trashed altogether, but in lieu of that, I firmly believe that Tyra should hold a competition for women who fit this criteria. She can call it "America's Next Fiercely Real According to Some More Realistic Standards Top Model."

Beyond that fact that few of us are "fiercely real" enough to meet Banks' standards, despite her assertion that these models represent women who don't look like models, let's figure out why these fiercely real/plus-size/non-industry models need the moniker at all. Why can't they just be models like all the other models that don't need a definition before their job title? What if we did that with all jobs? Here's your teacher, and here's your fiercely real teacher. I'd like to welcome our new plus-size president. Give a warm welcome to the non-industry doctor. 

I want to end this blog on a positive note. It's very easy to be a naysayer when somebody who is fighting for a similar cause as you goes about it in a way that makes you cringe, like Tyra Banks is doing. The truth is, that she's among a very small contingency of individuals in the beauty industry trying to show any diversity at all. And Tyra chooses models of color, models of (somewhat) varying shapes and sizes, "short" models (they were all about 5'7"), and recently male models. It's obviously not an industry that's going to change over night, but I hope Tyra takes bigger risks than she has and rethinks her labeling of models.

*I got these measurements from a sight that makes me want to put a barrel in the mouths of the American public. The site is called "" and it updates their information very regularly and contains links such as "The Perfect Woman Body," "Fake vs. Real Breasts," and "Female Body Shapes," of which there are apparently five, three of which are named after fruit. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Google Translator Needs a Translator: Part II

Gearing up for our upcoming trip to Chengdu and Emei Shan, I thought I'd check out some restaurants and sites in the vicinity. As one of Jake's students wrote, "Put the peduncle in." I think that more or less sums it up.

"Spent 50 yuan at the door hired an artificial explanation, is pretty good." Not bad for an expensive lie.

"Very fate is actually in our house upstairs, I thought. Vacation last week, when specifically requested a person to go to their private kitchens taste, taste really good, chef's knife is superb." I think there's some cannibalism afoot. 

"We especially like their home Suannibairou and guppy." Who doesn't like guppy?

"Food taste good, color is very pretty and more refined. It seems to eat up all people very satisfied. Oh, ate a dinner talk to ten at night, huh, huh, like this one!" I think there's some musical cannibalism afoot.

"Each dish is vegetarian, each dish has meat, the name of each dish let us sit in half a day." Thoroughly perplexed.

"Did not eat, you can try the next." Will do.

"My husband does not like mushrooms so drained away. I'll go along with mushroom lovers once." Why not twice?

"Too adorable baby panda is too cute. I feel so happy baby panda." This one slays me.

"Panda is active when the best time to see them with friends and two people through the rain to see a panda, see them naive look, feel onwards Kazakhstan is also worth drops early." Onwards and upwards, Kazakhstan! 

"There are a lot of fish and peacocks ruthless, the panda is very deep, naive, lack some sleeping inside address identifies the signs are very clear, it may not be a big loss." If it dies?

"Panda cute. Suitable for use with dolls together." I've always thought so.

"Visit the museum to see 3 points 7 points to listen." Got it.

"Overall, nothing special. Very recommended." For those of us striving for mediocrity. 

"Also watched a movie with a baby, movie hall, a total of only three individuals, already afraid, plus too loud, began to shake the seat motionless, afraid the baby frightened, hurried out, the two flower 40 million watched it three minutes worth ah! Do not look at the future with the baby still recommend this movie, huh, huh! Visit to the exhibition hall, outdoor play, there are bridges and sand and pebbles." Feel like I'm in some else's acid dream, huh, huh.

"Well managed, there is no secular coins odor. Very elegant place, no tickets, no hawkers everywhere selling incense, only volunteer aunt who, hehe, to the inside felt his heart very quiet." I was relieved there was no secular coin smell, but then it got ominous...

"Rub hear that there are really too great, for Li Bingpei service was five-body cast." FIVE-body cast?!

"There is nothing greater than this? Hate to be fooled guide." #Searching for Something Better

"Play down, I feel like a general." New tag line, I think.

"Moreover, the staff so fierce, but also ferocious sentence: It's not like you ah! Alas, I did not do is that you? Who boring to play pretend ah." Who? Who?! I demand to know. <-- Ferocious sentence.

"I think it means nothing. Park place to eat too, are more expensive and unpalatable Hamburg, Sausage like the relatively poor." Class warfare. 

Jiao Shan

"Here, further up the mountain slope than there was ever any hope..." - Robert Frost

Photo by Paul Wisenborn
Jiao Shan towers overs Shanhaiguan, a formidable force and show of strength, prowess, history. The entrance to the mountain is just a short, 20 minute walk from Shanhaiguan, a once-walled, defensive frontier now a sleepy home to countless stray dogs. A busy, old restaurant, that has been on the same site for 100 years and advertises "No Smonking" serves one daily type of jiaozi and myriad vegetarian dishes, including a tasteless porridge, nearly as yellow as corn. After lunch, the walk to Jiao Shan takes you from the quiet, ancient town down a mountain road that feels a world away from the incessant horn-honking and brake screeching of Qinhuangdao. Sunflowers, corn, and vegetable gardens wall the streets, snakes slither and toads tittle by the roadside, and spiders grow to the size of your hand, spinning webs of legendary proportions. The mountain is in the distance and the Wall snakes up it like a dragon. You think it looks steep, but not too difficult. You are about to be proven wrong.

The first ascent up Jiao Shan is typical of any other Great Wall site: vendors hawking hats, beads, and "waterbeerjuiceicecream" all vie for your attention. Stepping onto the Wall the first thing you notice is the height: steep and formidable. It's a wonder people ever traversed it, never mind built it. Russian graffiti is chalked onto some areas of the Wall and signs posted every so often warn "No Running," as if you could anyway. Even the heartiest among us looked like he was fighting against a non-existent wind as he lunged up the abrupt incline.

Jiao Shan, at least the newer, reconstructed part, comes with its own peculiar, unpleasant smell, different to the peculiar, unpleasant smells of the city. Likely the fumes from one of China's plentiful factories, the air stinks of a mixture of wet cat food and cat pee that has been set ablaze. Even breathing through your mouth doesn't quite eliminate the permeating aroma.

But then the reconstruction ends and you're left with a literal blockade. A Wall to climb. A once-fortress to conquer. On your left is the ground and the steep safety of the Old Wall. To your left is the far away ground. Ahead of you is remnants of the Old Wall, untouched, unaltered, uneven, and tremendously beautiful. Your friend says, "This part is a little treacherous" and hops over the wall, standing atop the fortress. You're only 5'3" and the Wall comes up to your armpit. On your first attempt, you sink back to the left, feeling that too much momentum - or what you think is the necessary momentum - will send you plunging to the right, so you send two or three people ahead of you. On your second attempt, your knee scrapes the wall and bruises, but you stay low, hold steady, and shimmy, rather ungracefully, to the other side, whether the going gets really tough.

Remarkably, though, the minute you hit the other side, the flaming cat pee-food smell disappears. In its wake is fresher air - not fresh, fresher - and the original long and winding road. It's not an easy journey. It's up and away and rocks and stairs with enormous steps, but the top is in view, even on this hazy day. You lead some, then you follow some, then you reach the top and realize that you can't see for miles, but what you can see are eerie silhouettes of lakes and rocks below you and an impenetrable mountain in the distance. You don't lean over the edge - the fall is too far - but you watch from a respectable distance as your friends shimmy up a huge boulder that seems to just give way to an abyss. Everything at the top is quiet, except the distinctive noise of a baseball bat hitting a rock off the edge of the world. But there is no city. There are only the mountains, the sky, the lake, the Wall, the above, the below.

On the way down, you stop at a Buddhist monastery where friendly dogs, one young and chipper, the other older looking with a disgruntled underbite, greet you and show you around. In the center of the monastery is an immense willow weighted down with wishes strewn on red ribbons tied around its ancient trunk.

The walk down is easier, but still not easy. It's a steep path that puts
pressure on your toes as they collide with the tip of your shoes. The Wall is to your left and you are under its protection. You know you're almost down when that permeating stench returns, before things even begin looking flat again. You're back to where you started - back on earth, ready to traverse the quiet road back to Shanhaiguan and then back to the city, leaving behind you a mountain taciturn and allegiant.