Monday, June 12, 2006

Sundays are brilliant. Lazy, slow, wide open to possibilities...

Wake up whenever your eyes open. Wander to the toilet/shower (one and the same in your little abode), squat, and think about the day ahead. Oh! You found cheese at the market the other day! Celebrate by making omelets and eating them deftly (as you do everything) with chopsticks. Put on a new red dress, pop open an umbrella for shade from the sun, and grab Kate and a cab. Off to the fish markets!

Ooooh everything squirms in little tubs. Chicken carcasses hang in a row...both graceful and grotesque. A toddler with a bare bum (the norm. think: pants with a little square cut out in the back) is fascinated by the duck head he has found in a nearby stall. Neither mother nor stall owner seem concerned with his activities. A kitten darts between the legs of old men playing cards. The smells of fish and blood and people hang in the air. Whew! Out to the open market.

Here: flowers! bags! hats! A China swept away with consumerism. We are the only white faces on this bustling street of shoppers, save the rows and rows of Caucasian mannequins modeling either the tops or bottoms of the latest fashions. (but rarely both. makes you blush for no apparent reason.) Skip the textiles, head for the cool water bottles.

Off to the Wuhou Temple in the Tibetan quarter of town. An ancient, serene place with paths winding in and out of temples and bamboo forests, with heady incense in the air and glimmering gold/orange/copper/ivory fish in the streams. It is shocking to find this oasis in the middle of a 4 million-person city. The architecture is whimsical in the manner of what a more curvaceous Frank Lloyd Wright piece might look like. Squares and rectangles stack together, up and up, before spiraling out into a swirl of a rooftop, or calligraphy, or a circular door. An employee with a woven hat and blue tunic re-lights the incense while a Chinese tourist prays on a red cushion.

Outside: the closest you've come to Tibet. Prayer flags flutter, shops overflow with silver and beads and woven garments. Monks draped in crimson and gold wander down the street fingering their prayer beads, then surprise you as they hop into cabs. The western edge of Sichuan Province is indeed a former territory of Tibet...and part of that culture has seeped into this Chengdu neighborhood. Eat up every detail and keep yourself from purchasing it all. (But ____ would LOVE this!!! Fill in the blank with the name of just about every person you know.) Wander up and down the rows for as long as you now-tiring feet will allow.

The day is done. Head home with a camera full of red incense, gold calligraphy characters, deep brown-black temples, green and tan shoots, and your stunned/enthralled/freckly face. An exemplary Sunday.