Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Inner Mongolia: Day 1 (part 1)

Start of the journey ~ A stop ~ Lunch ~ Grasslands ~ Father ~ Magnificence ~ Buying-place of the cowboy hats ~ The reason for this trip ~ Archery ~ Sunset
The skies were impossibly blue, the clouds much too low. That's my lasting impression of Day 1, where I slept hardly a quiver the night before due to a College Basketball Encyclopedia deadline yet still outlasted the bonfire; where, sustained by baijiu, I stood in a massage parlor with an aghast grin on my face and the image of clouds, now metallic bronze in the dark dim but just hours before perfectly white in an impossibly blue sky.

An un-refurbished part of the Great Wall

The Grasslands of Inner Mongolia; 乌兰布统草原

I bought three cowboy hats here for 10 RMB each.

The reason for this trip was a college reunion. Both my parents were graduates of Beida -- Beijing University -- and both were part of the inaugural class to resume schooling following the Cultural Revolution. (In case you're wondering: both went through rural reeducation.)

The class, of 80 people, is remarkable in many ways, not least of which because they are forever connected by history: the first class to rise out of the mess that was Mao's war against intellectualism; the first intellectuals, from all walks of life, all parts of the country (Inner Mongolia included), from all backgrounds -- forever melded together.

Most of the graduates went on to immensely successful careers -- there are legitimate billionaires in the group, as well as activists and dissidents -- but when they're together, nothing but their shared experience matters: not wealth, not status. I don't mean to say the old classmates tiptoed on glass around one another; on the contrary, they teased, they heckled, they shouted over each other, laughed over each other, forcibly gave their opinions, lunged and parried. What I do want to express is how unique this class reunion is; not all 80 could make it, but those who did might have made even the most sociable of folks green with envy.

Through it all, they took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

The tourist stop, with archery. My first two hit just outside the inner circle. My next two missed the target.
Goodbye. You've been good to us. But everyone has his time.

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