Monday, March 31, 2008

West Lake

The land of his birth, we will tell our son, is beautiful.

Today we explored West Lake by boat and on foot, walking through gardens on one of the man-made islands.

West Lake is huge, bordered on some sides by the city and on others by misty forests. It is graced everywhere with weeping willows and blossoming trees in the full bloom of spring. You can also see many ornate pagodas and peacocks, even albino ones.

It seems to be perpetually covered in fog, but maybe this is appropriate. Apparently in Chinese landscape art, they often paint fog or mist because they believe that some of the beauty should remain a mystery.

After West Lake, we visited a tea village in the mountains. Here they make Dragon Well Tea, an organic green tea that is considered the best tea in all of China and one of the best in the world. The entire process, harvesting, drying, and packaging, is all done by hand.

There are different grades of the tea, depending on what time of year it is harvested. This is peak time right now and the tea being harvested today is called Emperor's Tea because the quality (and the price) is the highest all year.

After showing us some of the different grades of tea for comparison, our guide began telling us the different prices and took one of the baskets out. "We won't sell that because the quality is so low, " she said wrinkling her nose. "We will just bag it up and export it." In other words, the stuff you buy in America is our reject tea.

She also extolled the virtues of this tea for many other things, including helping you get rid of dry eyes. Since we've been in China everything they have tried to sell us - from tea to silk, to jade bracelets -everything supposedly has a health benefit in addition to its ascetic value. It will cure insomnia, get the toxins out of your body, make your skin beautiful... If we bought everything they are trying to sell us, maybe we would live forever.

We had a nice lunch at a restaurant looking out on the lake. Phil and Joshua provided some entertainment with the chopsticks while we waited.

Talent like that and about 30 yuan will get you fried snake head slices and pigeon blood soup. We decided to skip those and opted instead for the local specialty of beggars chicken and root of lotus flower, which were both very good.

Joshua is warming up to me very slowly, and I think he was happy to discover that I was willing to play every baby's favorite game: drop a toy, mom picks it up, drop it again, and repeat 200 times.

Tonight he had a great time running all over the hallway laughing, and he has been babbling a lot more for us. When he gets upset he does this little thing with his hands, pulling on his fingers. I think it must be a self-soothing trick he taught himself in the orphanage.

He can also throw terrific fits, falling on the ground kicking his feet. We got our disposable camera from the orphanage developed today and it was basically 20 pictures of him with the same somber look that he had the other day. I will take temper tantrums over a constant blank stare any day.

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