Three Days, Three Years

So as I think I said, I was away these past three days on a program trip to Dandong, practically the same one that I took three years ago.  For this post I’m going to try putting all the pictures in where they’re relevant as opposed to at the end as normal.  Like it better?  Like it less?  Let me know.  Before I get into the details, I’d like to share some related thoughts I’ve been having.

The crux of it is, I feel more detached from my 20 year old self than I thought I would.  I know all sorts of ins and outs of Harbin, everything is where it should be, I can find my way around quite easily, and nothing fazes me, which makes sense considering I lived here for over half of my twentieth year of life.  The odd thing that I can’t quite articulate, is that I feel like although I’m back in the same physical space I was three years ago (same bed even), I appear to be in a very different emotional space, meaning I feel like a completely different person.  Which again, is what you would expect, we get older, we change (hopefully for the better), we become new people.  I just didn’t expect it to be so…extreme, especially against this Manchurian backdrop that throws it all into bright relief.

So not sure what to glean from this, just something on my mind that I wanted to throw out there.

Moving on, I’m noticing a trend for China, 2016 which seems to be foggy versions of places I’ve been before.  Back in February I mentioned how my second trip to Dujiangyan in Sichuan was a completely different experience with the rainy weather, and this time in Dandong was similar.  I’ll dig through my pictures to find the ones from three years ago and do a bit of a comparison.

So a brief overview of our itinerary.  We took a sleeper train to Dandong, which is China’s main link to North Korea and located in Liaoning, the southernmost westernmost province of the three northeastern ones that make up Dongbei.  Tons of trucks loaded with aid and exports cross the bridge everyday to NK while some imports come back.   The difference between the Chinese and Korean banks of the Yalu River (which has been a de-facto border between the two for millenia through the various ) is stark to say the least.  There’s development right up to the water on the Chinese side, while the North Korean side has a disused amusement park, a factory and scattered buildings. The bridge that just kinda ends was bombed by the allies in the Korean War and it’s stayed that way.

Keep in mind that I was informed the actual border city is removed from the bank by several kilometers both to discourage swimming across and keep it hidden from outside observers.

The first temporal comparison picture is this one what my mom shared three years ago with the caption “Meanwhile, somewhere in Northeast China, my son Jake is clearly thriving.”  Yes mom, yes I am, love you.

It was taken at Dagu mountain, a holy mountain to both Buddhists and Daoists.  We spent about two hours there perusing the temples and sites of the mountain.  A bit different with the overcast sky, and this statue to Lao Tzu on a bull that was just on a concrete platform last time I was here.  One of the shrines was built into the cliff too, thought that was cool.

Side-tangent about entitlement:  I don’t mean privileged entitlement, I mean all humans’ tendency to see completely arbitrary things as “ours”.  For example, my Chinese given name means cypress, and ever since I learned that I’ve felt a sort of connection to or “ownership” of cypress trees.  And for no good reason, it was arbitrarily given me by my first Chinese teacher because it was homophonic with my English name.  Doesn’t stop me from liking and taking pictures of cypress trees though. The same goes for my Chinese last name, Jia, which I’ve also taken to thinking of as “mine” and feeling an instinctual kinship with other people of that surname despite there being no reason to.  (I suppose here would be if that first teacher had been surnamed Jia as well, but she wasn’t)


Back on topic, we then drove to 冰峪沟 (bing yu gou, lit. ice valley), one of Liaoning’s national parks and stayed in a farmstead the night before we went to see it.  Nice place, great dinner, and a bonfire where we introduced the roommates who came along to s’mores.  The whole roast lamb we had last time was sadly absent, but I was full enough as was.

Woke up the next morning and went on a short walk.  Gotta say I really welcomed the fog this time.  The presence of genuine fog over smog is so rare in the parts of China I frequent that its amazing to see the real thing.  Reminds you of the many faces of China too.  Enjoy the serene photos, and try to ignore the plastic bag in the first one.

On to 冰峪沟.  It reminds me a lot of Chinese Hetch-hetchy, and yes I know I compare everything to that, but its beautiful and I love it dammit.  I can’t say much about the history of the park, but while it’s got a lot of stands, activities, and people harassing you to take part in said amusements, it’s still gorgeous.  Here’s some pics from the last time I went and climbed one of the peaks.

This time around though I went with a group of peeps and just sat in the river for an hour of so which was great.  Brought me back to camp, where the rush of running water lulled you to sleep each night.  Crystal clear water (again a rarity in China), some relaxing hopping amongst the river rocks, such a treat.

That reminds me I don’t think I’ve shared my translation of the Camp song, so here’s that.







And the original:

There’s no place like Camp Tuolumne
There’s no spot that I would rather be
The swimming’s fine, the meals are great
Folks who come their joys relate

So come along to fish, to swim, to rest
Or to go to points of interest
And so, my friends the fun is here,
At Tuolumne

Lullaby, and goodnight,
With roses be tied
With lilies all aspread,
Over baby’s sweet head
Lay me down now and rest
May your slumber be blessed
Lay me down now and rest
May your slumber be blessed

Lullaby, and goodnight,
Hear the tall pine trees sighing
Friendly faces all aglow,
As our campfire burns low
We will miss you they say,
When they’ve all gone away
May God hasten the day,
When you pass again our way.

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the streams, from the trees, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
Camp is nigh

Now run along and jump into bed,
Say your prayers and cover your head
The very last thing I’ll say to you,
Is you dream of me, and I’ll dream of you

Lastly, back to Dandong for some tasty Korean food and a bullet train home!  Longer than normal post, hope you enjoyed.  Homework today and back to class tomorrow!  Final set of pictures which is mostly the great wall segment.


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