While some did schoolwork, some finished up last minute activities before leaving. The Monday before departing the group visited Henry Park Elementary School where a few of us taught the kids handshakes and received warming smiles. A talk about the school reiterated a lot of what we learned in the class on Singapore but was interesting to see policy in action.
On Wednesday the 5th we made an early start for China. I think I heard a hundred times ebullient expressions like, “We’re actually in China. I mean China!” Or maybe I said that so many times I thought it was someone else. But I mean, it is China!
A talk Thursday morning informed us about the relationship of China’s southernmost province to surrounding provinces and Southeast Asia. With this knowledge in mind, we ventured about an hour away from the city which many found quite polluted and crowded to American standards to the Stone Forest, for me, the a major highlight of the trip to China. It is an area of limestone plateaus which drain beneath the rock instead of one the surface known as karst formations, most likely caused by acid rain.
Nonetheless, the Stone Forest was beautiful. There are trails one could take through the Stone Forest which spanned hectares across the Yunnan countryside but finding a quiet spot away from the commercialism was a chore. However, we were able to get away, coming upon a plateau from which we could see the park and the Chinese hinterland where I thought of Emerson who said, (paraphrased) “Miller owns this plot and Johnson this one, but no one owns the landscape.”
After a while, I found a spot by myself to meditate calmed fortunately by a breeze. One of the themes on the trip is to consider how Western perceptions of Asia influence our actions while here; so I asked myself if meditating in nature in China fulfilled a fantasy of the mysterious East. Either way, I couldn’t appreciate more the landscape and the day’s experience.