Blue Skies,Part 2
I truly enjoy taking pictures of fruits and vegetables. They are very cooperative models who don't squirm or blink, and they always look good, especially in group portraits like this one taken in Dali, China within an hour of my arrival at the hotel. I shot this photograph on my way down a street with Tain in search of noodles to eat for lunch. Here's a picture of the guy standing over the steaming kettle where he cooked individual portions of noodles, bowl by bowl.
|You can see a bowl sized portion of noodles waiting to go into the pot sitting in front of the kettle.|
Those hot noodles were placed into a larger bowl along with some broth, something like pulled pork and some other tasting meat trimmings, and handed to us to take to what I thought of as the "fixings table" which had various vegetables and spices to mix in to our noodle bowls. Was it good? It was so good that I went back there for dinner the same day.
Now, before you jump to any conclusions, no, we didn't hop off the train from Lijiang and go immediately in search of food in Dali. From the train station, we took a bus ride through the city of Dali to the hotel where our meetings would be taking place. Sitting out on the porch of the hotel was the guest speaker for our meetings, Brian Lange, who had flown all the way from America to join us. He was planning to head out just then to ride a horse up one the the mountains not far from the hotel. I declined to go, and was glad I did, since later he said he couldn't get the smell of horse off him. I had known Brian Lange from our time working together in America, so it was wonderful to see him again after nearly six months, but not so wonderful that I wanted to skip noodles to ride a smelly horse...
Noodles consumed, we walked down the streets of Old Town Dali which were not as pristine as the streets of Old Town Lijiang. If I were to compare the two, I'd have to say that Old Town Lijiang was like a Disney version of Old Town Dali, like when you visit some of the "countries" at Epcot Center. Lijiang was definitely into presenting a postcard perfect image of itself, and even had some of the same stores selling the same stuff everywhere you went, and we often heard the same traditional music playing wherever we went. There were colorful native people dressed in traditional clothing who were available to take pictures with you, and the place was always being cleaned. Old Town Dali had no such pretensions. It sold many of the same things as Lijiang, but it didn't seem as programmed or calculated as Lijiang, which was designed to provide tourists with beautiful memories and plenty of opportunities to spend your tourist cash. Dali wanted our money too, but wasn't going to sell itself as Shangri La to get it. Here's a picture I had to take in Dali for my mom, since my sister's children call her Mimi.
I think this place was mimicking the golden arches of McDonald's. Some of the things they sold there were similar, but different, from the hamburger chain. I wanted an ice cream, but they had just sold out.
Further on, we came across a man hand squeezing orange juice and pomegranate juice, so we bought some. I got half and half.
Dawn and I walked up a street and found a coffee shop called Hello, Dali!
It was being run but an American couple on behalf of a Chinese owner, and here we discovered homemade ice cream, freshly baked brownies and other goodies from the oven, and non-instant coffee. Dawn got herself an Americano and a peanut butter cup brownie and relaxed.
We had a good experience and promised the cheerful owner that we'd be back and that we'd recommend this place to our friends. A few days later, I passed Dawn in the street. She had just been to Hello, Dali! with friends and I was bringing friends there with me. In the shop, we met other people we knew. The owner was busy, busy, busy thanks to us that day. It made a good informal rap hangout.
|Flowers in the hotel courtyard|
Back at the hotel, I met my roommate for the next few days who would also be attending the meetings. He had just gotten over being sick, but he assured me he was well now and I had nothing to fear. Hmmm...
|A restful place to eat dinner one night in Dali|
That evening, the first meeting took place. It was New Year's Eve, so the meeting started off in a celebratory mood with some singing by the attendees and by the daughter of the meeting's organizer. We were not allowed to take pictures of the hotel or the meetings, so I have nothing to show you. That evening's keynote address was delivered by Brian Lange who made reference to the well-known twenty-third psalm written by David. A key thought from his message to us was that freedom from all want could only be found in one Person, and that this was something that we all can experience in our lives by coming to know the Shepherd of our souls. That evening, two people heard this message and believed. What a way to start a new year!
|Clouds on Dali's mountains|
In the days of meetings that followed, other men spoke to us, encouraging us, motivating and challenging us, sometimes causing us to laugh, sometimes causing us to examine our hearts, always causing us to appreciate our mission and the One who laid down his life so that we could experience the benefits and power of following the message He gave us which enables us to serve others. One speaker emphasized dogmatically that there is no other message but grace for the age we live in. At times, men and women met separately for instruction and admonition, but the men were invited to attend a women's meeting where Brian Lange spoke on the vital role women play, so that men would know and appreciate them and their service. I was invited to speak one afternoon on education, and I would love to see our organization involved with education in China some day.
|Some Chinese kids who let me take their picture when I found them hanging out on the hotel roof.|
As the days of meetings went on, I found myself feeling weary and unwell. The day I was scheduled to speak, I had an upset stomach and body aches, so I attended the morning meeting, skipped all meals, spoke at my meeting, and attended the evening session. I must say that there were some very entertaining people at our meetings, some of whom performed skits that tickled our funny bones with their antics and touched our hearts with their themes. Sometimes people understand things more concretely when they see them acted out. I didn't want to miss any meetings for fear of missing one of these skits.
|Blue skies over Dali (the clouds rolled away)|
The day our departure from Dali, I thought I was feeling better, and I enjoyed the bus ride back to Kunming and a meal at Burger King near the hotel.
The next day, Tain slept for a long while, so I went out shopping and bought some lightweight thermal underwear to wear back in wintry Seoul. I came across a truly giant panda on my outing.
I thought I was feeling pretty well, so I ate some pizza at the Pizza Hut next to the hotel.
|Just a little pan pizza|
This is not the most glorious ending to my long journeys, but it is what happened. I took a taxi to the airport, flew to Shanghai, stayed and slept in the airport while Dawn and Tain visited the city on our 7 hour layover wondering if I had somehow contracted the ebola virus and was soon to be quarantined, and later boarded the flight to Seoul, managed to avoid quarantine, and went to Tain's house for a good night's rest. It was great to get up the next morning and jump into the van with Tain, Pastor DeVries, and Thomas Staalesen to pick up Dawn and Lydia and go to Bible college where Petros, Sujin, Samuel, Hannah, John, Helen, and others awaited us in Old Testament Historical Books class.
I wish I had more pictures and detail of our meeting times and attendees in Dali, but I took few pictures and don't think it wise to disclose some of those other details in this blog for the sake of the confidentiality of the people who were there. I hope to return to Kunming to see some of my new Chinese friends and to eat again without such unfortunate results. Jackie Chan and I wish you a blessed day.