15 December 2007
Subject: Logistician, Singer, Songwriter, Queen


I'd wanted to go to the nearby hot springs, called Ri Yue Gu, but I'd been waiting for Mitch, who I had assumed had gone before, to go with me and show me the way. After he put off the outing for two expectant weekends in a row I decided to set off on my own and asked Mitch several times how to get there. He kept hedging with "Uh, well, you just go to a place and take the bus." What place? "A couple of places." What bus? "You just have to get on the van." While this seems glaringly apparent to Mr. Valentine, SOME OF US need explicit directions and don't just trust in the Universe to carry us places we need to be. "Just get on the van?" No, that's completely wrong. In fact, I don't know how he proposes to get there that way.

The correct way to get to Ri Yue Gu is as detailed: From our flat in Bai Cheng, you can take the number 501 bus to the train station. From there you might need to hire a cab to take you to the Lushan Hotel, in case you don't know where it is. When you arrive, it will then be appropriate to serve as a judge for an English competition, a position which you will need to have prearranged with a friend of a friend from your second job in Xiamen. After a couple hours of giving marks to adorable four-year-olds reciting stories they've memorized and a funny passage about a bear who figures out that the reason he has a pocket is for his worm friend to live in it, (which you will hear not once, but no less than five times in a row), you will get paid 200 rmb in cash. Collect the coins and get a 1UP which you'll need to pass the next level. After presenting the awards, you can take the 27 bus to SM, a mega shopping mall. At this point, you'll need a well-meaning interloper to interrupt your interrogation of a soldier and authoritatively tell you that you need to take the 54 bus to Ri Yue Gu. After boarding and heading down the road a ways, a young couple will help you discover that the bus is not, in fact, going to Ri Yue Gu, and that you should de-board at Jimei. At Jimei, you can wait for the 532 bus for a while, in accordance with the information from the couple, though that's a fake bus number. The real bus number is 534, but you're not actually waiting at the correct bus stop. Nor is that bus going to go where you want to go. So what you'll need to do is pay a woman three rmb to take you in her tricycle taxi towards the 534 bus stop until you mention where your final destination is meant to be, whereupon she will immediately turn across six lanes of traffic and deliver you safely to the other side of the road, directly opposite where you were just standing. There you will find an un-labled bus (which secretly has the number 369) off the city system, and the taxi lady will get them to promise to take you to Ri Yue Gu. You will start going really far out of the city, and don't be alarmed when you see the goats-- this is normal. After a disconcertingly long time, you will, in fact, arrive at Ri Yue Gu. Well, close enough to see the sign. On your walk over, it is auspicious to see a bactrian camel chowing down while defecating and tied to what appears to be a large gypsy wagon parked on the sidewalk. The gypsy children will think it is equally auspicious and curious to see, from their rag-curtained apertures, a bona fide laowai walking down the street, and the tinkling of their laughter will awaken their sleeping adults, who will mumble drowsy incantations to induce silence. Finally you will arrive at Ri Yue Gu, except it will be Ri Yue Gu Hotel, not Ri Yue Gu Hot Springs. No matter, just approach the reservations desk as if you stay there, and someone will escort you up a bridge across the highway and amble convivially down the road a ways. You will then arrive at the hot springs, which will be Ri Yue Gu Actual.

While there, a fish bit my nose! I wasn't sure what it was trying to tell me at first, so I let it bite my nose several times. Was it telling me it loves me? See, I bathed in a pool of warmish water populated with thousands of hot spring fish that swarmed around our bodies and ticklishly bit and sucked at our water-slogged sloughing skin. Once I was able to stop giggling, I was very still and quiet and attracted a large portion of them over to my corner, where they unabashedly ravaged my flesh the best they could without teeth. That was the highlight of my experience, but I also bathed in separate hot pools of coffee, red wine, beer, yellow rice wine, rosemary, lavender, lily, lemongrass, mint, ginger, curry, milk, pineapple, ginseng, oolong tea, green tea, and flower tea. I also enjoyed some swimming pools with extremely forceful jets of cold water spraying different shapes, perfect for dancing about gleefully with naiadic abandon. There are hot rocks and massages available, and I'm so taking you there when you come visit. I mean, now that I know the correct way there and all.

On the way back, I realized a person can just take the complimentary van that goes directly from Ri Yue Gu to a couple of places on Xiamen island, including SM and the ferry port. However, if your bus breaks down while crossing the main bridge, you will be stuck for a while because it's forbidden to walk on the bridge. Also, it's impossible to catch a city bus as they only stop at proper stops. The taxis that go by are few and far between, and are usually engaged. So it will imperative to befriend a capable girl named Ea who will have a friend needing to get to the bus station, and she'll call another friend to arrange a pick-up and invite you to go with. Don't expect a personal car; it will be a Norwegian who's hired a taxi to come pick you up. During the taxi ride, it is prudent to provide the Scandinavian with the contact information of another Scandinavian in town, that they may arrange some lucrative Scandinavian alliance in the business realm. When you get to the bus station, you'll need to walk down the road a ways to a bus stop off the main beat, parse the bus route listings, and start waiting for the 616 bus, which ostensibly goes to XiaDa Bai Cheng. While the 616 does in fact go there, it might not be a popular route at that time of night, so don't worry if you stand there for almost half an hour and all the other buses arrive and depart twice. This is only to facilitate meeting Cicil, who should have been standing next to you by that point. After conversing about buses in Chinese and deciding to take the next bus to the train station, you can then switch to English and become bosom buddies. After boarding the 522, it's then a classic activity to listen to her music together, each using one of her earbuds. At this point, she might confess to you that you are the first foreigner she's ever had a conversation with, and this is the first time she's genuinely used the English that she's been studying all of her life. But don't believe her, because I was already her first. So at the train station you can catch the number 22 bus towards XiaDa and bid her aurevoir at her stop, de-boarding only when you safely arrive across from XiaDa Ximen. Here a fresh strawberry juice is recommended after the travails of your travels, and then you can take any number of buses back to Bai Cheng, or walk, as I do. If you walk across campus and get to the one-story-tall gate that's inevitably locked at late hours, (the gate I always scale), it might be of interest to note that there is a hole in the gate large enough to just step through. If you have breasts larger than 34D, you might have to do a few minor contortions of the flesh to squeeze through, but it's more convenient than climbing. And voila, your round trip is complete! Apparently, all we need to do is just trust in the Universe to carry us where we need to be.

I'm going to be in a school play next week! I've been asked to be the Queen in "The Emperor's New Clothes" where I'll be playing opposite the Emperor, a flowery man who is either our school choreographer, P.E. teacher, dance costume designer, or an English teacher-- I haven't figured it out yet. We've gone through several rehearsals, and my original two lines have mysteriously expanded into several paragraphs. The play is in Chinglish, and it's a challenge for me to stick to the script: "The cloth is of possess the marvelous quality to be invisible..." where I want to insert a gaggle of gerunds in the style of Russianglish dialogue. Anyway, I've been professionally measured and the school tailors are making me a dress, no joke. It's a hullabaloo around school, what with the anniversary of the school's founding, getting out of classes, and seeing the Magnificent Molihua perform for them in the school musical. Wait, school musical?! They expect me to sing in Chinese interludes between Chinglish scenes? Er, I think I need a big fan to look regal and cover my face and hide when the musical numbers happen. Crackling Crikeyberries on a Christmas Stick!

I've resorted to original songwriting in order to satisfy the demands of high-caliber pedagogical material for my youngest students. I've composed a stunning debut ditty, a Cacophony for Thirty Plaintive Voices, each voice in its own key subtly woven between E sharp and F flat, with interpretive harmonies between C flat and B sharp.The final crescendo is a swelling wavering on a sliding scale-- more of a sustained 13th than anything else. It is sung a capella, which ordinarily refers to "without instruments, in the style of the chapel," but in this case a-capella means "without the goat, in a somewhat sheepish and hoarse-throated manner." The libretto is of gapingly deep profundity, but I think with each subsequent recital, the listener can get more out of it. Basically, the piece is about the confusion we feel at finding placement in our world, where we are in relation to others, and the development we go through as we change our perspectives. It also touches on the corporeal growth process, aging and morbidity, and the magic of having fingers. Allow me to present it here for the first time in print:

(FORTISSIMO, hyper-allegro-genic)
In, on, under;
in, on under!
One finger, in my hand,
Two fingers, on my hand,
Three fingers, under my hand.
In, on, under,
In, on under;
Three fingers, under my hand,
Two fingers, on my hand,
One finger, in my hand.
In, on, under;
In, on, under! (bis)
It's a strange feeling to suddenly spring into the top of the First Grade charts among longtime favourites like "Apple, Apple" and "1,2,3,4,5 What's Your Name?" but I'm handling the notoriety fairly well. I wave kindly at the swarms of kids who scream "Mooooooooolliiiiiiiiiiii" as I minimize their grabbing at my clothing while walking down the hallways. I magnanimously greet individuals who make a particular fuss over me and nod and smile at all the others. "In, On, Under" is a smash hit, and the kids don't even know it's something I Made Up Myself(tm)! How they would paw at me if they suspected! Next week, I plan to further my pop-star career with some covers of common Christmas songs. I'll have to get permission from Trad and Anon first, but I think there's a bright future in our collaboration.

All this was just a clever ploy to inform you that new pictures are ready for your viewing pleasure in the usual haunt:
And tucked away as a special treat for only those of you who read this:

Magnanimous Jostling Moshpit of Shoulder-Bumps and Clothing-Grabs!
H.R.M. Molly

P.S. Your letters should start flapping in to roost about now. Please notice, my return address area is filled with dross and /not actually my return address/! I hear that a young friend tried to send me a letter by transcribing my "molihua zai zhonggua" characters, but it got returned. A disappointment for sure, though it's fist-bitingly cute. If you would like to write me paper letters, please use the mailing label supplied on the site: mollybee.org/china/yingcai.jpg as I've been able to receive mail with it (ah, and include my name).