Monday, November 18, 2013

November 3, Yangtze River

I have never had such a sense of the malleability of the earth as I do today. Even with strongly overcast weather, as usual a lot of it due to air pollution, it is possible to see the vision of the Chinese in changing the face of the earth here to an unimaginable extent by flooding the river about 200 feet higher than before, far upstream from the dam. On one side is green hill --

 and on the other is the relocation city built to absorb the people who have been flooded out.

Sometimes even buildings that were above the new water level are abandoned.

Occasionally we pass industrial areas, but mostly it's green hills and developed areas.

 Unlike all the other parts of China I've been where care has been taken to make the enormous apartment towers somewhat visually interesting, here it often seems that speed in building them was uppermost. They look soulless in their monotonous uniformity, and I strongly doubt they were well built.  Even worse, what do all these farmers do for a living -- and with their lives -- when they no longer live on farmland?

About every half-kilometer or so there is a buoy – in a boat, for some reason – marking the channel. Red lights on them blink at night.  Given the length of the Yangtze River, imagine how many of these there must be!

The freighters we've passed have usually been empty, returning from delivering their cargo upstream. They often have multiple stories in the back, and sometimes, like this one, air conditioners.

The river here is wide, probably a couple of kilometers wide, obviously much wider than before the dam. We passed under a cable-stayed bridge across the river.

As I write this, about 6 PM, we are passing hillsides with small houses. I am looking for gleams of light, perhaps from lanterns, but see few. The cities, however, blaze with light. I have spent just about the entire day watching the country flow past me, mostly alone and quiet. I realize I am a little lonely: people in the group are pleasant, but either I haven't been in a mood to draw them out or they are not much more than pleasant. Or I've felt they have each other and might not welcome someone else. Or maybe I am just tired of their company! An odd time.

After dinner I spoke with a 52-year-old Australian man whose marriage ended a few years ago and a couple of months ago he lost most of his millions in business reversals. After spending a few days in despair he decided to run away and is taking months, and obviously with enough remaining money, backpacking around Asia to regain perspective on his life. Like stories I've read about people who survived cancer and say their lives are the better for it, he is coming to this conclusion as well. It is a relief to hear something real for a change.

Apparently it is de rigueur for an excursion like this to have a floor show for the customers after dinner. Another spectacle, heavy on the elaborate costumes, with the “cast” the crew of the boat, responsible for serving meals, cleaning rooms, and entertaining the customers whom they heavily outnumber. For all I know they wash the dishes too.

Enough. I left early.

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