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Meggan Badin

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Xi’an, China

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90 jours! Au delà de nos petites différences, au delà de quelques accrochages mineurs, nous nous avons été les deux étonnés de la facilité de nos relations, de la douceur des rapports et de la facilité de nos décisions. Kim ne souffre pas d’être bousculé ; il faut lui donner le temps de trouver la bonne voie. Si au début du voyage le choix tardait à venir, au fur et à mesure de notre périple, il effectuait de plus en plus vite ses décisions. Son calme naturel devant toute situation lui rendait l’analyse des problèmes plus aisée. Je laissais faire et à la fin, nous avions une entente tacite qui coulait de source.

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J’ignorais exprès ses réactions un peu agressives en restant calme, et les choses rentraient dans l’ordre. Il était étonné de ma flexibilité. Pascale nous posait sans cesse la même question ; « Papa te fait-il des misères ? » J’ai découvert en lui un jeune homme très agréable, ouvert, équilibré et ne tolérant aucune injustice, avec une soif d’équilibre et de justesse dans toute opinion ou traitement.

 

Ce dernier diner que nous faisons à Xi’an (canard délicieux) a permis un échange touchant en confidences de nos attentes et de nos découvertes réciproques. Nous nous sommes découverts. Et je suis aussi fier de lui qu’il a pu l’être de moi. Il a compris ce travail, ce rôle que j’ai su remplir au sein de l’UIA. Il était heureux de voir combien j’étais respecté et aimé par les architectes dans chacun des pays que nous avons traversé. J’étais très heureux de partager tout cela avec lui. Souvent lors de nos conversations, j’ai eu le sentiment de lui transmettre des éléments qui lui serviront toute la vie. Un peu comme les échanges que j’ai moi-même eus avec mon père.

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Xi’an, China

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This was once the terminus of the Silk Road. It is my 4th time here since 1997. Each time sees the change. Even Lonely Planet 2009 announces 4,2 m but now it has 8 m population. The Muslim quarter is totally transformed into souvenir shops and one can hardly recognize the original buildings. Of course the city walls are still there but inside them Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Armani shops set a different scene. We have seen more tourists in one day than the total of the whole of this trip. My last visit to Xi’an was 3 years ago and I had the privilege of being welcomed by the Mayor and the City itself. The City walls gate were open especially for me just like B Clinton. It is a very different story to visit the Terracotta warriors, just the 2 of us among the bus loads of tourists.

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We had a farewell dinner with Julien and Isabelle, the French couple whom we met in Kashgar. We will follow them on their blog.

Wudu-Tianshui, China

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Like any other city the people dance on the main square, from young to the older. Last evening Kim and I got caught and dragged to the dancing floor by an old lady. She would not let us go. The whole crowd were amused and clapped happily after. I think we were the only foreigners in town.

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At the last minute we tried to skip Tianshui and buy a train ticket to Xi’an. But we only managed to get tickets for tomorrow.

Li Jie– Zhouqu – Wudu, China

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Zhouqu! The great thing about Zhouqu is that it resolves the dilemma of dust and mud. You don’t have to choose, you can have both. In fact you can have heat, dust and mud. If there is a city one would not wish to be, it would be here. The whole town is a construction site with not a single road, area which is not being demolished and rebuilt. Some cities are only polluted; here you can add the heat, the noise and the ugliness of the new. The future will be bright and ugly.

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The police work well here in China. We were waited for on our arrival and descent from the minibus in Zhouqu. The policeman in civil was waiting and we were asked to follow him in a small van to a hotel opposite the police station. Soon after an English speaking policewoman joined us in the hotel lobby for the “interview”. Photocopies of passports and visa checks in the most polite way. The lady policeman then accompanied us and paid for the dumplings, then showed us to the bus station. We were advised to be careful for the journey

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I had a haircut, short this time during the 3 hours of bus waiting. The whole staff and their friends turned up to see the foreigners and took the souvenir photos after.

We are off to Wudu and would like to try the same scenario, that is, drop off at a small village.

 

Noise!! This is another cultural issue. In this bus, the driver is like mad crazy with the horn, the screen is projecting a Hong Kong movie loud enough for everyone to follow, passengers talk among themselves from the back of the bus to the front ones, others scream in their phone, while my neighbor blows his chewing gum in my nose and the other can spit his phlegm out of the window. In this cacophony some can sleep.

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Wudu, China

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We arrived 4 hours after and there was no village for us to stop. Wudu is just another big city, all brand new dreaming of a Cote d’Azur destiny along the river banks. No identity, only noise, heat and dust. China is a huge construction site. No stone will be left unturned. They are building everywhere. Railway lines, tunnels, dams, hydroelectric stations, gigantic housing estates, schools, hospitals, roads. Electricity and water is reaching the remotest place. One can imagine what it is to feed and connect 1 billion people. They don’t stop any day of the week.

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Langmusi, China

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We have seen Langmusi well before it changes. It will! Already the 3 000 people village is trying to absorb the influx of the local tourists and the main road is being lined up with souvenir shops, restaurants, cafés and hotels paving the way for more. We had breakfast at Lesha Café where breakfast is served 24h. Yak seems to be omnipresent, yak yoghurt, yak mac and yak dumplings! The monks and nuns look at the few foreigners just like we watch them. Who is watching who? The village surrounding the monastery is more interesting and authentic than the monastery itself.  In a few years one will barely recognize Langmusi. May be a Siem Reap in becoming.

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Toilets in China fall in different categories. The convivial open one where conference can happen. The private conversation type with half height separations allowing chatting. The individual type with private cabins but no doors where one can only show an amicable face. The VIP ones with cabin and doors.

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Langmusi- Tewo – Li Jie

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I am always puzzled by the number of Tibetans living outside Tibet. All the clichés concerning them explode into pieces. One will not believe that we can be woken up be drunk monks, that they can gather together in restaurant private rooms to have large eating parties, that they ride motorcycles. In fact Tibetans are immediately associated with Buddhism and piety. We can hardly think that they can be just human like all of us.

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Li Jie, China

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We decided out of the blue to stop at Li Jie, one hour before Zhouqu. Small village where we were looked at as UFOs. Our walk in the village started with the 2 of us and ended in a whole group of children wishing to take photos with us, an old lady insisting to show us where to sleep, another one asking if we had dinner. We are in deep rural China. People are welcoming and curious. I guess no foreigners had stopped here for years. The hotel was surprisingly comfortable and of good standard. But the reception girl could not figure out our papers and the police wanted more information about us. At the restaurant food was served to us with photos and signs and the waitress was very helpful with useful information for the next morning bus to Zhouqu. Li jie is a small village cut in two by the river with one half “favoured” by the road. Transformation is happening fast and we will not recognize it in a few years.

Xia hé, China

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The Labrang Monastery is still there, a living monastery in spite of the Cultural Revolution and difficult ties with Lhassa. It is a huge university of Buddhist philosophy and medicine for hundreds of monks. We had a tour of the monastery with a monk guide speaking perfect English. I am amazed by the flexibility of the philosophy and their capacity of adaptation to local context and conditions. I wish all the religions could have the same approach. I don’t think I could live their life and devotion, but I can certainly find very acceptable their philosophy and attitude towards life.

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We had lunch with 3 French student girls Camille, Pauline and Alice who are travelling the same route as we did in the other direction. They wished to exchange some travel tips with us