Monday, August 19, 2013

Cruising Down the River on a Sunday Afternoon

I've been dying to learn how to play Mah Jong ever since I read The Joy Luck Club 20 years ago. I can now check one more item off my bucket list! They had a special session for those that would like to learn to play the popular Chinese game today. It turned out to be only the foreigners on the ship that needed to learn. It is a lot like tile rummy, and if we can remember the rules long enough we'll try to teach a few friends so we can play it at home!
We had to take a break in Mah Jong to see the Qutang Gorge, one of the three gorges, for which the massive Three Gorges dam was named. (Brittany tried to smile for this photo, despite feeling a little under the weather.)
We successfully played a few rounds of Mah Jong with just the family. Once you get the hang of how to read the tiles, it is really not too complicated. You build a great wall with tiles, then you draw from the wall, the ocean, or "pong" or "chi,", to create runs and sets. The person to have 14 tiles in sets or runs of threes (plus one pair) is the winner. Later, Brittany, John and Amanda were joined by a Chinese national who made a fourth with them. They each were surrounded by friendly native coaches telling them how to play their tiles. They also had their pictures taken a number of times. We are quite the novelty here!
We were unable to attend church on the ship, so we had our own family devotional. Brittany shared a scripture with us from Alma 30:44, "all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth and all things that are upon the face of it…" She mentioned that that while the earth may or may not be beautiful we are blessed with the gift to perceive it as so. We are also fortunate to visit other cultures and try to get a glimpse of the world through their eyes. As we looked at the river bank we could see the high water mark (20 meters above us) and notice the plants growing in the crevices below the water line. Like people they learn to survive and thrive in the environment in which they are placed.
In the afternoon we passed through the Wu Gorge, which we enjoyed sitting on the sun deck. The weather is hot, but thankfully there was a light breeze on the ship.
Our shore excursion today was a ride in a smaller boat along the Shennong Stream. We got some pretty great rowers who passed several boats during the hour long ride. We felt so sorry for them, watching how hard they were working!
Our tour guide had a lovely voice and sang some Tujia traditional songs for us as we boated.
We cleaned up in time for the Captain's dinner which we enjoyed with our new table-mates, Ying and Yu. They are a young couple with a one-year old baby that they left with Grandma for a few days. Yu (the husband) spoke a little English, but really enjoyed visiting with John and finding out what life in America was like. They wanted to know how to eat food at our table, because they wanted to be polite. John pointed out that we were in their country and were there to learn their customs! Ying is a nurse and Yu is an engineer, representing a growing class of young professionals in today's China.

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