March 10, 2014
We sailed up the Yangtze all last night. There was an embarkation talk this morning that was a bit of a snooze but I found a weak WiFi signal to use and kept busy.
The main event today was a visit to a Viking supported elementary school in Yueyang. I will admit that I was not overly enthusiastic about this. It seemed that it was a purely PR stunt by the cruise line and that it would be cheesy. Boy was I wrong.
We were greeted by the Mayor of this riverside city in Hunan Province. She posed for a picture with a few of us and we boarded the bus for the school. The was a welcoming banner on the city dock building. We arrived to a very loud drum beating, flower bedecked crowd of little kids.
The children had prepared a little show for us elderly tourists who were delighted by their enthusiasm and cuteness. Now we all know that little kids are universally charming. It this was proof positive that the kids were not Maoist automatons. I hope the video works and conveys the feelings.
We then went to a classroom for 8 year olds. There were 67 seats in a normal sized room. The kids had been encouraged to have us write a few English words in their study books. We were swarmed. One of our companions said that she now knows what It’s be like to be Justin Bieber.
Even I was touched. It was great fun to take a picture of a kid and then show them their picture in the camera.
Although his school was selected by Viking as a public school for not well off parents, the kids all had shoes and what seemed nice clothing. These were not the starving Chinese kids of my childhood dinner lectures. It was great and I took back all of my misgivings.
The industrial port and city were a convenient short stop on our way up the river to the more scenic parts of the trip. It is very much like the Mississippi but with no Huck Finns.
After the intensity of the last few days, it is nice to have a rather slow paced day. A river cruise ship is certainly different than the ocean going cousin. The behemoths of the seas dwarf our 250 passenger ship. We took a few pictures to give a feel for its diminutive scale. Despite the smallness there are still shops and bars. You can even have silk clothing tailored for you. We enjoyed a leisurely lesson in the art of tea brewing and the characteristics of white, green and the darker teas. Unfortunately, the idea of carrying tea sets in our luggage for a month precludes any purchases. She did say we must have excellent taste since the sets we immediately picked out were the finest translucent porcelain even though they were not the most expensive. Of course, we know that we always gravitate to the finest. Fortunately, I can usually come up with a rationale to avoid purchase.
We keep passing barge after barge on our way to the Three Gorges Dam. Tonight we are to ingest a special Chinese meal. Hopefully, it will not include the spiny backed bug thing we saw pictured in the Shanghai airport restaurant. We shall see.
OK I can report that the dinner did not include bugs. Delicious scallops and ten or twelve other dishes. Later we attended a charming show of traditional Chinese costumes featuring the crew as models. The pictures say it all.