Went by to see Jim Winfield today, recently home from 3 months in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and VietNam. We sat on the back deck of the house with snow all around, in sunlight, warm and comfortable, his 9 ducks huddled on the snow in front of us, keeping an eye on us, company. The frozen pond is on the other side of the house. We watched the ducks as we talked. He'd hired a Mexican to shovel snow for him, a couple of trails to outbuildings, chicken house and barn, and get some off a roof with not much slope. They talked in Spanish quite a bit and I took a dozen or so pictures of ducks, only one of them worth looking at, and it barely.
I thought of China where they herd ducks with a long bamboo pole like a fishing pole, something to guide them with if one goes too far off either side of the herd. I remember a b&w photograph from someplace like Life magazine years ago of a Chinese boy walking a herd of white ducks. I wondered why ducks didn't take here like chickens did. My imagining is that our country, our towns, our suburbs were built on theretofore wild land with predators that had been driven into other territories, such that they have no territory of their own. A bobcat without its own territory is in the territory of another bobcat wherever it goes. Ducks are defenseless, like rabbits. Rabbits can run fast and ducks can swim. When the fox comes around, duck goes for a swim. It's not like chickens have a great deal of defenses, either, except some of them can fly a little bit. Duck eggs don't taste good to the American palate. But they do taste good to the Chinese.
Jim was talking about a possibility of going to southern China next year. He met several Chinese people in his travels this time. He learned that the mainland Chinese are free to travel inside the country now and there is a great deal of movement in China. People are making money and they're able to travel. For natural wonders of the world, China has some of the most awe-inspiring landscape on the earth. About 2/3 of the country is desert, serious desert with some of the most amazing rock formations and mountains on this earth.
The southern mountains are tropical and beautiful mountains. As a result, most of the population lives in the eastern part of the country, about the eastern 1/3, where all the history took place. The other side of the desert to the west is Tibet. I regret China's absolute takeover of Tibet, but I also regret how all the land of my own nation was taken. It's not like there's anything I can do about any of it, so I worry myself over it less as I grow older and see it's everywhere, idiots rule. Intellect without ethics is the same as ignorance. I can't say who has ethics and who does not, considering I know nothing about the subjectivity of anybody but myself, though actions do tend to be projections of thought.
Jim, like me, in the past have been interested politically, like getting involved is the way to make a difference. I look back now and laugh at myself. Oh so serious about a decision made in a world I have no access to whatsoever, by people who wouldn't even give me a second look. I didn't go to an ivy league school. I'm not of east coast wealth, west coast or any other coast of wealth. Therefore, I have no voice, without doing something really stupid like flying a plane into a tall building in Austin, Texas. Maybe he'll get the Darwin award for the year, extricated himself from the gene pool.
I've seen from reading current Chinese fiction and some histories, plus seeing well over a hundred Chinese films over the last 3 or so years with netflix, that China has a lot of cities in it I've never heard of, that when I see them in a film, they're bigger than Los Angeles, and skyscrapers galore. All of it new. Jim said he learned a good bit about Chinese cities he'd never heard of that are as big as our biggest cities, too. China is in production. He said it looks like Asia is coming to life in economic terms and in the terms of their traditional ways of life, just like here, the old ways are going fast. What's left is pop culture. I believe Asians can make us look like beginners at pop culture. The Asian pop market is immense. Thailand is the land of pop piracy.
Jim's observation of the Chinese he'd become acquainted with along the way is the same as my observation from film, fiction and history. The Chinese are very different from us. Very different. I like seeing Shanghai and Beijing in movies, past and present, but that's about as close as I care to get. I have to confess to a degree of fear where going as deep into the Asian world as he went is concerned. In Peace Corps, Winfield lived among Indians in the jungle of Ecuador, and spend 3 years in Zambia, in Africa, just south of the Congo. A few years in Haiti too.
He can go places and do things I can't do. I'm partial to plumbing, to start with. I like it a lot. I don't want to go to Bombay where it smells like stale piss all the time, until you get used to it and it starts smelling good. Movies and reading and hearing the tales of a traveler are my forms of adventure. I've got so bad that I don't even like to cross the county line unless it's a couple of miles to see Ralph Stanley at Fairview Ruritan. I like to live my adventure right here at home where I'm snowed in all winter with frozen pipes, a good time to stay at home.