If you ever want to feel like a rock star, I suggest making a visit to China.  I’d been journaling earlier today at the edge of West Lake in Hangzhou, China, and I had a Chinese teenager, dressed in punk clothing, a group of young girls and their mothers, and two shy teenage girls approach me and ask to have photographs taken with me.  There was also a curious policeman who attempted to read over my shoulder, and a small boy, wearing a homemade grass crown, who also seemed to be very interested in what I was writing on my computer.  If I ever publish a book, I think I may have some Chinese fans!           

In actuality, I think the policeman was probably suspicious of what the American woman was writing, and the little boy was more curious about the machine I was using to type.  He oohed and awed as he stared at the black keys, and his eyes widened as letters magically appeared on the screen as I typed away.  I was so entertained by this little boy, and I figured since so many people had asked for my picture, I didn’t feel too out of line asking his mother if I could have a photo with her son.  She had absolutely no reservations, and actually whipped out her own camera, to get her own shot as well.  Yes, I think I’ve reached celebrity status here in Hangzhou!           


Despite all the attention, I eventually felt restless, and walked for the third or fourth time now, along the wooden causeway along the water’s edge.  It’s a wonderful little walk, with the calm, gray lake stretching out below you, surrounded my small, tree-covered mountains, with tiny pagodas, perched like Christmas tree stars at their peaks.  The scenery along the causeway adds to the atmosphere, as it’s difficult to walk even a few feet with out seeing a couple walking hand in hand, or a child laying their small, weary head on the lap of their mother.  It’s certainly no surprise why Hangzhou is known as China’s city of love.              


On the other end of the causeway, I saw a crowd of people hovering around a stairway.  As I walked closer, I heard a sweet, high pitched song coming from the crowd, and then saw three Chinese men entertaining the crowd.  Two of the men were playing delicately carved bow instruments, and the other was singing in a beautifully, haunting falsetto voice.  I stayed and listened until they put down their instruments, and then approached them.  In my horrible American accent, I said “Ti bongla!  Shea, shea.” (That’s great!  Thank you.)  They smiled, laughed and replied with a whole-hearted “OK!”           


Feeling pretty satisfied with my outing for the day, I began to walk back towards the hotel.  It had been cloudy all morning, so I had brought along my umbrella in preparation to face rain at some point during the afternoon.  Well, I definitely faced it.  As it started to come down in buckets, I ducked into Carrefour (grocery store) to pick up some lunch and avoid being drenched.  After stocking up on a supply of Maggi instant potatoes (my absolute favorite thing to eat here) and peach juice, I ventured out into the monsoon.            

The jigsaw puzzle of a walk through crazy traffic and construction sites every block had been somewhat of a challenge on the way to the lake, but now my path was complicated by torrential rain, extreme wind, and a whole lot of mud.  As I sloshed through puddle after puddle, my mind kept wandering back to the sight of little boys squatting and peeing in the middle of the road.  I tried to find higher ground.  This was more than difficult however, because the construction sights pretty much limited the area I could walk to the edge of the street.  Where, although there was less standing water, I was sure to get doused with a muddy splash of water by every vehicle that passed.             

My three-dollar umbrella I had bought during a rainstorm in Chicago was definitely taking a beating.  With each forceful gale, it flipped inside out, and one of the wires holding the fabric taunt would snap.  All in all, it did a pretty good job of keeping me dry, considering the circumstances.  Once the rain turned from an all out monsoon to a more manageable downpour, I devised a pretty good way of keeping my backpack and myself relatively dry.  I wedged the handle of my umbrella in between my back and the backrest of my backpack.  This way, both my backpack and I had equal coverage from the umbrella, and I didn’t have to use my hand to hold it up.  Ingenious, I thought.  Well, the locals definitely enjoyed the sight, laughing and smiling from the comfort of their storefront awnings.            

When I arrived back at the hotel, the doorman presented my dripping form with a plastic bag for my soaked umbrella.            

“Do you have a plastic bag for all of me?” I asked.  Blank stare followed by a polite laugh.  Well, I thought it was funny.