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Barry from Australia is a questioning soul who looks at social issues from an alternative point of view and instead of asking, “Why?”, he asks “Why not?” He’s convinced that many of his previous incarnations were spent in China. He feels drawn to the people there; attracted by their rich culture and way of life. If given one wish from God, he’d reply, “I want everyone on Earth to be the same colour, speak the same language, and treat each other as they themselves would like to be treated.”
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My China Trip - Day 21, Part 4 我的中国之行 – 第21天,第4部分    

By Barry Pittman
6892 Views | 45 Comments | 11/25/2014 1:06:35 PM

I glanced at my watch.  It was quarter to six in the late afternoon.  The sun sank around 6.00pm.  Tina and I had a two hour hike home from the half constructed Buddhist temple we’d visited.  It was a large, sprawling affair, perched high up on one of the far hills around Shawan.  This meant the bulk of our walk back would be in either semi-dark or totally dark conditions.  Oops! Not the best of planning on our part, but there was nothing now that could be done about it.

Precious time had slipped by without our realizing it.  We’d been enthralled by the monk’s running commentary on all aspects of the temple’s history and construction that Tina in turn translated to me.  In particular, I was surprised to learn that it had been funded entirely from donations, many from Chinese living overseas.  How they even knew about such a place was a little surprising, given its isolation and low profile.  I assumed there must be some sort of magazine or website that discusses current and planned temple infrastructure, so folks all around the world can see what’s in the Buddhist pipeline.

This day had helped highlight to me why Tina and I were in many ways suitable to each other.  We shared many of the same interests, despite coming from wildly divergent backgrounds.  Yet I knew that things hadn’t been perfect between us, real life isn’t like the movies.  Online Chinese dating has both its good times as well as its bad. Don't believe anyone who says any different.

The fault here though was mostly my own.  During the preceding three weeks or so, on one or two occasions, I’d been more than a little irritable.  For example, when I’d been forced to sit for eight hours alongside a yapping, middle aged Chinese lady on the bus to Jiuzhaigou.  This had put me in a bad mood, some of which necessarily had been inflicted upon Tina.  I had learnt to my chagrin though that a momentary lapse of temper can lead to many days or even weeks of regret.  A bell once it has sounded cannot somehow be unrung.

I inwardly attempted to assuage my feelings, recounting to myself that a stumble isn’t necessarily a fall.  All of us are human.  Yet despite this, I secretly cursed my occasional bouts of moodiness.  It wasn’t acceptable, I was better than this, surely?  Am I the only one here who noticed that as the years rolled by,  the comparative unlimited tolerance of youth slowly dissipated?  Was I to become just another one of those accursed grumpy old men?  The thought of this alarmed me.  The only thing I hated more than being in a bad temper was being around bad tempered men. Looming dark clouds on the horizon of my existance were suddenly sullenly appearing.  Increasing future challenges on many different levels I  sensed were increasingly to be faced.  If wonder is the beginning of learning, was regret finally the start of wisdom?

Despite my flowery words or expressions of happiness through these blog articles, in truth, this whole trip hadn’t been an easy one.  It’d started out inauspiciously from the very first day, when just hours before embarking on the long flight to China, I’d accidentally sliced my toe open on a piece of metal back home, ensuring I wasn’t able to get any comfort or shuteye on the plane that night. Tina and I had then travelled and hiked around various areas of China fairly extensively in the heat of summer, a difficult chore for the fittest of people, let alone someone like me who was pushing sixty years of age.

Tough times are akin to a furnace, where one involuntarily becomes blistered and burnt until one’s true character is finally forged, at last becoming irrefutably and truly discerned to all within the harsh flames of adversity.  Would Tina really like what she saw in me as this process relentlessly continued during this arduous trip? 

But time was moving along too quickly on this day.  Brushing my introspective musings aside, I knew we had to get moving.  Tina and I set out quickly from the temple with the monk walking alongside us for the first few minutes.  He lived in a nearby house as a resident caretaker whilst it was being built, no doubt leading a very modest existence, as monks here generally all lead lives of denial and asceticism.  Good on them.  Their rewards will be forthcoming at another time.  Readers here are well aware of my views on Buddhism, as compared to the likes of Islam, Hinduism or Christianity, where outrageous hypocrisy or worse is so often gallingly apparent by a blasphemous minority.

To me, all religions were akin to individual rivers, that ultimately flowed to one great sea, one universal Source.  How on Earth could one river  -  one doctrine  -  supposedly be any better, closer to the truth or more valid than any other one? 

I felt quite comfortable with the Buddhist monks, as did Tina, who one day wanted in fact to live with them for a while.  One of her best friends was a lady monk named Yi Xing, meaning “walk alone”.   She and Tina often met for lunch whenever Tina was on one of her regular visits to Mt Emei.  She had joined the monkhood at age 24 and was now 42. 

Yi Xing had explained to Tina that according to the laws of karma, everything in the universe is balanced.  Positive actions will contribute to positive karma and future happiness.  And vice versa.  Yet this may occur over the spread of several lifetimes, so it may not be immediately obvious or apparent that the process is in fact occurring.  Karmic laws cannot be rushed.

This may help explain why some people lead lives of comparative hardship and suffering.  They’re possibly paying off (counterbalancing) negative karma accumulated during a previous existence.  This concept cannot be definitively proven of course, but in my mind at least, it helped assuage my troubled feelings when I saw so many unfortunate people in China.  They say that gratitude and patience are signs of a noble heart and should be encouraged, yet what good is this soothing concept if you were born with no arms, starving or unable to feed your family?

Breaking my train of thought as we continued our hike home, suddenly my leg was stung by something.  “What the hell was that!”, I wondered.  But then I saw it – a large wasp was buzzing noisily around me, waiting to conduct another kamikaze attack on my exposed flesh.    I started waving my arms around frantically.  Seeing this, the cunning wasp had a change of plan and veered off course, heading towards Tina.

Watch out for that  – it bites!”, I yelled to her.  Like me, she began violently waving her arms, trying to fend the aggressive thing away.  Its raucous buzzing wings sounded like a mini chainsaw.  I’d never seen a wasp as big and as loud as this before.  As the creature harassed  Tina who was by now squealing like a girl, our brave monk friend ran up and also started frantically waving his arms around at the insect, valiantly attempting to strike it from the sky.  After a few frenetic flapping of his arms, the annoying dive bombing menace finally buzzed off, no doubt to attack some other hapless animal.

I wiped my brow.  Tina looked mighty relieved.  And the monk smiled.

As I gazed at all this, I couldn’t help but be secretly amused at the actions of the monk.  Being a devout Buddhist, his belief system I thought was to treat all animals with kindness.  The sight of him however doing his darndest to swat the killer wasp seemed in one way rather incongruous.  I’d never seen a monk try to exterminate something before, even a predatory insect like this.  Wasn’t it Gandhi who asked his followers to please brush away any ants from the ground as he walked, for fear of inadvertently stepping on one?

Aargh, enough of this!”, I thought to myself.  “The monk was simply trying to help us!”.

But now I learnt that even pious Buddhist monks can kill if they have to (even if it is a pesky, flesh eating fly)! 

This was turning out to be a strange day indeed, as the sun sank ever lower and lower on the horizon.  What other lurking predators would attempt to assail us on our return journey?  This was assuming of course, that we’d make it home and not fall into some sort of sinkhole or quicksand bog.  Some of the tracks we’d traversed earlier in the day to get here had been quite muddy, tricky to get across in broad daylight.  Who knew what dangers lay lurking ahead in the Shawan hills after dark?  Was the rumour true that a tiger still roamed these trails?

Stumbling along narrow paths in the dark, often surrounded by nothing but blackness,  was indeed an unsettling experience.  Our pace was necessarily slow and cautious.  I used the flashlight built into my mobile phone to help light the way, as did Tina until sooner than we’d hoped, both our batteries ran out.  We now had no means of communication, should anything untoward occur.  I couldn’t help but recollect graphic images from some of the horror movies I’d seen over the past thirty years or so. Evil things always tended to occur in the dark.  A comforting thought indeed!

It was then that out of the mysterious blackness in the deep forested hills around Shawan, an alarming, low rumbling noise was menacingly heard, that slowly and disconcertedly became louder. Oh, my God!  Tina looked at me nervously.  We’d been attentively focusing on the lurking snake as best we could – but had we missed the ravenous wolf or bear?  The hairs on my arms bristled, a gnawing, hollow feeling in my stomach suddenly manifested.

What was out there?

To be continued – Day 21, Part 5

我瞥了下手表。傍晚6点差15分。太阳约在6点就下山了。从这半人工寺庙走下山,我和蒂娜得花两个小时。在高耸入云的沙湾山上,这显得多任重而道远!这意味着我们得在朦胧夜色或黑夜中前行,真糟糕!这可不是我们计划好的,可是眼下我们也别无选择。

宝贵的时间在不知不觉中流逝。我们被和尚讲述的有关寺庙的历史和建设及其评论深深吸引,蒂娜不时给我们轮流翻译。尤其是听到寺庙全靠捐赠款兴建的,许多赠款来自己海外华人的消息让我颇为惊讶。这里地处偏僻,不引人注意,他们怎么知道这个地方的存在呢,着实让人吃惊。我猜估计是一些杂志或网站上有关寺庙基础设施的现状和改建计划的文章,让全世界各地人士有机会看到佛教的兴衰。

这一天凸显了我和蒂娜在很多方面是多么登对的一对,我们有很多共同的兴趣爱好,尽管我们背景差异悬殊,尽管我们相处中也有磕磕碰碰,现实不可能像电影一样。网络爱情也是好坏参半。要是你听到不一样的言论,别信它。

这些磕磕碰碰大部分因我而起。过往的约三个星期里,在一两个事情上我显得很易怒。比如那次前往九寨沟的大巴上,忍受8个小时旁边中年大妈喋喋不休的聒噪声,我心情很坏,这自然也影响到了蒂娜。以前所经历的懊恼也让我明白,一时的发泄会让你后悔数天甚至数周。曾经听到的铃声不会不再响起。

我试着自我安慰,反复告诉自己一次差错不一定意味着全盘皆输。我皆凡人,孰能无错。然而私底下我责备自己,责备自己不时的喜怒无常。这怎么能接受,过去我是更好的,不是吗?真的?难道随着岁月的流转,我是唯一一个认识到,那个宽宏大量心胸宽广的青年人已经消失,现如今变成一个可憎的性情乖戾的糟老头了么?想到这我的心敲起了警钟。和做一个坏脾气的人比,没有什么比呆在坏脾气的人身边更可恨的了。我所在的地平线上,乌云突然隐约地冒出来了。接受对未来所面临的各种挑战的决心也渐渐增强了。倘若好奇是求学的开端,后悔最终是不是智慧的起点?

不管之前的博文里对幸福的表述及用词有多华丽,事实上,整个旅程充满艰辛。好像要给我预示凶兆似的,就在行将登机飞往中国的当天最后几个小时里,在家里我的脚趾意外地被一片金属割破了口子,我知道当天晚上的行程恐怕不会舒适也不会睡得着。在艳阳高照的夏日里,我和蒂娜游走于中国大部分地区,或坐车或远足,对健壮的人来说尚属不易,更别提我这类年近花甲的人了。

艰难世事类似于熔炉,一方不由自主的变成气泡,被焚烧,直到呈现出本质,确凿,一目了然。在这持续的艰苦旅程中,蒂娜真的喜欢她从中所了解到的我吗?

可是今天过得真是快。别去自我谴责了,我们该下山了。我和蒂娜匆匆拾阶而下,开始和尚与我们步行了几分钟。他是个看守员,住在附近尚未完工的房子里,无疑也和其他的信徒一样过着苦行僧的生活。善有善报!假以时日,必定有修成正果的一天。读者们想必相当了解我对佛教的看法,不像伊斯兰教、印度教或基督教,明显而可气地被亵渎神灵的少数群体以无耻的伪善或更恶劣的借口加以利用。

对我而言,每个宗教体系都是自成一体,就如不同的河流,有各自的河床流向,最终流入大海。究竟为何有的河流--教义--声称自己更优越,甚至接近真理,比别的更有法律效力?

和尚们令人感觉亲近舒服,蒂娜也有同感,她想有天能和他们住上一段时间。她有一个最好的朋友出家做了尼姑,名叫一行,意为“独行”,24岁出家,如今42岁。每一次蒂娜定期到访峨嵋,她们都会一起吃午饭。

一行曾向蒂娜解释过因果循环的道理。世间万物不离其宗。积德行善终得善终。反之亦然。然后这个轮回可能要经过数世才能显现,因果报应不会那么明显或显然的,急不得。
也许这解释了一些人选择苦难或与磨难为伴的原因。他们也许会还清(抵消)上辈子所犯下的孽缘。当然这里缺乏确凿的证据,但是看到这么多不幸的中国人,至少在我的心理,这是我所能找到的理由来舒缓我这颗焦虑不安的心。他们说感恩和耐心是一颗高贵的心需要具备的品质,应当受鼓励,可是如果你生来就少了胳膊,吃不饱或者不能供养家人,这个抚慰人心的教义又有什么意义呢?

前行中,突然我的腿被什么东西蛰了一下,我的思绪也被打断了。“究竟是啥玩意啊?”我思忖着。这时我看到一只大黄蜂嗡嗡地在围着我转,试图又想蛰我露在外面的皮肉。我狂躁的挥舞双臂,看到这,黄蜂开始转移目标,飞向蒂娜。

当心,它会蛰人!”我喊道。她也像我一样疯狂的挥舞双臂,试着赶走这只攻击人的东东。那嗡嗡的叫声听着像是微型电锯。我从来没见过体积这么大叫声这么响的黄蜂。蒂娜这时被黄蜂吓得像个女孩一样在尖叫,勇敢的和尚跑了上来,也挥舞着双臂,勇敢得想从高处往下打它。经过几次他狂扇,这只又恼又吓人的嗡嗡叫的家伙飞走了,无疑要去攻击别处倒霉的动物了。

我擦了擦前额。蒂娜大大松了口气。和尚面带微笑。

看着这一切,我不禁暗暗对和尚的行为觉到可乐。作为虔诚的佛教徒,我相信他的信仰是以仁慈对待众生。在某种程度上这和他试着去拍死那只黄蜂的种种举动显得多么不协调。我没见过和尚会想去杀死任何东西,即使是这样一只食肉性昆虫。甘地不是要求他的追随者扫掉他所经之地的蚂蚁吗,生怕不小心会踩到?

 “啊,真是没完没了!”我对自己说。“和尚只是想帮我们罢了!”

我知道了,哪怕虔诚的佛教徒也会杀戮,如果不得已的话(哪怕只是只讨厌的吃肉的苍蝇)!

夕阳已渐渐西沉,今天的经历的确有点新奇。回去的路上会不会有别的捕食者潜伏等着攻击我们呢? 当然这只是假设,我们会平安到家,不会掉进污水池或流沙泥塘。我们白天经过的某些地方非常泥泞,又滑,谁知道天黑后沙湾高山上会潜着什么危险呢?说有只老虎还在小道上出没的谣言是不是真的?

黑夜笼罩着四周,我们蹒跚在狭窄通道上,这真是令人不安的体验。我们不得不谨慎的放慢步伐。我和蒂娜用手机里的电筒照明,可是电池没有我们想的耐用,很快就没电了。要是这会发生什么意外,我们没有办法交流。脑子里忍不住想起过去三十年左右所看过的恐怖电影里形象生动的画面。邪恶的事情总是在黑暗中发生。真是令人安慰的念头!

就在此刻,一种低沉的使人惊惶的噪声打破了郁郁葱葱的沙湾山上诡秘的黑夜,慢慢地,惊慌地变得更大声了。噢,我的天啊!蒂娜紧张地看着我。我们一直特别留意脚下可会有蛇,是不是我们没发现饥肠辘辘的狼或熊?我汗毛直立,心里突然升腾起一股折磨人的空洞感觉。

那是什么?

未完待续--第21天

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#2014-12-16 15:23:49 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Barry's blogs have been held up recently because Marrisa, due to a very busy travel schedule, has been unable to provide her usual great translation. After discussing it with Barry, we have both agreed that while the translation is important, it should not overly delay publication of the blogs.

So while we look for someone to step in for Marrisa to complete the translation, we are going to post the blogs from now on in a more timely manner whether or not the translation has been completed.

Please do not take this as criticism of Marrisa, who has done an amazing job til now keeping up with Barry and has provided great translation. No one, including Barry, realized just how big a job it was going to be to compete this riveting description of a developing cross cultural relationship, and it has been a huge task for Marrisa to complete the translations to date. And she has done that on a volunteer basis.

We could not possibly be more grateful to Marrisa for all the work she has done so that the Chinese members could enjoy Barry's series as it was unfolding. Thank you Marrisa, and enjoy your travels in the USA as your own potential relationship begins to unfold. Our thoughts and best wishes are with you.

If any of you ladies out there are interested in stepping into Marrisa's place and helping by translating the remaining articles in Barry's series please simply submit a comment here saying you're interested and providing your name and email address. We'll get right back to you.

And now everyone, finally let's get back to Barry's adventure.

#2014-12-16 17:11:22 by Barry1 @Barry1

@JohnAbbot

Thanks for your comments, John.

I really do appreciate Marissa's great translation work on my blog series so far. Many thanks to her.

May I reiterate my perspective on things, as far as translation goes - speaking purely as a blogger and not a translator.

I think articles submitted to CLM should if possible be published promptly, rather than waiting many weeks, for whatever reason.

Because to delay publication of an article for a long time as in this case, causes both the writer of the article as well as the CLM readership generally, to lose focus and momentum where a continuing series is concerned.

Plus I believe the CLM blog area as a whole loses vitality, as articles freshly written tend to become stale when published many weeks down the track.

If I was the editor of this esteemed website (which I'm not), I would wait no more than an absolute maximum of seven days for an article to be published, and if possible, print them sooner than this (which in most instances, I know you do, John).

My views, for what they're worth. (think)

#2014-12-16 17:13:18 by melcyan @melcyan

@Barry1
Hi Barry, good to see you return with your blog. When my partner and I say or do something that seems wrong we always allow room for the possiblity of an incorrect perception. One of the big advantages of a cross-cultural relationship is that we have an excuse to check again and again the accuracy of our perceptions. Ideally patience, tolerance and wisdom should increase with age for everyone. Those people who have the good fortune to be in a cross-cultural relationship have an advantage in achieving this growth.

#2014-12-17 07:10:41 by YinTingYu @YinTingYu

@Barry1
Hello brother B.
Nice to know you are still around.
The title picture,.......WOW !!
Who is that behind those imitation Gucci or St. Laurent frames ?
Ah,...is the partially mummified Lady T. “en masque”.
How bold.
How daring to allow you to post such a photo publicly.
Maybe she does not know. (giggle)
Really does show some courage though.
The expression on her face,...”This is part of who I am,...I don't care”.
Exquisite.

I have been reticent to comment to you because this is a public format and I don't want to come across as “nosy”.
However Bro,...I sense that you have somehow managed to manifest from the recesses of your being the “Quintessential Female Chicken” (Hen, if you will).
Consider that the chicken is probably one of the earliest domesticated fowl.
From personal experience these creatures require very simple physical care.
Show them where the good feed is, give them wide boundaries for exploration, and show them the coop.
Really simple on that front.
Also the “money” thing (to most) is just a piece of paper with some numbers printed for easy exchange in commerce.
But they always do good research before they make a purchase.

Now comes the interesting part.
From what you have written,...Tina is a compassionate lady with great depth of character.
She wanted to go and be of assistance to a young woman with a terminal condition.
She wants to hang around the temples and be of service.
She has been reading the works of Sogyal Rinpoche.
If I were to make a wager I would bet on some serious astrological water.
Deep, reflective, and willing to give her life purpose though service.
This is very “cool” and will be of great benefit to you.

From your writings, you are sort of a (self admitted) high strung, knee jerk reaction "Horse" with youthful puckishness.
This is great but, I want you to please remember to listen very closely and watch attentively to what Tina has to say and does.
She will teach / remind you of some things you may have been overlooking.

Ah,...this Rooster has crowed enough.
I sincerely wish you both a happy life.
Peace and Blessings,
The Gong est of ji's

Oh,...the wasp thing ?,...”wake up call” buddy. (rofl)

#2014-12-17 08:02:31 by bmccull @bmccull

This blog post will prove very difficult to translate. The translator will have to have an intimate understanding of Barry's intent as some of his phraseology will be just nonsense in a literal translation. Good luck whoever you are!

#2014-12-17 08:16:01 by wyhyaya @wyhyaya

为什么美好的期待总是这么久?我衷心的祝福BERRY AND TINA 恩爱永远!

#2014-12-17 11:54:13 by Barry1 @Barry1

@wyhyaya

Thank you for your good wishes, wyhaya. You seem to be a very nice person. I wish much success and happiness to you also. (y)

#2014-12-17 21:25:21 by Barry1 @Barry1

@melcyan

"Ideally patience, tolerance and wisdom should increase with age for everyone."

Thanks for your comments, Melcyan. I agree with your statement in principle, yet I've found many older people (both men as well as women) become more cranky and irritable as they age, Not everyone of course, but many. Perhaps because their health is failing and their bones are aching, Perhaps they're dissatisfied with what they've done in their lives? Maybe they no longer like their adult children? I don't know.

I'd be interested to hear other's views on this subject? (think)

#2014-12-17 21:29:40 by Barry1 @Barry1

@bmccull

"This blog post will prove very difficult to translate"

Yes bmccull, you're dead right. Maybe this is why there's a glaring lack of volunteers here as far as English to Chinese translation services go! :D

#2014-12-17 22:22:31 by Anniehow @Anniehow

@JohnAbbot

Hi John, I am interested in helping to translate this popular blog as I will have some free time recently.

Could you give me your email address?

Annie

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