I am just back from the reception of our hotel in Nanjing having tried to organise two glasses from which to drink our bottle of Great Wall dry red wine, 2001, a cheeky communist vintage, not half bad except the glasses are paper cups. We have just returned from a little restaurant beside our hotel where we have eaten for the last two nights. It is a very small little mom and pop place where all of the children and the extended family’s children come to practice their english and play with Axel and Elka. None of the parents speak any english so we use the children as our interpreters. It is still a bit of a hit and miss affair as there is no menu in english but the food we get is fresh and tasty and very inexpensive.
Yesterday we went on to Zijin mountain to the east of Nanjing, where we took a cable car to the summit. I wanted to visit the mausoleum of Sun Yatsen, the father of modern china, but to no avail. When we got to the top of the mountain we found the terrain to be not so much buggy un-friendly, just that it was too damned hot to push up and down the concrete paths that helpfully make it relatively easy to get about on if you don’t happen to have forty kilos of excess baggage to lug about. We spent a very pleasant couple of hour’s there before we headed back down in the cable car.
Today we visited the ‘Memorial Hall of the Nanjing Massacre, where the atrocities of the Japanese army on the people of Nanjing are documeted.
The first thing you notice about this place is the stunning architecture, it is really severe and really beautiful at the same time. There are some great spaces with some monumental public artwork’s in the planned open areas around the building that house’s the permanent exhibition. There are more installations inside of which my favorite is this dark cavernous room where you stand looking up and every 12 seconds the really loud sound of a water droplet is accompanied by a ghostly photograph of the face of a massacre victim appearing randomly somewhere in the dark space in front of you. The sign in the room tells you that if you stand there for 6 weeks enough drops will have fallen to represent the 300,000 victims.
Some of the photographs are pretty gruesome and even Axel, who was really excited about visiting what he called a war museum is pretty subdued.
I have an uneasy feeling about Japan where we will be three weeks from now. I know that since WWII they have given us Tamogochi’s and Walkmans and Manga comics all cutesey stuff but they still havn’t accepted what it was they did in Nanjing, and you know I hear they still hunt whales.
Before we headed out for dinner I went for a shave, my first in mainland china, boy was it different. You might or might not know but I am trying to spend the year not having to shave myself so I try and find an old school barber to do the job wherever I go. Today’s shave was very different. This was the first shave I had where I was lying vertically on the chair. Hot towels were applied and then what I though was tootbrush over my beard, no soap or shaving foam. Just hot towel’s and a toothbrush with something on it. I was very relaxed after a day of walking around so just closed my eyes and went with it. Anyway the barber starts to shave me and does a little bit at the sides them meets some resistance. I havn’t shaved in about a week and my growth is much more than you might find on your regular chinese, so my man reckons I need more hot towels to soften the bristles up, so more hot towels it is, much hotter. I’m a man, I don’t flinch, back he come’s with the blade, scrapes away here and there for a bit more, ’need’s more towels’ he thinks, more hot towels it is. Christ Allmighty, I’m thinking these are fucking hot towels. Off they come again, I open my eyes and there is now a woman doing the shaving, the first fellah has given up, thrown in the hot towel so’s to speak and handed it over to the experts, they have more to shave you know. The last hot towel is applied, I think they just dipped it into a pot of boiling water and threw it on my face, I nearly levitated. It was the very hottest towel I have ever had applied to my face. She finished scraping away, and imtimated that she was finished, I was nearly afraid to look in the mirror, It felt like I had been cut to pieces. Much to my surprise my face was completely unscathed, not a scratch. Not a nice shave though. A massacre of sorts.