Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Artisanal weaver, and Chinese amenities

This is a jacket I saw at the Metropolitan Museum last weekend. It's called "Kiss the Prince," made by Jon Eric Riis who wove the tapestry fabric and then beaded it in circles of black beads. Most circles have a red or deep blue bead at the very center. It is stunning, and probably weighs a lot -- the kind of thing the princess wears only when she's riding in a royal coach, pulled by prancing white horses, as she waves to the people of the Prince's country. It's astonishing workmanship.

To change the subject radically -- really radically! I receieved a letter from swap community partner and she had included various neat things based on my profile, which included a packet of disposable toilet seat covers because I wrote that I'm a traveler and she thought they could come in handy. In fact they might and it was thoughtful of her even though I am not one of those sanitizing sorts of people and if I'm carrying a little bottle of Purell when I travel, most of the time I forget to use it until others in the group ask me if I want some of theirs. However, I've been thinking of writing to her about one of the neatest toilets I've experienced -- I think the terrible ones might put her off any travel ideas she might eventually come up with.

The Chinese are seriously developing their tourist sites, partly for foreigners but especially for the now affluent middle class Chinese who can travel and see their national treasures and wonders which has not been possible previously. In many cases they are doing a fine, even elegant job. At the Stone Forest park in Yunnan Province which is full of the strangely shaped karst formations we've all seen in paintings, they have devised a lovely park -- though over crowded. But so are many American sites. There I experienced the most elegant bathroom outside a hotel that I've encountered. The new women's bathroom had marble floors and the hand basins were set in a beautiful teak counter graced with a spray of real, fresh orchids in a vase.

I believe there were both Western and European toilets but it so happened that I went into an Eastern one. This was fine, I rather like to squat over a bowl or trough toilet and avoid all toilet seat questions., [I'm not fond on the ones that are flushed "by hand" when you dip a cup into a bucket of water] .. But this one was immaculate, and when I took my business position I noticed at eye level on the wall in front of me a small screen, about 6x10 which began a slide show of the rock formations in the park. When I finished [they had soft paper!] the toilet flushed automatically and the slide show went off. Who can ask for anything more civilized than that!

Enough frivolity for one day. Oh, by the way, their signage is not always well translated into English. In one park where they had warnings, apparently for no horseplay on a very long escalator, the sign said, "No having fun." Ah well ...

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