Nothing Left but the Crying
Today we learn the results of the contest. Today I also discovered that the internet connection pipeline has been turned off. I made an attempt at dialing into the Shanghai aol number but met with no success. I would ask the front desk how to dial long distance in China but it would do no good as no one there speaks English. Sooo, no one is going to see any updates until we get back into Shanghai tomorrow afternoon at the very earliest. This is a big bummer as I had a lot of e-mail that needed to get out, but it will just all have to wait.
Damon and got an early start - shopping opportunities have been few and far between and we didn't waste any time walking further from the hotel than I had ever been before. This is some sort of main square featuring a statue of Kubla Khan. (Yes, that is my new leather jacket.) many shops were not yet open but we did find an open air market where I picked up some great sand sculpting tools for pennies. We also found a party store where I scored some really funky Chinese Lantern Christmas light strings.... bet no one on my block has anything like them...
We met everyone back at the hotel at 10:30 for the last bus trip to the sand forest. The traffic started picking up even before we left the highway. We had been told a big crowd (as many as 100,000 people) was expected for opening day, but nothing prepared us for the huge sea of humanity.... trudging along by foot as far as 20 miles before the entryway. We of course had VIP status with our handlers pushing us through the crowd to the relative calm of the Shalin Hotel for lunch as usual (except for more beer).
We then had a little over an hour to look around at the venders booths or walk down to the sculpture site. I wandered fairly aimlessly - catching a dance performance by some old ladies with tiny tiny feet that looked like they should be propped up in front of a TV rather then danced upon - until I came across this guy creating fanciful renditions of people's names with fat caligraphy pads dipped in a variety of colors. He immediately picked me off as a sculptor and we gave each other that secret little one-artist-recognizing-another look and he had me write down my name and the resulting drawing is one of the best things I am bringing home with me.
Next was a brief ceremony - photo op at the dragon demo sculpture. Notice the top dragon has a new eye. Would have liked to have seen how they got it up there without taking anything out.
The bottom dragon received its eyes from the contest organizers and then the whole crew (domestic as well as international) posed for seemingly zillions of photos.
Then it was party time. As we were escorted to the main show area, we really got a good look at the ocean of people washing over the site.... check out the hill in the background.
Wow!!! we thought. For a brief moment, as we were pushed through the teeming crowd we knew what it was like to be rock stars: the sculptors are in the house!!! Did all these people really come all this way and pay the equivalent of several day's work entry fee to come see lil ol us and our pretty little sand piles?
Well, no - actually. Once we had settled onto our assigned bench, we discovered what the real draw was - popular Chinese pop singers flown in for the occasion. Still, it was exciting to be part of the spectacle and a spectacle it was -- huge stage full of dancers, singers, a comedian and his sidekick... nearly four hours worth (about halfway into it I was wishing I had made a quick bathroom stop but by then it was way too late - no way out.) That was also about the time I got thinking that it was going to be no easy task to make it out of here any time quick...
Sure enough, our VIP status did us no good whatsoever - we were just another vehicle among many other vehicles going no where fast. I only thought I was missing spring break. We made purchases through the bus windows, including some fat stalks of sugar cane that many of us had the experience of sucking on for the first time (consensus - tasty but for the most part unsatisfying.)
... oh yeah...
The Contest Results:
1st Place - Wilfred (Holland)
2nd Place - Leonardo (Italy)
3rd Place - Benjamin (Mexico)t
I was told that I placed 5th (out of 8). That's okay, I am used to placing in the middle.