Friday, April 15, 2011

Go Fly a Kite!

Generally it is said that a good parking spot is one that is closest to the entrance of your destination: office building, store or work place. In Texas, a good parking space is one that is in the shade, no matter how far it is from the entrance of whichever concern you are parked at. In Wuhan, a good day in transportation consists of getting a seat on the bus.

It was definitely a good day for transportation in Wuhan. In spite of the problems met by the first bus I took – see previous post, I had a seat on every bus I took to get all the way to my destination.

I made it to the Yangtze River, relishing the long walk I would take with the sun on my shoulders and the wind in my face. I had the camera ready for picture taking. The only thing that wasn’t necessarily right is that I was dressed for chilly indoor temperatures, when outside was spectacularly fine. I wasn’t wearing a jacket although I had one with me – just in case; you never know. But I was wearing longjohns, leg warmers and wooly socks. I thought about taking the leg warmers off but decided against it; there were too many people on the boardwalk.

And with good reason! On a day like this, not going out would be lunacy! So, I just dealt with my rapidly overheating legs and feet. After all, why complain: my feet and legs have been so cold for so long! Now is the time for warmth! And Brother, was it warm…

Never mind about my feet. I want to convey what my eyes saw; not what my feet felt.

As I crested the staircase to the boardwalk, I couldn’t help but gasp in surprise. There, aloft, were what seemed like hundreds of kites! Multicolored and various shapes, all flying about in the sky along the river. What a sight! I took several shots but most did not turn out. Such a pity! It seems everyone that came to the river was flying a kite. Can you imagine that?

Kite flying is not just for kids. I saw couples taking turns holding the spool of string tethering their kite, children shouting with glee as their cartoon-character kites whooped and dove on the wind, older gentlemen battling the wind’s caprice in an attempt to maximize their kites’ altitude.

It seems kite flying is a very peaceful, relaxing experience. One man sat on a rock with his kites’ string in his right hand while he gazed inscrutably into the distance. His pose and demeanor were completely relaxed; he seemed at peace with himself, the wind and the world in general. A younger couple worked at launching a kite together: he held the kite while his bride sought to gain elevation by running away from him. An older man played his line and studied the sky to distinguish his kite from all of the others aloft, while his wife gathered grass and weeds and put them in a bag. I stood still amidst this field of peaceful kite flyers, letting their amity wash over me.

A small girl’s piercing cry shattered my reverie. Her little kite had tumbled from the sky! She was inconsolable as it crashed on the beach. Even when her father embraced her and wiped her tears away her posture and manner suggested total dejection. Her father opted to not launch the kite again; perhaps he thought that another disappointment would be more than she could stand. Together they rolled the kite up and, still sniffling, the little one marched resolutely away from the whole scene. I caught up with them later and saw her savoring an ice cream, so not all was lost. She had found happiness again. I was relieved for her.

The most impressive display of kite flying was this man (see picture). He was flying two kites in perfect synchronicity. His were the type of kites that make a buzzing sort of noise as they cut through the air, and he was maximizing that feature by making them whirl, dive and gain altitude again. Everyone at that spot on the beach stopped to watch this kite-flyer extraordinaire manage his two kites. Admittedly, he put on a good show: now a few feet from the beach, now soaring into the wind, his kites were never still or aloft at the same altitude for more than a second or two.

I don’t know what to make of the youth that stood by him, arms crossed. Was that his son, waiting for his chance at flying the kites, or was he just there for moral support for his dad? Could it be he was humoring his father by letting the old man fly his silly kites, when really he would rather have been elsewhere?

Only he would have known. The rest of us on the beach were dazzled by the skill and mastery of this particular kite flyer. I moved on after having stood there long enough to make my stay embarrassing. What no one knows is that I was formulating this entry while being hypnotized by the flying kites. Well, no one but you.

The rest of my walk was uneventful. It ended up being a fairly long walk, at that. I started at one suspension bridge and walked the beach to the next one, 17 km away. Once I made it to that bridge I had to cross it – on foot, and then take a set of stairs down to street level to catch the bus. Again I scored a seat for the ride home; truly a good day for transportation! It was a good thing I got a seat for the ride home; the walk I took ended up being somewhere between 25 and 28 km long. But it felt so good to get out and stretch my legs!

If there is to be a moral to this entry, let it be this: next time someone tells you to go fly a kite you might take them up on it. Kite flying certainly has its benefits!

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