Loco Guide

I was in China in 1982 with a tour group from my University Alma Mater. What an experience that was! China was just beginning to open up their country for tourists. I had planned to go there to see the people; they were looking at me; many Chinese had never seen Caucasians; I remember being closely observed; on an elevator, two Chinese ladies reached in to touch my pierced ears; I was just twenty-six at the time; a young twenty-six who had never even flown on an airplane before; my first flight was a total of 22 hours; we flew over the International Dateline; the sun followed us as we soared above the clouds. We had guides that were assigned to our group wherever we went; they kept saying they were, “loco guides,” at least that was what I thought they were saying; I finally caught on that they were saying, “Local guides.”

Impressions of China remain with me thirty-five years later. Garlic smells filling the air; so strong the odor seemed to penetrate into my clothes, hair, even the pores of my skin; chickens hanging by their necks in outside markets, no refrigeration, just the smell of garlic to preserve them; chopped chicken on our dinner plates; the head and feet placed in a separate tray of honor; noodle soup for breakfast; no coffee ever tasted so bad; my caffeine requirements put on hold for that month; a fellow tourist not wanting to risk foreign food packed a suitcase full of Beenie Weenies; I think I could have come up with a little more variety than that; my choice to eat, or attempt to eat what was served was part of the trip I thought; the shoosh, shoosh, sound of bicycles dominated the roads, dirt roads, even in the bigger cities; an authentic Chinese bicycle bell was purchased and stashed in my suitcase; as was an instrument I heard on the street; the man held it out to me; a dragon carved into the top of the neck of the instrument; “One yuan, one yuan!”,  he said as he thrust the instrument towards me; thinking he wanted money for the song played I shook my head; he was insistent; finally I understood he was trying to sell me the instrument; at that time one yuan was equivalent to less than fifty cents. How could I turn that down? Yes, a snake-skin covered bamboo chamber, with what was probably cat gut strings, attached to a small bamboo bow, also went into my suitcase. Inside a department store they were using an abacus to tally purchases; I pointed to the abacus; confusion finally gave way; I purchased an abacus just like the ones they were using; again into the bulging suitcase it went; at a Chinese farming commune we had the best meal we’d have the entire month; nine courses of the freshest vegetables just picked; soups; chicken, head, feet, and thank goodness no feathers were served; a dessert dish made from fresh peaches dipped into some kind of honey sugar that crystallized on contact delighted us all; I will never forget that meal; a handmade tatted white lace jacket found its way into my suitcase, a souvenir of the commune. The Li River cruise was a highlight; we passed a family in their junk, a make-shift boat, the mother was cooking over an open stove on deck, a young man was washing his hair over the side of the low riding craft; large dome-shaped mountains you have probably seen in Chinese paintings are real; I’ve seen them along the Li River, unlike any mountain range you’ll ever see; I walked through the Tiananmen Square seven years before the 1989 massacre where rifles and tanks killed several hundred Chinese protesters, mostly students; leaving the country by train in ’82 we were stunned by the huge barbed-wire fences with the barbs leaning into the Chinese side, not to keep intruders out, but to keep their own people in; we could leave; they could not; a lesson in the appreciation of freedom.

Much more could be told about my trip; freedom the last impression that did NOT represent the Chinese nation at that time; the modern world has seeped into China; but the blessed freedoms we have in the United States are precious and worthy of protecting bravely, united in our beliefs, united in our heritage.

Dear Lord, I am blessed to live in a country that celebrates the individual, their rights, privileges, and freedoms. I did nothing to enjoy this; I was born here and I know how fortunate is that birth locale. Thank You, Dear Lord, for placing me here in the United States; I am not daily aware or thankful for these blessings; but I have seen what others did not have. Help me to value and protect the precious gift of living in a free country that only asks responsible citizenship in return. I pray for our leaders; I pray You will guide them and grant them wisdom in the decisions that affect our American way of life. I pray that unity, dignity, and morality will return to our land. Bless us, and gird us; words and actions have consequences; help us to remember this; help us to remember the generations who have sacrificed and gave their lives for us all. Amen

God Bless America

Written by Irving Berlin during World War I in 1918

“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. ”

God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above;

From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.














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