The Trail of the Fairy Tale Scent


The scent of food cooking almost had a fairy tale quality to it, the sort of fragrance that would drive men crazy or a pregnant woman to push his husband to exchange an unborn child for fruits from a witch’s garden.  Right next to the guest house where we live, they seem to be cooking something delicious everyday as the smell wafts through our courtyard, making me wish I had the audacity to invite myself in.

Through its big picture windows and glass doors, it looks like a minimalist restaurant but it’s not because it only has a simple open kitchen with one electric burner stove and a table for four.  It’s an old house renovated to be one of the thousands of guest houses in Dali but its aesthetic is almost monastic.  It looks suitable for artists, writers, hermits, philosopher, zen types.

If I were single and had no kids, I wouldn’t mind living there but with Joshua and Jimmy making a ruckus most of the time, the occupants might be bothered and roused from their contemplative state.  Plus, like Joshua and Jimmy, I have fallen in love with Didi, the golden retriever puppy in our current guest house which we treat almost as our own dog, walking him out when he needs to go to the bathroom and taking him out for a hike up the slope.

For now, we plan to stay in Dali for a few more days and then the kids and I are flying back to Manila where we’ll be for over a month.  When we get back to China, Jason plans to go further south to escape the cold, windy winter of Dali which is probably nothing compared to Tianjin’s but I guess Jason’s got the itchy foot.  I had already set my heart sending the kids to attend Qiu Jin’s little school while we continue walking Didi every morning but then plans and expectations — prepare to suspend and change them every moment.

Today, we went up the steep steps of Dali University and were treated to a sweeping view of the old town and the lake as each terrace took you higher and higher like in no time, you could touch the clouds themselves.  I imagined how it would be great to work here and live amongst the trees and mountain creatures.   We followed the trail of lush vegetation to a tea plantation that was fenced in at one end.  There must be several other trails to explore and if you’re a student, teacher or staff at the university what a blessing to be immersed in such an environment.  We did not reach the peak but maybe for another time perhaps.

For Joshua and Jimmy, the university is one massive playground with steps to infinity, giant ramps and waterscapes, ideal for burning kids’ excess energy.  Now, I could add this to the list for Donna and Lucia to visit.  Instead of touring Cang Shan with the rest of the site-seekers, climbing up Dali University would be a calm, peaceful and invigorating exercise, far from the madding crowd.

Is it strange or not to be attached to a puppy after walking him for a few consecutive mornings?  I’d hate to leave our guest house in Dali and move on to the next destination, Kunming, where we take off for Manila soon.  This is the trail we leave that lingers in our minds, the stuff childhood is made of.


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