A Feather in His Cap

Today was positively leisurely for me. I was not on camera at all and Phil did not get his call until 1 p.m. Hailu was supposed to be interviewed in the hotel at 10 a.m., but the hotel was too noisy. Lanzhou absolutely bursts with energy and noise on Saturday. There was a wedding party at the hotel, and nicely-dressed young children were running through the lobby with glee and abandon in the absence of any adult supervision. The oompah band music across the street boomed through our windows until 1 p.m., a nightmare for our sound man, Adrian. Hailu’s interview was delayed until comparative quiet reigned. One camera went to Daqing’s shop and filmed the dismantling of the Daxiatitan skeleton. What took 6 hours to erect took 2 hours and 45 minutes to bring down.

A long afternoon was spent at Daqing’s office, the anteroom of which is actually a lovely small and exquisite museum and a wonderful film venue.  Here among the fossils Phil arrives and receives from Hailu a fossil treasure, the analysis of which forms a key rationale for the entire episode. Dare I say—it is a fossil feather that Phil will guard with his life? While the filming went on for six hours, I lounged in Daqing’s office, drank green tea with him, showed off the pictures of my granddaughter, caught up with my reading, and generally had a low stress day, which is not a bad thing I should say, although the account of it may not make riveting reading. At one point late in the afternoon I tiptoed past the cameras and cables and went out onto the terrace. Here I found cameraman Rob absolutely enchanted by two Chinese boys and their skateboards. In case you haven’t noticed, skate boards have gotten a whole lot more complicated recently. If four wheels were not risky enough, they now have two wheels, and if a solid board were not thrilling enough, they are now jointed in the middle, the better to power forward movement by pumping. I would no more step on one of those than milk a mad bull, but of course these young adepts were coursing up and down the tiled terrace with perfect nonchalance. One was a tall nine-year-old, the other a short eight-year-old. The older wanted to talk, and he spoke really quite decent English. He introduced himself as Bruce. And he has been studying English for five years, that is, since he was four! They were both fascinated with Rob’s movie camera, and he filmed them doing their moves on skateboard. Rob beamed with delight at the encounter. These trans-cultural exchanges are what make foreign travel so rewarding for me. I was so sorry I hadn’t brought some dinosaur books as gifts.

We boarded our bus back to the hotel at 7:30 p.m. It seems that all of the crew meals until now had been eaten at the very good restaurant nearest the hotel. With just a little a little persuasion I managed to sell them on the more adventurous step of going a block away and eating at Tao Yuan Chun, where Phil and Kelly and I had enjoyed our 1000 year magic taro so very much. We all went and had a splendid meal with beer and magic taro and all. The bill came to very roughly $50 for a crew of 12! You gotta love this country!

Tomorrow: boating on the Yellow River to reach our fossil locality.


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