The first chunk of peanut cake landed quietly and without ceremony, finding himself the lone legume amidst a dense, moist purgatory of rice, vegetables and flecks of chicken meat in my stomach.
"Nothing to do now but wait," he thought to himself, checking his watch.
He didn't have to wait long. The second mouthful of peanut cake slid down a few minutes later toting a gummy shaped like a lemon.
"Any news from up top?" asked the first.
"He's got the bag of us out in the palm of his hand, sir. Munching intermittently. Could be hours before we're all down here, sir."
"Well, let's get comfortable, then."
One by one, the peanut gang assembled, surreptitiously re-congealing at the back of my digestive chamber. The vegetables started to suspect something but said nothing, perspiring partly with fear of what was to come, partly with shame at their powerlessness to stop it.
Several hours went by. Finally, suddenly, the last crumbs of chewy delicious peanut cake tumbled down. They gave the signal. "He's emptied the plastic bag, sir. Crumpled it. Thrown it away. This is the last of us."
"All right boys!" snarled the captain. "MOOOOOVE OUT!". The heavy peanut log, now whole again in the pit of my stomach, marched forward, down the small intestine with inexorable force, driving the rest of my food ahead like spooked cattle. By the time it hit the large intestine, the glacial mass was dense enough for gravity to take over....
And that's how I nearly pooped my pants on day 6. Anyway, back to day 7, during which David and I found ourselves on the top of Pǔtuóshān, one of China's four sacred Buddhist mountains, this one on top of one of many islands off the coast of Níngbō. We climbed to the top, had a religious experience watching the boats sail in and out under curtain of starlit night, and came back down. Strange to think that, as we gazed over the island from its northern tip, to our left was nothing but cold water, the East China Sea and eventually, southern Japan.
One notable interaction that day happened while I was separated from David: A storeowner whom I asked for directions replied by asking me if I had ever seen a solar oven. It went like this: "You're from America? You guys have so much technology over there! I wish I could go there and look for solar ovens to bring back to China, you know, to save energy! I could start a new business... and retire!" I said that that sounds like a good idea (I guess?). "I can't go to America, though," he said. "You can. Have you seen any over there? Maybe you can look for some for me when you go back." I asked the man if he was sure that China didn't already have solar-powered ovens. "How should I know?" he asked. "Hmm. I don't know either. Maybe you could look on the internet? Do you have a computer here?" I asked, not expecting him to. But in fact, he led me to a desk in the back of the store, where was positioned a laptop. "I never use it," he said. We connected to a wireless network. I got on Wikipedia and found this page, which contains this sentence on the subject of parabolic cookers: "Several hundred thousand exist, mainly in China". I explained this to the man, and he thanked me and sent me on my way, though I can't help but feel like I crushed his dream of selling millions of environmentally-friendly food-preparation devices to his countrymen.
Pǔtuóshān was beautiful and it's too bad we only had one day there. But we did, and the next day we were gone on a ferry just like the one we rode in on, which played Buddhist chant-karaoke on a small TV at the front of the boat. Yes, Buddhist chant-karaoke, which is way less fun than it sounds.