As my friend swung towards the ground she let out a blood curdling scream. I started laughing uncontrollably. My mind, resorting to a primodial instinct that developed when human survival was paramount tried to interrupt my laughter. "Josh" said the voice in my head "if you keep on laughing that hard you will die because you won't be able to breathe" but like all other good advice this was promptly ignored. As the Viking boat ride moved me in an upwards my friend caught her breath. The momentum pulled my end of the Viking boat higher and then it stated its downward arc. She started screaming again and because I am a good friend and the penultimate gentleman I thought to myself "I really hope this ride does that thing where it stops upside down"
There was a point where I think it was impossible to eat anymore. I was quite happy the main feasting was finished. My sister suggested we go out to the park. No one seemed to mind the sub-zero weather, we had acquired enough fat during past two days to keep us warm. We went to the entrance of the park and there were several families and friends all who had the same idea. We walked and talked. We would stop every five to ten minutes to take photos. The scenery of bare small trees, frozen ponds and frozen tundra like ground could not sap the enthusiasm that people had for taking pictures. At first I resisted. I hated having my picture taken. But soon I joined in the fun, alternatively posing as a tough guy with my arms crossed in front of my chest to what I call the "Korean pose" with my thumb and index finger in the shape of a gun and the "gun" resting parallel to my chin. . As we moved from place to place and pose to pose I felt the 34 years slowly melt away like a chemical peel for my soul.
It was a bit disappointing that the Viking boat ride did not turn upside completely. It eventually slowed down and it was good because my friend was starting to lose her voice from screaming so much. We all stumbled out of the Viking ride. I turned to my sister's friend and really wanted to ask if she was okay. Maybe suggest to her she not do this ride again, but what came of my mouth was not that. I did an exaggerated version of her scream and stumbled over my uncoordinated legs while I laughed. We then walked on old style bridge with wood planks and rope and we started jumping on it shaking all the poor souls who foolishly thought they could cross the bridge also.
After we were in the park for an hour or so we realized we were hungry again, and I needed to buy my ticket back to Shanghai. It was supposed to take about forty five minutes. However we got distracted. First it was carnival games like throw the darts at the balloons or throw the ring around the bottles. For a moment I didn't want to join them, I didn't want them to throw away their hard earned money on cheap toys and games rigged against them. But they were having so much fun. It dawned on me that they realized that the games were rigged and prizes were cheap, but that wasn't the point.
We returned home for one last big meal. Hardly a feast, but we were so stuffed from the past two days of eating that we merely had a three course meal instead of the unlimited dining that occurred. Afterwards I met with some of their friends and we chatted. On our way back we got some small fireworks and sparklers, which were all that were left, and had some fun. It was back for a quick chat with everyone and since I found myself quickly falling asleep I went to the room early. One more sleep in paradise, I wanted to make the most of it.
A dark foboding feeling swelled in me as I saw the skyline of Shanghai coming into view from my bus seat. I knew all the laughter would be gone. The songs of birds would be replaced the screech of jackhammers. My mind worked furiously to hold on to those cold February days. Despite all my education, if found myself able to learn so many things. I learned happiness cannot be bought in an electronics store. I learned how "modern" society had their happiness determined not in a living room with their good friends surrounding them, but rather in the cold steel skyscraper of Madison Avenue. I realized that living with nature, and not destroying was the easiest and more enjoyable of the two options. I learned the joy of a hot bath using only a sponge and a bowl full of hot water. As I got off the bus and me feet ached as they hit the hard concrete, I knew the only way for the world to get out of the problems of the present is to look towards the past and move forward from there to the future.