Chimelong Paradise: The Amusement Park
Soon after seeing what the park looked like beyond the main entrance, I accepted that I was here to simply accompany the children as they enjoyed a proper amusement park amid at giving young children their first adrenaline thrills. Tea Cups and short bus Crazy Bus rides seemed to be an indication of the pace for the day. I would be proven wrong but for the majority of the day my camera was indispensable.
The park had live shows. The first one we watched was the lumberjack show that involved all sorts of demonstrations of ax and chainsaw wielding by hulking eastern European men and their ax flinging, square dancing female compatriots.
I was able to get good angles because the first 5 rows of the audience area was directly under the sun and avoided by all audience members on this hot summer day. I had to sit on my hat because the seats were so hot. It made me wonder how the performers were bearing.
The second show was an action packed drama that had as much plot line as a video game that filled its plot holes with Michael Bay type explosions. Catching the action on camera was a lot of fun as it made me feel at times like a member of a film crew on a movie set and other times as an extra in a war zone.
On such a hot day, I was surprised to see people draping themselves in plastic rain ponchos to prevent themselves from getting wet on the log ride. I cannot imagine this same thing happening in the US because I think getting wet is the whole point of going on a water ride. This example needs to be logged with mixing expensive French wine with Sprite as well as putting corn on pizza.
There was a little forested area which was really not mud more than a garden walkway. But along with the minor respite from the heat, the play of light and shadow seemed to create a sort of optical illusion over the water that would cause a trekker three days deep in the humid and dark forest to think he was seeing things.
The Roller Coasters
I had not experienced a proper roller coaster since a trip to Paramount's Great America in California around 20 years ago. I wasn't particularly itching to ride a roller coasters again. At least I didn't think I was. It was Emma's father who encouraged me to go with him. He had never been on a roller coaster and was eager to try. I was happy to go with him.
Although I don't consider myself very old, I realize quite a few years have passed between memories of experiences on roller coasters. I had to experience it again, something that I have not experienced in 20 years, to really know what it feels like, and that I missed it, and that an old memory--a good old memory--deserves to be refreshed every once in a while. Emma's father and I went on the Dive Coaster. It doesn't have you sit in a segmented car like a train. It sits 10 passengers to a row, allowing the front row to dangle their feet without a platform below. The dives and turns cause your insides to pull against the connective tissues as the intense forces take over.
I was simply overwhelmed by the feeling that had taken over my internal organs that were unprepared for what was happening. All the while another part of me was connecting to some ancient feeling. It was something that I had experienced before--another self of me. I let myself scream and continue to scream while I could hear other passengers had let theirs subside between centrifugal dips. I erupted into a fit of laughter and my laughter must have seemed maniacal as others began to scream again. I laughed so much that I began to cry. I was out of my mind with happiness. As soon as the ride ended, Emma's father and I both agreed. We had to rush to the line again and ride one more time. The adrenaline was pumping so hard that we maintained a middle distant Olympic runner's pace all the way through the switchback gates which were totally empty. The park was busy but not crowded with serious thrill seekers. There were mostly young children and their parents. So we rode the coaster three times. I went out of my head and began remembering those summers, nearly 30 years ago where I would ride the coasters of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk alone because neither my mother nor sisters were very interested. I could accept waiting in lines alone so I could enjoy the thrill and then let the joy evaporate when returning to my family who had no interested in hearing about how much fun I had had. This time was different and so much better.
The Animal Park
Unlike a zoo, where the animals are confined to small cubes of glass or steel bars, the animal park was enormous and we felt as if we were visiting an environment (a very hot environment) as much as we were visiting the animals.
However, one of the first lessons of photographing people or animals is to aim to focus on the eye. I did that and while I admit I am not sure what a happy wild animal looks like or what that actually means，I got the impression that the animals lacked a certain fire that I expect from wild animals.
There were some moments that were truly beautiful. Spending such a long day at the park in the heat, I had to keep my eye sharp, stay hydrated, and keep my camera at the ready.
I was mostly just enjoying the shade. The day was nearly 40 degrees.Even for someone like me, who can seem immune to the heat, I was gravitating towards the forgiving shade. I drew a line from the bird poop on the pavement to the tree branches where I found the birds preening themselves. Their keeper noticed me and must have taken my interest in the birds as some sort of compliment because she started chatting with me. She was in her late teens or early twenties and from a very poor part of Hunan province. It was clear from the way she talked that she was passionate about her job and while I didn't understand everything she said, I noticed that her attention kept alternating as if she peripherally kept an eye on each of the birds spread around the patch of trees.