Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Marble Ramp Music Maker

I am going to have this lovely item be the first in the series of "Odd things that I Own". I call it the Marble Ramp. It has a great story to it.

Jorg and I were living in China in 1998. We had become very good friends with one of my students, her name is Xiao Yuan. (Say-more or less- Shee-ow You-en), and she invited us to visit her and her family when we were traveling through southern China for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). She lives in Chong Ching, which is the capital city of Szechuan Province. We were SO excited to visit her and see her home town, and it's a rare occasion to be able to go to someone's house and visit with them in a casual atmosphere.

We were going to be back packing around Yunnan Province after we visited with Xiao Yuan, and as you may know, backpacking for 4 weeks, can be a challenge to pack for. Weight is a huge issue, as is the amount of clothing and the general size of your load. The general rule is, if you don't want to carry it, don't bring it. So- we packed as lightly and as efficiently as we could.

Our visit with Xiao Yuan and her family was fantastic! Xiao Yuan's father is a well known Beijing Opera singer, and is quite famous in the area. He was so happy to sing us some Beijing Opera tunes and is, in general, a lovely man. Her mother was kind and pulled some secret strings so that we could stay in a cheaper hotel than we had originally planned on (which is a great story in itself, maybe another time). We had some amazing food (hot pot with meat, blood pudding, pig ears, mushrooms and vegetables) and were so fortunate to be able to spend the beginning of the new year with this family.

On the occasion of our last dinner together, Xiao Yuan's father wanted to give us a gift, and he pulled this magical object out of a bag. It was fantastic! It was made of plastic, with metallic shiny parts. In the front are clear plastic items, one is a series of 3 plastic harts stuck together, with holes in them that could be used as a pencil holder. There's also a light at the bottom of one of the tubes that makes it glow red. The other clear plastic bear with a red bow on its ear. The little bear also functions as the "on" switch. At the top of the ramps there is a butterfly with colored plastic "gems" that is perched on a spring thingy that makes it wave back and forth. The crowning glory is a golden cupid, with his bow ready to shoot unsuspecting victims. He spins with the music. And the MUSIC is so amazing! It's a beepy rendition of The Lambada. Amazing...just amazing. Have a look at the magic--

I was in LOVE with this little thing. The only problem was--we now had to drag it around Yunnan province for the next 3 weeks! I had to repack some of my things and shift around the load. Then I had to find a cardboard box that was sturdy enough to withstand some shock. This was fairly easy to do. I did treat my bag with great care for the duration of the trip and would pull out the music ramp frequently to check that it was still working. Amazingly it survived. And now, nearly 14 years later, I still cherish this strange little object.

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