During college, I had two very good classmates, Nelson Bell and Conrad Ingersoll. The three of us lived in the same dormitory, had fun together, and talked about everything. We all liked outdoor sports and adventure, and often went to the surrounding mountains, forests, lakes, hunting or fishing. We once vowed to travel around the world together after graduation, experience different cultures and scenery.
However, reality is often not as good as one wishes. After graduation, the three of us went our separate ways and pursued different careers. Nelson Bell became a famous travel writer, traveling frequently between countries. Conrad Ingersoll became a successful businessman, running his own multinational company. And I became an ordinary teacher, teaching English in a primary school. Due to busy work and trivial life, the three of us gradually lost contact, only occasionally liking or commenting on each other on social media.
Last month, I suddenly received a call from Nelson Bell. He said he was in Xiaogan City, Hubei Province, China, and invited me and Conrad Ingersoll to go there for hunting. He said he had already contacted the local guide and hotel, and prepared night vision equipment night vision binoculars and infrared binoculars for us, so that we could hunt more wild animals at night. He also said he wanted to take us to taste the local delicacies, such as steamed buns, Hanlin chicken, glutinous rice cake and so on. He said this was his surprise for us, and also his reward for our friendship. Hearing this news, I felt very excited and moved. I immediately agreed to his invitation and contacted Conrad Ingersoll to tell him the good news. Conrad Ingersoll was also very happy and said he happened to have a gap and could spare time to join this trip. The three of us agreed on the time and place and prepared to start our reunion journey. I was full of expectation and curiosity about this trip. I wanted to know how Nelson Bell and Conrad Ingersoll were doing, what was special about Xiaogan City, and what was different about hunting at night. I felt this would be an unforgettable trip and a precious friendship trip.
The three of us agreed to meet at Xiaogan Railway Station at 3 pm on September 15th. I set off from Los Angeles, took a plane and high-speed rail, after more than 20 hours of travel, finally arrived at the destination at the agreed time. As soon as I walked out of the train station, I saw Nelson Bell and Conrad Ingersoll standing at the door waving at me. They both wore casual clothes, carrying big bags and small bags, looking energetic. I walked over quickly and hugged them warmly, feeling like I was back in college.
Nelson Bell said he had booked a taxi for us that could take us directly to the hotel. He said the hotel was very close to Qianchong Ancient Ginkgo National Forest Park, only half an hour’s drive away. He also said the hotel’s service was very good, the room was very comfortable, and there was free breakfast and wifi. Conrad Ingersoll said he had prepared some hunting equipment for us, such as guns, ammunition, knives, flashlights etc. He said this equipment were brought from the United States, very good quality, very strong performance. He also said he specially bought two kinds of night vision equipment night vision binoculars and infrared binoculars for us, so that we could hunt more wild animals at night.
Hearing them say that, I felt very grateful and excited. I said they were really thoughtful and considerate, arranging such a perfect trip for us. I said I also prepared some small gifts for us, such as chocolate, coffee, red wine etc. I said these were all brought from Los Angeles, hoping they would like them. The three of us talked and laughed while getting on the taxi, starting our reunion journey.
We arrived at the hotel around 4 pm. The name of the hotel was Xiaogan Ginkgo International Hotel, a four-star hotel located in the center of Xiaogan city. The hotel looked very impressive from the outside, and the interior decoration was also very luxurious. We checked in at the front desk, then took our room cards and luggage, and took the elevator to our room. We three stayed in the same suite, which was very spacious, with two bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom and a balcony. From the balcony, we could see the beautiful view of Qianchong Ancient Ginkgo National Forest Park, and in the distance, we could also see the city landmarks such as Xiaogan Bridge and Xiaogan Tower.
After we put our luggage away, we started to exchange gifts with each other. Nelson Bell gave each of us a travel book he wrote, with his autograph and blessing on it. Conrad Ingersoll gave each of us a smart watch produced by his company, with our photos and names on it. I gave them each a box of Los Angeles specialty chocolates, a can of Los Angeles specialty coffee and a bottle of Los Angeles famous red wine. We all liked each other’s gifts, thanked each other for their kindness, and complimented each other on their taste.
After chatting for a while, we decided to go out for dinner. Nelson Bell said he had already checked online that there was a very famous Xiaogan restaurant nearby, specializing in local delicacies. He said he wanted to take us there to taste the flavor of Xiaogan and broaden our horizons. Conrad Ingersoll and I both agreed and said we were looking forward to it. We changed our clothes and then left the hotel and walked to the Xiaogan restaurant.
The Xiaogan restaurant was not far from the hotel, only about ten minutes’ walk. Along the way, we also admired the night view of Xiaogan city, seeing the brightly lit streets, bustling crowds, dazzling shops and so on. We felt the prosperity and vitality of this city. When we arrived at the Xiaogan restaurant, we found that there was already a long queue at the door, indicating that this restaurant was very popular. Fortunately, Nelson Bell had booked a table in advance, so we didn’t have to wait and could go in.
The decoration of the Xiaogan restaurant was very distinctive, with various historical and cultural pictures and inscriptions of Xiaogan hanging on the walls. The tables and chairs were also made of bamboo, giving people a sense of simplicity and warmth. The waiter greeted us warmly and took us to our table. We sat down and started to order. Nelson Bell said he had already checked online about Xiaogan’s special dishes, and he recommended us some dishes, such as steamed buns with steam flavor, Hanlin chicken, glutinous rice cakes and so on. He said these were all famous dishes of Xiaogan, with a long history and unique taste. Conrad Ingersoll and I both said we were willing to try and were curious about these dish names. We followed Nelson Bell’s suggestion and ordered these dishes, plus some other side dishes and drinks.
Soon, our dishes came one after another. We picked up our chopsticks and started to feast. The steamed buns with steam flavor were steamed in a pressure cooker, with thin skin and large filling. The filling was made of pork, chives, mushrooms and so on. It tasted fresh and juicy, with a refreshing steam flavor. The Hanlin chicken was stewed in a clay pot with a whole chicken. The chicken meat was tender and delicious, the soup was rich and spicy, and there were some mushrooms, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables to increase nutrition and flavor. The glutinous rice cakes were a kind of dessert made of glutinous rice, coated with sesame or peanut crumbs outside, stuffed with bean paste or sesame paste inside. It tasted soft and sweet, very suitable for relieving greasiness. We all praised these delicacies and shared our feelings and evaluations with each other. We also asked the waiter about the methods and origins of these dishes, and expressed our appreciation and admiration for Xiaogan’s food culture.
After dinner, we took a taxi back to the hotel. We three felt very satisfied and happy, thinking that this was a rare delicious meal. We decided to try other Xiaogan specialties tomorrow and looked forward to tomorrow’s hunting trip.
We got up at 7 am on September 16th to start our hunting trip. We had a hearty breakfast at the hotel restaurant, then waited for our guide at the hotel entrance. Our guide was a middle-aged man named Mr Liu who was an experienced staff member of Qianchong Ancient Ginkgo National Forest Park. He was responsible for leading tourists to visit and hunt in the park. He wore a green uniform, a hat, a map and a walkie-talkie in his hand. He looked very kind and professional.
Mr Liu greeted us and checked our ID cards and hunting permits. He said we were very lucky, because Qianchong Ancient Ginkgo National Forest Park only opened for two months (September and October) every year for tourists to hunt, and only allowed ten groups of tourists to enter every day. He said this was to protect the park’s ecological environment and the number of wild animals. He also said that the place we were going to today was the best place for hunting in the park, with rich animal resources and beautiful natural scenery.
Mr Liu took us on an off-road vehicle and started our hunting trip. On the car, he introduced us to the history and attractions of the park. He said Qianchong Ancient Ginkgo National Forest Park was the largest ancient ginkgo reserve in China, with more than 3,000-thousand-year-old ginkgo trees, among which the oldest one had a tree age of more than 4,300 years and was known as a “living fossil”. He said there were also other rare plants in the park, such as Tiannv Golden Osmanthus, Zhuangyuan Ancient Cypress, Redwood and so on, which were all national first-class protected plants. He said there were also many revolutionary relics in the park, such as the former site of the Fifth Division of the New Fourth Army, the tomb of the Red Army martyrs, the Red Army Long March Monument and so on, which were all important remains of China’s revolutionary history.
Mr Liu also introduced us to the precautions and rules of hunting. He said we had to abide by the park’s management system and not damage vegetation or pollute the environment at will. He said we could only hunt in designated areas and times, and not exceed the scope or extend the time. He said we could only hunt some wild animals that were abundant in number and not protected animals, such as wild rabbits, pheasants, wild ducks and so on, and not waste or abuse animals. He said we had to follow his instructions and arrangements, and not act on our own or take risks. He said if we encountered any problems or dangers, we could contact him or other staff through walkie-talkies.
Mr Liu also learned from us some local customs and folk culture. He said Xiaogan was an ancient city with a history of more than 3,000 years, one of the birthplaces of Chu culture, and a representative city of filial piety culture. He said Xiaogan’s people were hospitable, hardworking and simple, and valued family and education. He said Xiaogan’s folk activities were rich and colorful, such as Xiaogan International Ginkgo Festival, Xiaogan International Dragon Boat Race, Xiaogan International Poetry Festival and so on, which attracted many domestic and foreign tourists to participate and watch. He said Xiaogan’s specialties were also famous, such as Xiaogan rice, Xiaogan tea, Xiaogan honey and so on, which were very good local products and gifts.
We listened to Mr Liu’s introduction and had a deeper understanding and interest in Qianchong Ancient Ginkgo National Forest Park and Xiaogan city. We also asked Mr Liu some questions, such as what wild animals were in the park, what natural landscapes were in the park, what cultural landscapes were in the park and so on. Mr Liu answered us one by one and provided us with some interesting information and stories. We three felt that Mr Liu was a very good guide, not only professional but also humorous. We were full of expectation and passion for today’s hunting trip.
We arrived at the entrance of Qianchong Ancient Ginkgo National Forest Park at about 8 am. Mr Liu gave each of us a ticket and a walkie-talkie and told us today’s itinerary. He said we would first visit the natural and cultural landscapes in the park, then start hunting at dusk until 10 pm. He said we could contact him at any time through walkie-talkies if we had any questions or needs. He also said he would wait for us in the car and not go into the park with us because he had to keep the vehicle safe and smooth.
We took our tickets and walkie-talkies and entered the park. As soon as we entered the park, we were stunned by the scenery in front of us. We saw patches of golden ancient ginkgo forests, like pieces of golden carpets covering the earth. We saw clusters of white Tiannv Golden Osmanthus flowers, like pearls dotted among the green leaves. We saw rows of tall and straight Zhuangyuan Ancient Cypress trees, like loyal guards protecting this land. We smelled a fresh and fragrant air that made us feel refreshed.
We walked along the path in the park, admiring various beautiful plants. Mr Liu introduced us to the names and characteristics of these plants through walkie-talkies and told us which plants could be picked up to taste or make tea or medicine. We followed Mr Liu’s instructions and picked some ancient ginkgo leaves, Tiannv Golden Osmanthus flowers, redwood fruits etc., and tried their taste and effects. We found that these plants were not only beautiful but also beneficial; some could refresh our minds; some could clear heat and detoxify; some could nourish our skin.
After walking for a while, we came to a historical and cultural area in the park. There were many revolutionary relics here, such as the former site of the Fifth Division of the New Fourth Army, the tomb of the Red Army martyrs, the Red Army Long March Monument and so on. Mr Liu told us the stories and meanings behind these relics through walkie-talkies and told us that these relics were all national key cultural relics protection units and could not be touched or photographed at will. We listened to Mr Liu’s explanation and expressed our respect and awe for these relics, and our admiration and admiration for China’s revolutionary history.
After visiting the historical and cultural area, we came to a natural scenery area in the park. There were many natural caves here, such as Meihua Cave, Nezha Cave, Dragon King Cave and so on. Mr Liu introduced us to the formation and features of these caves through walkie-talkies and told us which caves could be visited and which caves were dangerous or prohibited. We followed Mr Liu’s instructions and entered some caves, experiencing the mystery and wonder of the caves. We saw various shapes and colors of stalactites, stalagmites, stone flowers and so on, like exquisite artworks. We also heard the echo and dripping sound in the caves, like beautiful music.
We played in the park for a whole day, feeling the charm and style of the park. We three felt that this was a rare natural trip, as well as an interesting cultural trip. We decided to come back to the park tomorrow, continue to explore other attractions in the park, and look forward to the evening hunting trip.
We finished our sightseeing trip at about 5 pm, returned to the off-road vehicle, and prepared to start our hunting trip. Mr Liu gave each of us a gun and some ammunition, and told us today’s hunting area and time. He said that the place we were going to today was the most suitable place for night hunting in the park, with rich animal resources and less human interference. He said that we could hunt from 6 pm to 10 pm today, not beyond this time, otherwise it would affect the normal life of animals. He also said that we had to report our location and target to him before hunting, and report our results and situation to him after hunting.
Mr Liu also gave each of us a pair of night vision equipment, and told us the difference and usage of these two-night vision equipment. He said that one kind of night vision equipment was night vision binoculars, which used a low-light amplifier to amplify the weak ambient light into visible light, allowing people to see objects in the dark. He said that the advantage of this night vision equipment was that it could see the real color and shape of objects, and would not cause damage to eyes. He said that the disadvantage of this night vision equipment was that it required a certain amount of ambient light; if the ambient light was too weak or too strong, it would affect the observation effect. He said that another kind of night vision equipment was infrared binoculars, which used an infrared detector to convert the infrared radiation emitted by objects into visible light, allowing people to see objects in the dark. He said that the advantage of this night vision equipment was that it was not affected by ambient light; it could be used in any light conditions; and it could see the temperature distribution of objects. He said that the disadvantage of this night vision equipment was that it could only see the outline and brightness of objects; it could not see the color and details of objects; and it would cause irritation to eyes if used for a long time.
Mr Liu let us choose which kind of night vision equipment to use, and reminded us to protect these equipment well; do not damage or lose them. Nelson Bell chose night vision binoculars; he said he liked to see the real color and shape of objects; he thought it was more aesthetic. Conrad Ingersoll chose infrared binoculars; he said he liked to see the temperature distribution of objects; he thought it was more technological. I also chose infrared binoculars; I said I wanted to try this novel way of observation; I thought it was more challenging.
We took our guns, ammunition and night vision equipment; got off the off-road vehicle; entered the hunting area in the park. Mr Liu told us the range and direction of the hunting area; he told us how to contact him through walkie-talkies. He also told us that if we encountered any emergency or danger; we could press the emergency button on walkie-talkies; he would come over immediately to rescue us. He wished us good luck with hunting; he reminded us to pay attention to safety.
We said goodbye to Mr Liu and started our night hunting activity. We each put on night vision equipment, took our guns, and walked along the path into the forest. We searched and aimed for targets in the forest, and also shared our advantages and disadvantages and feelings of using these two-night vision equipment.
We hunted in the forest for two hours, during which we encountered many wild animals, such as wild rabbits, pheasants, wild ducks and so on. We used night vision binoculars and infrared binoculars to find and aim for targets, and cooperated, tracked, and shot with each other. We also encountered some difficulties and dangers, such as getting lost, accidental injury, encountering wild boars and so on, and helped and solved each other.
Nelson Bell used night vision binoculars; he said he could see the real color and shape of animals; this made him easier to judge the type and size of animals. He said he shot three wild rabbits, two pheasants and a wild duck; they were all good prey. He said he enjoyed the fun of night hunting; he thought it was a way to get close to nature.
Conrad Ingersoll and I used infrared binoculars; we said we could see the temperature distribution of animals; this made us easier to find the position and movement trajectory of animals. We said we shot four wild rabbits, three pheasants and two wild ducks; they were all good results. We said we liked the excitement of night hunting; we thought it was a way to challenge ourselves.
We also encountered some problems and dangers during the hunting process. Once, I got separated from Conrad Ingersoll; we couldn’t find each other’s location. We contacted Nelson Bell through walkie-talkies; he used night vision binoculars to find us; he led us back to where we were. Once, Conrad Ingersoll accidentally injured a squirrel; he felt very guilty and sad. I comforted him; I told him it was an accident; not intentional. Once, Nelson Bell encountered a fierce wild boar; it rushed towards him; tried to attack him. I and Conrad Ingersoll arrived in time; we scared the wild boar away with our guns. We checked Nelson Bell’s body; we found that he was not injured; just startled.
After hunting, we collected the game we shot; we reported our location and situation to Mr Liu. Mr Liu said he was glad to hear that we were successful in hunting; we were not injured. He said he would drive over to pick us up right away; he would take us back to the hotel. He also said he would help us deal with the game; he would teach us how to cook them with local methods.
We waited for a while; we saw Mr Liu driving over to where we were. We got on the car; we started our way back. On the car, we showed Mr Liu the game we shot; we thanked him for his help and guidance. Mr Liu praised our hunting skills and courage; he said we were the best tourists he had ever seen. We three felt that this was an unforgettable hunting trip; it was also an exciting adventure trip. We decided to come back to the park tomorrow; continue to hunt more wild animals; look forward to making a rich dinner with game.
We returned to the hotel at about 10 pm, gave the game we shot to Mr Liu, and said goodbye and thank you to him. Mr Liu said he would help us deal with the game and send it to our room tomorrow morning, so that we could make a rich breakfast with them. He also said he would take us to the park tomorrow, continue to hunt more wild animals, and take us to visit other attractions. He wished us a good dream and reminded us to rest and keep warm.
We returned to our room and started to celebrate our hunting success with the red wine and chocolate we brought. We three sat on the sofa in the living room, drinking and chatting, talking about our recent situation and experience. Nelson Bell said he was writing a travel book about China, introducing the scenery, culture, food and so on of various provinces and cities in China. He said he had traveled most of China, only Hubei province was left. He said he was glad to come to Hubei province with us and feel the charm and style of this place. He said he liked Xiaogan city very much, feeling that it had a strong historical heritage and unique local features. He said he planned to write this trip into his book and make our three people’s story as a highlight.
Conrad Ingersoll said he was running his multinational company, involving various industries and fields, such as electronics, communication, energy, finance and so on. He said he had to face various pressures and challenges every day, such as market competition, customer demand, employee management and so on. He said he was tired but also fulfilled, feeling that he was realizing his dream and value. He said he was grateful to come to Hubei province with us, relax himself and enjoy life. He said he liked hunting very much, feeling that it was a way to exercise his body and challenge himself. He said he planned to make this trip as a reward and make our three people’s experience as an example.
I said I was teaching English to elementary school students, cultivating their language ability and interest. I said I had to prepare courses, correct homework, organize activities and so on every day. I said I was busy but also happy, feeling that I was spreading knowledge and influencing the future. I said I was lucky to come to Hubei province with you, learn new knowledge and experience new culture. I said I liked Xiaogan’s food very much, feeling that it was a way to satisfy my taste buds and taste the local flavor. I said I planned to make this trip as a memory and make our three people’s friendship as a wealth.
We chatted for a while and then started to recall the fun and feelings of college days. We talked about our daily life in the dormitory, such as studying together, playing games together, watching movies together and so on. We talked about our wonderful experiences on campus, such as joining clubs, volunteering, getting scholarships and so on. We talked about our adventure trips in the surrounding mountains and lakes, such as hunting, fishing, camping and so on. We talked about our separation and reunion after graduation, such as sending letters, making phone calls, video chatting and so on. We said a lot of things; there were laughter; there were tears; there were touching; there were gratitude.
We chatted until midnight; we realized that it was already very late. We decided to end today’s chat; we prepared to sleep. We three hugged each other; we wished each other good dreams. We returned to our own bedrooms; we lay in bed; we closed our eyes. I thought about everything that happened today; I felt that this was an unforgettable trip; it was also a precious friendship trip. I thanked God for letting me meet Nelson Bell and Conrad Ingersoll such good friends; let us reunite again. I looked forward to tomorrow’s another day; I hoped that we could always keep this friendship. I gradually fell asleep; I dreamed of our three people’s good time in Xiaogan.
This trip brought me a lot of gains and touches. I reunited with my two good friends Nelson Bell and Conrad Ingersoll; we enhanced our friendship and understanding. We came to Xiaogan city in Hubei province together; we experienced the scenery, culture, food and customs here. We went to Qianchong Ancient Ginkgo National Forest Park together; we visited various natural landscapes and cultural landscapes. We hunted at night together; we used night vision binoculars and infrared binoculars; we hunted many wild animals. We made a rich dinner with the game we shot together; we celebrated our success with red wine and chocolate. We recalled the fun and feelings of college days together; we talked about our recent situation and experience.
I felt that this was an unforgettable trip; it was also a precious friendship trip. I thanked God for letting me meet Nelson Bell and Conrad Ingersoll such good friends; let us reunite again. I thanked Mr Liu for his help and guidance; let us hunt and visit safely. I thanked Xiaogan city for its welcome and hospitality; let us enjoy its charm and style. I looked forward to coming to Hubei province again in the future; see my two good friends again. I wished them happiness and happiness; keep this friendship forever.