Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reader's Theater, Haircuts and Red Leaf Valley

David and I had assigned our classes reader's theaters to start presenting this week.  It was fun to watch most of them.  Some students only put in the effort to get it done.  Their voices were monotone and all they were doing was reading from the play.  Others did a power point to add to the background, added props and others even added different voices!  They were so fun to watch when they added all these things.  One play had a "brownie" in it.  They were looking up online what a "brownie" was.  The picture that I saw on one of their phones was a brownie that you would eat!  I had to find a picture on my phone to show what the brownie was that they were supposed to portray. 
On Thursday afternoon, we decided to get our hair cut.  David asked one of his student helpers to go with us because we wanted to go back to the woman who had cut our hair when we were here four years ago.  The student brought along a male friend of hers and he spoke English fairly well also.  The woman was pleased to see us and remembered us from when were were there before.  She was so happy to see us!  She cut my hair a little shorter than I am comfortable with, but it will grow back.
She insisted that we get a picture with her and then she immediately posted it to QQ (China's Facebook).
We had lunch with Eva and Dani (a student helper of Eva's that has helped us several times) on Wednesday at the Canteen.  Eva was asking if we had plans for this weekend and mentioned that it would be fun to go to Red Leaf Valley.  We had lunch with Eva again on Friday and she asked again about it.  We thought it would be fun to go, but Eva didn't want to drive her car there and try to park.  She found a tour company that would take us up there and back and got us in for 100 RMB each.  Sounded like a great price to us, so she arranged for the three of us to go.

We got up early Saturday, took a taxi to the place we were to meet the tour group and Eva, and got on the bus.  It was about an hour ride south and east of Jinan.  As we get close to the site, we have to go up this rather steep road in that big 60 passenger coach bus.  Some of those turns the driver had to take were very sharp.  One turn, he had to back up a little bit (with a sheer cliff on the other edge!) and then start on up the rest of the turn.

We walked and saw a lot of the things from a small aviary to some carnival rides for children, but mostly we wanted to get where the leaves had started to turn.  There are a lot of maple trees and other deciduous trees that make pretty autumn colors there.  They also plant a tulip garden for the Spring and they have orchards of apple and cherry trees in the Spring also.
Some of the color in Red Leaf Valley.

Looking down at a gate that is amid all the colors.

A view of the pagoda.

The waterfall that is by the lake.
We walked up to where the pagoda is, occasionally being stopped by people for pictures.  We decided to stop on some stumps to rest and have a few snacks.  While we were sitting there, people passing by and then a few children wanted to use their English and say "Hello."  We tried to talk to some of them and then they wanted pictures.  I lost track of how many children came next to me to get their picture taken.  Eva was getting a kick out of all of this.
This little girl was so happy to have her picture taken with both of us. 

This woman was so happy that we let her get her picture with us.

The little boy that I'm "talking" to just kept coming over to me and wanting more attention.

Another little happy Chinese child that got to meet the Americans!
After all the children left, we continued our way up the mountain. One of the areas was called "Lover's Valley."  They decorated it with probably a million pinwheels all around the area.
Lover's Valley.  Eva wanted to know our story of how we met.

We stopped at one of the little make-shift restaurants that just pop-up all over the place.  We had a type of dumpling that is fried, rather than boiled and some won-ton soup.  Both were delicious and hit the spot.  A boy that looked to be about eight, just stood and watched us the whole time.  He had been playing with Legos while the parents worked, but he stopped and came over close to our table and just watched us.  Sometimes it feels like we are aliens and they can't believe that we eat and drink and talk.
These are the fried dumplings.  Filled with pork and leeks.  Very tasty!

Won ton soup with pork, kelp and what Eva called, "baby celery."

We made our way back to the tour bus on time and then took a city bus back to our campus area.  We stopped by a new fruit and vegetable market that is in our area and bought some fruit.  As we were crossing the street headed back to the campus, two men, that we learned were here from Pakistan, started talking to us and asking where we were from. They are here getting their Doctorate degrees in microbiology and physics and then they plan to go back to Pakistan and help their country build their knowledge and program there.  They received their Bachelor and Masters Degrees from Pakistan where all the courses in their schooling are taught in English. Then they come to China for their Doctorate degree and have to learn Chinese along with work on their Doctorates.  They offered us some of their food, but we declined because we had already just bought what we needed.  They sure seemed like fine young men.
Some of the places we were walking were fairly steep and it was bothering my knee, so Eva suggested that walking backward would not be as hard on my knee.  The way David was holding me, I suggested that it felt like we should be dancing.  Well, we started to dance!  That was fun!  Also, another picture taking opportunity for some girls who were passing by and applauded us.

Among the colorful leaves with Eva.

Paddle boats that you can rent to paddle around the small lake.

It was fun to watch kids playing in these plastic bubble rolls.  It looked like a lot of fun.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Day 6. Flying home - First Class!

Saturday, October 07, 2017

We left the hotel at 9:30 and drove straight to the airport with the whole group.  About half of us had to leave between 11:15 and 12:30, so our guide, Ted, got us all checked in for our flights and then went back to the bus to take the later group that left at 2:30 to new mall in town so they didn’t have to sit at the airport for 4 hours.  Ted was great guide and we all tipped him handsomely. 

David and I were the only non-Chinese on the plane.  We had seats right in the front of the economy class seats.  Our plane made a short stop in the city of Yichang where a majority of the passengers got off and the rest who were going on to Jinan stayed on the plane. 

One of the flight attendants, who had been an attendant for overseas flights to the US, came to talk to us.  We asked her if she had been able to visit any sites while she was in the US and she said that one time they had rented a car and went to Yosemite National Park.  

A few minutes after she left to do something and then we see the pilot coming toward us!  He wanted to speak to us, after learning there were Americans who were teachers on board.  He also had a pretty good command of the English language.  We told him what we were doing in China and he soon left and talked with some of the flight attendants.  Then he came back to us just as they started loading the plane and invited us to sit in the first-class passenger area.  The seats had been empty since the first flight and were not being used during the second flight.  It was a lot more comfortable! They also brought us a free soda.  It was nice. He said he did  it because he has great respect for teachers. 

We are home again and classes start in again on Monday.  Tomorrow in Church, we will be listening to a conference session since we don’t get it in China until a week late.  It has started raining and has turned colder in Jinan.  It's nice to not have it so hot, but then, you have to contend with the rain and turn on the space heater because cement buildings get cold fast!  Excited to be home with a more decent and reliable internet connection too.

Day 5, Oct. 6, 2017. Waterfalls Day.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Today was an early start as we needed to be ready to go at 8 a.m.  We loaded the bus and headed up to the National Park that has the tallest and also the widest waterfalls in Asia.  It was a fairly easy walk to the first waterfall that was the widest in Asia. It was gorgeous.  The crowds were starting to get heavy, so we moved on to catch a bus to get to the next waterfall.

Longest waterfall in China.  They have a national park dedicated to these beautiful waterfalls.

This is my favorite picture of it. 

After the bus dropped us off, we walked down to a village full of vendors.  The rest of the group was going to go on a hike that would last two hours.  I knew my knee would not hold up and two other women were not anxious to take that hike on either, so we stayed behind after walking part way with them.  We tried to go see a few things in that area, but it really wasn’t much else to see unless we got caught in a great crowd that would have been too much for us.  We bought some ice cream and some oranges and sat under a tree on a bench most of the two hours that we waited.  Some people said, “Hello” and other took pictures. 

Shortly before the rest of our group got back, two young men came up to David and started talking to him.  They were both teachers in a middle school in a province in the south of China.  They had pretty good English skills and one wants to travel the US and parts of Europe, Spain and Great Britain specifically.  They walked with us most of the way up the hill until we had to hurry up to catch up with our group to get on the bus.

David talking with the two young teachers from Southern China.  They were also here with another tour group for the National Holiday.
One of the bus drivers was so thrilled to have a group of Americans on his bus that he had to get a video of us before he would drive off.  We sang Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree for everyone and they clapped for us.

After lunch, we went on the hike to the tallest waterfall in Asia.  We walked through an area called a "potted forest" because it was a Bonsai Forest.  It would have been nice to take some time and look at more of the bonsai and even get some pictures, but our goal was to get to the waterfall.  It was hard working through the crowd to stay together and get to where we needed to be, but it was worth the effort. 
Our first view of the Huangguoshu Waterfall.  It is 81 meters in width.

Very hot and muggy here.  We almost didn't want to hold hands because it was such high humidity.

This is my favorite photo of this waterfall.  It was amazing.  Now I need to go to Niagara Falls and be amazed by it!

This might give you a small idea of the crowds we had to shoulder through (gently, of course).  

We walked back along the river and we were very happy that we wouldn’t have to climb all the way back up because they have an escalator the takes you back to up almost the top (about 80 meters up).  We were hot and tired and went through all the vendors to get to the bus and endure the three hour ride back to Guiyang where we are spent the night.  

We were all amazed at this beautiful chandelier that was in the lobby of the hotel we stayed at the night before. 

Day 4, Oct. 5, 2017. Tiantai Mountain Dragon Temple. Dragon Palace Cave

Thursday, October 05, 2017

We were out of hotel at 8 a.m. today.  We traveled about three hours south of Guiyang and the first stop was at Tiantai Mountain Dragon Temple.  It is an old temple that is at the top of a mountain and also doubled as a fortress.  It started out as stairs and continued as stairs all the way to the top!  Someone said that going up and down was about 2.5 miles.  It was a difficult climb and my knees are angry at me for doing that.

This was fairly early in our climb up to the Dragon Temple.  

A Ginko tree that has been around for a while.  They tie red ribbons on as wishes on the tree.

The Dragon Temple from the bottom of the hill, but not where we started.  We had to go up about 50-75 steps first and then start on the trail to the temple.  Little did we know...

One of several gates we went through on our climb.

A mural of the seven tenets of Daoism (I think).

We were only about half way up at this point.

A view of the surrounding mountains from the top.  The rounded tops are interesting.

This was inside the temple.  They coat the wood with tung oil to keep the insects out of the wood.  That was the reason for the distinctive odor in the room.

Finally, the TOP!

Our next stop was to an ancient Han ethnicity village.  We walked around the old streets that were full of vendors.  We did some shopping and eventually stopped for lunch at a restaurant.  Evidently horse meat is a specialty of the people in this area, so we were given a plate of horse meat for lunch.  It had a little strong taste, but it was okay, rather dry actually. 
As we were going through the village, we stopped in front of a shop that was selling batik clothing and pictures.  I was fascinated to see how they did it.  They draw the outline of a design on the fabric, apply wax with a paint brush to the areas they want to keep white or some other color and then dye the rest of the fabric.  Most of the tablecloths and pictures they had were dyed with indigo, but there were some others that had a little bit of yellow or red on them. 

After lunch, we walked around some more and we were shown some of the really old stone buildings that are still standing and being lived in.  Then we went to see a small opera show they have there.  I guess when you have been to the bigger shows, the little one wasn’t all that impressive.

One of the old stone buildings in the Han Village. The slit in the wall was made so they could shoot arrows through for defense.

Narrow walkway through the ancient village. These walls are over 500 years old.

Another view of the village lane.

Outside of the cave where one waterfall came out. 
We had to hurry after that to get back to the bus and go to the next venue.  This was a cave that you ride a boat through and see all the lights that they have rigged up in the cave.  It is really pretty, but what kept going through my mind is that our National Parks service would NEVER allow us to do this in our caves at home! 
The opening of Dragon Palace Cave.  Some areas of the cave only had room for one boat to go through at a time.
Colorful lights added to the cave.
Where the water from the cave comes out.

While we were waiting for our guide to get the tickets for the boat ride, we were treated to a concert from this group of people from the Buyi (pronouced boo-ee) people.  Each of their instruments were hand made and all were a little different.

When the boat ride reached the end of the cave, we were supposed to turn around and head back, but for some reason, our driver didn’t do that and we docked the boat and they told us to get out of the boat, so we did.  We walked along a pontoon walkway to the other side of the cave and waited for the rest of our group.  After a long while, our guide comes to find us and said that we weren’t supposed to get out of the boat!  We got back in the line to get back on the boat and that was longer than we had time for and we were supposed to do so we could get onto the next thing we were going to see. 
This is Tiger Cave Falls that we weren't supposed to go see.  
Finally, we got back to the boat dock and then we all lined up for a group photo.  So many Chinese started taking pictures of us and then we started inviting them to join with us also for a big group photo.  We had about 30 people come join us, all just laughing and having a good time joining these Americans! 

Take a ride through the Dragon Palace Cave with us!

Our next stop was a lake that has a perpetual swirl in it. Our guide called this "Whirlpool Lake", but it was a really slow swirl that drains somewhere in the middle and from there they weren’t sure where it went to.  We also walked to see a Budda in a cave.  David and I saw the Budda, but we were so tired we just sat around the outside entrance and waited for the rest of the group to come out.  A group of three men stopped and asked if they could take a picture with us.  Of course, asking is in the form of holding their phones out, saying “hello” in either English or Chinese and then pointing and saying “Photo, photo?”  We agreed and pretty soon we had about 10 people that stopped and wanted their picture with us also, each one or two at a time.  The last was a woman who stood between us and then they all left.
Whirlpool Lake.  You can't see the swirl in this picture for how slow it was.  We could only see it because there were some leaves on the water and you could see them moving slowly in a circular pattern.

The guide said it was time to go and so we started out well ahead of the others and as we passed through the town, we smiled and said “Hi” to a lot of people and admired several babies.  We arrived well ahead of the rest of the group, so we sat on a wall and two girls, both we had said “hi” to earlier but got no response except a shocked look that we interpreted as, “They speak, they are human!”, came up to us.  We tried to speak some Chinese to them, but they either didn’t understand Mandarin (which is possible in these back-country places where they learn the Minority language) or we had a really bad pronunciation.  Eventually the one girl loosened up with us enough to remember some of the English she has been taught in school and answered the question, “How old are you?”  We were gathering quite a crowd of towns people around us at this point and they had a lot to say to us that we couldn’t understand, but they seemed to enjoy just being there looking at us.  The rest of the group eventually came, so we said good-bye to them all and left. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Guiyang Trip, Day 3, Oct. 4, 2017. Funeral and Short Skirt Village.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

We met at 8 am today so we could hurry and get to a Miao village that was further up the mountain.  This tribe of the Miao are called the “Short Skirt” Miao.  The guide was starting to show us parts of the village and he finds out that there was a person that died last night, so they were going to be dancing in the village square.  We were told that we were lucky to come and see them today because they celebrate the death of someone as passing into a better life.  

Two of the older women of the village.  They all wear that "top knot" on their heads with flowers and or silver decoration.  Some of the hair is the woman's own hair, some is hair of an ancestor (mother, grandmother that they honoring) and some is thread.  It was interesting to see the way the knot was wound into the hair piece.

The women were busy getting dressed in their costumes and the men were busy preparing a feast.  We saw the freshly slaughtered pigs waiting to be cooked.  They were in the process of bringing the body down from the house he died in and we were told to not take pictures of the body because of what they believe about it. 
As they were preparing the body and bringing it down the mountain side, these men played and played.  

While the women were busy getting ready to dance for the dead, the men were busy preparing the food for the feast after the burial.

David and I started down the steps to go to an area that we thought would take us back to the village square when a woman (I think she was about 30 or so) encouraged me to come down to her.  When I reached the step next to her, she took my hand and led me through some narrow paths and between houses to an area and then indicated that I should go up to the home up there.  After she showed me where to go, then she left.  David was with me and one of the other men in our group had followed us. 
This is the area that the woman was leading me to.

The house at the top of the hill that she wanted me to see.

The walkway that eventually led us to the village square.

After we looked around a bit, we went down and wandered the village to try and find the Square.  A Chinese man and his wife, who were touring here, were coming in one of the entrances.  He knew a little English and wanted to speak with us.  We had a nice visit and then we needed to go find the rest of our group.  
We passed by these granaries.  They put the buildings on stilts above waters so that the rats can't get into the grain.

That water didn't look too good.

We waited in the square for quite some time, and it looked like they were almost ready, so we stayed a little longer.  We enjoyed their dance.  After they sang a song, each of the women were given a little bowl and had something poured in it.  I thought it might be water, but our guide warned us that it was rice wine.  The women came out into the crowd and offered a bowl to each of many of the people, us included, and almost all the people there, even the Chinese, turned them down.

After that, we hurried to the bus and went to the larger Miao Village where they did performances from several fractions of the Miao Minority people.  There are about nine million Miao in China and they are related to the Hmong people that migrated from China to southeastern Asia.  We only got about 15 minutes of the performance.  

Once again, we found ourselves sitting at small tables in tiny stools to eat our lunch at a restaurant there.  We also purchased some of their local wares. Women would come up to us and invited us to go see what they had for sale either on a table that had been set up with some things to sell or some even had a small building they could sell from.  It was fun to go and see what they had and then barter with them to get the price we wanted and they could live with.  
This woman is part of the "Long Skirt" Miao. When they were classifying the different minorities, they couldn't successfully make the distinctions until they started making the distinctions by their dress and culture differences.

Some of the women had bought tapestries or needle work and the guide wanted to take us to someone who collects them and had some for sale.  It was nice to see some of the work that was in some cases almost a lost art among the people.
This is a baby carrier that was made by the grandmother for a grandchild.  They usually start working on it after their child is about to marry.  Because of how intricate some of the designs are it would take them several years to finish one.  The child goes on your back, the top part is put around the child and then the straps cross in front and tie in back of you under the child's bum.  The long part on the bottom adjusts to the size of the child.

We drove three hours back to Guiyang and got checked in at the same hotel we had stayed in before.  It is a pretty nice hotel
.  We went to the local KFC for supper and then back to the hotel for time on the computer and bed.