How to put all my adventures from the past week into words…
This past weekend we all took an overnight trip to Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province, supposedly the richest city in China. It has by far been my favorite experience in China thus far. In one day, we hiked up the steep Black Tea Mountain, biked around West Lake, and explored the Hangzhou night market that night, delicious Chinese meals in between. The mosquitoes increased in number as we hiked up the mountain. We came back looking as if everyone developed sudden chicken pox…I’m still itching. Sometimes the trail up was difficult to distinguish and there were slippery grooves here and there. However, the view was stunning! Once at the top, it was neat to see the seemingly perfect tea leaf rows. One of the guys, Nick took advantage of the open sky, free of sky scrapers and flew his newly bought drone (remote control mini jet). He drew a crowd when trying to land it.
Now, imagine navigating a bike through the dense China crowd, tourists from all over the world. Add other bikes throughout the pathway. Oh, and even some cars and buses and wagons full of merchandise. You hear bike horns and car horns being honked from every direction. And maybe you haven’t ridden a bike in what seems ages. This was me during that two hour bike ride around West Lake (Xi Hu). The navigation was challenging, and what kind of bike trip would it be without crashing at least once? Yes, I lost control of my bike, thinking I could go down a narrow pathway. I ran into some bushes and now have a large bruise on the inside of my left leg to prove it. But soon after, my friend Na-Yeon had an even bigger crash on her bike and fell all the way into the bushes. Somehow and thankfully though, she ended up with only minor scratches. Once it was evident she was laughing at what had happened, the small group of us and an older Chinese man had to join in on the laughter. Times like these make for a good story to tell later, as my motto goes. I absolutely loved biking in China. Every now and then the small group of us – Na-Yeon, Lance, Austin, and myself – would stop to take pictures of one another on our bikes, selfies, and the big dragon boat on the water. Lance even let me attach his GoPro on the front of my bike to record the ride. I would go biking in China again in an instant…I hope I can one day!
The ride to the Night Market was a memorable event as well. My awesome roommate for the trip, Joanna, did the communicating with the taxi driver and made it easy on us. There were five of us total riding, so we were close and personal. The best part was when we were parallel with a car with a family of two young children in the back. The little had his window rolled down mesmerized by this taxi full of diverse-looking foreigners. Arthi rolled down her window and said “Hi!” The dad driving heard us and said “Hi!” back. And soon the whole family was waving. We drove parallel for awhile down the busy road. It was a sweet moment to connect with a family in the car next to us. We were all laughing at the cuteness.
When at the Night Market, there was so much to see! I watched glass being melted into precise and complex glass structures. We walked into a shop full of colorful jewelry and all kinds of knick knacks, where I bought a pearl ring to match my necklace. Arthi bought tiny glass figures with her Chinese name written on them. A sight that sticks out to me is a particular snack stand. I’m not sure what to call these snacks. I bought sesame bites and peanut butter bites, about the size of flat cubes. The cool thing about it was we could watch the delicious snacks being made. Two men would set the dough material on a large barrel standing up. They would then take turns softening it using heavy hammers. You could imagine this would be a boring job doing repetitively long hours of the day, especially in a heavy tourist area. So to make it interesting, they would chant and sing to the beat of each swing. It was so intriguing. But the fun part was that there were many of these snack stands. And at each stand the men were singing their own tunes. Joanna said they were competing against one another. Some men were even dancing while hammering. As Na-Yeon and I were passing by, we couldn’t help but laugh and take discrete pictures/ videos. We met a very friendly mother and daughter, who enjoyed talking and getting to know us. I love talking to locals because they usually want to know more about you. For me though, some think I am a local so they will start speaking to me in Mandarin way too fast for me to understand right now. But when they realize I am an American, they will begin to ask about my family, where I’m from, etc. Some are familiar with the term “ABC” (American Born Chinese) and ask if I am one. I nod my head and from there we converse in Chinglish. (Me trying to use as much Chinese as possible, and vice versa). I will miss these conversations with locals. With many, I have already connected with on WeChat. I hope that we can stay in contact once I am back in the States. Joanna, my roommate for the trip was a huge help getting around and for me learning Chinese words as we got around. Joanna is a graduate student at Shanghai University, getting her Master’s in translation. So, her English is entirely fluent and understandable. She said I both look forward to staying in contact once I am back in the States. She was always telling me, “you are very smart” and she looks forward to watching my progress.
Another local student who came with us to Hangzhou was Jeffery. He sold me his calligraphy set for cheap. I feel as though I am not good at buying souvenirs but I am excited about this one! The scroll is made of a special material so when you write on it with a brush dipped in water, it darkens to appear as black ink, and then disappears after about 10 minutes. Director You Sha said that if I go out in the streets around 6:00 or 7:00pm, I could probably find senior citizens on the sidewalk practicing calligraphy with the same type of sets.
Tomorrow many of us students are going to the local dental clinic to tour and see about volunteer opportunities. David and I will then practice memorizing a poem for a Chinese recitation contest on the 19th. Wednesday I will attend another business talk about China as an incubator. Thursday I will attend a Zong Zi wrapping lesson on campus (the sticky rice and pork wrapped in lotus leaves). Zong zi is popular during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday. And then Saturday a small group of 8 of us will head to Yellow Mountain to spend our long weekend.
That’s my blog post for now. I did not realize how much time has passed by already. To bed I go. Until next time!