22.03.2015 - 31.03.2015
Blog Entry 4
March 31, 2015
Two Sundays ago, I met a few friends for breakfast at a Muslim restaurant. Before I continue, let me say that I had no idea China has such a large Muslim population before coming. Just about every street has at least one Muslim restaurant and it is extremely common to see Chinese Muslims walking down the street in their burka or other Islamic attire. The cultural diversity within Sichuan alone is quite impressive. My good Indian friend, Aasim, who is Muslim, has been teaching me a lot about Islam as well; fascinating. To continue my experience eating breakfast, we sat down and watched a cook pull noodles by hand before cooking and serving them. From what I observe, it seems they stretch the noodles, which are still in thick, doughy state, out to the length of their wingspan, fold the dough, twist it several times and repeat the process. Watching this noodle preparation never gets old!
The following day, I attended my Daoism class and presented my PowerPoint on Lao Tzu and whether or not his teachings are still relevant. I described the abstract concepts of Wu Wei (non-action) and Zi Ran (naturalness) and applied them to modern day scenarios. Ultimately, we concluded that Lao Tzu’s teachings are, in fact, still relevant.
The following day, I met my teacher and her daughter at a local café. Her daughter, Xu Lang, whom I expected to be roughly my age. As it turns out, she is eight years old and is planning to attend school in the western part of the United States. What a cute kid! My teacher suggested that her daughter calls me “gege”, meaning “older brother” in Chinese! I taught her for forty-five minutes and then my teacher worked one-on-one with me. The pressure was on; without the attention of my classmates, my teacher focused on me. In an attempt to make a good impression and show her that I am a hard-working student, I tried my hardest to speak as fluently as possible. Luckily, she is a very understanding teacher so she excused my errors. I showed up to meet them a bit nervous and left with a huge smile; it went much better than I had expected. Talk about immersing oneself in the Chinese language!
After my morning classes on Thursday, I went to the gym and met Li, and employee who was also working out. In Chinese (of course) he asked me about weight lifting in America and then if I would be interested in partnering up with him to exercise. As you could imagine, I agreed. We taught each other exercises common in each other’s country and also the names for them. That evening, I met my newly acquainted Dutch friend, Ivo, and a group of Chinese people that I met one day playing ping pong for dinner. We planned to have Korean barbeque. Korean barbeque restaurants are not similar to American restaurants; the table has a sort of built in stove or grill on top of which one puts their tray of selected meats, vegetables, eggs and the like. In other words, you choose your own food and cook it yourself right at your table. Being unexperienced in this type of cooking, I asked my friends to help me determine when the meat was cooked thoroughly enough to eat. Ivo, on the other hand, took his chances and paid for it later; he got food poisoning and missed two days of classes! My Chinese friends told me that Korean barbeque restaurants are very popular amongst the Chinese and that they are commonly visited by couples looking to have a romantic date. How interesting!
On Saturday, I had my first ISA excursion, a trip to Huanglongxi! Huanglongxi is an ancient city approximately an hour and a half away from Chengdu by bus. I asked Yoyo, my program leader, if I could bring my Spanish friend, Paloma, along, and she approved. Luckily, Paloma is in the same level class as I am, so we were able to speak Chinese for the majority of the time. We walked to a busy bus station where we bought tickets and waited in line. When we reached our destination, I noticed that the area was significantly less developed than Chengdu; more trees, less industry, smaller homes, etcetera. We walked through the gate and saw buildings thousands of years old alongside a magnificent water fountain. Statues of China’s past heroes, political leaders and great thinkers were present throughout our journey. Vendors sold food, souvenirs and pets; bunnies, turtles and mice. We approached a bridge spanning a beautiful, remote river and I noticed that the path alongside it was sparsely populated. We decided to take a look. Ancient-style row boats floated on the willow-surrounded waterway. Intricately carved stone bridges dating back hundreds of years were visible every hundred yards or so. The only people around were elderly couples who appeared to be local to the area. This is one of the first times that I have heard complete silence since my arrival to China. We climbed a vacant ancient look-out tower giving us a view of the river, bridges and busy vendor-filled streets in the distance. What a relaxing day! On our ride home, I sat next to two middle school Chinese students who were also visiting Huanglongxi. After about twenty minutes of conversing, the girl to my left fell asleep and naturally rested her head on my shoulder. She would then pop her head up in embarrassment before repeating this pattern. Eventually, I told her, “xiu xi, wo de jianbang shi ni de zhen tou.” Translated, this means, “rest, my shoulder is your pillow.”