Time for another travel story (the last one for some time because I am officially broke :( )
Two weeks ago I was invited by one of my students to travel to see her boyfriend 2 1/2 hours away by fast train. She is one of my top students, she is a monitor, which means she is chosen by the university to be a "leader" of sorts. And that it's her job to watch me, which I think is cool. ha.
She told me that her boyfriend lives in his aunt and uncles house, but that they do not live there on the weekends, so we would have tons of room and not have to pay for a hotel. I was wary at first of traveling with just one student to her bf's...I thought it might be a little awkward. I thought about things like, do I really want my students to see me in my pj's with wet hair? Do I have enough stamina to be on "teacher happy mode" all weekend? And the classic- what if I get massive diarrhea?"
After weighing all the options, none of these things were good enough reasons to miss out on a chance to see a new city and become closer to my students and learn more about China in the process. So I gave Yangxue my ticket money, she bought the tickets, and I met her at the station 2 Friday's ago.
The trip almost didn't happen. Yangxue was late from riding the bus at rush hour. Our train left at 4:40 and she arrived at 4:33. I called her and we decided we would go through security separately and meet on the train. I went bolting through the crowd (funny site, I'm sure) and heard my name called while I was searching for the terminal. We made it onto the platform, running like maniacs with our bags and low and behold our tickets were in car 1. So we had to run past 8 cars of people staring at us through the windows until we reached our car. We sat down out of breath and cracking up right as the train was chugging it's horn and pulling away from the station. Hilarious.
We arrived in Taizhou and it was a lovely time. Friday night we went to eat and then wandered around a market. I was so happy that there was a shower available at the house! And that they use it! In my experience, a lot of students don't shower too often, and Chi.nese people wear the same clothes over and over in a row (Yangxue didn't change the entire weekend). So getting to shower was awesome.
Saturday we went to a Buddhist vegetarian place for breakfast: fried noodles, tea eggs, rice porridge. Then we went to an expo thing where there was dancing, shrubs clipped to look like horses, and people feeding pigeons. I tell you, sometimes stuff is so weird around here. After wandering around a lake for awhile, feeding goldfish, and just being stared at, we went to the supermarket to buy ingredients for lunch. Hailong (Yangxue's bf) loves to cook and wanted to cook Yangxue's favorite dish for us! It was soooo delicious. We had homemade hotpot. Incredible. After lunch we went to karoake where we had our own room and they sang Chinese and I serenaded them with my *cough* beautiful voice. hahha. Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" and MJ's "You are not alone" were the favorites. After karaoke we went down by the bay and wandered around even though we couldn't really see anything, though it was great to smell the salty air. We sat around watching Chinese tv before going to bed and it was so sweet, like having a Chinese brother and sister sitting around the living room. I never sit on a couch and watch tv here, so it was nice.
Sunday we took a boat to the other side of the town. Once there, Hailong called one of his highschool classmates who came to show us around. We sat in a park and then went to the classmate's uncle's restaurant. It was classic countryside: crap all over the place and stray dogs running around, but that is what is fun. We didn't order, the uncle just kept bringing us dishes. There was a slight buzz going on around the restaurant because of my presence and I tried t ignore it, until the precious 98 year old grandma came over to say, "nihao" (hello) and "huanying" (welcome).
We ate weird sea creatures, cauliflower, potatoes, pork, cabbage, fish, and rice. Delish. It was funny because they wanted to order more meat and Yangxue said, "No no, Jessica is a vegetable." What she meant was I like to eat vegetables more than meat. haha. They think I am vegetarian because I tend to stay away from meat here. Maybe eating it only once or twice a week.
The most hilarious part of the weekend was when we were trying to pay for lunch. Hailong went to pay the uncle who would not take the money. I figured this would happen because we were guests of the nephew. Well, according to Chin.ese custom, an argument must ensue, you can't just take something and say thank you, you have to argue it being given to you, then back down after 3 refusals and take it thankfully. This gives honor...or something. So Hailong kept trying to pay and when the uncle really refused, Hailong went to a stand next door and bought the man cigarettes to give in exchange for our meal.
Well this practically started a riot because the uncle had partaken in his afternoon bottle of baijo (strong Chin.ese alcohol).
The uncle stormed back to the stand trying to get the money back, while Hailong and Yangxue told me to make a run for it, we all took off down the street and the grandma came after us. She held on to Yangxue who got away, and then set her sights on me. I was confused by all the yelling, not understanding anything, and knowing that for sure I was not about to push away from this grandma. G0d forbid she fall over or something because of me. So I just stood there as the grandma gripped into my arm like I was the hostage. I tried not to laugh hysterically at the situation because that would not be good.
Finally the uncle gave the money to Hailong, who accepted and the grandma relinquished her grip on me. She left marks. I kept laughing to Hailong that grandma was stronger than me! haha. I will never forget being attacked by a Chin.ese grandma.
We took the boat back to the city center and headed for the train station. I was so exhausted after that weekend, but it was so fun! It is hard to live in a constant confusion of Chinese and English, so my brain hurt a lot, haha. I definitely felt like a big white commodity getting taken around the city, but I think in the end, it was so good to get closer to my student, so see into her life and understand her reasoning more. We had a few really meaningful conversations that were good for both of us about fa.ith, expectations of women, and marriage. I am so glad I was given that opportunity.
Here are some pics of our weekend:
In other news:
It snowed today. I'm cold. It's currently 1 degree celcius outside. And my classroom has no heat and my mom's package with winter clothes has not arrived. Blahhhhhh. But it's ok, life goes on. My camera is officially gone, broken, no more in use. Which is depressing. But it's ok, life goes on. :) It has served me well for 3 years. It has flown the journey across the world 5 times, been to Tai.wan and Korea, and now...it rests in peace.
I heard back from my thesis advisor today and he wants an additional 25 source annotated bibliography before he can sign off on my draft. Which means: crap; back to work. He did say many kind things and had a lot of encouragement about my writing, he just thinks I need more sources. Which is frustrating considering I LIVE IN CHI.NA. How can I find 25 BOOKS on adoption when you live in a society that shuns the practice? Hmmm.
A favorite clothing store popular across Chin.a has the slogan: Impossible is Nothing. That has become the mantra for this thesis process. Impossible is Nothing.
That's about it in my life. This week I am giving midterms so I am listening to speeches all week, which is so so so fun (for me, not them, poor guys). And I learned how to knit today! The cleaning lady at school is teaching me. And I preach.ed in chu.rch on Sunday. And was 10 minutes too short. Oh well. It was encouraging to be asked. More on that later.
I hope all is well out there. Send me sunshine.
Miss you, xoxo.