Saturday, January 27, 2007

Your Five Minute Tropical Vacation

Ni leng ma? Are you cold? Then let's get out of the frozen north! Let's head for palm trees and white sand. It'll only take five minutes, I promise. And where is this promised land? China, of course! Look, there's the flag, even...


You may not believe it, but even in China you can find pretty flowers...

IMG_1779 coconuts...


...sparkling waters...


...and pretty girls!


I even found some cool people to go with us. Here's Jamie and Andrew. They're from New York state, and they teach in a city a few hours north of Wuhan. They're passing through Haikou on the way to Southeast Asia.


This is Sanya, the Chinese Hawaii, three hours south of Haikou. Though Haikou is sub-tropical, Sanya is south of the mountains in the trpoical zone, and when you pass through the tunnel through those mountains, it's a whole other world. The weather is improving in Haikou. The rain has stopped and the sun's out. When I go out in my t-shirt and flip-flops, the Haikouren don't even say ni hao (hello) to me, they say ni leng ma? are you cold? It's 75 degrees and they're all wearing sweaters, because this is their winter!

Are you tired from your swim in the sea? Okay, well, before you go, "have a rest" as the Chinese say, and have a good look across the Pacific...zai jian!


Sightseeing in Wuhan

As an aside, here are some pictures from my sightseeing in Wuhan that I've been meaning to post. These first two are from the Ancient Lute Pavilion. It's a garden made to commemorate the ancient Chinese story of two friends. Long ago, a Chinese official was traveling on business when he heard the sound of someone playing the lute (a stringed instrument) beautifully. He snuck up close to listen, and the musician saw him. They talked long into the night and became good friends. They lived far from each other, but agreed to meet in the same spot one year from that day. Faithfully, the musician returned one year later, to the very hour, but the official was not there. Concerned, the musician sought him and discovered he had died. In his grief, the musician smashed his lute and swore never to play again, to honor his friend's memory.

Lute 49

Lute 9

China's full of round doors and I love them. This next picture is from one of the Buddhist temples in Wuhan. I love the architecture, and the details put into the stone carvings.

gbt 9

This is also from the Buddhist temple. They're turtles! There was a pool in the center chock-a-bock full of turtles.

gbt 13

That's all. There are more pictures I could show you, but they're on my computer back in Wuhan. I happened to have these with me. Ta ta!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

back in the saddle again

So I never thought I would be a snowbird! This year Chinese New Year is late, February 18, but I still have six weeks with no classes, so I have temporarily relocated to Hainan Island, a province of China. Hainan is just south of the mainland China, off the West coast. I'm told it's roughly the same latitude as Hawaii, though it's a bit cooler here than I think Hawaii is wont to be. Nevr mind, though, I'm here to work! I found a small language school run by a man who studied for his MBA in England. Usually they teach English to Chinese people, but they occastionally teach Chinese to waiguoren like me! After four days of class, I want very much to tell you that wo bu shi laoshi, wo shi xuesheng. Wo xueshi Hanyu, ye shuo de Yinyu. Qu nar? Ni chi le ma? Man zuo! That means "I'm not a teacher, I'm a student, I study Chiense but speak English. Where are you going? Have you eaten? Take care!" Okay, it's not the I Ching, but it'll have to do. In case you're wondering where all the cool Chinese characters are, that was Pinyin (not Pigeon!) which is a system of writing Chinese words with Roman letters (our ABC's). The system was devised by the Chinese themselves in an attempt to standardize pronunciation. Chinese is the only major non-phonetic language in the world, which means that how it's written has nothing to do with how it sounds. So learning Chinese is like learning two language, because you have to memorize the meaning of the word, and then the character. I'm not bothering too much with the characters yet, since I'm only planning on being here four weeks.
When not studying with Teacher Cindy, I have been wandering around Haikou city. The main tourist spot is Sanya, about four hours south by bus. But Haikou, (which means "mouth of the sea") is very lovely. The people are super friendly, and this city of 500,000 seems downright homelike after my 8 million closest friends residing in Wuhan. The pace here is slower, the weather's warm, and you never have to wait for a taxi. Not that you need one, it's easy to walk most places, and there are herds of friendly Haikouren that will give you a lift in their pedicab, three wheeler, or on the back of their motorcycle. No, mom, I won't be riding on the back of any motorcycles. It's a good place for experimenting, so following is a list of the things I've never done before that I've done since I came to Haikou on Sunday:
* Made a friend on the bus. : )
* Lost an earring. : (
* Eaten pineapple on a stick : )
I know you can't believe that one. I actually liked it too. The world's not ending, I'm sure I'll go back to hating pineapple eventaully, it just tastes better here!
* Eaten oysters : (
I think they were oysters.
* Ate a bowl full of cold coconut milk with watermelon and papaya..... : )
*......and also pasta, soybeans barley, and jello cubes in it. : (
Not as bad as it sounds, really. I could go for some now.
* And, of course studied Chinese! : ) : )
Anyway, I'm quite enjoying myself, even though I'm missing out on the snow not only in the Northwest but also in Wuhan. That's probably just as well, since my snow boots are in my parents' basement. I hope everyone is warm and safe, I miss you, and I love you more than pineapple on a stick!