Quakes, Guilin and Chicken Feet
I update my blog a mere week after a horrendous disaster hits China, which has left many people devastated and so many terribly affected, directly and indirectly. I want to inform everyone that I am okay and was not affected by the earth quake, unlike thousands of poor Chinese people. This quake was felt by many nearby towns to me, luckily not mine. The only thing we felt here was the power going out and heard some rumbles. I thought it was another darn storm…not quite. I shudder to think of the number of schools and people hurt last week.
As a helpful contribution to this, my school, Xintian number 1 middle school students decided to put on a charity performance in town. They set up a huge stage and most of the town was present to see the students of our school show their many talents. It was amazing; there was opera singing, belly dancing, choirs, punk dancing, speeches and keyboard playing! Part way through the evening I was invited to take the stage to show my contribution and receive many cheers and clapping! I made an impromptu speech to the crowd, beginning with "Nihao Xintian!" which they just loved and cheered even louder! I swear I am a local celebrity here! My speech told the residents how proud I am to be in China and the news of this earthquake has left me so sad. I also said how pleased I was to be able to donate money to represent some kind of contribution of help. I ended with some encouragement and urges to the people to make more donations as I put a few hundred into the box. Soon after this there was a surge of people surrounding the box donating much more. Oh the effects of the West on the East!
So on with the latest news from Xieli in O little town of Xintian, Hunan. Recently I ventured out with my friends to visit the city of Guilin! (My friends being Rebecca, Kasey, Tony and Yukuse) Guilin is ones of China's hottest tourist spots and even sports a very western style to it, so nice to visit for a few days. The city is very clean, large, many designer shops and expensive prices. It was nice to visit and for once not be the only Westerner for miles. First stop after checking into the hostel is McDonalds for lunch. Not as I remember it, the general lack of flavour makes me remember why it is merely a hangover cure and not something I would generally opt for. Quite frankly some blood duck wouldn't have gone a miss. However, we tour around Guilin's shops and streets and to my surprise I frequently see Western people on most streets!!! I now feel I have been here too long as I so eagerly and excitedly squeal "hello!!" and wave. However, I am left confused and disappointed when they completely blank me. Is it just me who is shocked to see another Westerner? I feel they would understand if they were the only Westerner in their town! I will always hold this against these rude Western people.
Guilin is a great place for your first taste of China, however now I have experienced and lived the real China, so Guilin was more of a comparison to London than China (except with pagodas in the lake!). So I accept my Western identity again and like a real tourist we pay a visit to the famous Seven Star Park. This is a huge park in Guilin which is famous for Caves and its zoo. The caves are amazing and huge as it took about 90minutes to walk around. The walls are all lit up with colourful lights. Millions of years ago these caves were formed when China was under water and the erosion is just amazing (Mr. Geology Heath would have had a field day here). I would love to tell you all more about this but the cost of the tour in English was extortionate nearly 3 times as much, and my Chinese doesn't quite reach Cave tour level yet! But the pictures say it all.
After the caves we visit the zoo, which quite frankly should be closed down. It was terrible to see. But, what was kind of okay was the panda enclosure! There were two gorgeous pandas (xiongmao)! They were about 4ft tall and so cuddly! Great to see but again, sad as they were in grassed enclosures. I was trying to get to the Wolong Panda reserve; however this is in Sichuan and very close to the epicenter of the recent quake.
The next day we get all cultural and take a local tour to the famous rice paddys in Longsheng. After a 3 hour bus trip up high through the mountains we get off the bus at our first stop, Baimian Village and we are hounded by local women trying to sell us silver bangles, purses, rugs, drinks and jewels they claimed to have made. This is a tourist hotspot! This village is famous for women who have NEVER cut their hair! So we wander around exploring the village. Of course you have to pay alot of money to see a show of these women brushing their long hair (quite boring if you ask me!) After this stop we head to Longji where the famous rice paddys are! Unfortunately not the best day to visit as it was raining, but great to have a hike and see the amazing views! I would like to say we had seen some real tradition and China here, but the cleanliness of the toilets gave it away, this place has plenty of cash and is clean! The toilets are sparkly clean given the comparison with my town…ahem. Guilin was good fun and great to see and spend some time with the (polite) foreigners, but I was so pleased to get back to my home in wee Xintian.
Xintian life is continuing to bloom and develop into a real happy time in my life. I am still dancing regularly and learning my Chinese which is coming on slowly! I feel another bout of university education possibly coming my way! I am now teaching my dance teacher how to speak English which is somewhat interesting! He does not know a single word and so is good for me as I am learning Chinese too! I am also now the proud sister of a new sibling too! I have gained Kelly as my Chinese brother which is great! Don't worry Sam, you're always number one. Kelly took me out for one million beers to celebrate our sibling creation. He ordered a dish of chicken feet. Yes you guessed it, I ate a chicken foot! Heavily under the influence mind you! Not much to it I must say, just skin and bones…I can verify that bones are very crunchy and you can only eat these with your mouth open, chomping like a true Chinese! Brilliant!
People of Xintian are continuing to be the most friendly I have met. I have made so many friends here and I just love it. It seems everyone here is related or at least knows someone here! I am also very popular in my town. I had a random old man stop me on the street to question why I was not at my regular dance class on this particular evening! All of my fellow dancers are also the parents of the students I teach too. I feel this place is a real community. I believe the UK has a fair bit of learning to do. One night two policemen turned up to the dance hall to watch and afterwards they come and say "hello" to me. Then they say "I love you" I just say, "oh well that's really just great!" Thank you. Then as I say goodbye and start to cycle home, they only escort me all the way back to school with the lights going on their bike!!! Cringe!! As if I need anymore attention brought to myself! Then at the school gate they wave, turn off the lights and ride off!
In true Chinese time fashion it was sprung upon me to judge an English competition in the nearby town of Yongzhuo on the weekend. Three students had also been selected from our school (by the principal) at the last minute and so rather unprepared I take them with me to Yongzhuo. English speaking competitions are rather common in the schools here and the competitors were from all over Hunan province. The format was a self introduction; they are then given a topic to make a speech and then must describe a picture. I spent most of the time when not judging coaching and supporting my three students which was so tiring! However, they came up trumps and the results were 4th, 6th 12th. The 4th and 6th places won a week's English summer camp in Hongkong! The 12th place won a week English summer camp in Yangshuo. I was so proud! These girls have never been out of Xintian and to win these prizes was just amazing. I have never seen so much excitement! It was just awesome! When we arrive back into Xintian the celebrations start and our principal, and the children's parents take us all out for dinner, of course you guessed it…gumbea! Hangover Ahoy! So check out the pictures and id love to hear from you with your blog views! And ask any questions.
Love to all. Xieli. xxx