Queer Lodgings

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            Sorry for posting so late, these last three weeks were more eventful then I thought they’d be. Starting two weeks ago, life was uneventful so I began personally debating my opinion of pollution. Smog is ever prevalent in China and one of the biggest concerns I hear foreigners discuss. But how can we discuss this matter without thinking of our own history involving pollution? The only difference now is that we can measure and report the levels. It’s just a discussion point. One of those topics that there is no black and white answer. Should modernizing countries know better now that science has shown us the result of pollution and thus stunt their growth because they cannot afford “green” items? And should countries that have already modernized to the point that they no longer need to pollute and can afford “green” items, condemn others? Is the environment more important then mankind?

            Anyway, my biology lab finally allowed me to work in the lab which was the result of a painful discussion about culture. In America if we do not honestly believe that someone can contribute, we tell them. In China they hate to say no, so they say yes. For the last few weeks I’ve been reporting to the lab only to be told there was nothing to do and I was beginning to feel like I was wasting my time. I didn’t want to bring this up because I didn’t want to insult anyone and didn’t want their efforts to include me to be in vain. However, I eventually reached my limit and had to say something. It was the most delicate conversation I think I’ve ever had; how to express my feelings without showing frustration to my partner’s culture. I’m just so use to my culture being so straight-forward that the passive discussions I’ve had with locals sometimes feels like we talk in circles. However, after our discussion I think I understand how he thinks and how to express my opinion.

            After our first day in the lab my partner took me and his peer out to eat at a local restaurant. They both have been living in Chengdu for several years and are therefore much more use to the spicy food, so he ordered dishes that he didn’t think were too spicy but because I’m an inexperienced foreigner, I ate the wrong part of the dish. They add some vegetable that actually absorbed excess spice so that the meat (the part you’re suppose to eat) isn’t extremely spicy. I ate the vegetable. At first it was fine so I kept eating it, but after a few minutes the spice began to burn. I could feel my face grow hot and every time I tried to cut it with a different piece of food it only burned more. I sat back, let it burn out, and at one point teared up and my partner asked if I was okay. Nothing will ever be as spicy as that dish.

            In addition, I finally found the answer: Since Americans have the expression ‘digging to China,’ does China have the expression ‘digging to America?’ Sadly, no, they do not.

            The next week we also had a USAC Shanghai student visit out humble city. Just the one student… Apparently Shanghai students didn’t want to see Chengdu, but I believe this girl had quite a lot of fun. She accompanied us to Leshan and Emei Shan, she held a baby panda, and went to the Sichuan Show! On Wednesday we all went out to see the Sichuan Show which featured traditional Beijing opera, Sichuan dance, traditional disappearing masks, and many other forms of performing arts including shadow hand puppets. But I want to focus on the disappearing masks. Now, the performance was mostly on stage, but at the end two performers came out into the Imageaudience and began to shake people’s hands. He eventually got to me, shook my hand, shook my neighbor’s hand, and returned to me. He pointed for me to touch his forehead where a slightly darker strip stood out. As soon as I touched it, his mask disappeared and I was staring right into his face!!

            Once the weekend rolled around I needed a break from not only the city but from my homework. Thankfully USAC had already planned out a trip to Mt. Emei and Leshan. These two locations are about two hours out of the city. I never thought air could smell so sweet! As we drove through the countryside I finally got my glimpse of China’s farmland and the view was spectacular! So beautiful I wish I could have de-bussed and taken pictures of everything. Every few feet we would come across something new but because of the trees and traffic I hardly got any pictures to show. As it seemed, Chinese farms do not have the same combines and tractors that we do back in the States, so villages all worked together to tend the crops. I even saw a few water buffalo working!

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            Leshan was our first stop of the weekend. We all gathered on a boat and floated out to see the big Buddha carved into the side of Leshan. As impressive as he was we were only there for a short period of time to take pictures before we set off to Emei Shan. Emei Shan is known for its Buddhist monasteries, beautiful scenery, monkeys, and stairs. So many stairs. When we arrived we hiked a little way up the mountain to two different monasteries. That day wasn’t too bad. The next our goal was to simply wander. Several of us decided to take the cable car up to the first low peak and the view was spectacular! However, we still had to climb stairs, so many stairs. We all rendezvous at a restaurant for lunch and from there we had the option of climbing higher to see the moneys. Three of us had a fear of moneys, especially since there were so many ‘rules’ about seeing them that we decided not to go. The Emei Shan monkeys are not afraid of people and actually bully them into giving them food. If they find a person they don’t like they will bite, sometimes the leader will lead an attack, and sometimes they just jump onto your shoulder without warning! They take your things too! Our director told us that if the monkey doesn’t like you, they some times take something of yours and destroy it. Like your camera! They make eye contact with you and then drop it off the suicide cliff. Those jerks.

            So then the three of us slowly took our time climbing down the mountain, enjoying each other’s company and the view. We passed several waterfalls and followed the crystal clear river down stream. At one point we decided to jump to the other side of the river and sit with our feet in the water; however, the water was freezing! So we jumped back to the sidewalk, except, one girl was afraid to because the sidewalk was higher than the ledge. This chaos ended up attracting a crowd. People were laying down their walking sticks for her to walk across, lending her a hand to encourage her across the stream, and eventually she rounded up enough courage to leap across. YEAH!

            Now, last week we had our second round of final tests, but on the side of good news, my gate guard who has been determined to have a conversation with me, finally had one 🙂 My chinese is indeed improving. Yay for having four semesters of class in one!

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