Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Highlights from China...from the tea plantation to Shanghai

We went to the Guilin Tea Science Research Institute.
This was not a place I was seriously looking forward to...and I was shocked!  This was an amazing place to visit and I can't believe how much I learned...and loved learning about tea!  As you can see, we picked tea leaves (after spraying down with bug spray!)
This entire area around Guilin is one of the most beautiful spots on the earth, in my opinion! 
This guy was the 'tea master'...and he explained how the teas are made.
We participated in a tea ceremony, tasting 4 different types of tea.
This is 'compressed tea'...which I ended up buying!
After this, we went to lunch...and saw 'Snake Wine'!  We didn't even think about tasting it!
From lunch, we headed toward the Yulong River...
to go bamboo rafting!
This is Adam and I.  We were told not to bring our cameras...too many people have lost them on this..but Adam and I both brought ours!  We didn't lose them..or ruin them..
Bamboo rafting on the Yulong River was most definitely one of the activities I was looking forward to.  I was not disappointed in the least!  It was strikingly beautiful!  Adam asked me during our ride if I'd take a pic of him if he crawled out on the end of the raft.  Of course!  He did...and then I did.  Next thing we knew, we saw some of our delegates who had seen us doing this..and they were doing the same thing.  Uh-oh!
I was amazed watching them load the rafts up at the end of the trip...
Our home stay was definitely a highlight.  We arrived and were met by a crowd from the village.  Two sets of guys were dressed as dragons...doing a dance to welcome us!
This is the side of the home where the leaders stayed.  You can see the water spigot next to the open door.  This is where they rinsed off the dishes!  Chickens were roaming around everywhere...
Every single table in China (that we saw) was round.  They also all had a lazy susan.  Our home stay family had one that would continuously circle.
After dinner, the village met together at the town square and, dressed in their traditional Yao dress, performed for us.  In turn, they wanted us to also perform for them.  Some of our girls sang the National Anthem, which they had also done at the middle school on July 4.
This bridge was one we had to walk across to get to the town square.  It's apparently a fairly famous bridge.  The map above shows where the village is located and the layout of it.
Our homestay dad left...apparently going to shop.  (This was the following morning).  When he came back, his wife took a bag of green beans and spread them all over their car!
We were suppose to do a service project here, helping farmers in the fields.  It rained quite a bit before we arrived, so it was too muddy.  Instead, each home made their traditional 'oil tea.'  We were told it was a speciality...much like getting a special drink at a Starbucks.
Fresh picked tea leaves, ginger, and heads of garlic were all put in this pan and pounded...with a flame underneath. 
Once it was pounded a bit, oil was poured on it...and continuing to pound and stir.  After about 15 minutes or so, she poured water in...and continued to pound and stir.
All this was poured into a basket that filtered everything out except the 'oil tea.'  These little things that looked-but did NOT taste like rice krispies- was added...along with something that looked like, but did NOT taste like cocoa puffs- Then we were handed this bowlful.  On a scale of 1 - 10, with 10 being GREAT, I would rate it a .001!  It was awful...absolutely awful!  The lady was drinking it, along with her mother (below) and they obviously thought it was delicious.  I tried to get down the whole bowl...but was not successful.
This is Deana (leader out of Seattle), the grandmother, and me. 
This is looking out from a deck of their home.  Like I said, the area around Guilin is so beautiful!
l-r:  the lady of the home, her husband, Adam (leader from Seattle),  sister of the husband (the one who made the oil tea), Ricky (in back, the leader out of Monetery), grandmother, Deana, and me. 

Our next stop was Confucious' temple...built in 1410!

We were told it is a very popular spot for the Chinese to come on holiday. 

These are instruments played at the temple.
Um?  You can't see Confucious...but he's behind that pink curtain.  We were told that to pay your respects to Confucious, you kneel down, and then bow 3 times.  If you REALLY need something, you also buy a candle and or incense to burn (You can see them on the right side of the pink)  Some of our kids went and did the bowing...but not me.
From Confucious' temple, we walked to another temple close by.  We gathered in a room there to learn about Nuo Masks...and the Nuo Mask Dance.  Every one was given a mask to paint.  You can see mine below.  These other pictures were just taken around the temple.

This was sad.  I asked about 'Red Bull'...wondering what it meant.  Well, it's our Red Bull...they paid a meager amount to advertise at the temple! 
Round tables, round doors...they're beautiful!

After all the masks were painted and dried...we were given a demonstration of the Nuo Mask Dance.  It was these people kept these costumes on without fainting, I don't know!  After showing us the dance, they taught it to our group.  They practiced it and then danced with all their masks on.  It looked awesome!

This is the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.
These photos are taken from the top of the tower.  Shanghai has a population of 23 million!

We walked around the observation deck and the ... can't remember what you call it.  But the floor in parts is clear, so you can see the ground below you!  One of the buildings in the picture above is nicknamed the 'Can opener.'  Can you guess which one it is?  I was trying to act like I was falling below!  Quite a few of those scared of heights just could not walk on this floor!

We also went to a school for special needs children.  Most are Down's Syndrome, but some were also severely autistic.  It was actually one of the highlights for many of our kids.  We worked with, played with, and danced with these kids for quite a while.  They were in awe of our students...and vice versa.
Silk...oh my!  We went to a silk factory...watching them take the silkworms out of the cocoons...and pull the silk threads.  They would stretch them in an arch like this.  It was pretty amazing to watch.
This is absolute sweetheart!  She was adopted  ... at I think it was 16 months old... from China.  This was her 2nd time to return.  After our silk factory tour, we were in their showroom where we could buy some things.  Kylie saw this dress on a manikin...but it was not for sale.  She loved it...wanted to buy it...but when I asked for her, they told me how much material to buy to MAKR it... I kept talking...explaining Kylie's situation...and they sold it to her.  She looked stunning in it!  It ended up costing her the equivalent to about $300.
The Shanghai museum...incredible!

Well...that afternoon, we went to watch the Shanghai Acrobats practice.  OH MY GOSH!  We were the only ones in the auditorium. 
After the practice, we went to dinner...then came back early because we had spotted a Starbucks...and many of us were drooling for a cup of GOOD coffee!  Following our Starbucks stop, we went to the evening a packed house...of the Shanghai Acrobats!  Wow, Wow, Wow!  As you can see, we had our picture made with them afterwards.
We headed to Suzhou...and went to a Buddhist Pagoda.  (It was built over 1000 years ago! Effee told me Suzhou was an average size city for China, not too big.  When I asked the population... 13 million!  This is located in the Yangtzee River Delta.

We walked through the area by the pagoda...heading to the city wall. 

Absolutely gorgeous!

We flew kites up on the wall!

Here we are walking over the Fengqiao (Maple Bridge) bridge, heading back to our coach. 
Later, we walked through what in America we would call, slums, to an absolutely beautiful garden called "The Garden of Cultivation."  This is a World Heritage Garden by UNESCO...designated in 1997.  In the building below, we had a class on calligraphy.  But before and after the class, we strolled around the garden and took lots of least some of us did!  That's Effee in the photo above.



I love their signs!  Not that many of them had English translations.
Watermelons!  We had watermelon at every single meal!
We went to the Kun Opera.  This was started 600 years ago, and part of the Peking Opera started from the Kun.  This place is also a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.  There were 2 stages, one outdoors (above) and one indoors.  We were looking forward to the indoor one because this was one of the hottest days!
This is the ceiling of the outdoor stage.  It's all wood and the way it's made makes the sound magnify.  They don't use microphones, but they can be heard just fine to the audience!
I just liked this window...

Here is the indoor stage.  It was gorgeous!
This guy came and showed us a portion of the opera the Monkey King.  They do their own make-up!

I asked about 'Kun Opera' and 'Kunqu Opera'... we heard Kun but say kunqu.  Kunqu is actually a mispronunciation.  'Qu' means 'opera' Kunqu Opera is translated 'Kun Opera Opera'...The proper way is Kun Opera.
Just like it the Garden of Cultivation, we walked past not so great areas to get to the opera!  Also, in this photo above, any little piece of dirt, people plant food!
No, we're not in Paris...but Yes, this is the Mona embroidery!  We went to the Silk Embroidery Institute in Suzhou...which was absolutely amazing!  There were several portraits on display that if you looked at it from one direction, the person (Mona Lisa, for ex.) looked young...but if you looked from the other side, they had aged!  I looked and studied and looked and studied, and could NOT figure it out. 
I watched this lady work...and could not even see the stitches.  They are so small, and the silk threads so incredibly tiny...Some of the pieces were 'single sided' and some were 'double sided.'  If it was single sided, you could see the knots on the backside...but you had to really look to see them!  If it was 'double sided' the picture was the same, exactly the same, on both sides!  Amazing!!  This lady has been working here for 30 years, but she's not considered a 'Master.'  You have to have at least 20 years experience to be a 'master', but China only allows 12 masters at a time. 
Mt. Fuji...and the fish...these were double sided!!!

This is an embroidery piece (above)!!!

Our next stop was one of my top highlights...a little village called Wuzhen.  It looked like it came right out of a storybook!  It was canals, canals, boats, and 100 year old houses.  There's been a community here for thousands of years!  All the homes are at least a bit over 100 years old.  We stayed here one night in guest houses.  I can't remember what year, but fairly recently, (2003?) they decided they wanted to preserve this village.  So they made it to where if you ARE Chinese, you have to pay to get in.  If you're not Chinese, you don't pay!  (go figure!)  This picture I took leaning out the window outside of my room!

This lady was removing silkworms...

Of course, there was a Buddhist pagoda!

There were fields of sunflowers....and lotus blossoms!

not sure why the water is green...but that's water!

We went on a night cruise after dinner... About halfway through, the wind started to blow...then it started to rain...then it started thundering and lightning...major storm....come to find out, it was the effect from a typhoon!  As we were walking around afterwards, in the rain, the section of Wuzhen where our guesthouses were lost all power from lightning!  It came back on about 2 hours later...but we were a bit concerned at first because all our students were out walking around...they all found their way to their guesthouses!
Walking around the next morning...

We went to a children's museum of sorts in Guzhen.  They had all these traditional Chinese kids' games.  One was a box of marbles.... you transferred marbles from one box to another using chopsticks! 
They're everywhere!

Effee wanted our photo made here...

Guzhen is also known for their blue cloth.  They print designs using a starch.  Then the material is put in these huge baskets and lowered into huge vats of indigo dye.

Outside, you can see them hanging to's beautiful!
We usually had so much food that the dishes had to be stacked on the lazy susan!

Outside the Guzhen Visitor center

After lunch, we went to another pagoda...actually a restored pagoda.  The original was here from 977 BC to 1924!  People were removing bricks from the bottom because it was suppose to bring good luck.  Well, I guess it was one too many bricks...and the pagoda collapsed.  Oops!

We walked around "West Lake"...beautiful...but it was a bit drizzly!

Interesting!  We were all excited about going to the night market.  So the coach lets us off, our city guide tells us to head down this one street where the night market is...and to meet back at the coach at 7 p.m....a bit over 1.5 hours.  Off we go... no night market!  Well, because we were scattered, it was tough to round everyone up quickly.  The night market had been cancelled because of the typhoon!  They said we weren't in any real danger, just a lot of rain and wind.  Well, some of our delegates...some a bit tired of  "Chinese Food", found a McDonalds...and they had a FEAST!  This is Charles and Kayla.  Charles emphasized multiple times that he did NOT eat all of this!
The next day we went to the Xi-Xi Wetlands.  We walked about 4 miles...

Look at the's bamboo...and beautiful!

The fan factory was next!

This is the type of fan I bought.  I watched this man sawing each little, tiny hole in the blades of this fan!
After folding the paper, she was quickly...very quickly, gluing the wood to hold the folded paper!

We each got to make a fan...looked simple, but no, many of us had to have help!!!
After the fan factory, we headed to the railway station to catch the bullet train back to Shanghai!

That night at dinner, the students found out that Effee's 50th birthday had been a couple of days earlier.  We all LOVED Effee, and so the kids sang Happy Birthday to him and showered him with hugs!

The next morning saw us at the Shanghai airport, ready for our flights home.  We had given Effee that shirt, with everyone signing it.  We took so many pictures...with so many cameras...If you can see, we have our collars turned up.  Effee always did this with his shirts.  'turned up collars'...he said it protected his neck...and was surprised that it wasn't something we did! was never a place that was high on my list to want to visit.  After 9 summers of traveling overseas on 9 different itineraries, and 18 different countries...this is my #1!  China is an absolutely amazing and beautiful place!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, that looks like fun. Great pictures Jutze.