Ni hao! (nee how)
I’m not even sure if that’s spelled right, but I tried. That’s the formal hello, but when you’re talking to a friend you’d actually say “Have you eaten today?” It’s b/c when someone came to visit you, it was probably a long trek and offering food was the best thing you can greet someone with. My girls are about a generation away from a starving population, especially in the rural areas that most come from, but b/c they DO come from rural areas, most have brothers and sisters. The one child law only applies to urban families and has a lot of exceptions anyways.
This weekend was a 3 day holiday celebrating the full moon. It’s called Mid Autumn Festival and it’s like the Thanksgiving of the East. Families come together, a lot of people go on tours (that’s the way asians vacation). You trade moon cakes with everyone. It’s kind of like giving fruitcake at Xmas. They’re the shape of the moon with different flavors. A group of 7 from Hwa Nan went to Wu Yi Shan, a mountain range northwest of Fuzhou. It’s a 6hr train ride there. It was a lot of fun but draining. We hiked all morning long on the mountains, had awesome meals, and had something planned past the sun going down. I didn’t even bother bringing make-up. It was a super active time. It was first time stepping out of Hwa Nan into real Chinese culture and it was an eye opener!
One thing that doesn’t exist in China is the concept of personal space. Like, at the train station, the doors open up to the platform exactly 30 minutes to the train leaving, all seats are assigned, you have 30 min to walk about 100 steps, but for some reason the mindset is “Hurry! Get through the gates as fast as you can. Knock people over if you have to, shove, push, we’re not gonna make it!!!” And it’s not considered rude, no one gets offended, I’m laughing at the madness the whole time. In fact, being polite in this situation will only get you pushed to the back of the crowd. Notice I didn’t say line. That’s because there are none. No lines, no rules, no order, no patience. For example: while in Wu Yi Shan, I went to the grocery store to buy a big jug of water. After waiting in line (what was I thinking, these people don’t do lines) I stepped forward to put my jug on the counter to be the next customer to pay. A girl walks right up in front of me, scoots my stuff back, places her things in front, gets rung up, pays, and leaves. I was like, “what just happened?” In America there would’ve been words, and had I known Chinese, there would’ve been words, but it’s like I’m still not sure of the culture just yet so I just let her go. HOWEVER, climbing down the mountain, I stopped to take a quick photo and it was at a place where you had to be in single file (or I guess you could jump, which IS faster, technically) going down these steps. This big older Chinese gentlemen (is that the right word?) growled in my ear….growled! I casually turned my head and said “Chill out, you’re alright!” Of course he didn’t understand a word I said, but I soon had the Taiwanese husband tell me the word for patience. I think he got the point. And even at breakfast, 6:30am we walk into the dining room for our continental breakfast and this swarm of what I could only assume were starving people flood to the buffet. No line, no rules, don’t care if you have rice porridge sloshing everywhere. Elbows up everyone! I just kept thinking “The food’s not going anywhere people! They’ll even refill it lest it run out!” It kinda makes you think as you walk in and see it, “Eh, wasn’t that hungry anyways.” I think that’s the most maddening thing about the culture. Why is everyone in a hurry? Why can’t they wait? But you know, only 15-20 yrs ago, had you not gotten your share and done whatever it took to get your share, you may have just starved. The history here is insane and is definately cause for a different mindset than I’m used to. So I’m working on thinking like Easterners. I’ll have to be careful when I go back to the States, though. it might get me into some serious trouble.
The other side of the coin is that that mindset doesn’t in the least bit reflect the true essence of the people here. Really! When you say a simple “Ni hao” a huge smile comes on their faces and if you have a question and are really trying to speak any Chinese or just communicate, for that matter, they will do anything and everything in their power to understand and give you an answer or help you out. The pushing and shoving is funny, but actually, they’re a very gentle people. I love saying hello to the babies and children we pass on the street, and the parents love for us to adore their children. They just couldn’t be any cuter. That’s one type of communication that crosses all boundaries, the love and adoration of children. It’s all said through your face and tone. You don’t have to actually understand the words.
Highlights of Wu Yi Shan trip:
– I ate pig’s feet for the first time. Didn’t know what it was before I ate it, wasn’t disgusting there’s just no real meat. It’s all bone, cartilage and fat. No thank you.
– My soup from the Muslim noodle place was only $1.50 and it was bomb! They make the noodles right there in the shop. It’s like watching a pizza guy toss his dough, but with the noodle dough, they just keep stretching it and doubling it and stretching and doubling it, slamming it against the table, and then they just toss the whole thing into a huge boiling pot of water and you order. No pork of course.
– I had my first experience with an asian toilet…on the train. Sorry, but they’re pretty disgusting. Great thigh workout though!
– My roommates got a lesson from the Emily’s School of Sleeptalking. haha They had no idea what excitement would come after I fell asleep. Just an FYI: I speak in full, very clear sentences.
– We got to see an opera/performance/show by the same guy who produced the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. It was downright incredible and I didn’t understand one word. Oh wait, that’s not true. I did pick up that it was about tea (cha).
– We hiked thru a crevice between two mountains that at one point was only 40cm!! The sign before you entered said “Do not attempt if you have high blood pressure, heart problems, overweight, etc.” It did not mention closterfobia. Even my backpack was scraping against the wall it was so tight. But it was short. One thing you have to remember in that cave, don’t look up with your mouth open, white bats live in there. haha!!! But don’t worry, you’re too busy looking where you’re going b/c it’s pitch black.
– I ate pig skin for the first time. No thank you, too chewy. Again, no real meat, but these people don’t waste anything, so there you go.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to make this experience the best I can in a short 4.5 mo. I kept thinking, “oh I’ve got to travel while I’m over in Asia and see as much as I can.” But then I thought, “You know, I lived in Hawaii for 6 yrs. It’s my favorite place to be, when I did travel, it was just to see family. So why is it that I feel this pressure to travel travel go go?” I realized through a Friend, “It’s not in the things you see, it’s in the relationships you invest in.” How could I forget. Hawaii is a beautiful place, but that’s not what kept me there on that rock. It’s the people. I’m in love with the people of Hawaii. And I’m in love with the girls at my school, and the people of China. So I’ve got to keep reminding myself of that. We have a big holiday break coming up Oct 1-7, and instead of skipping town (also too, I don’t have any money. That’ll decide real quick where you’re going…nowhere.) I’m gonna stay here. We’re located outside of the huge city of Fuzhou, but I’m gonna take that week to travel around Fuzhou. I’m gonna see the city and get to know the place I’ve been placed in. I do want to travel, but now’s not the time. I have a purpose here much greater than myself and I need to stick to that. I’m so thankful for this experience.
So, apparently there was some big protest (about what, I don’t know) on another campus and so all the campuses are on lockdown towards foreign teachers. So no more track as of last Friday. We should be getting written permission any day now. So, good thing I was gone this weekend, I took yesterday off, and this morning I used our small basketball courts as my workout area. I went into it with a frustrated attitude, wondering why the ONE thing I really enjoyed and used was taken away. I grumbled walking out to our tiny little concrete area, started working out, made up my routine as I went along. Finally, I just said “Whatever, if I have to adjust, so be it. I should be able to no problem, I’m just spoiled.” A few minutes later, this 1st yr student who had been studying a few steps away wanted to talk to me, I brushed her off, answered quickly. I soon felt really bad. LiyinHua was her name. I decided, “You know, she’s pretty brave to not speak a lick of English and try and talk to me.” She had already started mimicking my push-ups, running around the court area. So cute, yeah? So it was time for box jumps (thankfully there’s a huge ledge around the court area I could use) So I said, “Do you want to practice counting?” She didn’t understand but after much writing and drawing and body language she got it. So she counted my reps for me. (She loved it, go figure. Maybe she should be a trainer when she grows up, haha) I had to help her with 11 and up and major pronunciation, but she improved. I explained the sun and shade it makes when it’s behind the building. I explained how if I didn’t do something correctly, I must try again and for her to remember that when learning English. (Some of my push-ups I never came back up and they had to be redone.) I told her “Exercise is hard. English is hard. You must practice if you want to get better.”
Something you must understand: Hwa Nan takes all the girls who didn’t score high enough to get into an actual college or university. We have the most remedial of the remedial (well, in English anyways, don’t know about the other subjects). It’s quite amazing the low level they’re at as freshman (the girl I talked to this morning didn’t even understand “My name is/what’s your name?”), but even as 2nd and 3rd yr students. They don’t receive a degree when they’re finished here, but they can learn a trade, or if they want a degree, their credits will transfer to a university and maybe they’ll only need 1-2 more years. But without Hwa Nan, they wouldn’t have even had the chance at furthering their education. That was one thing I totally misunderstood before coming here.
So here’s my journal:
“I almsot just missed a magic moment because of my selfish attitude of “This is my time”. Shame on me. What just happened during that workout session is what this China trip is all about. It’s NOT my time. My life is NOT my own. I already gave it to Someone else to control. My Father LET me come here. I did nothing to deserve this opportunity, He provided everything for me. I’m here for a bigger purpose than selfish ambition. We all have a purpose larger than ourselves. What is it? We are but a tiny notch on the timeline of history. Will anyone know my name in 100 yrs?”
Sorry it’s so long. Love you guys!