Here is a little China for you. Some things I see everyday as I wander around the neighborhoods.
Archive for October, 2010
Here is a little China for you. Some things I see everyday as I wander around the neighborhoods.
The Chinese have a wonderful tradition of never washing their own hair themselves. Apparently you shower your body and then go into the salons to have someone else wash your hair thoroughly; complete with scalp massage, shoulder massage, arm massage and sometimes even leg massage if you get a place that is really on top of it’s game. A xitou (she toe). I am a huge supporter of this trend and there happens to be a great little place right around the corner from my school. I know all the men and women there by name at this point and whenever I am on my way someplace during the day they wave and say hello as I walk by. I love them. And they love my hair. A lot. Too much actually. At this point people are actually hesitant to go get xitous with me because they take so long to wash my hair and style is just for the sake of running their fingers through the foreign golden color. And I admit I have once now just washed my hair myself and then went running down to have Leo blow-dry it out. Anyway, this past week I had an extra wonderful xitou experience; the best one yet. They weren’t as busy as normal, so they called in their best xitou-er to take care of me. I will just say that the pre-xitou lesson that Stephen and Daniel gave to us proved true in the instance. They claimed that you always want to get the male xitou master because they aren’t there to look pretty, they are there because they love what they do and are good at it. I am a believer. I don’t think that the hypothesis can be moved into Chinese Fact yet but I now consider this to be a theory that needs a few more experiments to be proven true. If there is one reason to tip the scales in favor of visiting this lovely country, I’ve got it for you right here. Xitous every day.
National Day Holiday is akin to America’s celebration of the 4th of July. The citizens of China celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Many people travel to visit family in other provinces and relax together. For foreign residents and students it is a popular time to travel. Many of my teacher friends went into the mountains of China to see another part of the province and get back to nature. Some went to the Filipines, some to Thailand, and one or two went up North to Japan. Jenna and I wanted to get out of the city and see a little more of China. We had already decided that we needed to bungy jump at the first opportunity, and our friend Al informed us of a great hike and camping spot in Hong Kong. Sounded perfect to us. Two mini vacations had to be better than one!
Macao was really relaxed, we barely planned anything before we met up at the port to jump onto a ferry. Our lack of planning displayed itself in the fact that we ended up roaming the streets until 5 in the morning after ‘The Jump’ and catching a quick nap in the ferry terminal before getting an early boat back to Shenzen the following day. I personally think that getting stranded, and making something fun out of it, is one of the best things that can happen during a trip. Provided you have money, and a way to eventually get home. Instead of worrying about how to get back we just pushed on to Macao Tower, bought our tickets for the jump, got suited up, and waited until our turn to fling ourselves from the top of a building before we decided on our next step.
You already saw the previous post’s photos but it was fantastic! I was so confident, thinking I was more courageous than I expected myself to be and getting all proud of my personal growth. Right up until I stepped onto the platform and looked down; then everything shattered around me and I have only the photos to supplement my memory for the fall of 233 meters.
We took our time watching each other’s videos and looking at the pictures, had a nice leisurely dinner AND dessert, and then got around to figuring out what to do with the 6+ hours of freedom and sleeplessness ahead of us. In the end we drank a lot, gambled a little, ate at least 3 times, and made friends with bartenders and brothel managers until dawn reminded us that we should make sure we get tickets onto a boat home.
The next morning we met up with the rest of our group and traveled through the boarder crossing into Hong Kong. Every Chinese person in Shenzhen must have been traveling into HK at the same time because it took 2.5 hours to get across! We had a little fun though, making sure we protected our space and stayed together as a group. We definitely held our ground against the smoosh of the Chinese line formation.
Then more buses, finding a hostel, eating delicious food, and hopping on the Star Ferry and riding over to the main Island. It was so great to wander around in the atmosphere Hong Kong has, I can see why someone would choose to live there. Very inviting and impressive. We hopped into another line to ride to the top of Victoria’s Peak and take in the view from above the city. Stayed up there wandering around for a couple hours. Just watching the twilight darken and the lights becoming more vibrant was mesmerizing.
We slowly made our way back down to city level, encountering an enemy the no one expected (there will be a short narration written by Stephen and Daniel soon to come of that adventure, and I hope to share it with you), and started to wander the streets. All the neon lights flashing advertisements for things that I am pretty sure were all fake goods, or shady experiences, made us wander about aimlessly hoping to find a hidden gem somewhere among the hype. A little shopping, a little drinking, a few conversations with the natives and we were just happy as the sun to be in a chaotic, dirty city with no reason to stay up or go to bed. I really enjoyed Hong Kong and am planning to go back on my weekends fairly often.
The next morning we woke up early, grabbed a bite and made our way to the metro stop where Al and I had planned our reunion(he had stayed in Shenzhen to get some rest after the Macao adventure, as a reasonable person would do). I held down our waiting spot while the rest of the troops gathered food supplies for the beach. It was a little uncertain whether this meet-up would be successful because of Al’s tendency to be late, the boarder crossing during a holiday, and the fact that we didn’t specify an exit to meet. But even with those forces combined against us, the group was ready to board a bus to the wilderness no later than 11:00am.
It took a couple buses to get us to the start of our hike, and then we set off down the path with good cheer. Everyone was marching along at a smart pace and chatting happily to each other (in stark contrast to the hike back out the next morning, during which we marched like ants in a single-file line with our headphones on and our music up).
The mountains were beautiful. It is so much a jungle here and I never expected that for some reason. Felt wonderful to be surrounded by that overwhelming amount of green and to see the dirt and bugs in their natural habitat. I was especially content when we reached the edges of the bay and I could smell the salt-water and hear the sound of water against the shoreline.
We trudged up the mountain, and it had been a long time since my muscles had worked that hard. At the top of each incline there was that wonderful feeling of being exhausted and proud of your body; wanting to push it farther and collapse all at the same time. I think we all agreed that is one of the best feelings in the whole world. It makes the reward at the end of the journey that much more intense and enjoyable.
Finally, we made it to the sea, hiked another little hill over to a more secluded beach (Big Wave Bay), set up our tents and all ran and jumped into the ocean. I felt amazing to be in water again. Didn’t realize how much I missed it and it felt so perfect to just be tumbled around by the waves. Of course I climbed back over the hill to find a surfboard because it was physically painful for me to watch those clean wave breaks just beyond the tidewater and not be able to be involved in coming into shore with them. Honestly it wasn’t much better once I had the board; no leash, no wax, and no fins…so basically just a piece of fiberglass I had to chase after and slip off of. But still, it can only make me better right? I was exhausted and happy. I felt like sunshine laying on the beach breathless next to my non-surfable surfboard.
The boys managed to build a fire after a lot of wood-hunting and gently lighting the tinder they managed to find. It was a perfect little thing, giving us something to gather around in the night while we talked and drank and ate. One by one the group returned to their tents until finally only Stephen and I were left sitting on the beach in front of a burned out campfire listening to the waves.
The next day we woke up early, went back into the ocean. Attempted surfing again with the same results. Walked along the beach, and packed up our things to make our way back home to Shenzhen. As I mentioned earlier, we were all hungry and physically exhausted on our hike back out and ended up marching through the mountains in a single-file line silently focusing on our music to motivate us to continue moving. We did stop and take a small detour to a viewpoint at the top of one of the peaks to appreciate the view of where we had been and how beautiful the area was.
We made it onto all the buses and metros and through customs, back into China. I was getting pretty delirious from my lack of sleep towards the end but it made everything funny rather than irritating so I guess I can’t complain. Needless to say I fell deeply asleep once I reached my house and didn’t wake up again until the next afternoon.
I couldn’t have asked for a better break, it was exciting and relaxing. My two favorite feelings all rolled into one little holiday.
I had a wonderful, productive day today. Shenzhen is starting to feel like home, and I am settling into the rhythm of my days. Here are the moments that made me smile.
1. One of my boys chose Killer as his english name, and today he told me that his dream is to save the world. precious.
2. I understood a questions asked of me in Chinese and responded in Chinese without having to think about my words too carefully.
3. Finally found a place to fix my necklace and am wearing it again!
4. Spend a good amount of time lesson planning and outlining the subjects for the rest of the semester. Felt very productive.
5. My student used the term “Oh My Lady Gaga!” in class today when I was describing America. Almost fell on the floor laughing.
6. The weather is cooling down which means I am going to buy boots soon! Couldn’t be more excited about a pair of shoes.
7. Had great Chinese food from the street for dinner. Tofu, squid, chives, mushrooms; grilled with all sorts of spices until I was salivating over the smell.
8. Made a date to play with some of the other teachers’ children this Thursday and to share dinner together.
9. Finally finished my book. And started a new one.
10. Got emails from my mom, dad, and brother all in the same day!
“There is not any memory with less satisfaction than the memory of some temptation we resisted.”
James Cabell, American Fantasy Fiction Author popular in the 1920′s
This was NEVER something that was on my bucket list…until I found out that I lived an hour from the highest jump in the world. After knowing that how could I pass up the chance?!
It was not scary until my toes were hanging off the edge of a building and my bungy professional tucked my chin and asked if I was ready. I shook my head ‘No’ and he pushed me right off the platform! Guess that’s one way to get over the fear.
And now that I’ve felt the rush I will be going again and again. Maybe backwards, maybe without my feet bound, maybe both…because once you jump 3 times, the 4th one is free!!
I wrote these next few posts quite a while ago, before I ran away to a foreign country to live. I still am very excited about my time down in Louisiana and wanted to share it even though it’s a little past due. Hope you enjoy.
While my father and I were working in Louisiana, my parents had to decide how to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Luckily for me, we were located near New Orleans and my Aunt and Cousin were available to come explore the city as well.
I was so excited to see New Orleans. It was my first time in the South. But I was a little afraid of the city honestly, especially after one of my friends informed me that I needed to be extra careful in the murder capital of the world. Nice. Everything was so beautiful and charming. I went on the river boat with my family and wandered around town. There was amazing street music, delicious food, cool art work, and the buildings were absolutely gorgeous. I got up early and had coffee on our little balcony overlooking the square and the river, and then wandered around before the city was awake. I ordered bengnets and brought them back to the hotel. We had a lovely little courtyard with a swimming pool where i sat and read my book while I waited for the rest of my family to get ready for the day.
The first day we ate crawfish etouffee, fried oysters, turtle soup and went out to Bourbon Street for a night out on the town. It was an interesting experience to walk down that street with all the lights and bars and strip clubs and whore-houses with my father, but my mom and I went off and ordered shots and yard-long margaritas. And then my Aunt, Cousin, and I got beers from the Huge Ass Beer bar. So I was less aware of the inappropriate activities going on all around me than I could have been.We did stop to watch a woman using her bum cheeks to produce a clapping sound just as though she was using her hands. Quite a talent I must say. We wandered up and down the street, stopping to listen to music, looking at shops, and enjoying the night.
I loved that every surface was still covered in beads left over from Mardi Gras.
All the artwork on the streets and in the studios was so colorful and definitely celebrated a distinct lifestyle and culture. New Orleans is so different from any other place I have been and I can see how you could just fall in love with how confused and adoptive the city felt. Like it could be anything you wanted it to be.
This is the view from our hotel room balcony that I enjoyed in the mornings before the rest of my family woke up. Pretty isn’t it?
And a special moment caught because I was up earlier than the rest of the world: This couple was just sitting by the fountain one minute while I was wondering around, and the next thing I know I am watching him bend down on one knee and she is crying in happiness.
All around the city the balconies have beautiful wrought iron balustrades in innumerable different styles that made the buildings are streets seem like they had their own character that the city needed in order to be whole.
I so much enjoyed my time there and I just know that there are so many things I did not get to see and explore in that first weekend. New Orleans is one of those places that I will visit throughout my whole life and it will have evolved to something new each and every time.
Being in close proximity to New Orleans did have its advantages when it came to taking my ‘Rest in Place’ day which I was entitled to after 31 days of working 15 hours a day with no end in sight until the 1st of August.
Luckily, my new bestie, Tina was flying into New Orleans on the day that I was able to take off and we decided that it would be a perfect opportunity to visit New Orleans together. In addition our good friend Andrew was going through the area at the same time so we decided to all meet up and explore. It was the perfect opportunity; company paid hotel, just an hour from work the next day, a plethora of locations to de-stress AND a rumored excellent zoo and aquarium.
So I got into my car and began the journey from the middle of Louisiana to something closer to civilization. Now, normally I am all over planning my route and being aware of the roads I will be traveling on before I head out but this one time I was excited and figured, I had already been there once so I was kind of a pro at navigating the city. my mistake. For the first time my trusty iPhone could not find a travel route that led me to the New Orleans Zoo (I partially blame New Orleans for this confusion because the Zoo has 4 addresses listed in the white pages which is not helpful in the least). However, I only made this worse by figuring that I would just go to the one that seemed most likely to be a zoo location. Sounds smart right?
I got the the end of the road that was the noted address, and it looked like there could be a zoo somewhere in the area but the entrance was definitely not where my directions had taken me. I was however in the most adorable neighborhood with cute little houses and trees arching over the streets. Some little cafes and bars were in old historic houses lining the end of the block and a large park area (which I believe may have surrounded the zoo). I really wanted to wander around and explore but I felt like I was on a mission to meet my friends and had to get there quickly. Plus I wanted to prove that I was able to get around by myself even with a little confusion starting out. So I doubled back to the main road turned towards town to find an artery that could take me closer to town. On the way I saw a sign that suggested that the zoo was just off the road on the right, but I had seen this type of sign on my travels down the road that lead me nowhere so I turned my nose at it and followed the new route my phone was instructing me to go. Second mistake.
I was totally right, the road did lead me into downtown New Orleans and my directions also took me to the bank of the river and happily declared that I had arrived at the zoo. drat. I was nil for two on my navigation attempts. At this point I was nervous to be driving around the city, I had admitted to myself that I did not know how to go anywhere else, and there were a lot of people. I was trying desperately to find a parking space so that I could wait for the other two and then together we could search for the zoo. When I get nervous I tend to over-react. I am sure some of you are guilty of the same
At my most frantic point I was on the phone with Andrew, who was patiently trying to come find me while I drove around in circles, and burst out with ‘I’m in the ghetto of New Orleans!’ as a response to his question of ‘where are you?’. He told me ‘Jessy, I need a landmark so that I can find you.’ and I quickly replied, ‘I’m in front of the Ritz-Carlton’. In my hysteria this seemed a perfectly reasonable location to be and Andrew focused on the location and not my actual words, but my so-called friend piped up from the passenger seat with an indignant call-out on my concern for my well-being and the landmark I had just identified. I don’t think I will ever live down the mocking for my freak-out. The teasing lasted the whole day, Tina asking unconcernedly whether my butler served my champagne at the proper temperature or not and if the valet was prompt with bringing around my benz.
we made it to the Aquarium, where Tina and I wondered at all the cool animals and Andrew wandered around making fun of the weird looking ones. We shared some ice cones of various neon flavors, ate some delicious sandwiches and then explored a little more on Bourbon street. This time I actually went into the shops and we had a great time playing with the many ridiculous items that only a city famous for music and sex can sell in the same store.
And finally, we headed back to Houma for work the next day. It was a wonderful day in a new place with people I love.