Monthly Archives: September 2014

shopping conundrums in the south of china

Tuesday, September 9:  I need shampoo and conditioner, body lotion and toilet paper, a scrub brush and cleaning solution.  I go with my list in hand to NanBai SuperMarket outside the main gate of the university.  Foolishly, I figure I’ll be able to find these things easily.  I’m wrong.  Have you ever noticed that shampoo and conditioner bottles, as well as body lotion and body wash, all look alike?  We can tell them apart in our home countries, but only because we can read the labels.

NanBai Supermarket

NanBai Supermarket

The array of products in the supermarket is overwhelming. Of course most products don’t have English labels, so you have to figure out what you’re looking at by scoping out similar products in the same aisle, or by looking at pictures on the package, or by asking for help.  Asking for help isn’t easy either, as most of the staff in the supermarket speaks no English.

I do recognize one thing.  Chinese kisses, of the Hershey’s variety.

Chinese kisses

Chinese kisses

The Chinese people seem to love their snacks.  There are hundreds of choices, and I don’t know what half of them are.

Lots of mini-snacks of some kind

Lots of mini-snacks of some kind

It’s common knowledge that the Chinese language is especially difficult because Chinese characters do not constitute an alphabet.   Each character generally represents one syllable of spoken Chinese and may be a word on its own or a part of a polysyllabic word. The characters themselves are often composed of parts that may represent physical objects, abstract notions, or pronunciation.  Educated and literate Chinese people must memorize about 4,000 symbols.

I’d think English would be easy in comparison.

I’d love to buy some beer, but I have no idea what kind to get.  I pick a couple randomly: Tsingtao and Xiaomaiwang.

Even the beer is confusing

Even the beer is confusing

I pull out my phone and look at my Chinese translation app, Pleco.  This app will save my life in China.  Either that or I need to seriously learn some Chinese.  The app allows you to spell out an English word, and then a drop-down list of Chinese words pops up.  You can look through the definitions and find the one closest to your meaning.  When I put in “shampoo,” I find seven different words for shampoo: xifaji, xiangbo or xifaru are a few of them.  These are the Pinyin spellings, and they also have marks on them like stress marks, short vowel sound marks, etc, but I don’t know how to type them in, so you can just imagine.  Pinyin is the official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet in the People’s Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), and Singapore.

Besides Pinyin, which helps us Westerners to approximate the word by sounding out the Latin letters, the word is also in Chinese characters, and if you push a speaker button, a Chinese voice pronounces the word.  I look carefully at the Chinese characters on the app and try to recognize the characters on the bottles.  None of them seem to match, but then again there are seven different Chinese words for shampoo in my Pleco translation app.  Finally, I have to resort to asking for help.

The Chinese salesgirl knows no English at all, but she’s eager to help.  I show her the word for shampoo, xifagi, along with the Chinese characters, and I press the button to play the voice saying the word, which actually sounds like “see-fah’-tee.”  She pulls me over to a shelf and points out the shelves with shampoos.  I pick Dove because I know that brand.

Pleco translation: shampoo

Pleco translation: shampoo

Then on to conditioner.  The first words that come up have to do with air conditioners.  Finally, down the list, I find hufasu, for hair conditioner.  At first she is showing me body washes because she motions as if she’s washing her arms and her body.  I make motions indicating I’m looking for something for my hair.  I pick up another Dove product.

For the body lotion, two words pop up.  One is runfuru which means both body lotion and body shampoo.  These are two different things and I don’t want to get one, thinking it’s the other.  The other is runfulu, which is just body lotion.  The girl picks bottles off the shelves and has me sniff them.  I take the one called Rose Body Essence.

Toilet paper is easy because I know I’ll recognize it.  The problem is I don’t know where it is in the store.  Since the girl is so helpful, I ask her where it is after looking it up: shouzhi, pronounced like sho-jay, and she takes me to it.

I have already looked around and around for a scrub brush and have been unable to find one.  When I type in “scrub brush,” there are no results.  I type in “brush” and get a lot of brushes, for hair, for brush-off, for writing, for painting, for cleaning pots and pans.  I want one for the floor, and there doesn’t seem to be such a thing.  While making motions and showing her the word xishua, pronounced see-schwah, several shoppers and other salesgirls gather around us and are trying to figure out what I’m looking for.  Everyone seems baffled, even the girls who speak a little English.  Finally, something clicks, and the salesgirl pulls me to the aisle with mops and brooms.  Voila! There is one, although it seems a flimsier version of what we use for scrub brushes in America.

We go through the same rigmarole with cleaning solution.

Cleaning solutions

Cleaning solutions

I find the word qingjieji, which sounds like tsching-tia-ti.

cleaning solution

cleaning solution

The problem is the sales girl is showing me cleaning solutions for kitchen sinks and countertops and I need it for floors.  I motion as if I’m cleaning the floor and she points out a bottle that says Floor Cleaner on it. I would have seen it if I’d had my glasses on.

Floor cleaner, not to be mistaken for body wash

Floor cleaner, not to be mistaken for body wash

When all is said and done and my shopping basket is neatly filled with all the items on my list, I want to tell the girl how nice she has been to help me.  I look up “you,” and find “Nǐ.”  Then I look up “nice” and I find “hǎo.”  I say to her “Nǐ hǎo?” but I’m confused because “Nǐ hǎo” means “hello” in Chinese!  She looks at me quizzically and I laugh and she laughs because we both understand that Nǐ hǎo is not what I’m trying to say at all.

There is definitely a limit to these translation apps. 🙂

Later, Caleb, my friend and colleague who speaks fluent Chinese gets a laugh out of my story.  He says I needed to say: “Nǐ hěn bùcuò,” meaning “You ARE nice.”

At the checkout stand, I either have to provide my own bag, which I don’t have with me today, or I need to ask for the number of bags I want to buy.  Caleb taught me a handy sentence for this.  “Wo yao yi ge dai zi,” meaning “I would like one bag.” The Google Translator has it as:  Wǒ xiǎng yīgè dàizi.  Before Caleb taught me this, I would indicate with my fingers how many bags I wanted. This is now the only complete sentence I can say in Chinese. 🙂

When I get home, I put all my groceries away.  I put the floor cleaner in my bathroom with my shampoo and conditioner as if it’s body wash.  I momentarily forget I didn’t buy any body wash!  Then I’m looking all over for the Floor Cleaner and decide the checker must have forgotten to put it in my bag.  Finally, when I put my glasses on, I go back to inspect the “body wash” and find that it’s in fact my floor cleaner.  I’m sure glad I didn’t use it to wash my face and body when I took my next shower. 

This is what I get for going around without glasses. 🙂 

Friday, September 26:  I want to buy index cards to use in my classes.  I go to my favorite stationery store and I look all over.  I can’t find any, so I put “index cards” in my app.  No results found.  Then I try to explain to the shopkeeper what I want. I take some lined Post-it® notes and I take some postcards, and I point to the Post-it® notes and then to the postcard to show I want the Post-it® Notes in cardboard form.  She doesn’t understand.  I look up “cardboard” and show her, but she still doesn’t understand.  A Chinese girl who speaks some English overhears and comes to help.  I explain to her what I want, and it slowly dawns on her what I want.  She asks the shopkeeper, who says they don’t carry these kinds of cards.  The Chinese girls tells me she doesn’t think I can find them in China.

I end up buying 3 boxes of postcards which can serve the same purpose but are a lot more expensive.

Saturday, September 27:  I go to the open market at the university hoping to find a cheap ironing board.  The university provided one in my apartment, but it was so filthy and disgusting that I threw it in the trash a day after I arrived.  Later I got chewed out when I told them I threw it away because they said it belonged to the university and I had no right to throw it away.  I said I would have asked for a new one anyway because it was disgusting, but they would have none of that.  They insisted that I pay for the one I threw away.  I told them I would replace it because I need one anyway, and I don’t want them to simply provide me with another filthy one.

I can’t find an ironing board at this market, so I wander around looking at the fruits and vegetables.  Vendors try to sell me various foods, but honestly I don’t know what they are and I don’t want to buy something when I have no idea what it is.  One man points to a pomelo, which I’ve never tasted, and I agree to buy it.  I’ve heard they’re good, and I want to try new foods while I’m here.  The vendor has a sharp curved knife in his hand and makes a move like he will cut the top of the pomelo off if I like.  I shake my head “No,” because why on earth would I want him to cut into that huge thing right at the market?  I’ll wait till I get home to do that.   Of course I’m curious as to why he wants to do that, but I have no way of knowing.  Was he only going to sell me a part of it?  Or was he expecting me to taste it or eat it right there?

Another vendor points to these hairy small fruits (see below), and pulls one from the stem.  He hands it to me; I presume he wants me to taste it.  I stick it in my mouth, but it’s like eating a kiwi without peeling it.  I spit it out in pieces, confused.

What ARE these fruits?

What ARE these fruits?

Without even a smirk at my foolishness, the vendor patiently demonstrates how to peel it, exposing a white fleshy fruit inside.  “Oh!” I say, continuing to spit out the peeling and fruit that I’ve mushed together in my mouth.  He hands me small plastic bag in which to put my regurgitated fruit.

I want to burst out laughing at how ridiculous I must look to him, but he is still not cracking a smile.  He must have been laughing it up inside, and I bet he had a good story to tell his family when he got home. 🙂

Oh, shopping conundrums!

 

Categories: Asia, China, Chinese food, Chinese language, Chinese markets, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Language barrier, NanBai Supermarket, Nanning, Pinyin, Pleco app, Translation, Xiaomaiwang beer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

fall semester begins :-)

Monday, September 22: My first class of fall semester begins at 8:40 this morning.  Every Monday I teach Academic Writing to freshman class #1407A (20 students) & #1407B (16 students).  I teach 1407A from 8:40-10:10 with a 10 minute break in the middle (so 80 minutes).  Then I teach 1407B from 10:30-12, with the same 10 minute break. Thus I meet 36 students today.

I’m pretty upset to find right away that the air-conditioning isn’t working in the entire building.  This is not a way to start our first day of class.  When we ask the building people when it will be fixed, they say: maybe today, maybe tomorrow, this week sometime.  I turn on every fan in the class, but it’s pretty miserable despite that.  We alternate between opening and closing the windows and opening and closing the curtains.  I’m taken back to bad memories of Korea, where I never had climate controlled schools, and I think to myself, THIS IS NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR.  I specifically asked if classrooms were air-conditioned and was told they were.   Trying to be patient, I decide to wait and see how long it takes to get the system fixed.

While going through the boring business of the syllabus and the class schedule, as well as my expectations, I pass around a piece of paper with the student numbers and names, written of course in Chinese characters.  I ask the students to please write their English names beside their Chinese names.  This is normally done here, I’m told, and it was also done in Korea.  I have mixed feelings about students using English names in English class, but I’d be hard pressed to remember the Chinese names of the nearly 71 students I’ll be teaching this semester.  Unless I knew some typical Chinese names, or unless I knew some Chinese in general, I’d never be able to even pronounce them, much less remember them.

When I teach in Virginia, I call my Asian students by whatever names they want to be called.  Sometimes they choose an English name and other times they want to be called by their Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese names.  I can learn those and call them the name they choose because I have a mixture of all nationalities in my classes.  I may have only a few Chinese, a few Koreans, etc.  I can learn these names in small numbers.  But give me a class full of 20 Chinese students, multiplied by the four classes I’m teaching, and I’m and not likely to remember any of them.  It’s overwhelming.

It’s always fun to see the names the students choose for themselves.  Sometimes the meaning or pronunciation of their chosen name is not what they think it is.  This morning some of my students write on the list: White, Worde, Ilan, Vincent, Lancy, Angel, Vivian, Darren, Shally, Victor, Jacky, Tab, Amily, Zerg, Livingston, and Arrow.  I ask White if he knows that his name is a color, and as I happen to be wearing white, I point to my shirt.  He nods that he knows.  If he wants to be called a color, so be it.  I ask Worde if he knows he is calling himself the word “word” with an “e” at the end, and he nods.  I tell Vincent, who is a girl, that Vincent is a boy’s name.  Livingston is apparently some famous sports figure and I think Zerg is a character from a video game.  By the end of class, White changes his name to David, Worde to Ward, Ilan to Allen, and Vincent to Vera.  I have two girls who choose Amily and I ask if one would mind changing hers.  She does, to Maleah.

After the boring business, I draw a chart on the board that looks like this (don’t laugh, I’ve never pretended to be an artist!):

Numbers and symbols about me :-)

Numbers and symbols about me 🙂

I tell the students this chart is about me and ask them to guess what each of the symbols and numbers mean.  Can you guess?

Then I show them a super-long Power Point presentation about me: where I’m from, my house, my family, Washington, and then all the countries where I’ve taught and traveled.  I think many of them want to tear their hair out after that experience.

After that, they have to create their own chart about themselves, then work with a partner to try to guess the meaning of one another’s charts.  While they unravel the mystery of their partner, they have to take notes.  In the end, I ask them to write a paragraph about their partner, in 3rd person, using their partner’s English name.  On Wednesday, they are to read their paragraph, introducing their partner to the class, and turn in their paragraph for a grade.

I think it all goes pretty well for a first day.  The best thing is, I’m finished by noon. I don’t waste any time rushing home to my air-conditioned apartment.  This is the first job abroad where I’m not required to be in the office at any particular time.  In fact, hardly any of the teachers here use their offices at all.  I come home and relax, work on plans for my Listening & Speaking classes on Wednesday, and write a blog.  At 8:45, I meet Carole and Paul from Liverpool, and Caleb from North Carolina, to eat dinner at a fancy Japanese sushi restaurant across from the main gate of the campus.

Fellow teachers Carole and Caleb

Fellow teachers Carole and Caleb

At dinner, we tell stories about the funny English names our students choose.  Paul and Caleb say they have students called Yogurt and Biscuit.  Carole believes that we shouldn’t try to talk them out of the names they choose, because the chances of them ever going abroad and being embarrassed by their names are slim to none.  They’ll probably stop using the names the minute they finish studying English.  She tells of a student who called herself Potato.  Carole never tried to dissuade the girl; she called her Potato all the school year.  The next year, the girl ran into Carole and told her she’d changed her name to Bella.  Carole said, “Oh, Bella!  You’ll always be Potato to me!”

We all had a good laugh over that one.

Fish making their escape from the sushi chef

Fish making their escape from the sushi chef

Tuesday, September 23:  Today, I go through the exact routine I went through on Monday, except for freshman class #1408 A & B.  Thus I meet 35 new students.  The total of these two sets of students (71) will be my students for the semester.  That is until the classes are reshuffled after midterm and we get a whole new set of students.

Confusing?  To say the least.  Why?  Don’t ask.  You really don’t want to know.

At least the air conditioning is working today.  My class is still not the coolest pad on the block, but I can survive it.

This time some of the English names chosen by my students include such names as: Bob, Albert, two Leos, Lance, Estelle, Vivi, Yuki (technically Japanese), Martin, Sherry, Fiona, JoJo, Stone, Jocelyn, Adlene, another Sherry, Kitty, and Nico.  These are not too unusual, but some of them are a little on the old-fashioned side.

After class, I squeeze on an elevator packed with students and a young man asks me what I think of SCIC (Sino-Canadian International College, part of Guangxi University and where I actually work).  It’s so rare that students talk to me that I immediately strike up a conversation with him and his friends.  They’re not my students; they belong to my colleague Richard.  Nevertheless, they chat with me as we drop the nine floors to the exit. Our conversation continues outside of the Experimental Building, and at the bottom they invite me to have lunch with them.  Here we are at lunch, Lilly and Lucy, me and Donald.

Lilly & Lucy

Lilly & Lucy

me and Donald

me and Donald ~ Don’t ask me why my mouth is open!

When I get home, I lie down to read a bit and end up taking a two-hour nap.  Even though I only work till noon, teaching is such that I’m always “on.”  I’m exhausted.

Wednesday, September 24:  Today is a tough one.  I have classes at the same time I had Monday and Tuesday, but instead of Writing, they’re Listening and Speaking.  These are my same 35 students from class #1408 A & B.  In addition, I have one 40 minute Writing class at 7:50 with all 36 students from my 1407 class.  This is a long haul, and awfully early to start especially considering that I was awake last night from 2-4:30 a.m. (probably due to my 2-hour nap on Tuesday). Once I finally fell back to sleep, I was not happy when that alarm went off at 5:30!

My Writing students read their paragraphs introducing their partners, but we don’t get through all of them in the 40 minute period.   In my Listening & Speaking class, we do a mingle game where each student has to find students in the room with the same hobby as them or the same birthday as them.  They have to find the oldest and youngest student in the class, a student who likes snakes, one who hates ice cream, one who likes Lady Gaga, etc.

After break we go over Wh- and Yes/No questions and then we brainstorm questions they could ask someone if they were trying to find a friend or a mate.  After this, we play a version of speed dating, except I call it speed meeting, because there is no dating to it.   It’s a fun first class.  After the game, students share some of the things they found out about each other.

At the break, the 1408A class, my last class of the day, asks me if I’d like to have lunch with them at the student canteen.  I really don’t know how on earth they plan to do this, as the student canteen is packed at noon, when everyone on the campus eats.  I can never find a seat in there even when I’m alone!  But we all go together and somehow or another, they manage to arrange three decent sized tables in a loose cluster; all 19 students and I manage to squeeze together.  They’re so kind, shuffling me around to the prime spot closest to the air conditioning, because they know I crave A/C in this tropical climate.  We have a fun lunch, taking loads of pictures with everybody’s phones.  Yuki makes a group on WeChat and shares everyone’s pictures.  Kids these days are so technologically savvy.  I have to get up the learning curve and fast. 🙂

having lunch with my 1408A class

having lunch with my 1408A class

my 1408A class

my 1408A class

me with my students

me with my students

my students in the canteen

my students in the canteen

Categories: Asia, China, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC) | Tags: , , , , , , | 20 Comments

bicycle tales & a ride to the nanning zoo

Friday, September 12:  It all starts when my Chinese student assistant, Angela, brings me my university-issue bicycle.  The color of an old camouflaged mini-tank, it looks like a relic of World War II.  The seat is too low and so rusted that it’s impossible to raise.  Because of the low seat, my legs pedal in a circumference about the size of a gerbil wheel. It veers to the right while in motion.  The brakes squeal with painful effort, but they don’t stop the bike.

my university-issue bike

my university-issue bike

rear view

rear view

Angela, who is eager to please, volunteers to go to a place called Doghole to buy a lock for it.  I graciously take the lock and pay her back, thinking I’ll use the bike if I’m desperate and unable to get anything better.  Luckily, a better offer comes along.

Friday, September 19:  During the week, a colleague named Nancy told me that back in the day, she lent one of her bicycles to a teacher who has now departed China.  The bicycle is locked in a residence building across the street from ours.  She told me I could borrow it if I could get someone to open the locked door to that building so that she and I could go in together to identify it.  This would take coordinating three people, no easy feat.

Today, I ask a teacher who lives in the said residence building to open the door.  Nancy has what she believes to be the key to the lock.  Inside the lobby area, Nancy picks her bike from the lineup. Alas, the bicycle has two big locks on it, one on each wheel.  Nancy’s key doesn’t work in either.  What to do?

Normal people might give up.  But Nancy is friends with the bike repair lady at Doghole.  She believes the lady will cut the locks off based on their long-time acquaintance.  There is no way she will suspect Nancy of stealing the bike.  It’s quite a walk to Doghole, and we don’t know how we can get the bike there.  Finally, we figure out a way to wedge the bike across Nancy’s large scooter (it has a large but lopsided back seat).  Nancy can drive her scooter to Doghole with me walking alongside holding the bicycle steady.

Nancy's bike (mine until I leave!)

Nancy’s bike (mine until I leave!)

We manage to do this.  The students milling around campus seem to find the sight of two ladies carrying the bike on the scooter quite humorous.  But we plug along, determined to reach our goal.  At Doghole,  the bike lady doesn’t question Nancy at all.  She takes her metal-cutting saw and, sparks flying, slices right through those two locks.  She raises the seat as high as it will go, not quite high enough for me, but higher than the other bike.  The brakes work, it has a basket, and it doesn’t look like a WWII tank.  I’m in business.

My bike... it's a very very very fine bike....

My bike… it’s a very very very fine bike….

I know what you’re thinking: It doesn’t look that much different from the first bike.  And you’d be right that in some respects these bikes LOOK similar. But believe me, this bike is better than the other in every imaginable way.  I wouldn’t tell a lie. 🙂

In the evening, I take a long bike ride all around the East Campus.  I already walked around the East Campus, and I thought it was huge.  Little did I know.  The campus sprawls north, east and west through farmland, lakes, bridges and tall apartment buildings.  After an hour of biking around, afraid of getting hopelessly lost, I retrace my bicycle tracks and make it safely back to the West Campus and my apartment.

Sunday, September 21: This afternoon, I take my “new” bicycle for a ride down the busy Daxue Road, a major road made more congested by the new railway construction, to visit the Nanning Zoo.  It takes me about 40 minutes.  I have to ride over brick walkways, dodging pedestrians, motorbikes and loose bricks.  When I get to the major intersection of Daxue Road and Luban Road, it takes me quite some time to figure out how to cross.  When I do, I walk my bicycle around construction barriers, and then ride on the main road for a short distance along with the motor scooters.  By the way, no one wears helmets in China, neither motorbikers nor bicyclists.  When I do this, it’s with full knowledge that I’m putting my life on the line.

At the next intersection, I pull out my map of Nanning, because I believe the zoo should be nearby.  A young man on a motorbike, with his little boy clinging to his waist, looks at me quizzically, and I point out the zoo on the map.  Just then his wife materializes magically from a nearby shop and speaks a few words of English.  She tells me to follow them as they’re taking their son to the zoo.  They take off at a good clip.  I pedal furiously to keep up.

We finally make it to the zoo, which is quite obvious because of the two giraffes at the entrance.  It costs a shocking 50 yuan (~$8) to get in.  I’m a little surprised at this as it cost us only 10 yuan (~$1.63) to get onto QingXiu Shan, which is MUCH nicer!

the Giraffe entrance to the Nanning Zoo

the Giraffe entrance to the Nanning Zoo

a creature just inside the zoo entrance

a creature just inside the zoo entrance

The young couple and their little boy want to pose for pictures with me next to the statue of a strange creature just inside the entrance.  After we take photos in various combinations, I take one of the little family.  I so appreciate their kindness in taking me under their wing.  The young man takes my phone number and his wife tells me he wants me to teach him English.  I don’t want to do this, as my time outside of the classroom is valuable to me, and I’m not desperate for money. I hope he doesn’t call because I really don’t want the extra work.

the nice couple who led me to the zoo

the nice couple who led me to the zoo

Me, Chen's wife and their little boy

Me, Chen’s wife and their little boy

Me with Chen and his little boy

Me with Chen and his little boy

I walk around the zoo, which is tropical but a tad bit shabby.

a koi pond

a koi pond

I first walk through a dreamlike walkway with strands of vines hanging down.  This is the entrance to the monkey area.

walkway with threadlike vines

walkway with threadlike vines

I love the striped tail of this “lemur catta.”

Lemur catta

Lemur catta

monkey

pensive monkey

a monkey playground

a monkey playground

These little fellows are industriously dismantling logs, one piece of bark at a time.  They’re intent on getting the job done.

industrious little fellows

industrious little fellows

At one cage, a huge orangutan is standing up against the bars of the cage, and a big guy is feeding the orangutan crackers and some water from a plastic water bottle.  People are standing around taking pictures of him.  I keep looking around for a zookeeper to come and tell him to stop, but no one appears.  He obviously is quite amused with himself.

a visitor feeding junk food to the orangutan

a visitor feeding junk food to the orangutan

Angry gorillas

Angry gorillas

Across from the monkey area is a pond swimming with crocodiles.  Many of them are sunning themselves on the concrete “beach” with their mouths hanging open.

Click on any of the pictures for a full-sized slide show.

It’s quite warm and some of the animals are acting frustrated and hungry, pacing back and forth, looking like they want to escape.  The panthers and tigers are held in small spaces.  One of the panthers paces circles in his cage.

Panthera Pardus

Panthera Pardus

Panthera Pardus

Panthera Pardus

Some of the big cats are having a lazy Sunday afternoon.

White Tiger

White Tiger

White Tigers

White Tigers

The animals don’t seem to be neglected.  However, the Chinese visitors are feeding the animals junk food: crackers, bread, cookies.  This really upsets me because I know people shouldn’t feed animals at a zoo.  However, I don’t know what the rules are in a Chinese zoo and I can’t speak any Chinese to tell them not to do it.  It’s not my business, but it does annoy me to no end.

Bear exhibit

Bear exhibit

Bear exhibit

Bear exhibit

In the bear enclosure, the bears are pacing and looking up at the visitors on the bridge above, waiting for them to toss some food down.  They obligingly do.  It’s obvious the bears are used to getting food from visitors because they seem frustrated when they’re not getting any.

Bear waiting for food

Bear waiting for food

Frustrated bear

Frustrated bear

I’m not sure what these cute little animals are, but people are throwing all kinds of food into their enclosure, and the animals are scrounging around to get in on the action.

going after scraps

going after scraps

When I come to an enclosure with a camel, some young adults have put some greenery on its nose and are feeding it various things.  One of the boys picks up a rock and tosses it to the camel, who tries to grab it out of the air to eat.  I can’t speak Chinese, but I do what I do best: glare at him.  He sees me glaring but chooses to ignore me and picks up another rock.  He tosses it at the camel and I’m so irritated by this that I have to leave.

camel

camel

harassed camel

harassed camel

At the petting zoo, people are encouraged to feed and pet the animals.

I do find some happy raccoons and some interesting statues on the rest of my walk through the zoo.

raccoons

raccoons

statues in the zoo

statues in the zoo

dancing bears?

dancing characters?

Along the perimeter of the zoo is some kind of water park, with some interesting sights.

Water park adjacent to the zoo

Water park adjacent to the zoo

fairy tale tree house

fairy tale tree house

cock-a-doodle-doo!

cock-a-doodle-doo!

I don’t normally like zoos at all, but I wanted to get out and about to explore Nanning.  This gives me something to do on a Sunday afternoon.  I don’t like seeing animals cooped up in small stone or barred enclosures and not in their natural habitats.  Some zoos are nicer than others at making the animal habitats as close to their natural environments as possible.  What makes this experience unpalatable are the actions of the visitors.  I don’t think I could return to Nanning Zoo because this kind of human behavior angers me too much.

Thingamajigs for sale

Thingamajigs for sale

When I pick up my bicycle from the motorbike parking area for a 1 yuan fee, the kind lady attendant, who doesn’t speak a word of English, pats the seat, indicating that it is hot.  She then runs and gets some water and pours it over the seat to cool it off.  She wipes it dry with a cloth, and I’m on my merry way.

The best thing about my trip is my bicycle ride.  Even with all the people, motorbikes and traffic, I love the feel of the wind on my face as I pedal through time and space. Though harrowing, it’s an adventure.  I feel a sense of accomplishment when I push myself out of my comfort zone.  After all, that’s what I’m here for. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Daxue Road, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Nanning Zoo | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

buying train tickets for the national holiday: nanning to guilin & onward to yangshuo

Saturday, September 20:  My student assistant, Angela, goes above and beyond the call of duty this morning when she offers to help me get train tickets from Nanning to Guilin for the upcoming National Holiday on October 1-7.  My ultimate destination is Yangshuo, where I will be in the middle of some of the most beautiful scenery in the south of China.

The niece of a former classmate of mine lives in Yangshuo; Audrey has offered to meet me in Yangshuo.  She even has gone so far as to offer to let me stay with her, but as I enjoy my privacy, I have decided to get a hotel in Yangshuo.  It will be outrageously crowded during the National Holiday, and I’m fully prepared for that.  It’s the only extended holiday I have until February, when I have about 5 weeks off, so I must take advantage of this time to travel, even if the rest of China will be coming along on my journey.

I’ve communicated with Audrey through Facebook and by WeChat, and she tells me while in Yangshuo I must take the boat ride down the Li River, and I also should visit Xingping, the picture of which is on the back of the 20 Yuan bill.

The September 2014 issue of Wanderlust & Xingping on the back of the 20 yuan bill.

The September 2014 issue of Wanderlust & Xingping on the back of the 20 yuan bill.

I’m excited about my trip, but also nervous, especially because of the crowds that I’m likely to encounter everywhere.  As this is my first time traveling in China alone, I’m worried about not being able to communicate, not catching my train on time, not being able to get a bus to Yangshuo, or not having the proper documents I need for travel.

On September 17, three of us teachers who need a resident visa were escorted to the police station, where we had to turn over our passport, medical results and the application for the resident visa.  All of us believed when we went there that we’d have our passports back from the police by October 1.  After all, the police had nearly 2 weeks to get our documents back to us.  However, we were all shocked and upset that our passports would not be returned to us until October 13, well AFTER the National Holiday.

One of the teachers had already bought a plane ticket to Indonesia for the holiday.  The university administration had full knowledge of her plans, and had even allowed her to rearrange some of her classes.  When this teacher found out our passports wouldn’t be returned until October 13, she took her passport back and said she would not turn it over to the police.  As we don’t have multiple entry visas in our passports at this point, she wouldn’t be able to return to China.  This created some very tense moments.

the 20 yuan bill with Xingping on the back

the 20 yuan bill with Xingping on the back

The other teacher and I have plans to travel within China, but this is also problematic as hotels always require a passport.  The police assure us that within China, all hotels, trains, etc. are required to accept a copy of our passport and the receipt issued by the police as identification.  We’ve heard mixed stories about this from teachers who have been here awhile.  It makes me nervous, but at least I do know Audrey in Yangshuo and she has offered me a place to stay if I have a problem.  Hopefully I won’t be sleeping on the sidewalk.

Today, when Angela comes to help me get my train tickets, she’s surprised to find that I don’t have my passport.  She tries to book the tickets online, on a Chinese-only website 12306.cn.  But then she finds out that she needs my actual passport to book online.  She makes a phone call to see if she can buy my ticket at a ticket office right outside the main gate of the university and she explains the situation.  They tell her we must go to the train station to buy the ticket if we don’t have the original passport.

So we get on the bus and head to the train station where every queue is about 30 people long.  First we stop at an information booth, where Angela has to fight her way to the front as there is no queuing here.  She’s told to go to the English-only ticket line and talk to them.  We go wait in line.  And wait.  And wait.  What I don’t understand is why these non-English speaking Chinese are in the English-only ticket line!

When I get to the front of the line, the ticket person tells Angela that she cannot sell tickets for Guilin until 3 days before the date of travel.  As I want to travel on October 1st or 2nd, it’s too early for her to sell the tickets.  However, she says there is a way around this.  Angela can buy the tickets by phone and then pick them up at the ticket office within 24 hours.  We’re not sure at this point if I have to come back to the train station or if I can go to the ticket office directly across from the front gate of the university.

All of this takes several hours in the heat and humidity, as of course, no place is air-conditioned.  Angela and I agree to go by bus back to the university, where I’ll treat her for lunch at my favorite dumpling restaurant.  We enjoy a leisurely lunch at my expense.  She deserves to be treated for all her patience in dealing with my dilemmas and for spending half of her Saturday helping me.

Finally we return to my apartment; by this time it’s 2:00.  We started this process at 9 a.m.  At my apartment, Angela calls the train office and orders my tickets.  She tells me I must pick them up by midnight of the 21st since they haven’t been paid for.  The round trip tickets will cost me 222 yuan ($36.23).

We head back out again into the heat.  Angela walks with me to the ticket office across from the front gate of the university, but there is another long queue.  I tell her she should go home and relax and I’ll return by myself early tomorrow morning to pick up the tickets.

After 5 hours, I still don’t have my tickets in hand!

Sunday morning, I go to the ticket office across from the university, hoping they’ll let me have the tickets without having my passport.  I have the copy of my passport, my Chinese entry visa, and the police receipt.  When I get to the front of the line, I phone Angela and she speaks with the ticket lady.  I have already shown her the confirmation number and my documents.  For a nervous few minutes, I dread her telling me she can’t sell me the tickets, or almost worst, that I have to return to the train station to pick them up.  Luckily it goes without a hitch, and I leave with my two train tickets in hand.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly on my first trip alone in China! 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Nanning, Nanning Railway Station, National Holiday, Xingping, Yangshuo | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

typhoon kalmaegi brushes past nanning

Tuesday, September 16:  Today, high winds are blowing across our little campus and neatly sweeping away the heat and humidity.  We’ve had some sudden bursts of rain, and more is forecast.  This has encouraged the dust to settle down a bit, and has beckoned me to open my windows.  Outside, the weeping willow trees across the pond are billowing and the trees outside my window are dancing with gusto.  I love the gushes of wind and the shushing of the trees.

dancing weeping willow

dancing weeping willow

Typhoon Kalmaegi, the Korean word for seagull, is coming to town. Or at least it’s passing by on its way to somewhere else.  As I’m already tired of the heat and humidity, I’m thrilled to experience this bit of climate change.

Here’s Tuesday’s news about the Typhoon: Typhoon Kalmaegi Kills 10 in the Philippines; Hong Kong Braces for Brush with Storm

I’m oblivious to the fact that this storm is Typhoon Kalmaegi until I get this letter, addressed to all the teachers, from the university today.

storm clouds brewing

storm clouds brewing

As Typhoon Kalmaegi is coming, it is probably that there will be continuous strong rainfall as well as windstorm in these days. We kindly remind you that when Typhoon Usagi comes, please be aware of the following things:

First of all, strong winds may blow down buildings and installations in high places, causing casualties or even deaths. Therefore, do not take shelter from rain near temporary constructions, billboards and towers. If you have a car, avoid driving in areas influenced by strong wind. Remove flowerpots and things hanging outside your apartment. Check your windows and doors and fasten them if necessary. Check the circuit inside your room. Pay attention to the prevention of fire. Do not use computer when there are thunder and lightning.

Second of all, please prepare a torch, a radio, some food, drinking water and some necessary medicine if you think it is necessary. Clean pipelines timely so as to keep the drainage system inside your room unobstructed.

flowers in the breeze

flowers in the breeze

Thirdly, when typhoon comes, stop all activities outside, and stay at your apartment. If you have to walk outside, you have to wear waterproof shoes and tight, formfitting clothes. Button up your clothes or have them fastened with belts in order to minimize your body area exposed to the wind. Wear a raincoat or, if necessary, a helmet when you go into the rain. When you walk into the storm, you should walk slowly and do not try to “run before the wind”. You should absolutely not running along the direction of the wind, or else you will find it very difficult to stop—you even have the danger to be blown away. Try your best to grab a fence, a pillar or anything that is well fastened. Be aware of things following down. When you are turning a corner, you should take a pause and observe nearby environment. When you are crossing a narrow bridge when there is a strong wind, try to crawl instead of walk in case you will be blown away of fall into the water. Do not step into water, especially inside the campus. If you have to, be aware of the depth of the water.

Sometimes there will be power cut during the hitting of typhoon. If so, please calm down. 

Three of us calm down sufficiently to walk to a BBQ dinner on a street quite a distance from campus.  Our trek there is uneventful, but as we leave the restaurant, the sky opens up.  We attempt to dodge the downpour by dipping in shop doors and stopping for shelter in an ice cream shop, where of course we have to sample the goods.  Nonetheless, we are drenched to our cores by the time we get home.  It certainly is an adventure. 🙂

The typhoon is not hitting us directly here in Nanning.  It’s just passing through on its way to some distant locale, and we’re feeling its repercussions, much like folks who live inland in Virginia do when hurricanes hit the East Coast of the USA.  The coastal areas get hit hard, while those inland just get strong winds, a downpour or two, and possibly some flooding.

It’s really not that bad, but as we travel on foot or by bicycle, it does make for an inconvenience.

Wednesday, September 17: More bursts of rain, especially this morning. I was glad I didn’t have to go out in it, because the trees and sky looked violently angry, shaking their weeping willow and palm frond hair as if they were at a wild dance party.  I had a very lazy morning reading Travels with Charley and plotting where to go in China when I get a holiday.

Speaking of holidays, we have a week off for the National Day of the People’s Republic of China from October 1-7.  It’s much too soon for a holiday as we’re just getting underway with our classes.  Plus we hardly have any money because we’ll have received only one paycheck by then.  On top of that, three of us new teachers had to go to the police station today to take our passports, along with results of our medical exam and other paperwork, to apply for our residence permits.  We are told we won’t get our passports back until October 13!  That means that travel outside of China is impossible.  It also means there will be difficulties traveling within China, as hotels generally require a passport.  The police assured me I could use the stamped receipt, which hotels are obligated to honor.  I sure hope so, because I’d hate to take a train somewhere and then be refused admittance to all hotels.  I can envision myself squatting on a street corner with my suitcase, waiting until I can catch another train home.

This evening, a group of us teachers go out for dumplings.  While we’re warm and dry in the restaurant, enjoying a huge spread of dishes, we hear a roar as the rain clouds let loose.  Walking home, we wade through puddles up to our ankles.  Luckily the downpour has ended, but our feet and legs are soaked.

Tonight, I chat with Mike by Skype and he tells me that fall is in the air there, with temperatures dropping to 55 F.  I’m so envious!  If I go abroad again after this year, I simply must find a northern clime, with four distinct seasons. These hot climates really don’t suit my personality.

Thursday, September 18:  This morning, it seems the typhoon has passed.  We attend a teachers’ meeting, slicing our way through thick humid air.  I thought the typhoon would clear out the moisture, but it’s only made it worse.  

Later this afternoon, we’re hit with another downpour.  I’ve been hunkering down inside, tired of getting drenched every time I go out.  Now, as I sit in my apartment looking over the pond, I believe I can see some blue skies in the last waning light before sundown.  I’m ready now for this typhoon to move along and leave us in relative peace.

 

Categories: Asia, China, Chinese BBQ, Chinese food, Dumplings, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Typhoon Kalmaegi | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

a monday morning walk through the university’s east campus

Monday, September 15:  I wake up before dawn, as I do nearly every day.  Usually I lounge around in my pajamas, drinking coffee, looking at blogs or Facebook, reading, or just generally being lazy.  But this morning, I get up soon after the sun rises and walk to Guangxi University‘s East Campus.  I live and work on the West Campus, so until yesterday, when I got access to a colleague’s bicycle, I hadn’t yet visited the East.  After my little bike ride, I figured out the lay of the land, so I set off on foot this time.

Upon first entering the East Campus, I see this official-looking building looming over me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy thought is that an early morning walk will be cooler and the light will be softer than the harsh midday light.  After all, what time of day is better for photos than sunrise or sunset?  I’m wrong on both counts. Though it’s only 79 degrees F, the humidity is 94%, with rain predicted.  This makes for a warm & muggy experience, as well as a hazy sky.

I see this other building, with palm trees in front, and a bicycle rickshaw zipping past.

another official-looking building

another official-looking building

I like the look of this wrought iron fence with tendrils of vines bearing yellow flowers.

vines and tendrils

vines and tendrils

The colorful flags on this building seem a cheerful welcome to the incoming students.

colorful flags

colorful flags

Near a lotus pond, I find this rock carved with some mysterious message.

stone carving near the lotus pond

stone carving near the lotus pond

I come upon this curvaceous walkway.  You might not know it from this picture, but there are hundreds of students queuing up at various buildings, for what I don’t know.  This East campus seems much busier than my quiet part of the West campus.

curvature

curvature

I think one set of parents, standing here looking over the pond, must be hesitant to leave their child behind.

reflections

reflections

I’m so disappointed by the haziness, and now I’m soaked in sweat.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to this humidity.

more reflections

more reflections

I stop to catch the curvy walkway in the other direction.

more curvature

more curvature

A pretty little monument juts out into the pond from a small peninsula.  I’m not sure what the monument signifies.

monument on a little peninsula and reflections

monument on a little peninsula and reflections

reflections

reflections

monument

monument

I keep walking until I walk right out the East Gate.  I see a Kentucky Fried Chicken, food carts, a guy reclining on his motorbike reading the newspaper, and the hustle and bustle of Chinese commerce.

food cart outside the East Gate

food cart outside the East Gate

street outside the East Gate

street outside the East Gate

food cart

food cart

catching the morning news on a motorbike

catching the morning news on a motorbike

facades

facades

Then I enter once again through the East Gate.

entering back into the East Gate

entering back into the East Gate

Two ladies are doing their exercises on the little peninsula, and I try to capture them across the pond.  Across the street from them is a huge athletic field, where people are out in droves exercising.  Students are playing basketball; others are doing exercises on simple outdoor “machines.”  I can’t figure out a way to take pictures without being really obvious, so I don’t.

some older ladies doing tai chi

some older ladies doing their exercises

I take a little path around the pond and I can see a bridge crossing over the lotus pond.

pathway

pathway

I pass by a young Chinese couple facing each other.  The boy looks sheepish as his girlfriend tries to rearrange his hair.

Bridge over the lotus pond

Bridge over the lotus pond

A big blue Red Bull tent is set up, probably from this weekend’s welcoming activities, and beside it is a wall painted with the Red Bull emblem, as well as some Chinese characters.

Red Bull, Chinese style

Red Bull, Chinese style

Finally, I head back to my familiar West Campus, where I pass another huge athletic field.  People here are walking or running around a track, doing aerobics classes to some high-energy tunes, exercising on basic metal ellipticals painted in primary colors, or doing Tai Chi.  A grandfather has put his little grandson up on a set of monkey bars, and he does pull-ups while chatting with his grandson.  It’s a friendly environment and people here seem serious about their physical fitness.  I never saw this in Korea or Oman, so I’m happy to see the Chinese people taking their health seriously.

By the way, on one of my earlier walks, I made it a point to see if I could find even one obese Chinese person, and I came up empty-handed.  I hope all this Chinese food and perspiration will be good for my weight loss regimen. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, East Campus, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

a sunday morning walk along a “thread” of a stream

Sunday, September 14:  Outside the west gate of Guangxi University is a pedestrian bridge that crosses Luban Road, a major road that runs along the whole west side of the university.  From there I can take any number of perpendicular alleyway/streets on either side of a set of luxury high rises, gated and guarded apartment complexes with lush tropical parks blooming between them.  I walk along one of these streets with an air of commerce about it.

businesses & high rises on the way to the "stream"

businesses & high rises on the way to the “stream”

When I cross another large street, I come to what on a map of Nanning looks like a green river bed, with a thread-like stream running through it.  The map shows that this stream feeds into Nanning’s main waterway, the Yongjiang River.

In real life, this “stream” looks like a major river.  While I’m walking I assume I’m walking beside the Youngjiang River.   When I finish my walk this morning, I look at my trusty MapMyWalk app, which truly does map my walk, and I’m perplexed to see on the map that there is no river showing.  It’s just an area of green.  If you look hard enough, MAYBE you can see a thread of blue running through.  Sure enough, the Yongjiang River is further south, but nowhere near where I walked.

Map of the area of my walk

Map of the area of my walk

I’m so baffled by this, that I spend much of my Sunday looking at maps of Nanning and trying to figure out what the heck is going on.  I obviously need to get my bearings in this huge city, which is in reality one of China’s smaller cities.  It’s quite overwhelming.  My goal over the next 10 months is to unravel the mystery of Nanning.

trees along the stream

trees along the stream

This morning I walk about 3.8 miles, from my apartment to this unnamed stream and southward along its edge, mistakenly under the impression it’s the Yongjiang River.  It has a big blue butterfly shaped bridge over its north end, and a wide road, Daxue Road, cutting across it to the south.  South of Daxue Road, the stream flows past the Nanning Zoo and eventually finds its way to the Yongjiang River.  Daxue Road, by the way, leads also to the main (south) gate of the university.

looking to the north along the "stream"

looking to the north along the “stream”

Surprisingly, I don’t see any debris along this path.  It’s actually surprising that I rarely see any trash on the streets anywhere in Nanning.

the walkway

the walkway heading south

looking north to the blue bridge and the mountains behind

looking north to the blue bridge and the mountains behind

As I’m walking, I see the pretty blue bridge, which as far as I can tell doesn’t have a name.  High rises brush the clouds on either side of the river.

high rises on my side of the stream

high rises on my side of the stream

Along my walk, I find ornamental grasses, yellow and lavender wildflowers, flitting dragonflies, parked electric motorbikes and bicycles, fishermen wearing straw hats or hunched under umbrellas, fellow walkers, bikers, a woman pushing a food cart, a backyard garden laid out neatly under an electrical tower,  a couple and their child listening to music by the riverside, gnarled and feathery trees, and, north of the bridge, an interesting complex with traditional Chinese rooftops.  I can’t tell what this is on the map, possibly some government complex.  Mountains stretch across the horizon to the north.

ornamental grasses along the stream

ornamental grasses along the stream

Fisherman's motorbike

Fisherman’s motorbike

the fisherman

the fisherman

fishermen under umbrellas

fishermen under umbrellas

bicycle and fisherman

bicycle and fisherman

fisherman

hunter-gatherer?

looking north again

looking north again

across the stream

across the stream

across the stream

across the stream

looking northward to the blue bridge and some traditional roofs glowing in sunlight

looking northward to the blue bridge and some traditional roofs glowing in sunlight

pretty skies

pretty skies

backyard garden

backyard gardens under an electrical tower

going to work

going to work

looking north

looking north

pretty little groves

pretty little groves

feathery tree

feathery tree

radiating fern

radiating fern

It takes me quite a long time to take this walk, and I’m drenched by the time I return home.  I really do need to get going much earlier on my walks.

The weather forecast called for thunderstorms this morning.  Though the sky did seem slightly threatening, it never rained.   The weather made for an interesting sky though.  Sometimes in Nanning, we can see blue sky and sunshine, while other times it seems gray and hazy.  I’m not sure if the haze is pollution or humidity, or both.

Slowly but surely,  I’m getting a feel for what’s within walking distance here in my little neck of the woods.

One day last week I did this walk in a northerly direction and I got a close-up picture of the blue bridge.   One day soon I hope to cross over this bridge and see what’s on the other side.  There’s a walkway there too, or so I’m told.

a blue butterfly bridge over the "stream"

a blue butterfly bridge over the “stream”

Categories: Asia, China, Daxue Road, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Luban Road, Nanning, Yongjiang River | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

a lively chinese market on the university campus

Saturday, September 13:  The open market on campus is a lively place on a Saturday morning.  Here, vendors sell fruits, vegetables, spices, nuts, plastic household goods, chickens, fish, pork, beef, clothing, and shoes.  They even sell prepared meals and have picnic tables set up for people to stop for a snack, lunch or dinner.  It’s noisy and fun, and it looks like it’s the social hour for locals to catch up with their neighbors.

the entrance to the market on the Guangxi University campus

the entrance to the market on the Guangxi University campus

plants for sale

plants for sale

spices & sauces

spices & sauces

It’s a little difficult for me to shop here because I have few Chinese skills.  As this is an open market, you need to be able to negotiate and say what you want.  I came here earlier this week to buy some rice.  I only wanted a bit because I only have myself to feed, but the woman kept dishing huge bowlfuls of rice onto the scale.  I gestured that I didn’t want that much, that she should put some back, but instead she kept putting more onto the scale.  It seems she was trying to give me an even number of kilos, but I didn’t want that much.  No matter what I did, she wouldn’t put any back into her bin.  I ended up lugging home a huge bag of rice.  It may last for 6 months!  Because of all this rice, I made a special trip to WalMart in downtown Nanning to buy a rice cooker.

vegetables

vegetables

garlic, tomatoes, carrots & red onions

garlic, tomatoes, carrots & red onions

vegetables galore

vegetables galore

A similar thing happened with kiwi fruit.  I wanted only 3, but the man kept gesturing I needed to take 10.  I didn’t want 10, and I tried my best to make that clear to him.  Finally he put up 5 fingers and put 5 in a bag.  I really didn’t want 5, but I took them and paid accordingly.  When I took one out to eat the next morning, it was overly ripe.  I ate it anyway and felt queasy the rest of the day.  The next one I ate wasn’t quite ripe, but I ate it anyway with no repercussions.   When I ate the third one, I got some kind of painful bite on the side of my tongue.  I wondered if there were some kind of bug embedded in that kiwi.  Needless to say, I threw the other two away.

fruits

fruits

nuts & stuff

nuts & stuff

more vegetables

more vegetables

the market

the market

I haven’t had any other issues with the food because I haven’t bought much here.  The first time I came here, I did buy some plums that were cheap and delicious.  I also bought a dragon fruit that lasted me about 4 days and was wonderfully refreshing.  I hope I can learn some Chinese numbers and phrases so that I can better negotiate this market.

the market

the market

star fruit for sale!

star fruit for sale!

an extravaganza of color

an extravaganza of color

vegetables

vegetables

pretty lettuce

pretty lettuce

mushrooms and roots

nuts & berries

chickens

chickens

chickens

chickens

mushrooms

mushrooms

garlic, potatoes and onions

garlic, potatoes, onions, peppers & cauliflower

plastic goods

plastic goods

eggs and stuff

eggs and stuff

grains, nuts and beans

grains, nuts and beans

interesting vehicle

interesting vehicle with a solemn-looking man in back

want ads posted on a board outside the market

want ads posted on a board outside the market

electric bikes galore

electric bikes galore

electric bike parked in front of the market

electric bike parked in front of the market

the market from across the lotus pond

the market from across the lotus pond

I imagine I’ll get better at negotiating with vendors at this market.  It’s the closest market to my apartment, so I really should take advantage of it when possible.  I’ll try to learn a few useful Chinese phrases to help me find my way. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, China, Chinese markets, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

expedition to qing xiu shan {part 2}

Saturday, September 6:   After leaving the Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War at Qing Xiu Shan Tourist Attraction, we head downhill, where we find Champion Court and Number One Scholar Spring Cultural Park.

Champion Court

Champion Court

Scholars at the park

Scholars at the park

Studious scholars

Studious scholars

Lush vegetation

Lush vegetation

We continue on, looking for Xiangsi Lake, which we’ve seen on several signposts.  We find a Japanese man walking alone and we ask him if he knows where the lake is.  He points in a direction opposite to what the sign says, and makes an X gesture with his hand over the arrow pointing to the lake.  He tells us the sign is a mistake and that we should follow him.  We do, and we end up in the Cycad Garden, lying west of the Phoenix Ridge of Qing Xiu Mountain.

walkway through the Cycad Garden

walkway through the Cycad Garden

The garden is the biggest ex-situ conservation population of cycads, seed plants typically characterized by a stout and woody trunk with a crown of large, hard and stiff, evergreen leaves. They usually have feather-like, or pinnate, leaves. The individual plants are either all male or all female. Cycads vary in size from having trunks only a few centimeters to several meters tall. They typically grow very slowly and live very long, with some specimens known to be as much as 1,000 years old. Because of their superficial resemblance, they are sometimes confused with and mistaken for palms or ferns, but are only distantly related to either (Wikipedia: Cycad).

Cycad Garden

Cycad Garden

Cycad

Cycad

Cycad Garden

Cycad Garden

Here at the Cycad Garden of Qing Xiu Shan are more than 30 cycas pectinata aged over one thousand years and the oldest “Cycas King” is 1350 years old now. Most of the iron trees here bloom and fruit from May to November annually.

The Cycas King, over 1350 years old

The Cycas King, over 1350 years old

Cycads are found across much of the subtropics and tropical parts of the world. Though they are a minor component of the plant kingdom today, during the Jurassic period, they were extremely common. They have changed little since the Jurassic, compared to some major evolutionary changes in other plant divisions.  Maybe that’s why we see some dinosaur statues in the garden.

Dinosaurs in the Cycad Garden

Dinosaurs in the Cycad Garden

Dinosaur in the Cycad Garden

Dinosaur in the Cycad Garden

After enjoying the shade of the Cycad Garden, we end up at a little store by Sky Pond, where we each buy a bottle of water and a vanilla ice cream bar.  We sit at a picnic table under an umbrella and savor every refreshing bite of that ice cream bar.  We’ve been walking for so long in the hot sun, we’re soaked with sweat.  That ice cream is the perfect antidote for our weary bodies.

As soon as we finish our ice cream and leave the shop, we can see the Water-moon Nunnery to our right and Sky Pond to our left.

Water-moon Nunnery

Water-moon Nunnery

Sky Pond is an artificial lake named such because it is the place of highest altitude in Nanning (according to a sign in the  park).

View of Sky Pond with Longxiang Tower on the hillside

View of Sky Pond with Longxiang Tower on the hillside

Little bridge to an island in Sky Pond

Little bridge to an island in Sky Pond

When we walk along the shore of Sky Pond, we see people feeding koi in the pond.  Koi are ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp that are kept for decorative purposes in outdoor koi ponds or water gardens.

Feeding the koi

Feeding the koi

Koi varieties are distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream.  It’s fun to watch them churning about in the water.

Koi in Sky Pond

Koi in Sky Pond

The lake is very pretty and a welcome sight after traipsing up and down the mountain.  What is it about water that just seeing it makes you feel refreshed?

We  walk across a little bridge to an island, where we see a couple of pavilions.  Standing in one of them, we have some lovely views of the lake and find more people feeding the Koi.

pavilion on the island

pavilion on the island

Koi in Sky Pond

Koi in Sky Pond

Jilinge Restaurant

Jilinge Restaurant

more pavilions

more pavilions

Colorful boats for hire

Colorful boats for hire

the bridge to the island from the opposite side

the bridge to the island viewed from the opposite side

view of Sky Pond, boats, pavilion and Jilinge Restaurant

view of Sky Pond, boats, pavilion and Jilinge Restaurant

We wonder about the sign that says Sky Pond is the place of highest altitude in Nanning, because right beside the pond, we can see steps going further uphill to Longxiang Tower, commonly known as Qingshan Tower.

Steps to Longxiang Tower

Steps through the Buyun Archway to Longxiang Tower

Sign on the steps leading to the tower

Sign on the steps leading to the tower

Yuntian Court: we go under this on the way up to the tower

Yuntian Court: we go under this on the way up to the tower

another pavilion beside the tower

another pavilion beside the tower

The tower is named from the proverb:  “Dragon ranks first in strength among all the water animals while elephant tops in all the land animals.”  Longxiang (dragon and elephant) Tower was initially built in the Wanli Period of the Chinese Ming Dynasty.  It is an eight-square double-eaved nine-floored structure with a height of 51.35m. It is the landmark of Qing Xiu Mountain and the perfect end to our expedition.

Longxiang Tower

Longxiang Tower

Climbing to the top of the tower, we can see the Yongjiang River, distant mountains and hills and urban and rural landscapes within ten miles.  I make a stop at every level where I can find panoramic views.

view over Qing Xiu Shan

view over Qing Xiu Shan

Nanning and the Yongjiang River

Nanning and the Yongjiang River

Nanning and the Yongjiang River

Nanning and the Yongjiang River

Urban landscapes

Urban landscapes

We see the pretty Lotus Pond from above. It sits right beside Sky Pond, but we didn’t see this when we were on the ground.  We’ll have to visit this next time we come.

view of Lotus Pond next door to Sky Pond

view of Lotus Pond next door to Sky Pond

Jilinge Restaurant from above

Jilinge Restaurant from above

Nanning & Yongjiang River

Nanning & Yongjiang River

Yongjiang River looking east

Yongjiang River looking east

Looking to the south, we see a sprawling area of new construction.

New construction to the south

New construction to the south

to the south, some kind of performing arts center? Or sports area?

to the south, some kind of performing arts center? Or sports area?

After enjoying the breezes and the views for quite some time at the top of the tower, we descend the tower and the hill to catch the bus to the park entrance.  It’s been a great first outing in Nanning, but we’re hot, tired and exhausted.  This mountain is way too much to see in one day.

a monument near Longxiang Tower

a monument near Longxiang Tower

As we make our way back by taxi to the university, we pass a lot of hustle and bustle on the city streets, but I’ve put my camera away and don’t feel like digging it out again.  We can see poor housing areas juxtaposed against upscale ones.  Here’s one shot I take with some interesting old houses nestled in among the tall newer buildings.  It’s not great because I was a little late in taking out my camera.

old houses and new

old houses and new

This day was great fun, and I’m so happy to have found a fellow adventurous spirit in Caleb. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Champion Court, China, Cycad Garden, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Jilinge Restaurant, Koi, Longxiang Tower, Nanning, Number One Scholar Spring Cultural Park, Qing Xiu Shan, Sky Pond, Water-moon Nunnery, Yongjiang River | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

an expedition to qing xiu shan {part 1}

Saturday, September 6:  This morning, Caleb and I take a taxi to the south of Nanning to visit the mountain called Qing Xiu Shan.  We share the 40 yuan (~$6.50) cost of the taxi ride.  We arrive at the West Gate Ticket Office, where we find a stepped series of frogs spitting streams of water at each other.  Try as I may, I cannot capture the water streams coming out of their mouths.  Every time I’m a fraction of a second too late or too early.  That doesn’t stop me from trying.

Spitting turtles at the West Gate of Qing Xiu Shan

Spitting turtles at the West Gate of Qing Xiu Shan

As always in Nanning, it is hot and humid, with temperatures about 92 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% humidity.  You can see the humidity in the air.

West Gate Ticket Office, Qing Xiu Shan

West Gate Ticket Office, Qing Xiu Shan

Looking down at the stepped ponds at the entrance

Looking down at the stepped ponds at the entrance

Qing Xiu Shan is spread over 13 square kilometers, of which 6 square kilometers have been built and open to the public. The Scenic Spot has numerous peaks, green trees, amazing carved rocks, steep cliffs, clean springs and rare stones (QingXiu Shan Tourist Attraction).

Around the perimeter of the Bronze Drum Stage, we find statues honoring all the different ethnic groups in Guangxi Province.  All the information below is taken from the plaques on the statues.

The Gelao people are an ancient nationality in southwest China.  The Gelao language is their native tongue and they have a lot of folklore and folk songs, including “Song of Eight Immortals” and “Cowhells Dance.”  Their festivals include Worshipping Tree Festival and Festival of Worshipping Ancestors with Beef Heart.

The Yi people moved to the mountains of Guangxi from Yunnan Province. There are three branches, the White Yi, Black Yi and Red Yi.  They live on mountains and do farming.  They speak the Yi language but have different dialects among them.  They love to sing and dance and their festivals include the Tiaogong Festival  and Torch Festival.

The Shui people speak the Shui language and live on rice agriculture.  They once created the “Shui script” by imitating the Chinese characters and a unique calendar that takes September as the beginning of the lunar calendar and August as the end of the year.  They are good at embroidering and like singing Huadeng opera.  They follow the marriage custom of “no marriage with member of the same clan.”  Their traditional festivals include “Dragon Boat Festival” and Mao Festival.

The Jing people migrated to Baibu Gulf from Do Son, Vietnam after the Ming Dynasty.  Their livelihood is marine fishery and farming.  They are the only minority living along the coast and the only one involved in marine fishery among Chinese minorities.  Their traditional festival includes “Ha (Singing) Festival.”

The Mao Nan people live on rice agriculture and agriculture on hilly land with various avocations as their sidelines.  They love singing folk songs and are skilled at handicrafts of knitting bamboo skin wares, carving rocks and woods, etc.  “Maonan Beef Cattle” they elaborately feed is famous for its fresh texture and is well sold overseas.

The Hui people believe in Islamism for which there are always mosques in their places of residence.  Their clothes, religious service, living and diet, traditional festivals and funerals keep the heritage of Islam.  Most are engaged in industry and commerce.  Sculpture, colored-lantern making and carpet making are their adept handicrafts.  Their traditional festivals include “Iftar Festival,” “Corban Festival,” and “Maulid al-Nabi.”

Below is a collage of the different groups.  Click on any of the photos for a full-sized slide show.

On the perimeter of the Bronze Drum Stage, sometimes referred to as the Copper Drum Platform, we find some pretty lanterns and greenery.  We also find a man painting Chinese characters on the sidewalk with water.

neatly carved hedges

neatly carved hedges

surroundings at the Bronze Drum Stage

surroundings at the Bronze Drum Stage

ficus tree ? near the Bronze Drum Stage

ficus tree ? near the Bronze Drum Stage

Chinese lanterns

Chinese lanterns

a man paints Chinese characters with water on the sidewalk

a man paints Chinese characters with water on the sidewalk

The Copper Drum music platform is a grand sunken open stage and forms, together with the square, a huge open site for performances. The 40th Anniversary Ceremony of Guangxi, the closing ceremony of the Nanning International Folk Song Arts Festival, the opening ceremony of the China Gold Rooster Floral Film Festival and other events have been held here.  The background sculpture of the stage is the “Remote History and Modern Charm,” focusing on the copper drum and supported by images of flowery mountains, wall paintings, figures, animals and plants.

The frog totem pillars at the two sides of the square and the stage represent the Zhuang people’s worship of the frog because they live on agriculture at the high-temperature rainy South China. In their opinion, the frog cannot only catch pests but also has strong reproductive capacity. Thus, their fear of the God was transferred to the frog, hoping the frog would bring the rice harvest and prosperous offspring to them (Qing Xiu Shan: Copper Drum Platform).

At the Bronze Drum, we find ourselves to be minuscule beings as we pose in front of the huge drum.

The Bronze Drum from the backside, where the light is good

The Bronze Drum from the backside, where the light is good

Caleb poses in front of the Bronze Drum

Caleb poses in front of the Bronze Drum

And I try it too. :-)

And I try it too. 🙂

Next, we proceed along the shady Friendship Corridor, a cultural corridor integrating the features of the shelter bridge of the Dong people and South Ridge parks. The 618m length makes it the longest corridor of Guangxi. No nail or rivet is used in the corridor but only mortise and tenon joints, sufficiently showing the architectural skills of the Dong people. The corridor, integrating bridge, corridor, pavilion and tower together, is not only an ornamental, but also an ideal place for rest.

Friendship Corridor

Friendship Corridor

We weave in and out of the long corridor, where we see a lot of cool rocks and garden features.

courtyard garden

courtyard garden

cool rocks

cool rocks

mushroom clipped trees

mushroom clipped trees

more amazing rocks

more amazing rocks

view of Nanning & the Yongjiang River from a pavilion along the Friendship Corridor

view of Nanning from a pavilion along the Friendship Corridor

view from a pavilion

view from a pavilion

Another view from the pavilion

Another view from the pavilion

The Friendship Corridor leads to a plaza and a huge circular walkway around a bright green field.  The first thing we see is this huge dragon ball.

Dragon ball at the entrance to the China-ASEAN Friendship Garden

Dragon ball at the entrance to the China-ASEAN Friendship Garden

In a semi-circle around the dragon ball is the China-ASEAN Friendship Garden, where we can see tributes to the different countries of ASEAN, some of which are in the gallery below.  At the ASEAN Totem Square, the totem stone sculptures symbolize the laws and legal systems of China and the 10 ASEAN countries.  The totems symbolize friendly cooperation amongst the ASEAN countries.

Since Caleb speaks fluent Chinese, he easily chats with people.  Some of the folks want to take pictures with us.

Caleb, friendly Chinese girl, and me

Caleb, friendly Chinese girl, and me

Around the perimeter of the park are lots of cool statues, and the first one is the Monkey King.  We take turns posing with the statue.

The Monkey King

The Monkey King

Up close and personal with the Monkey King

Up close and personal with the Monkey King

Pigman and me

Pigman and me

me with the Monkey King

me with the Monkey King

We find other interesting sights along the way.

The Cougar above is a symbol of Provo City and Brigham Young University.  Nanning and Provo signed a Sister City Agreement on September 27, 2000.  The Cougar symbolizes leadership, loyalty, courage and determination in Native American folklore.

The Philippine Eagle is one of the largest and most powerful eagles in the world and is one of Davao City’s most famous symbols, often referred to as the Bird King.  Endangered and very rare in the wild, the Philippine Eagle is being successfully bred in captivity at the Philippine Eagle Center.  Nanning and Davao signed a Sister City Agreement on September 3, 2007.

Next we come to the Chinese Zodiac Park, where Caleb poses with his Chinese Zodiac character, the snake, and I pose with mine, the sheep.  Sadly I took the picture of Caleb with his camera, so I don’t have it to post.

Chinese Zodiac Park

Chinese Zodiac Park

Me with the sheep

Me with the sheep

We also take turns posing with some humorous monkeys.

Caleb poses with the monkeys

Caleb poses with the monkeys

and so do I. :-)

and so do I. 🙂

After all this walking and sweating, we come face to face with about a million steps leading to The Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War.    We are already hot and exhausted, but we climb on up anyway.

Steps to The Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War

Steps to The Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War

It’s hard to get a front-on picture of the monument since we’re facing directly into the sun, but here’s a view from the side.

The Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War

The Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War

view from theThe Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War

view of Nanning from The Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War

Little do we know at this point how much more walking we have to do.   This mountain is huge!  Part 2 of our walk will follow in another post.   Even what we saw today is not everything there is to see.  We’ll have to go back another day, or two, to see it all. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Bronze Drum Stage, China, China-ASEAN Friendship Garden, Chinese Zodiac Garden, Friendship Corridor, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Qing Xiu Shan, The Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War | Tags: , , , , , | 18 Comments

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