nanning people’s park & a mood-lifting motorbike ride

Sunday, November 16:  At the end of the day, it’s the motorbike ride back to the university that lifts my spirits and reminds me that I’m only in China for a year, and that I’d better savor every moment.

This week, I finished the grueling and thankless task of marking 142 essays by 71 students.  Twenty hours of sitting and marking boring and often senseless essays made for a lot of physical discomfort, general stiffness and back and shoulder pain, as well as a foul mood.  It’s over now, and I survived it, but it was NOT fun.  I also felt a lot of resentment about the workload of the writing teachers vs. the reading teachers, who had no midterm exams to mark. Early in the semester, the Level 1 teachers had discussed the possibility of the reading teachers helping the writing teachers mark half the exams at midterm, but that plan just vaporized. No one asked my opinion; the decision was just made without any input from me.

I hate unfairness in the workplace.

When I take these overseas jobs, I never know exactly what I’ll be teaching.  It’s usually some general integrative English that includes writing, speaking, listening and reading.  When I arrived in China to find I would be teaching writing to nearly 80 students, I was not happy.  I didn’t have any say in this.  When I found out that some teachers who were hired made it a condition of their job acceptance that they NOT teach writing, I was upset, mostly that I didn’t think to make such a demand.  I guess I need to look out for myself more in the future.  

I keep reminding myself I’m here for the travel and that sometimes to get what I want, I have to put up with a lot of BS. 

The other thing that’s contributed to my bad mood is the weather.  I’ve hated the weather here since day one, with its high humidity and heat.  In the last two weeks, the temperatures have dropped, but the air remains damp.  It’s rained nearly every day since November 1, and when not raining it’s been overcast.  For someone who thrives on going on outings and taking pictures, this has caused me some consternation.

Saturday it rained, but today no rain is forecast, even though it’s gray and dreary.  Tired of having spent the last week cooped up inside, I venture out to the Nanning People’s Park. I take a taxi for 20 yuan and arrive to a bustling front gate with crowds of people milling about.

Entrance to the People's Park

Entrance to the People’s Park

Built in 1951, the People’s Park is also called Bailong Park for the lake that lies on its southern edge. According to “Records of Scenic Resorts,” a famous general called Di Qing from the Song dynasty was once stationed here with his army. One day, he spotted a flock of white sheep walking along the lake.  As it reminded him of a moving white dragon, he named the lake Bailong which means white dragon in Chinese (China Highlights: People’s Park, Nanning).

Scenic spots in the park are Zhenning Fort, Bailong Lake, Jiuqu Bridge, Huxin Pavilion, Bailong Restaurant, the Children’s Amusement Park, Goldfish Pool, Underground Ice Room, Martyrs Memorial and so on.

Pavilion

Pavilion

Just inside the gate is the main body of the park, Wangxian Slope, which is covered with green trees. A 10-meter-wide corridor of 141 steps leads to the top.  On the top of the mountain, there was once an Ancestral Hall to memorize the historical celebrities who contributed a great deal to Nanning, namely Di Qing, Sun Miao, Yu Jing, Su Jian, Wang Yangming and Mang Yitu. However, the Hall was destroyed by the Guangxi warlord Lu Rongting in 1917 and replaced by an emplacement, the Zhenning Emplacement, or Zhenning Fort. Built with bluestone, it is a ring-shaped castle with a high board on which is placed a German cannon made in 1890. Since the Wangxian Slope is the highest place in Nanning, the emplacement offers a bird’s-eye view of Nanning.

Rock sculpture in front of Zhenning Fort

Rock sculpture in front of Zhenning Fort

I walk up to the Fort and pay a one yuan entrance fee.  The fort is small and derelict, complete with walls of peeling paint, a Buddha, a stone turtle and incense offerings, a large cannon on which children are climbing, and some costumes rented out for photos.

steps to Zhenning Fort

steps to Zhenning Fort

inside Zhenning Fort

inside Zhenning Fort

Zhenning Fort

Zhenning Fort

Cannon at Zhenning Fort

Cannon at Zhenning Fort

View of Nanning from Zhenning Fort

View of Nanning from Zhenning Fort

Zhenning Fort

Zhenning Fort

When I leave Zhenning Fort, I’m bombarded by jarring noise from every direction.  A number of groups are playing or singing loud music.  I’m annoyed at first by the mish-mash of noise.  With so many people playing their various tunes, it sounds as grating and cacophonous as an out-of-tune symphony orchestra warming up.

I sit on a low wall to watch a group of middle-aged ladies practicing dance steps to a lively beat.  One level down the hill, a man is playing a traditional Chinese instrument, while a lady in a red shirt sings a high-pitched whining song over a microphone.  Music is emanating from other unseen quarters.  Children are running around squealing and yelling, adding to the general discord.

I follow a path downhill, where I can see some water through the trees.  South of Wang Xian Slope lies Bailong Lake, surrounded by green bamboos and willows. In the middle of the lake, there is an island, connected to the land by two bridges, Jiuqu Bridge and Sankong Bridge, located to the west and the north of the island respectively.  And on every bridge and every bit of shoreline, there are Chinese people.

Boats on Bailong Lake

Boats on Bailong Lake

The lake is a beehive of activity, from people skimming the surface in strange-shaped boats to people gathering under shady pavilions, to people standing on a puzzle-shaped bridge feeding koi.  People, people everywhere.  There is no way to escape people in a big Chinese city like Nanning.  It’s the complete opposite experience to my life in Oman, a country so sparsely populated that I could easily escape into wilderness and serenity.

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

on the perimeter of Bailong Lake

on the perimeter of Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

water gardens on Bailong Lake

water gardens on Bailong Lake

Pavilion

Pavilion. (I cut out the hordes of people standing below!)

Bridge on Bailong Lake

Bridge on Bailong Lake

Boating on Bailong Lake

Boating on Bailong Lake

Rock statuary

Rock statuary

Walkways on Bailong Lake

Walkways on Bailong Lake

Crowds on Bailong Lake

Crowds on Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Restaurant on Bailong Lake

Restaurant on Bailong Lake

Island pavilion

Island pavilion

stone work

stone work

restaurant on Bailong Lake

restaurant on Bailong Lake

bridge on Bailong Lake

bridge on Bailong Lake

Bridge and boats on Bailong Lake

Bridge and boats on Bailong Lake

walkway to an island on Bailong Lake

walkway to an island on Bailong Lake

Before I head to the Children’s Amusement Park, I’m pleasantly surprised to find a relatively clean public bathroom with a western-style toilet (although it’s designated as handicapped).  It’s highly unusual to find any Western-style toilets in China.  In Korea and Oman, which mostly had squat toilets, there were generally a few Western-style toilets available as well.  Here in China, it’s rare to find them anywhere.

At the gaudy Children’s Amusement Park, I see children twirling about in all kinds of colorful contraptions.  This little girl doesn’t seem to be having much fun.

Girl on an amusement park ride

Girl on an amusement park ride

amusement park rides

amusement park rides

I have some fun watching this whirl-a-gig ride.  Two mothers are busily snapping photos of their children.  I have fun snapping photos of them, and I also play around with the aperture a bit to see if I can capture the motion.  The results are below.

moments in time

moments in time

minus one

minus one

movement

movement

I stop at a little kiosk to get some popcorn, which I munch on as I continue on my way.  Finally, I sit on a bench near the Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs, where an old man wanders over and attempts to communicate with me.  He points to the Monument sign and gestures to the steps leading to the monument.  He continues to talk to me even though I apologetically explain to him that I only speak English.  It apparently makes no difference to him that my responses are totally inappropriate to what he’s saying, because he continues to chatter and then hands me a pamphlet for the Natural History Museum, which I passed earlier on the grounds near the Children’s Amusement Park.

When the man wanders off, probably bored by in inability to communicate, I make my way up 157 steps to the Monument.  The monument was built in honor of the revolutionary martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggles of the Chinese people in the age of revolution and war.

The structure stands 20 metres tall and looks like a smaller replica of the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square. On the east and west sides of the monument there is an inscription which reads “Eternal glory to the revolutionary martyrs!”

Steps to the Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Steps to the Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Built in 1956, this monument is now a historical site for patriotic education. The small square at the foot of the hill is also a good place for people to do morning exercises (Nanning here: Nanning People’s Park (3)).

Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

As I leave the Monument, I come across a couple of foreigners eating a picnic lunch on a bench.  I do a double-take, and they do too.  I tell them it’s always shocking to me when I see foreigners in Nanning. They agree.

Continuing on my way, I pass couples playing badminton, children blowing bubbles, old people doing exercises, a middle-aged woman singing alone in the forest.  I see proud grandparents pushing their grandchildren in carriages and couples strolling along quietly, hand in hand.  Here in this park, the People’s Park, is China in a nutshell, every aspect of this multi-faceted culture in one tropical microcosm.

I come across this unusual statue, but I don’t know what it represents.

Wild statue

Wild statue

I walk through a tropical forest until I return unexpectedly to the back side of Zhenning Fort, back to where I started.

shady walkway

shady walkway

rock sculpture amidst tropical plants

rock sculpture amidst tropical plants

I eventually reach the entrance and head to the street to flag down a taxi.  I wave at a number of empty taxis, including one that has just dropped its passenger off.  I’ve heard from other teachers that taxi drivers don’t like to pick up foreigners because they can’t understand us, but I haven’t really experienced this problem much so far.  After about five empty taxis pass me by, a man on a motorbike somehow manages to ask where I’m going.  I tell him Guangxi Daxue (Pinyin for Guangxi University), but he still looks baffled.  Most Chinese never understand me, even though I feel like I’m pronouncing it correctly.   I show him my trusty Chinese-English Nanning map.

Back to the entrance

Back to the entrance

The man pulls out his wallet and shows me a twenty and a five.  I get that he is offering me a ride for 25 yuan, even though we can’t understand one word of each other’s language.  I nod and say, OK, and then hop on the back of his bike.

I don’t know what on earth possesses me to take risks like this when I’m in a foreign country.  I would no more hop on a stranger’s motorcycle in the U.S. than I would leap off of a tall building.  But here, I feel safe.  Maybe it’s foolish or maybe not.  There are so many people in China that even if someone wanted to kidnap me or harm me in some way, I don’t know where he’d take me without hundreds of other people around to witness.

With utter abandon, and with no small degree of foolhardiness, I hop on the back, and this ride back to the university is what saves my day.  I love the thrill of riding on a motorbike through the chaos of China and feeling the wind on my face.  I love hanging on for dear life as we dodge and weave around two- and three- and four-wheeled contraptions.  We whiz past buses and taxis and shiny new cars and old ladies in flowered hats pedaling carts of cardboard or vegetables or rubbish.  We flow like a river, along with scores of fellow motorbikes, around corners and we merge into new traffic patterns.  It’s a thrill, and I think to myself: I can’t believe I’m in China.  I am!  I’m really here.

Though parts of my life here sometimes depress me, most often I remember that this, this living in a foreign land, is what makes me feel alive; it’s what challenges and thrills me, what makes my life a surprising and unlikely adventure. 🙂

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Categories: Asia, Bailong Lake, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs, Nanning, People's Park, Remnin Park, Zhenning Fort | Tags: , , , , | 26 Comments

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26 thoughts on “nanning people’s park & a mood-lifting motorbike ride

  1. Hold on to that thought that this is what makes your life a surprising adventure – you are in a land of vivid colors, amazing new places to explore and things to see, the ancient all new to you. There will always be negatives in life – the trick is to focus on the adventure.

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    • Carol, I’m happiest when I can feel the adventure of my time here, but sometimes I get bogged down in the details of daily life. After all, no matter where you live, you still have the boring daily routines of life and work. I know I’m happiest when I’m either planning or going on an adventure, and when I have no time for that, or the weather conditions are bad, I get too easily frustrated. But there are moments when I really am in awe of this adventure I am able to have; I have to focus on that and try to make the most of it when I can. 🙂

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  2. I like the pavilions, and the palms around the lake are striking. So was your verdict a positive one overall? It seems like a nice place to stroll and people watch.

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    • Gilly, some of the park was very pretty but other parts were a little derelict. Overall it was interesting and eye-opening because of the people-watching. I really am immersed in Chinese daily life; how can that not be interesting? It’s not the way I’m used to living, but it’s fascinating to see how 1 in 4 people on this planet live. 🙂

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  3. Am glad the day ended with a real adventure on the back of a motorbike. We’ve noticed the numbers of Chinese tourists abroad. They have more expendable income and are seeing the world by the bus loads. It seems the Chinese take advantage of their parks and that is a good thing for families.

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    • Yes, Lynne, the Chinese are definitely interested in travel and photography and have the means now to indulge in both. They’re really such hard-working and industrious people. 🙂

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  4. It seems to me that perhaps you didn’t do enough research into where you were going to be in China because you were SO fed-up in the US that you wanted to get away and have an adventure anywhere! Keep reminding yourself – this is an ADVENTURE! Something to look back on and be proud of. I DID THAT! Though I must admit I’d be feeling very lonely by now especially if the work is a pain too, that doesn’t help. But wasn’t Korea similar? As in climate and lots of people?

    It is a shame you can’t find work in Europe as I know you would love travelling there. Perhaps you can try and make enquiries for somewhere next summer? I believe there are English summer schools in the larger cities.

    As for the Peoples Park – I visited something very similar in Sydney the other day – The Chinese Friendship Garden. It is VERY small scale compared to this, but has everything you describe (except the fort) in miniature, even the high rise buildings behind it! Difference is that when I was there it was very quiet, only a few visitors, some who dressed up in the costumes, birdsong, cascading water, the heavenly smell of jasmine, and lots of shady bamboo. Watch out for my post!

    I hope the weather improves so that you can get out and explore more as that always lifts the soul. And chin up girl 😀

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    • Hey Jude,
      Thanks for your comments. I’m not sure you’re right, though; I DID research and plan where I wanted to come in China. I picked China specifically and I chose this job in Guangxi over a number of offers because of its location near Guillin’s magnificent karst country, which I love. You can never know about a place completely before you arrive, but I did “know” about the tropical climate. I just never imagined exactly what this humidity would feel like day in and day out. I knew as much as you can know about a place before coming to it. 🙂

      As far as Korea, the number of people was not nearly what it is in China, although in places like Seoul, you could feel the sheer weight of the population. The weather in Korea is nothing like here in the south of China. Korea has much the same weather as Virginia: four distinct seasons, heat and humidity in summer and freezing cold in winter, with a beautiful fall and spring. Living in the subtropics is also a different feeling than living in Oman. Though Oman was hot, it wasn’t humid and I rarely broke a sweat even in 110 degree weather. Here, I’m sweating all the time, even on cool days!

      I would love to work in Europe and maybe I can swing it one day, but there is the work visa issue for Americans. It’s not easy, from what I understand. Of course, who wouldn’t want to live in Europe?? 🙂

      I’m now excited because I finished all my marking yesterday and turned over all my marks to the administration. I’m on my way tomorrow morning to Guilin and onward to the Longji Rice Terraces, the Dragon’s Spine, for 3 nights. I’ll stay in Guilin for one night on my way back. I come home Sunday night. I can’t wait to get out of the city and into the countryside, where I’m always happiest. As long as I’m traveling and having an adventure, I’m doing just what my heart desires.

      Can’t wait to see your post about your Chinese Friendship Garden. I’ll be on the lookout, but I’ll be off line until Sunday since I’m traveling. I’ll catch it when I come back for sure. 🙂

      Enjoy the rest of your travels. xxx

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      • Well I know what you mean about humidity! I don’t recall Sydney being this humid or maybe my tolerance to it has changed. I too prefer dry heat – as long as I have plenty of cold water to drink 🙂

        Have a great long weekend away, I’m sure you will come back with more stunning photos. And I’m glad that you are enjoying the adventure despite the ‘downs’.

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      • Hey Jude, Thanks for your good wishes for my weekend. It was lovely, although I was sick the entire weekend with stomach problems, which made for some pretty miserable days. That being said, I pushed through and I’m glad I did. I saw some stunning landscapes and took some wonderful hikes. More to come on those. 🙂

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      • Sorry to hear you were ill. Hope you are fine now.

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      • Thanks, Jude. My stomach problems come and go here in China. I sure hope I will survive the year here! Because I have a lot more exploring I want to do! 🙂

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  5. Love your posts which discuss your feelings, not just the travelogue. I also jumped on the back of not only motorcycle taxi with a stranger twice in Africa, I also went to the townships in Cape Town with a local AND took a three hour detour off my tour by jumping on the back of a transport truck with some American Peace Corps kids to find a doctor in a town far from where we were camping in Malawi. I cannot believe I did that, but I was never afraid when I travelled, though like you I would certainly never do anything remotely as risky here in Canada. I do hope you can find a job in Turkey perhaps as your next stop, near to Europe and perhaps less hassle with the visa.

    I also agree you can do all the research you want (though your blog was the reason I went to Oman, full stop!) but you are right it is no true preparation until you are there. I HATE heat, dry or humid but I survived in Oman though I had no wish to see the countryside beyond the trips you kindly invited me on. I was happy to isolate myself in my flat on what little weekend we had. But I am also angry with your working conditions. Imagine making not marking writing a condition of your employment and an employer who would fall for that. You should at least be making more money than those teachers.

    Anyway, I am sending you my favourite lesson for writing, which may help keep things down to five paragraphs for you. Take care and don’t feel bad if you have a crap day. It happens at home, too. Don’t just go out for the sake of it if you are not enjoying it. Sometimes your own company and a good book or movie and a glass of wine gives you much more than yet another Chinese park honouring some forgotten warlord with ten billion people everywhere you go. I would never survive that place on so many levels, that is just another one. Take care x

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    • Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment but I was so busy with midterms and then I went away for 5 days, a sorely needed escape, although I was sick the whole time.

      As far as being afraid when traveling, I’m sure there are plenty of countries where it would be scary to travel and where you would be wise to take a lot of safety precautions. I don’t feel China is one of those countries, but I’m sure there are bad elements everywhere. I for sure don’t feel safe in many places in the USA, especially after dark. There are so many pockets of bad areas in America where violence and drugs are the norm, so you really have to know where you are at all times.

      There is no way you can ever really know about a place until you go there. I’m increasingly convinced of that the more I travel. I ALWAYS research thoroughly before I travel, and my destination is NEVER as I expected it to be. I too am not a fan of the heat, dry or humid, although I do like comfortable and cool and even cold temperatures. I did love exploring Oman, as you know, as I found it an amazingly beautiful country. I really miss it, but I don’t miss that heat at all.

      I agree that writing teachers should be paid more, and substantially more, than teachers who don’t teach writing. I think this situation here is unfair and it will be one of the main reasons I wouldn’t consider returning for a second year. I too couldn’t believe it when teachers told me they made it a condition of their employment that they don’t teach writing and that was acceptable to the recruiter.

      I’m still waiting for your favorite lesson; however I won’t be able to use it until the spring semester because we are only doing paragraphs through the end of this semester. Thank goodness for that.

      I do love to explore and I will have plenty of time to sit around with a good book when I return home. This weekend I will stay in and work on my blogs because I have a lot of pictures from my trip to the rice terraces. I’ve been watching Mad Men and am almost finished with that series; next I’ll start on Breaking Bad just because another teacher lent me the boxed set. I’m reading lots of books about China and Chinese-Americans while here and I find the books really shed light on the culture. I don’t have nearly as comfortable a set up as I did in Oman, so I don’t really enjoy lounging around that much in my apartment as I did there. And with my stomach problems while here, I’m not even enjoying my wine as I did. There are times I think I really just want to go home, but other times, I look at my students and I think they are the best students I’ve ever had. Where will I find students such as these anywhere else? Oh well, no matter what, it’s one year. Only one, no matter what. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was on the verge of giving you a good thump there! 🙂 I know and I can feel the frustration, Cathy, but I still wanted to thump you. Some friend, huh? Then I had a vision of you on that bridge shouting ‘clear this park NOW! Get OUT of here!’ and I started to laugh. I find crowds difficult too, especially when I’m taking photos, but you have to admire the uninhibited way in which they live their life on the streets, don’t you think? It’s the norm for them.
    I loved the dereliction of those red doors! Everywhere can’t be neat and beautifully maintained so I don’t mind that.
    Workwise, Cathy, you suffer from being too versatile! I can’t imagine anyone wanting to employ me in that capacity and I guess it sucks, but it is still giving you an opportunity you couldn’t have otherwise. Did you want to join the crocodile following the lady with the umbrella at the Great Wall? No, I thought not! Which reminds me- when Mike comes out will you able to do the Wall and the Warriors and those tourist things? I know it’s a vast country so don’t know what is possible.
    Have a fabulous 5 days off, Cathy. You’ve earned them! And know that I love and admire you how ever much I tell you off 🙂 Hugs!

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    • I know sometimes I can sound negative, Jo, but let’s just say I’m realistic and willing to share my frustrations and my true emotions. I’m never one to be always cheery and only showing an upbeat attitude as I don’t think that’s true of anyone. My goal in my blog is to be as true and honest as possible, that means there is bad with the good. I’m human, that’s all, and I’ll continue sharing my humanity, frustrations and joys, as long as I’m blogging. Thump me if you will, Jo, but you know me. I’ll still be myself. 🙂

      It does get tiresome living in the midst of so many people; that being said there is something to be admired in the sense of community and the camaraderie that I see amongst the Chinese people. It is great that they’re willing to get outside and sing and dance in the parks. I’ve seen everything here and nothing even surprises me anymore. Sometimes I think it’s all surreal.

      There are many beautiful natural areas in China, Jo, as you could see from my trip to Yangshuo and as you will see from my rice terrace photos to be coming up in posts I hope to work on this weekend. The big cities however are sprawling unattractive places with no beauty in them at all. At least European cities have beautiful architecture and charming cafes and parks, but not here. When I do find a charming spot, like that museum I went to, or QingXiu Shan Mountain, I’ll definitely talk about it. But I’m happiest when I get out in the countryside and can take a walk and breathe the (somewhat) fresh air. I was sick as a dog when I was in the rice terraces, but I took a long walk through the mountains and was all by myself and I loved every minute even though I felt awful.

      When Mike comes we will not be going to the north to see the Great Wall or those touristy spots. There are plenty of “touristy” spots here in the south too, like the ones where I’ve already been and more, so we will mostly stay in the south. It will be February, so it will be cold even here. We may even go to Burma together; if he doesn’t want to do that, I will go myself during some of the weeks he’s not here. I want to explore Yunnan province with him, and possibly show him Yangshuo and go into Hunan province a bit. There are some wonderful places in those areas, so I think that’s where we’ll stay.

      Sorry it took me so long to respond as I was super busy with midterms, then with travel for 5 days, and then with classes this week. I still don’t feel great, so have wanted to lie around a lot reading and watching Mad Men! I really hope I’ll start feeling normal soon. 🙂 Hugs. xxx

      Like

  7. Oh, now I’m laughing at the thought of you clinging onto a strange man as you whiz through the city traffic on a motorbike. What a reckless thing to do. I loved your reasoning as to why you took the risk. 😀 At least you got out and about, even if there were hoards of people. I enjoyed your photos, and also reading about your encounters. xx

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  8. Cathy – even before I read this post, I kept thinking that everywhere you went so far, you shared that space with a gazillion Chinese. Wondering whether the countryside will bring a little less congestion? My condolences on having to mark so many boring papers…that must have been mind-numbing.

    Like

    • Yes, Annette, marking those midterms for 20 hours was mind-numbing and I don’t look forward to the repeat exercise during final exams and again next semester. I think I have to get out of the teaching writing business!

      And yes, there are always hordes of Chinese people everywhere in the cities, but luckily I can find places to escape. I found complete solitude on a hike I took in the rice terraces this past weekend. It was perfectly lovely. More to come on that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, I adored that beautiful pagoda with the golden roof and all the lovely greenery around it. If you could sit there one weekend, just daydreaming and enjoying some solitude, that would be the cat’s meow!

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  10. It looks like a beautiful place even with all the people. The Pavilion is amazing. 🙂

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