Posts Tagged With: Guangxi

Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC): pros & cons

Friday, February 5:  Last night I received the first email through my blog from someone who has been recruited to work at Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC) for the fall semester of 2016. I figured rather than respond to each potential teacher who writes to me individually, I should write my long-overdue list of pros and cons.  As ESL teachers, we often don’t have a clue about what we are getting into, so I write this list, trying to be as fair and honest as possible, simply to inform potential teachers.

I worked as an English teacher at SCIC from September 2014 – July 2015.  Listed below are the pros and cons of working at the college during my tenure there.

teachers and administration at SCIC in June 2015

teachers and administration at SCIC in June 2015

PROS:

  • The students.  They were generally hard-working, respectful, and friendly.  Though it was hard to get them to practice speaking freely, with the right activities, they opened up and became some of the best students I’ve ever had.  They were often thrilled to have a native speaker in their midst; many of them had only been taught English by Chinese teachers. They welcomed the opportunity to interact with me and often tried to befriend me, take me to dinner, invite me to KTV, dinner or other outings. Of course, there were individual differences, but as a whole, they were a pleasure to teach.  I’ve taught ESL to a variety of students from all nationalities: 1) at Northern Virginia Community College to a good cross-section of students from Europe (Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey), Africa (Egypt, Morocco), Asia (China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan), and the Middle East (Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan); 2) for two years at the University of Nizwa in the Sultanate of Oman; and 3) one year in South Korea (elementary-aged students).
  • The administration:  Generally speaking, the Chinese administration was helpful and tried to make sure teachers were well-taken care of.  They were generally responsive to housing and visa concerns.  They often left most of day-to-day administration to the coordinators, who held monthly meetings with teachers.  I also felt appreciated by the administration, something that one doesn’t always feel when teaching abroad.
  • Hands-off approach:  We had a textbook for each level and we agreed to cover certain chapters in the textbook before midterms and finals. We were required to have two tests and two assignments each quarter (four and four for the whole semester, besides the midterm and final exams).  Other than that, it was left to the teacher to decide what kinds of tests and assignments to give, how to grade them, and how to present the material to the students.  After having worked in Oman for two years, where everything was micro-managed to the nth degree, this was a welcome change.
  • Technology.  This could be on both the pro and con list.  Technology was available, but it was quite old and sometimes didn’t work properly.  When it was working properly, it was great.  I had a computer, a projector, and an overhead projector in the classroom.  The tech person charged with fixing problems sometimes wasn’t readily available, which could throw your lesson into a tailspin.  He also couldn’t speak English; however, I could often get one of my students to translate. Sometimes he had a bit of an attitude about having to come and fix problems.  I found this annoying as it was, after all, his job to fix problems.
  • Classroom facilities.  I was in the Experimental Building, a fairly modern building, on the 10th floor.  The desks were long tables lined up and packed into the room, which made it a challenge to do group work.  I was always doing group work, and we managed, but it wasn’t an optimal situation. The older SCIC buildings were not as modern and were actually quite shabby.
  • Location of college in relation to residence.  I was one of the lucky teachers who lived in a staff residence on the west campus only five minutes away by bicycle or 10 minutes away on foot.  Some teachers were located on the east campus, still not too far by bicycle, but I wouldn’t have wanted to walk from there.
  • No required office hours.  After my stint in Oman, where I was required to be on campus from 8:00-4:00 every day whether I had classes or not, it was nice to have no required office hours.  My schedule was not too hard in the first semester; I was finished almost every day by noon.  In the spring semester, I had two split days (morning and afternoon (usually afternoon started after the lunch/nap hours of 12-2) and the other days, I was finished by noon.

CONS:

  • Private college motivated by money.  Students take the Gaokao in China (similar to the SATs in the USA) to get into college.  From WikipediaThe National Higher Education Entrance Examination (also translated as National Matriculation Examination or National College Entrance Examination or “NCEE”), commonly known as Gaokao (高考, “Higher Education Exam”, Pinyin gāo kǎo, lit. “High test”), is an academic examination held annually in People’s Republic of China.  This examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all higher education institutions at the undergraduate level.  The students at SCIC got Gaokao scores too low to get into Guangxi University.  They can attend SCIC (a two-year private institution which focuses on English-language learning) and when they finish at SCIC, they automatically gain entrance into Guangxi University, despite their Gaokao scores being low.  SCIC was basically their conduit to the university.  Thus, I was told all students would pass, even if a teacher failed them.  I don’t care for this system, as it means students don’t really have to apply themselves if they don’t want to.  Of course many students were self-motivated, but as some knew they would pass and get into Guangxi University no matter what, those didn’t feel like bothering with learning English.  After all, in a country of 1.4 billion people, not much English is spoken and there is no real need for it unless they plan to get into international business or study or travel abroad.
  • No office hours.  This is both a pro and a con.  Though it was nice to be finished by noon most days, the lack of office hours meant there wasn’t time for teachers to congregate, share ideas, or simply socialize and get to know each other.  I found this to be quite isolating.  When I worked in Oman, the forced office hours also led to some wonderful friendships.
  • No usable offices, and later, tiny cubbyhole offices. We were given offices in a building where IELTS testing was often done on weekends, so we were told to never leave anything important in our offices because we weren’t allowed in the building on those weekends. No one I know ever used those offices.  Later, the administration put tiny cubicles on the 10th floor of the Experimental Building. The cubicles were the smallest and tightest workspaces I’ve ever seen.  There was never any incentive to work in an office, so I did all my work from home.  I hate working from home, as I like a clear line between my work and private life, so I didn’t care for this arrangement at all.
  • No convenient copy center or copy machines.  There were no copy machines available for teachers.  We had to go to a private supplier in a run-down shack of a building; this copy center catered to both students and teachers so often we had to compete to get service.  This was so inconvenient!  Also, the copy center was closed from 12-2, when we often needed our copying done.  In Oman, we had a copy center designated for teachers only, and we had additional copiers near our offices.
  • Air-conditioning, or lack thereof.  Nanning is very hot and humid from about March to November.  In the Experimental Building, the administration refused to turn the air conditioning on until a certain date, and turned it off after a certain date, no matter if it was hot before or after that date.  This was not the case in the older SCIC buildings; the teachers in those buildings had air conditioning whenever they wanted it. As we were on the 10th floor, it could get quite hot and miserable in the classrooms. Even when the air conditioning was on, it often was still stifling, especially on the side of the building where the sun was shining in.
  • Unfairness in teaching assignments and workloads.  When I arrived at SCIC, I was informed I was assigned to be a Writing teacher. I did not ask for this, nor was I asked what I would prefer.  ALL Level I and Level II teachers taught Speaking and Listening.  However, half the teachers taught Writing and half taught Reading.  The Reading teachers had a much lighter workload for the same amount of pay as the Writing teachers.  I had 73 writing students each semester (divided up into several classes, all under 20 students), so that meant many hours of grueling marking.  While the Reading teachers had multiple choice tests to mark, Writing teachers had hours and hours of badly written essays to mark.  Some teachers suggested that the workloads would be fairer if, say, the teachers switched places in the two semesters.  In other words, a teacher could teach Writing in the fall and Reading in the spring. However, many of the Reading teachers were firmly entrenched and argued vehemently again this proposal.  One teacher I know who had worked in China for many years and who started at the same time as I did told the recruiter that she would come to SCIC only if she didn’t have to teach Writing. Surprisingly, the recruiter agreed to her demands.  She was assigned to be a Reading teacher.  The administration should find a more equitable way to distribute the workload among teachers, or they should pay Writing teachers more.
  • Low pay.  The pay at SCIC ranges from 6,000-8,500 RMB ($912 – $1,292 per month).  Though I made at the upper end of this range, it was still nowhere close to what I made in Oman ($3,000) or even Korea ($2,600).  Granted, it is very cheap to do almost everything in China, so it was enough money that I was able to travel quite extensively while there.  Because my goal was to travel as much as possible, I did that, but I wasn’t able to save much.  Luckily we were paid over our 6-week holiday in January-February, although they withheld the February pay until we returned to work March 1. For teachers who renewed their contracts and returned in fall of 2015, they were not paid at all over the 6-week summer break.  As our contracts were for 10 1/2 months, if we did not renew, of course we didn’t get paid for those six weeks.
  • Air fare reimbursement. We were reimbursed for our air fare to get to and from China at a set amount (8,000 RMB, or ~$1,200), but our air fare to get there wasn’t paid until after teachers completed the fall semester and turned in their grades. The air fare for our return flight home in the summer was given to us before we left the country, after spring semester was over, but in my case, the amount didn’t cover my air fare home because it was high season.  In Oman, our total air fare was paid for (in fact they bought our tickets for us), and in addition, we got air fare for one round trip to our home country during our summer holiday.  That mid-year return air fare is NOT offered at all by SCIC.
  • No gratuity for completion of contract.  I guess I was spoiled by working in Oman, and even Korea, because upon completion of our contracts there, we got a gratuity of one-month’s salary for completing our contract.  We did not get this at SCIC.
  • Apartments.  Some teachers had decent apartments.  I didn’t.  The furniture was hard wood and I had no sofa or soft chairs, or even room for any. The apartment was old and run down.  Cockroaches often came to visit, especially in the middle of the night.  I heard some teachers had encounters with rats, but I never did, thank goodness.  Having no place comfortable to sit was a real problem for me.  Luckily, we were provided with nice new flat-screen TVs about midway through our contracts, as well as new computers.
  • Coordinators.  I’m not sure how coordinators were chosen except by popularity or because no one else wanted to be coordinator, so some random person stepped up to the plate.  Some of the people appointed coordinator had no qualifications to be such, and should not have been coordinators!  Many of them were awfully nice people though!
  • English Interest Classes.  These are a joke. Every Tuesday afternoon, we were required to teach an English Interest Course.  The students who attended were not our regular students.  It was suggested that we do as little work as possible on these.  Many people taught photography (which I did in fall semester) or yoga or exercise classes.  They’re basically a way to encourage foreign teachers to interact with students on a more informal basis.  Many of the teachers ended up showing English movies with Chinese subtitles during the class.  A big waste of time for both teachers and students.

Overall, I did enjoy my experience teaching in China.  As for Nanning itself, it’s a city of about 6 million people with not much of interest, except a couple of nice museums.  If you like heat and humidity you will be happy with the weather.  I hate heat and humidity, so I found the weather miserable.

As for travel, Guangxi province has a lot to offer, especially the Li River area, including Guilin and Yangshuo, Detian Waterfall on the border of Vietnam and China, and most of all the Longsheng Rice Terraces.  Guangxi province is also not too inconvenient for visits to Hong Kong.  I traveled extensively while in China. I especially enjoyed the rice terraces, Yangshuo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Fenghuang, Zhangjiajie and all of Yunnan province. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, English Interest Course, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language | Tags: , , , , , | 31 Comments

my final hike back to ping’an from nine dragons & five tigers…and back to nanning

Sunday, June 28:  After seeing all I can see of Nine Dragons and Five Tigers, I start to make my way to back to my hostel in Ping’An.   I can see the village ahead of and below me, and the gorgeous rice terraces laid out neatly below me.

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Every once in a while I pass Chinese tourists along the path, or I see them walking ahead of me, but luckily it isn’t too crowded.

the path back

the path back

view of Ping'An from the terraces

view of Ping’An from the terraces

view of Ping'An from the terraces

view of Ping’An from the terraces

looking down on the rice terraces

looking down on the rice terraces

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping'An

the walk back to Ping’An

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

I see a few farmers along the way, walking along the terrace edges, doing what they do best.

a farmer on the rice terraces

a farmer on the rice terraces

I pass a vendor, a Zhuang woman selling various textiles, at this isolated spot along the trail.

a vendor along the way

a vendor along the way

looking back from where I came

looking back from where I came

the farmer on the terraces

the farmer on the terraces

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

After passing by the most dramatic terraces, the path takes me along the edge of a mountain, where ferns and flowers are growing with exuberance.

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

through the woods

through the woods

ferns along the path

ferns along the path

buds along the path

buds along the path

buds along the path

buds along the path

After emerging from the wooded area, I can see Ping’An below me.

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

looking down on the rice terraces approaching Seven Stars with Moon

looking down on the rice terraces approaching Seven Stars with Moon

looking down on the way to Seven Stars with Moon

looking down on the way to Seven Stars with Moon

cornstalks along the path

cornstalks along the path

I continue walking until I reach a lookout point that is on the other side of the village, looking over Seven Stars with Moon.

vendors along the path

vendors along the path

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

As it’s almost time for me to catch the bus back to Guilin, I continue through the village and back to my hostel.

back in the village of Ping'An

back in the village of Ping’An

Ping'An

Ping’An

a Chinese building along the way

a Chinese building along the way

Back at the hostel, I gather my bags and make my way 20 minutes down the mountain to the entrance of Ping’An Village.  I have bought a few souvenirs while here, so my backpack is rather heavy now.  I get on one of the two buses that leave daily from Ping’An directly to the Guilin Railway Station; it leaves at 2:00 p.m.  The only other direct bus left at 9:00 a.m., but if I had taken that one, I wouldn’t have had much time at the terraces!

On the bus, I talk during most of the trip to a young man from Stuttgart, Germany who has been studying in Beijing for his thesis on water storage and flooding control and is now taking a month to travel around China.  His favorite destination was a place in southern Sichuan near Tibet.

The bus ride to Guilin seems very short.  I expected it to be 3 hours and it’s only about 2 1/2 hours, meaning I arrive at the Guilin Railway Station before 4:30.  This means of course that, since my train to Nanning doesn’t leave until 8:10 p.m., I have to wait in the train station for over 3 1/2 hours, an excruciatingly boring and uncomfortable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It seems like an eternity.  I could have gone out to explore someplace in Guilin if I’d had a place to store my heavy backpack filled to the brim with souvenirs!

The fast train from Guilin to Nanning only has one or two stops, depending on which train you are on.  I always think it’s funny when this announcement comes on as we approach a stop: “Passengers who do not reach their destination cannot get off.”  Of course, there is no one to stop people from getting off if they want to, so of course the announcement should be: “Passengers who have not reached their destination should not get off.”  I laugh every time I hear this announcement on Chinese trains. 🙂  I arrive back in Nanning at 10:40 p.m. and then catch a bus back to the university, arriving home after 11 p.m. after a tiring day of travel.  This is way past my bedtime, but it was well worth the trip to see the rice terraces one last time before leaving China.

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longsheng County, Nine Dragons & Five Tigers, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

a morning walk from ping’an to nine dragons & five tigers

Sunday, June 28:  This morning, I sleep in until 9:00 after waking up at 4:30 and staring at the ceiling for a long while. I shower in my room but must use the hair dryer in the common room, which seems really weird, blowing my hair dry  in full view of other guests.  I eat a small breakfast of a scrambled egg, two slices of bacon, two pieces of toast, and coffee, and then head out for a walk.

I have to travel back to Nanning today, but my train from Guilin to Nanning isn’t until 8:10 tonight.  I purposely scheduled a late train so I wouldn’t be rushed when coming back from the rice terraces.  I figured when I bought the ticket that I could leave Ping’An around 4:00-5:00, as it takes 2 – 2 1/2 hours to get back to Guilin.   However, nothing is ever that straightforward in China.  I discover that there are only two buses each day directly from Ping’An to Guilin Railway Station, 9 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  Because this bus goes directly to Guilin, I don’t have to get off at Heping and then stand by the roadside and catch the local bus back to Guilin, and then catch another city bus to the train station.  If I take this 2:00 bus, that means I will arrive in Guilin at around 4:00-4:30 and I will have almost 3 1/2 – 4 hours sitting around in the train station.  This is not an appealing option. 😦

The only other option is to take one of the slightly later buses to Heping; these leave Ping’An at 3:00 or 5:00.  If I take one of those, I must wait by the roadside at Heping for the bus to Guilin’s Qin Tan Bus Station, arriving there around 4:45 or 6:45, respectively.  At that point I have the additional hassle of catching the city bus in Guilin to the train station.  I’m afraid I’d be cutting it too close by taking the 5:00 bus.  Since it’s a choice between either the 3:00 bus with all the bus changes or the 2:00 DIRECT bus, and since there is only a one-hour difference between a hassle-free trip or a trip full of hassles, I decide to leave on the 2:00 direct bus, meaning I must get an early start on my hike to Nine Dragons and Five Tigers, also known as the Dragon’s Spine.

Does it sound complicated enough? It is.

Heading out from the Longji International Youth Hostel, I have a view of some of the terraces (below).  I head out of the village in the opposite direction I walked yesterday, making my way up and up.

View of the terraces from the Longji International Youth Hostel

View of the terraces from the Longji International Youth Hostel

Walking through the village of Ping'an

Walking through the village of Ping’an

laundry

laundry

following the trail out of the village

following the trail out of the village

Finally, I can see the village behind me on the hillside, and on the other side of the valley, I see the fabulous Nine Dragons and Five Tigers.

walking along the terraces

walking along the terraces

looking back at Ping'An

looking back at Ping’An

the village of Ping'An

the village of Ping’An

side view of the terraces

side view of the terraces

looking back to Ping'An

looking back to Ping’An

I’m at a lower spot on Nine Dragons & Five Tigers than I was on my previous hike.  I know I somehow need to make my way up to the higher viewpoint.

walking around the terraces

walking around the terraces

I walk around a point and come to these terraces shaped like a bowl.

a little bowl of terraces

a little bowl of terraces

After this bowl, I come to a path leading into the forest, so I retrace my steps back to another view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers.

looking down at the dragon's spine

looking down at the dragon’s spine

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Ping'An

Ping’An

I can see people walking on another path above me, so I follow the convolutions and make my way up to it.  At that higher level I get some magnificent views of the Dragon’s Spine.  I really does look like its nickname and is simply amazing.

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

little pretties along the path

little pretties along the path

a higher view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

a higher view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the high path

the high path

corn and rice terraces

corn and rice terraces

view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

The terraces are wonderful from this higher viewpoint, and I realize I didn’t have this view the first time I came here in November (a walk along the longji rice terraces from ping’an to nine dragons & five tigers).

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers with Ping'An in the background

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers with Ping’An in the background

looking back from where I came

looking back from where I came

foliage and terraces

foliage and terraces

What an amazing place these terraces are!  I adore them.  I could come here every year and never tire of them.

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Finally, after walking around at these heights and taking hundreds of pictures, I head back along the trail that the guide led me on in November.  I’ll make my way back to the village and see enjoy more views, taking my time as my bus to Guilin doesn’t leave till 2:00. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longsheng County, Nine Dragons & Five Tigers, Ping'An Village, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

sunset on the rice terraces

Saturday, June 27:  After enjoying my dinner and beer at the Green Garden Hotel, I walk back to Seven Stars and Moon to see the rice terraces as the sun goes down.  I’ve seen a lot of photographs of the water-filled terraces reflecting the clouds, and this time I’m able to get a couple of my own.

Seven Stars with Moon as the sun goes down

Seven Stars with Moon as the sun goes down

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

The sky is quite dramatic this evening, and the light is magical.

cloud formations

cloud formations

framed clouds

framed clouds

I walk along the same terraces where I’d walked earlier today and enjoy the views in the fading light.

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

dappling

dappled skies

reflections

reflections

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon with cloud reflections

Seven Stars with Moon with cloud reflections

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Finally, I head back into Ping’An, where I find these pretty table runners, one of which I add to my collection of souvenirs from China.  Mine is not shown here.

goods for sale in Ping'An

goods for sale in Ping’An

view over Ping'An

view over Ping’An

red lanterns in Ping'An

red lanterns in Ping’An

I pass by my earlier resting place at the Green Garden Hotel, with its festive red lanterns.

the Green Garden Hotel

the Green Garden Hotel

Soon after, I encounter this feisty little lady who tries to sell me some of her goods; however, I already bought a table runner from someone else and I’m not in the market for what she’s selling.  She does, however, convince me to come into her humble abode for a foot & leg massage.  After my long walk today, I’m an easy target. She tells me she is 51 years old and her name is Pah-mee.

a feisty vendor and masseuse

a feisty vendor and massage business manager

She doesn’t do the massage herself, but has another Chinese woman do it.  The massage parlor is not quite like most spas, but seems to be just part of the woman’s house.

my foot massage

my foot massage

After the massage, I try to find my way back to the hostel without much success.  Some of the walkways are very dark and drop off steeply into black abysses. I keep turning on my phone flashlight so that I won’t fall off one of the cliffs. As many times as I’ve walked around Ping’An, I can’t figure out where on earth I am.  I seem to be going around in circles.  In the dark, the normal landmarks that guided me in daylight are not readily apparent.

trying to find my way back to the Longji International Youth Hostel

trying to find my way back to the Longji International Youth Hostel

Only after many convolutions do I find myself in a recognizable place.  At long last, around 9:00 p.m., I’m at the hostel, and I settle in with my book, giving my feet a much-needed rest.

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

the long hike back from the longji rice terraces to ping’an

Saturday, June 27:  After reaching the entrance of the Longji Rice Terraces, I turn around to return the three hours to Ping’An, taking the lower road and detouring into Longji Ancient Zhuang Village.  The view along the lower road is even more spectacular than the high road, and much less traveled by tourists.  Not that there are a lot of tourists, compared to everywhere else I’ve traveled in China, but it’s more secluded on the lower road.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The day is humid but still a bit cooler than most places in Guangxi, probably because of the elevation.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I enjoy the views of the land carved out beneath me in curvaceous patterns.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

looking down at the layers at Longji Rice Terraces

looking down at the layers at Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

up close and personal at the Longji Rice Terraces

up close and personal at the Longji Rice Terraces

water filled rice terraces

water filled rice terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

a neatly carved landscape

a neatly carved landscape

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

daisies at Longji Rice Terraces

daisies at Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I catch glimpses of farmers working on the terraces today.  These terraces are not only artistic, but are actively worked by the residents.

a Chinese farmer on the terraces

a Chinese farmer on the terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I take one successful selfie of myself; most of my other photos are a blur.

self portrait at the Longji Rice Terraces

self-portrait at the Longji Rice Terraces

As I continue on the lower road, I can see the Longji Ancient Zhuang Village ahead.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Here is one of the water sources for the terraces.  The terraces are also watered through an irrigation system much like the aflaj in Oman (The Traditional Aflaj Irrigation System).

springs that water the terraces

springs that water the terraces

I love how the terraces are filled with water at this time of year.  If it were a sunnier day, you might be able to see clouds reflected in them, as I’ve seen in others’ photographs.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

heading toward Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

heading toward Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The last time I ventured into the Longji Village, back in November, I got hopelessly lost, finally paying a little girl a small sum to take me back to the path to Ping’An (a 5-hour hike to the longji rice terraces at longji ancient zhuang village).  This time, I decide to keep heading up, as I know the road is above me and I’ll eventually find my way to it.

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

There isn’t much sign of life in the village.  Maybe everyone is napping, or maybe they’re out working in the terraces.

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces with Longji Ancient Zhuang Village below

Longji Rice Terraces with Longji Ancient Zhuang Village below

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

climbing up the Longji Rice Terraces

climbing up the Longji Rice Terraces

corn on the terraces

corn on the terraces

miscellaneous farming

miscellaneous farming

the steps uphill

the steps uphill

farmed terraces

farmed terraces

the outskirts of Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

the outskirts of Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

outskirts of the village

outskirts of the village

corn

corn

strutting his stuff

strutting his stuff

It’s a long walk uphill to make it back to the road that will lead to the path back to Ping’An, and it takes me well over an hour.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I like watching the farmers working on the terraces.

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a farmer working the rice terraces

climbing the mountain to return to Ping'An

climbing the mountain to return to Ping’An

Finally, I leave the houses on the outskirts of the village behind and I’m back on the path through the woods.

the path back to Ping'An

the path back to Ping’An

There isn’t much to photograph in the woods, so I just keep walking, even though I’m worn out by now.  I still haven’t eaten a thing all day because I didn’t want to have any stomach problems.

the hike back through the woods to Ping'An

the hike back through the woods to Ping’An

the long walk back

the long walk back

Before long, I’m back at Seven Stars with Moon on the outskirts of Ping’An.  My legs are so tired!!

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

At long last, I’m back in Ping’An and I decide to look for a place to sit down so I can have a late lunch and a beer.

back to Ping'An

back to Ping’An

a vendor selling colorful earrings

a vendor selling colorful earrings

Ping'An

Ping’An

the Zhuang ladies of Ping'An

the Zhuang ladies of Ping’An

shredded something

shredded something

I head directly to my hostel, where I take a cold shower, which feels good as I’ve been sweating like crazy on my hike.  I relax a while and then head out to the inviting Green Garden Hotel, where I decide to stop for a Tsingtao beer and a Hawaiian pizza.

the village of Ping'An

the village of Ping’An

I sit on the balcony where I have a great view of the village.

taking a rest with a view

taking a rest with a view at the Green Garden

view over Ping'An

view over Ping’An from the Green Garden

The light is amazing as is seeps through the clouds. It spreads like melted butter over the mountains.

view over Seven Stars with Moon

view over Seven Stars with Moon

mountain light

mountain light

ethereal light

ethereal light

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

the Green Garden Cafe

the Green Garden Cafe

view from the Green Garden

view from the Green Garden

The proprietor has been very friendly.  He walks me out the door and tells me to come again.

owner of the Green Garden

owner of the Green Garden

I walk back to Seven Stars and Moon, so I can take pictures as the sun goes down.

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Ancient Village, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

the first half of the hike from ping’an village to the longji rice terraces

Saturday, June 27:  This morning, I decide not to eat anything for breakfast because the last time I took the 5-hour hike to the Longji Rice Terraces and Longji Ancient Zhuang Village, I had a number of stomach problems I don’t care to repeat. I did this hike on November 21, 2014 (a 5-hour hike to the longji rice terraces at longji ancient zhuang village), and the colors at that time were glowing and golden.  Now that it’s summer, the terraces are green and filled with water, making for a whole different experience.

I start hiking through Ping’An Village, where the villagers are already busy at work.

The village of Ping'An from the Longji International Youth Hostel

The village of Ping’An from the Longji International Youth Hostel

view from the deck of the hostel

view from the deck of the hostel

construction in progress

construction in progress

I encounter the Zhuang women in the streets, preparing their vegetables and wares for sale.

ladies preparing vegetables in the streets of Ping'An

ladies preparing vegetables in the streets of Ping’An

I pass by the cheerful sign at the MeiYou Cafe.

MeiYou Cafe

MeiYou Cafe

more of Ping'An Village on the hill

more of Ping’An Village on the hill

some kind of veggies, but not sure what. Rice?

some kind of veggies, but not sure what. Rice?

Rooftops of Ping'An from the hilltops

Rooftops of Ping’An from the hilltops

Finally, I reach the edge of the village, where I have my first view of Seven Stars with Moon.

First view of the rice terraces upon leaving the village en route to Longji

First view of the rice terraces upon leaving the village en route to Longji

Rice terraces

Seven Stars with Moon

Rice terraces outside of Ping'An

Rice terraces outside of Ping’An

Rice terraces

Rice terraces

Rice terraces

Seven Stars with Moon

Rice terraces

Seven Stars with Moon

As I’m walking along the edge of Seven Stars with Moon, I meet two Chinese girls who speak excellent English.  We have a little chat.  They want some pictures with me, and then they ask me to take a picture of them.

me with two Chinese girls

me with two Chinese girls

The path is very narrow, so I have to fall back into the ferns on the edge of a terrace to take their picture.  When I do that, they take a picture of me.

me pushed up against a terrace trying to take a pic of the Chinese girls

me pushed up against a terrace trying to take a pic of the Chinese girls

Rice terraces

Seven Stars with Moon

Then they take a picture of me with Seven Stars with Moon.  I love the names the Chinese give to natural places.

Me at the rice terraces on my hike

Me at Seven Stars with Moon on my hike

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

 

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

I continue on my walk until I reach a little bridge, where I stop and sit for a bit.  It’s quite hot and humid today, as always seems to be the case in Guangxi province.

the bridge on the hike to Longji

the bridge on the hike to Longji

After a long walk through a wooded area, I come out at the other end, near the Longji Rice Terraces, and I get my first amazing views.

heading toward the Longji Rice Terraces

heading toward the Longji Rice Terraces

water in the terraces

water in the terraces

close up of the water in the rice terraces

close up of the water in the rice terraces

I pass some men building a house or a barn, I’m not sure what.

a construction project along the way

a construction project along the way

view on the hike

view on the hike

dragonfly

dragonfly

I catch my first glimpse of Longji Ancient Zhuang Village and the houses and farms on the outskirts.

coming out of the woods and approaching the village of Longji

coming out of the woods and approaching the village of Longji

outskirts of Longji

outskirts of Longji

a flowery view

a flowery view

I pass some Chinese tourists carrying umbrellas even though it is neither raining nor sunny.

Chinese tourists walking in the terraces

Chinese tourists walking in the terraces

lotus plants and rice

lotus plants and rice

the path ahead

the path ahead

the terraces

the terraces

The views are amazing and I just continue on my way.  The views are so beautiful they take my breath away.  As I approach the far end of my hike, there are more tourists.  Chinese tourists generally don’t go in for long hikes.  Most of the time, they stay huddled together in crowds and don’t venture off onto areas by themselves.  Thus, on the hike from Ping’An to Longji, I’ve seen hardly any people until this point, the separate entrance to the rice terraces.

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

As I reach the Longji Terraces, there are amazing views of pancake-stacked terraces, as the land has been carefully carved into contours over the centuries.

The Longji Rice Terraces

The Longji Rice Terraces

layers and layers

layers and layers

a contoured landscape

a contoured landscape

The Longji Rice Terraces

The Longji Rice Terraces

The Longji Rice Terraces

The Longji Rice Terraces

The Longji Rice Terraces

The Longji Rice Terraces

the Longji Rice Terraces at the viewpoint

the Longji Rice Terraces at the viewpoint

I finally reach my turn-around point, the touristy entrance to the Longji Terraces.  It’s been a long walk, about 2 hours, and now I will turn around and return to Ping’An, retracing my steps, with a detour into Longji Ancient Zhuang Village.  Because of this detour, it will take me about 3 hours to make my way back.

Tourist shops at the entrance to the Longji Rice Terraces

Tourist shops at the entrance to the Longji Rice Terraces

Tourist shops at Longji

Tourist shops at Longji

I stop for the “official view” with the stone carving commemorating the Longji Rice Terraces.

Stone marker for the Longji Rice Terraces

Stone marker for the Longji Rice Terraces

After one last look at the rice terraces from the stone marker overlook, I begin to make my way back, taking the lower path to walk through Longji Ancient Zhuang Village.

Looking back from where I came

Looking back from where I came

Oh, how I love this place! 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

a final journey to ping’an and the longji rice terraces

Friday, June 26: I have been determined to see the rice terraces one more time before I leave China, but the idea of it has been daunting.  The journey takes so long, with numerous transfers and hassles, and I have no more 3-day weekends to spread out the effort it takes to get there.  Besides, after fighting hordes of people in Shanghai on the Labor Day holiday in early May, I resolved not to travel on any more holiday weekends in China.  Nonetheless, I gather my courage about me and commit to the journey by buying the train tickets and reserving my hotel in Ping’An.

This afternoon, immediately after my classes end at noon, I make haste to the front gate to catch the bus to the train station. After catching the 1:15 p.m. fast train at Nanning Railway Station, I arrive in Guilin at 3:45.  I go out to the bus stop on the street directly in front of the Guilin train station, where I take bus 91 to the Qin Tan Bus Station, arriving there at 4:00. Then I take the next local bus at the bus station for Longsheng, telling the ticket agent I want to get off at Heping. When we finally get underway from Qin Tan, it is 4:33.

When I arrive at Heping at 6:15, it’s too late in the day to take the regular bus up to the Ping’An parking lot, so I pay a driver at Heping to take me up the mountain 35 minutes to the Ping’an parking lot. It’s a long and winding road over mountains, and I am finally dropped at the Ping’An parking lot at 6:50.  From there, I pay the entrance fee to Ping’An and walk through the gate and up and up and up to the Longji International Youth Hostel, arriving at 7:05.

a woman at work in the garden in Ping'an Village

a woman at work in the garden in Ping’An Village

Even without much delay between the various legs of the trip, it’s a 7 hour trip door to door, as I left the university at noon and arrived slightly after 7:00!  Upon arrival, I immediately order a Tsingtao beer and have a seat on the deck of the hostel to watch people scurrying about in the village.

View of Ping'An Village from the deck of the Longji International Youth Hostel

View of Ping’An Village from the deck of the Longji International Youth Hostel

After my beer, I order dinner as I haven’t eaten anything all day.  With all the stomach problems I’ve been having in China, I didn’t dare eat anything that might upset my stomach when I had such a long trip ahead of me.  I eat some eggs with leeks, and settle in at an early hour, reading my book, The Sandcastle Girls, by Chris Bohjalian.

Ceiling art in the common room at the Longji International Youth Hostel

Ceiling art in the common room at the Longji International Youth Hostel

I have to get plenty of rest because I have a long hike before me tomorrow. I’m so happy to be here once again, because after all the traveling I’ve done in China, I’ve decided the rice terraces are my favorite place.

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Nanning, Nanning Railway Station, Ping'An Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

cocktail hour in the laundry room: the dragon boat festival that wasn’t

Monday, June 22:  Good evening and big hugs to you.  I’m so glad you dropped by for another laundry room cocktail hour. Please, have a seat in my comfortable chair.  I’m so anxious to hear about your week.  Would you like a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or a cold Budweiser?  Usually I buy Chinese beer, but I’ve decided it tastes a little too watery for my taste.   I must confess, I already started celebrating a bit before your arrival.  Just a wee glass of wine, or two.  I’m hoping that will make me more relaxed, and more ready to hear all you have to say.

One of many lotus ponds on the campus

One of many lotus ponds on the campus

It’s plenty warm out here in the laundry room, but it doesn’t seem quite as humid as usual, so maybe we can bear it for a while.  The sun is shining, a rarity in Nanning, so we might want to catch some of the rays, even if they’re coming in at a low angle.  Do you agree it isn’t so bad out here tonight?  I’m quite enjoying it because I’ve been sitting inside in air conditioning all day. I’ve been huddled under a blanket, so it’s nice to be outside enjoying the summer evening.

a particularly pretty lotus pond on campus

a particularly pretty lotus pond on campus

I took some pictures with my iPhone this week during several walks I took around the campus.  They’re here in the post so you can see what my daily walks look like.  Well, not quite daily, but at least four times a week.  I had a bizarre thing happen this week, most notably that a young Chinese man on a bicycle tried to proposition me.  This happened quite regularly in Oman, and everywhere I’ve been in the Middle East, but it has never happened before in China.  I was quite shocked by it. I’ll tell more about it, with a picture of the perpetrator, once I leave China.  Don’t worry, I WILL tell you all about it eventually.

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

We should celebrate because it’s been a three-day weekend for the Dragon Boat Festival. I’m always happy to have an extra day in which I don’t have to work, even if I do absolutely nothing to celebrate the actual holiday.

The Dragon Boat Festival was on Saturday, June 20.  Here’s what China Travel Guide has to say about it:  This festival has been held annually for over 2,000 years and commemorates the patriotic poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC).  It also acts as a chance for Chinese people to build their bodies and dispel diseases.  Qu Yuan was a minister from the State of Chu and supported a fight against the powerful state of Qin.  Because of this, he was slandered by an aristocrat and exiled by the King.  He wrote many passionate poems to show his love for his country, and is therefore regarded as a famous poet in China’s history. In 278 BC, after finishing his last masterpiece, he drowned himself in the river rather than see his country occupied and conquered by the State of Qin.

On hearing of Qu Yuan’s death, the locals were in distress and fishermen searched for his body by sailing their boats down the river. Other people threw food such as eggs and food like zongzi into the river to attract fish and other animals from destroying Qu Yuan’s body. Later, many people imitated these acts to show their respect for this great patriotic poet and this practice continues today.

Because Qu Yuan died on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, people decided to commemorate him on that day every year. Dragon boat racing and eating zongzi have become the central customs of the festival (China Travel Guide: Dragon Boat Festival).

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

Though the Dragon Boat Festival sounds like a lovely holiday, I didn’t do a thing to celebrate.  I’ve traveled on every single National Holiday since I’ve been in China, and this is the first one where I’ve stayed put. I no longer have the energy to fight the huge crowds that always travel in China on these holidays.  I guess I’m finally starting to feel like often I feel in the U.S. on the national holidays.  I never travel on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day if I can help it.  Sometimes I travel on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but we always try to figure out how to get around the crowds on these holidays.

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

On Saturday afternoon, my student Azura, the one who took me to the apartment restaurant several weeks ago, texted me: “Hi Cathy.  It’s Azura.  Are you at school or travelling to another city?  My parents coming school, and my mother made some different kinds of ‘zong zi’ for you. ‘zong zi’ is traditional food for Dragon Boat Festival.”  After some back and forth emails, Azura had her father drive her to my apartment so she could drop off the zongzi.

Zongzi all wrapped up

Zongzi all wrapped up

Zongzi is pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves.  In the north part of the country, people favor the jujube as filling, while the south favors sweetened bean paste, fresh meat, or egg yolk.  The zongzi Azura’s mom made have quail eggs and beef in them, and even some bones!

zings when opened

zings when opened

Eating the zongzi was the closest I came to celebrating the holiday. I’ve been on the go so much over the past number of weekends that I’ve been happy to stay inside all weekend, reading some blogs, writing some blogs, editing some pictures, and watching endless episodes of Revenge.  I also walked every day, and although I’m walking 3 miles a day at a fast pace and sweating buckets, in addition to trying to watch what I eat, I still can’t seem to drop a single pound.  It’s so discouraging!

lotus blossoms

lotus blossoms

Lotus pond

Lotus pond

So, tell me about your week.  What did you do?  Did you travel at all?  Did you enjoy the Summer Solstice? Did you go to any outdoor concerts?  Did you make any lists?  Did you plan any trips for the later part of the summer?  How is work?  Did you have an easy or stressful week?  Did you make a new friend?  Or did you have a conflict with anyone?  Did you have too high expectations in a friendship and did the person let you down?  Did worries keep you from sleeping?  Or did you experience ecstatic joy or pleasure?

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Lotus blossom under cover

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lotus pond and tree

I know it’s been a difficult time in the U.S. with those senseless and hateful killings in a Charleston Church.  Why is there still such hatred in this world?  Why don’t people try harder to understand one another, and to love one another? I find people are becoming increasingly isolated.  It’s a difficult world we live in, so why don’t we all work harder to make it easier, and more loving?  A lot of people have written about this very American racist crisis, and I don’t have anything more to say except that people continue to horrify and disappoint me.  I think most people do have hearts, but we don’t read about them much in the news, do we?

Here in China, life goes on. My students continue to be kind to me, and they reinforce every day that they are the best thing about this job.  When I leave here, I will write about the pros and cons of working at SCIC, and I will also write about what I’m going to miss and not miss in China.   I look forward to writing that post after I leave the country.

I really didn’t do much at all this week except finish my last English Interest Course, “Road Trip American Style.”  This course is not much of anything except having the students watch movies. We watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Little Miss Sunshine, and finally, Chevy Chase National Lampoon Vacation.  The students seemed to enjoy the movies.  The classes are really a waste of our time and the students’ time, in my opinion.  Since they’re on Tuesday afternoons and our last class was this week, now I’ll be finished every day of the week by noon, except for Mondays.  We only have two more teaching weeks remaining, and then it will be exam week.  Thank goodness, as I think we’re all ready to be finished with this semester.

the shady part of my walk

the shady part of my walk

Besides getting totally hooked on the TV series, Revenge, I’ve also been watching Grey’s Anatomy and Mistresses.  I’m still plodding away on Sandcastle Girls. The book is good, but for some reason I seem to be too antsy to read much.  By the time I go to bed, I read about a page or two, and then I’m asleep.

I did attend a small birthday celebration for Nancy, one of the long-time teachers at SCIC.  Here she is with her huge birthday cake, which I was able to partake in.

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There really is nothing else of interest to tell you about this week.  It’s been deadly dull, to be honest.  Maybe I should have traveled this weekend after all.  I get so bored when there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do.  Once I’m back in my home in Virginia, I’ll be able to find plenty to do, I hope!

I hope you all have a great week.  Please, I hope you have something more interesting to tell me than I had to report!  I need some saucy news! Anything new and adventurous will do.  I can live vicariously through you. 🙂

Peace and love to you all. 🙂

Categories: Agricultural College of Guangxi University, Asia, China, Chinese food, conversation, Dragon Boat Festival, East Campus, English Interest Course, Guangxi University, Holidays, laundry room cocktail hour, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language, Zongzi | Tags: , , , , , , | 48 Comments

cocktail hour in the laundry room (or maybe we’ll sit inside where it’s cool!) :-)

Sunday evening, wine o’clock: If you dropped by for cocktails this evening, I’d be so pleased to see you that I’d usher you right past my laundry room and into my icy air-conditioned living room.  It’s so hot, humid and miserable outdoors that your clothes and body would probably be drenched in sweat, so you’d breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not making you swelter in my laundry room.  Then I’d offer you either a cold Budweiser, as that’s all I have this week, or a glass of Chile Cabernet Sauvignon – Valle Central 2013.  I forgot to chill it though, as I can never get used to chilled red wine, so it might be a little warm.  We can always add an ice-cube or two, but I don’t know if you’d feel safe with it as we don’t drink water from the faucet in China.  You might get sick, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.

lush lotus

lush lotus

Have a seat in my comfortable chair and tell me about your week.  It’s June, so summer is upon us. Hooray!  Do you have any travel plans over the summer?  Are you starting to visit farmer’s markets and getting some fresh produce?  Have you been to any outdoor concerts?  Do you have some time off from work?  How about family visits?  Do you have grandchildren or parents or children or friends coming to visit?  Will you go to the beach or a pool for a swim any time soon?  Will you be having a barbecue?  If so, what will you make?  Will you invite me? 🙂  I sure would like some grilled corn on the cob (hint-hint!).

perky lotus

perky lotus

I took a short walk around one of our lotus ponds on the campus this afternoon.  It’s nice to have fresh flowers for a cocktail hour, don’t you think?  I couldn’t stay out long because sweat kept dripping into my eyes, I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos, and my camera lens kept fogging over. I think I’m late in the game in photographing the flowers. I should have done it earlier when they were at their peak.  Now they seem to be fading a bit.  I guess their late stage goes hand in hand with my final days here in China.

Lotus pond at Guangxi University

Lotus pond at Guangxi University

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, so I’m sorry I’ve missed hosting a few cocktail hours.  Don’t worry; I didn’t have one and not invite you.  You’d always be invited, and very welcome.

Two weekends ago, I went with my friend Erica to Yangshuo.  She has never traveled anywhere during her year in Nanning, although she’s been in China for seven years and has traveled prior to this year. We had to squeeze in a lot during a short time, so it felt a little rushed, but we still managed to do shortened versions of three of the four things I did in Yangshuo during the 4-day National holiday in October.  It was a lot of fun, although we got rained on a few times.

Lotus flower

Lotus flower

It’s unbelievably damp in Nanning.  I’m so tired of feeling hot and wet all the time.  I know, that doesn’t sound good, but that’s how I feel.  I get all showered and blow-dry my hair and put on clean clothes in the morning, only to walk out my door and immediately become drenched in either sweat or rain.  I really hate this weather in the south of China; it’s one of the biggest reasons I look forward to my escape on July 15. I wish for once I could work abroad in a nice climate, such as somewhere in Europe on the Mediterranean. Or even a northern country, where I’d have to stay bundled up all the time.

Umbrellas in the hallway of the 9th floor of the Experimental Building - this is Nanning :-)

Umbrellas in the hallway of the 9th floor of the Experimental Building – this is Nanning 🙂

Escape is in the cards. It’s visible on the horizon.  I bought a ticket for July 15 from Nanning directly to Seoul on Korean Air and then on to L.A. where I will visit my sister in Reseda for about a week on my way home.  A week after I bought that ticket, Korean Air canceled that flight, so I had to search for a new flight. Now I will fly to Beijing, then to Vancouver, then to L.A.  The scary part is that I only have a 1 1/2 hour layover in Vancouver, and I already know I will probably miss the connection.  Planes are notoriously late taking off from airports in China, so I’m preparing myself already.  At least it will be Air Canada’s problem if I miss the connection, because both flights, from Beijing and from Vancouver, are with Air Canada.

Lotus blossoms

Lotus blossoms

Yes, my time in China is winding down.  Because my departure is imminent, I dropped out of my Chinese class.  This was long overdue.  Our teacher, Miss Hao, kept telling me I was very clever, because I was able to figure out sentences and vocabulary meanings in class.  The problem was that when I left the class, I never studied.  I could be a clever person if I actually applied myself. 🙂  Also, the other two people remaining in the class, Gavin and Reed, are very advanced, and frankly, I was holding them up.  So I made a quiet and uneventful departure.  However, Miss Hao was keen on inviting our class to her house for dinner, so we went on Wednesday night, June 3.

Miss Hao lives on the 18th floor of a new building on the university campus; during many of our Chinese classes, she was busy on her phone talking to contractors and decorators about fixing up her house.  It’s a lovely sprawling apartment with great views over the university campus.  However, she doesn’t have air conditioning.  It wasn’t that she hadn’t turned it on; she decided not to have it built into the house at all.  I can’t imagine no air-conditioning in Nanning’s heat and humidity, but I did have the (ahem) pleasure of enjoying (i.e. suffering through) the heat for this one evening.

She had originally promised us we would get to help her make dumplings, which none of us were thrilled about because we’re all pathetic at making them and don’t enjoy the process at all.  But we prepared ourselves, only to find, voila (!), she’d already made them when we arrived.  The lack of air-conditioning was something I was prepared for however, simply because I know the Chinese mentality.  I predicted she wouldn’t have it and I was right.

Left to right: Reed, Gavin, unknown Chinese friend of Miss Hao, Miss Hao

Left to right: Reed, Gavin, unknown Chinese friend of Miss Hao, Miss Hao

We did have a lovely evening there nonetheless, and I loved the dumplings.  Dumplings are one of my favorite things to eat in China, and these were especially good. Gavin and I brought our own beer, and I’m glad we did because Miss Hao didn’t have any.  She did bring out a refrigerated bottle of red wine partway through the dinner, however, so we could make toasts to each other.

Clockwise from bottom left: spicy cucumbers, watermelon, dumplings

Clockwise from bottom left: spicy cucumbers, watermelon, dumplings

Besides that little outing, I met fellow-novelist Paul for dinner one night to exchange our novels. He’s given me the next 50 pages of his, which I’ll read this week, and he’s said he’ll finish mine.  He’s leaving in a week and a half, so we’ll see if we get through them.

lotus leaves

lotus leaves

I had a couple of lunches with Gavin, but now he’s mad at me because I didn’t leap at the chance to help him make the listening final exam over the weekend.  He knows my strong feelings about preserving my weekends for myself, and so the fact that he didn’t plan ahead enough so I could help him before this weekend showed a bit of disregard for my beliefs.  As a teacher, it’s all too easy to let your planning and marking, which must be done outside the classroom, spill over into your personal time. I like to have a clean line between work and pleasure, so I keep the line very rigid.  Only in an emergency will I let work encroach on my personal life.

Oh well, if he doesn’t get over it, I’ll be leaving soon anyway.

dropping petals

dropping petals

Last weekend, I went to Beihai, the only coastal city in Guangxi province, to visit Mari.  Mari is a Finnish lady who lives and works in Beihai for a Finnish company, Stora Enso, known for publication and fine paper, packaging board and wood products.  She’s in charge of supply chain management for container board used in milk cartons.  I met her when we went on a tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an.  She kindly invited me to visit her in Beihai, sending her personal driver to Nanning on Friday afternoon to pick me up and drive me the three hours to Beihai.  He then drove 3 hours each way Sunday night to return me home. Besides that, she invited me to stay in her apartment, which was beautifully decked out IKEA style.  She was the perfect hostess; and we had a great time and lots of laughs.

lotus flowers in the pond

lotus flowers in the pond

In addition to those two weekends away, my students turned in 73 outlines and brainstorms/clusters that I had to grade in the first of three staggered deadlines.  They’re writing their final research papers for my class and there are three stages in the process.  I thought I’d be able to go through them quickly, but it was very time-consuming mostly because they were a total mess and many of them were off topic.  Oh dear.  If we get through this process it will be a miracle.

lotus pond on the university campus

lotus pond on the university campus

Since our last cocktail hour on May 25, I’ve mailed one big box home by ground; I sure hope it makes it back to Virginia.  I should mail another this week.  I went out for a “drink” with one of my students, which turned out in fact to be a “mango mountain.”

I finished watching the first season of Madam Secretary, Skyped several times with Mike, Skyped with Sarah, and finished watching Season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy. I also watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, one of the few DVDs I brought here with me, for about the 20th time.  I continued to plod away on the depressing Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian; it’s a hard-to-take book but I’m learning something about the Armenian genocide prior to WWI. It’s always good to learn something new about the horrible things we as humans are capable of.

lotus

lotus

I also had an interview with Teaching House in Washington, D.C. because I applied to take an intensive CELTA (Cambridge Certificate for English Language Teaching of Adults) course in September. I passed the interview and committed to the class.  So now I know what I’ll be doing this fall: taking the course and enjoying the holidays with my family.  I’d like to stay home for a while, but who knows how long it’ll be before I get itchy feet again.  Going back to work at NOVA is not something I can get excited about.

lotus blossoms under cover

lotus blossoms under cover

I’d love to hear all about your last couple of weeks, so feel free to stay awhile, and tell me what’s on your mind.  There’s no rush.  I have nothing to do tonight because I don’t work on weekends. 🙂

fern and leaf

fern and leaf

I do want to apologize for not visiting many of you as often as I’d like.  My internet is very slow here, and often I open the pages to your blog and wait and wait and wait for them to open.  By then I’ve gone on to something else, or I’ve gone to bed.  I hope to be better once I return home to the US of A, where the internet works smoothly and quickly and without issue. 🙂

Categories: Asia, California, China, Chinese language, Chinese language class, conversation, D.C., ESL Teacher, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Language barrier, laundry room cocktail hour, Los Angeles, Nanning, Nanning Wuxu International Airport, Reseda, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language, United States of America, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 28 Comments

weizhou island: multicolored beach, catholic cathedral, and return to nanning

Sunday, June 7:  After talking with Sam, the English-speaking Chinese guy from the ferry, my driver begrudgingly takes me to the east side of the island to see Multicolored/Colorful Beach (五彩滩景区;WǔCàiTānJǐngQū), a volcanic stone beach.

map of Weizhou Island

map of Weizhou Island

I have to walk down a long paved path lined with food and souvenir vendors, but I finally reach the stone beach. Luckily it isn’t very crowded.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach on Weizhou Island

Multicolored/Colorful Beach on Weizhou Island

Cliffs at Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Cliffs at Multicolored/Colorful Beach

seaweed at the lava beach

seaweed at the lava beach

looking east at Multicolored Beach

looking east at Multicolored Beach

The view is not that interesting until I look to the north, where the beach opens before me like a multi-textured moss-covered carpet of lava.

lava beach

lava beach

I find a young family sitting on the stones under an umbrella.

a day on the lava beach

a day on the lava beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

I love all the moss and lichens, and the shapes and textures of the lava beach.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

It’s very peaceful here, and I wish now I had known about this place from the beginning. I could have spent a lot more time exploring.  As it is, my time is running out, and I can’t stay too long.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

lava beach on Weizhou Island

lava beach on Weizhou Island

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

This is by far my favorite place on Weizhou Island, and I can thank Sam for that.  Finally, I’ve discovered a hauntingly surreal landscape that is unexpectedly delightful.

moss & lava

moss & lava

moss & lava

moss & lava

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

This is the kind of place I could explore for hours.

lava flow

lava flow

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

The minutes are speeding by, so I head back up the long paved path to rejoin my driver.  Sam had earlier told me that the driver wanted to take me to the Catholic Cathedral in Shèngtáng.  We head off through the banana plantations to the village, also on the east side of the island.  The Cathedral is in the center of the village, surrounded by a bustling food and souvenir market. When I get out of the motor tricycle, I head around to the back of the Cathedral, where I run into this beautiful couple having their photos taken by a professional photographer.  They don’t mind me taking a couple of pictures of them.

Chinese bride and groom at the Catholic Cathedral

Chinese bride and groom at the Catholic Cathedral

The Catholic Cathedral was built over a decade in 1853 by French missionaries. It is a neo-Gothic style and is made of coral sedimentary rocks from the sea bottom (Wikitravel: Weizhou).  I’m happy to find the grounds are well-maintained.

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Inside, more brides and grooms are having their photos taken. I can’t help but wonder how many, if any of them, are actually Catholic.

Inside Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Inside Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Bride and groom at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Bride and groom at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

altar at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

altar at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Finally, I go out into the street and take some pictures of the facade of the Cathedral.  I’m looking all around for my driver, and I find him at a corner restaurant slurping down some noodles.  I guess the poor guy had to eat some lunch since I never wanted to stop for lunch.  I grab myself a small snack of some chips and a drink and we sit and watch the busy life in the village.

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

At last, we’re on our way back to the ferry, where I bid adieu to the driver and immediately board.  The skies are darkening and the wind is picking up, which could delay or even cancel the ferry’s departure.

heading back to the ferry

heading back to the ferry

boats at bay

boats at bay

the ferry under ominous skies

the ferry under ominous skies

The ferry

The ferry

For some reason, our departure is delayed.  I am fretting as the skies are so ominous.  After about 15 minutes of waiting without being able to understand the announcements, I text Sam: “Hi Sam, do you know what is the delay with the ferry?”  He texts back, “The ferry will go after the storm stopped.”  I write back: “Oh no!”  He says: “Maybe in 20 mins.”  Sure enough, in 20 minutes, the ferry blows its horn and we chug out into the sea. Sam writes, “Here we go now!  We will arrive at Beihai around 16:30.”  Strangely enough, the sea is not as rough as it was this morning, and no one seems to be getting sick. I wonder if it’s because I’m now on the bottom level of the ferry, which may be more stable than the top-level, where I sat on the voyage to the island.

Meanwhile, I’ve texted Mari’s driver and let him know of our delay.  Luckily, when I arrive at the ferry terminal in Beihai at around 4:30, he’s waiting for me.  I hop in his car, and he drives me back to Nanning.  It takes us four hours to get back because of heavy traffic in various spots, so it’s after 8:30 pm when I arrive back at my apartment. I feel bad for the poor driver, who now has to drive back to Beihai at this late hour.  After he drops me, I text him, “Thank you for all your hard work driving!  I’m sorry you have to drive back to Beihai tonight!” I know he can read some version of my message because he has a translation app on his phone.  He writes back: “Don’t mention it should be.” Even though we had very little communication between us, I deeply appreciated this kind and dependable man. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beihai, Catholic Cathedral, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Mulitcolored/Colorful Beach, Shèngtáng, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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