May 16. Jing and Zheng’s Wedding dinner. At the beginning of this blog entry, I was talking about new beginnings. And speaking of new beginnings, I previously reported that our colleague, Zheng Li, and Jing Shuo were married in April. They held a large dinner celebration for all their friends, including us, on May 16. It was a grand dinner, with many toasts and, of course, practical jokes pulled on the new couple by their “good” friends! (I’m not sure they need any enemies, but it was great fun for everyone, except maybe the hosts – Jing and Zheng!) It was quite a party! (Kathy and Micheal, I got lots of ideas for great stunts, which I might be willing to forget – if the price is right!)
On May 18, Deb took herself dress shopping at the Hangzhou Silk Shop. Here she is to tell us all about it!
Dress shopping trip(s): The wedding is coming up soon and I still have not found the right outfit. Hours of surfing the net and hours of trying on outfits while still in the states resulted in nothing that “rocked my boat”, that was the right color, that was the right design, … well you get the idea. I really don’t like shopping and this is a task that has me floored, really! So in true business manner I have waited to the eleventh hour to do something about finding the right outfit. We live in China right now and so it makes sense to take advantage of the beautiful silk fabrics and the abundance of dressmakers. Yvonne’s mom told Yvonne who told me of a silk shop in the Technology Mall.
By the way, I did try on several jackets at the silk factory in Suzhou, but they are all made for people smaller than me and they were pretty expensive. And if I had found some fabric to have an outfit made, I probably could not have found a dressmaker to make anything – you have to buy the fabric in the store where the dressmaker makes the outfit – it’s a package deal.
So about 2 weeks ago I went to the bank, got some money, hailed a cab, and said Technology Mall please. “huh?…” the taxi cab driver said. I pulled out my card from the BaMa Tea Shop which is right near the Technology Mall and off he went. But he wanted to turn onto a street that I knew was wrong, so desperately pointing for him to go straight, I called Lulu and asked her to talk to the driver to tell him where I wanted to go. “a..a..a.” he said and seemed to get it. He delivered me to the mall and I paid him for the ride and off I limped to find the silk shop. Finnie had given me a printout of the characters for “Hangzhou silk” so I started down one side of the mall comparing the characters on my piece of paper to the characters on top of the stores and “ah-ha’ I found one! So I walked in and started looking. The owners in true Chinese sales person style descended and loudly told me look here, look here, look there… I knew I had found what I was looking for and finally I asked to sit down while I got out my little computer that had a word file with two pictures of some outfits I had found on line that I liked. This little computer is Sloooowwwww and those sales people were pretty impatient, but when the computer file finally opened, I was able to use the picture and match it to the fabric I found and we began designing the outfit I had in mind – using sign language, minimal Chinese, and the computer picture.
The next person to enter the scene is the dressmaker, a little Chinese man, haggard looking, and quiet. His wife – mother in law – or some similarly related woman was razing him about measuring me quickly, but he took his time while his brother in law was installing floor fans on the ceiling over my head to give some air movement in the shop – he got soundly yelled at by mother-in-law. The quiet dressmaker measured me a billion times from every conceivable angle, over and over wanting to make sure that those high centimeter numbers were indeed true! I should tell you that Chinese shops are generally about 10 feet wide at the most and about 25 feet deep. The measuring was done in the back of the shop at an itsy bitsy table with an itsy bitsy stool to stand on, and an itsy bitsy space to turn around in.
Finally the measuring was complete and everyone seemed to be on the same page with what I had in mind for the outfit, and we finally agreed on a price – about $90 – for the outfit. I asked when to return and they said in a week.
The next week arrived and I went to the shop. My outfit was done! What a pretty champagne color with a coffee — with lots of cream — color jacket to match! I tried it on and it felt great! Silk feels so good near the skin! I took it off and prepared to go, but then the dressmaker showed up and said, try it on – so I went back again to the itsy bitsy back of the shop, with the itsy bitsy stool, and the hint of a privacy curtain and put the outfit on again. He seemed satisfied. And then he invited me to have lunch with them – thank you but no, I must get back but thank you for the offer! What an adventure!!
A few hours later Zoe called and said, “Let’s go silk shopping.” I said, "Okay" and off we went. We ended up going to 3 silk shops, one of which she had a fitting for an outfit she was having made for herself. We did not find exactly what I had in mind, but the next week, we went out again and, guess what, we found several other silk shops and in one of them, we found some really pretty dark wine red silk with faint golden flowers along the hem line. It was enough for a long dress and a small matching jacket for $100. So I am waiting for the outfit to be made. Hopefully it won’t look like a tank on me, but it sure has the makings of an elegant long, silky dress that is perfect for a wedding on a hot summer day. If this bombs, I have another option of another silk shop where the outfit will cost about $120 – because the silk is brocade. And if that bombs, I plan live at Neiman Marcus when I get home until I find the right outfit!
Finnie: May 20. It’s spring for sure now, and so Deb and I decided to ride down to the beach one evening after dinner at BeifangJiaoziWang. The weather was perfect, and the beach was quiet with people just enjoying the sunset and the warm breeze. We ventured farther afield than we did last fall, and had a great time. The ebike is great for Deb – it gives us much greater range and comfort. Here are some photos!
May 21. Isaac gave a lecture on Chinese culture to the Murray State group. He had only two hours, so he could only touch on a few main ideas. He explained such things as Beijing opera and the functions of the main types of characters, kungfu and taichi, Holidays, foods, etc. The Murray State folks were very interested and asked a lot of questions.
Sue gave her presentation on the tea culture. Sue used an emagazine presentation – which was beautiful, and she also asked Mr. Ye to come and do the tea ceremony for the group, which he did. And, lo! He got several serious customers for his BaMa store! Sue’s presentation was excellent and cultivated a great deal of interest too. These students never fail to impress us!
Deb: May 22-23. A quick trip to Qufu and Jinan. Lulu organized a trip for us foreigners to go to see Qufu (Confucius’ birthplace and hometown) and Jinan (the provincial capital of Shandong). We gathered at the international office at 6:00 A.M. on Saturday, and boarded a medium-sized bus that was big enough that each person had two seats, so it was easy to spread out and be comfortable – in theory! Finnie and I actually had the rear two rows of seats, and these had the extra treat of greater lift when we hit road bumps or speed bumps (of which there were hundreds). We had a guide for this trip who spoke for a good ten minutes about our trip and what we were going to see and do on our weekend – in Chinese. Lulu translated it into, “It will be a long trip to Qufu and we will see Confucius’ house, then go to Jinan and see some springs.”
The trip over to Qufu was about 8 hours long and passed near Taishan, one of the five sacred mountains in China and considered the mountain with the most significance since it represents sunrise, birth, and renewal. This is the mountain that is pictured on every bottle of the ubiquitous Moutai bottles. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Tai)
We passed through many tunnels – some over ½ mile long (I marveled at the engineering ability that went into the construction of so many tunnels that curved around inside the tunnel) – as we passed through the Tai mountain chain. Before each bridge over the deep valleys (with spectacular views) and before each tunnel, there were road bumps the size of small mountains to alert drivers about the upcoming bridge or tunnel. These bumps served their purpose well, but I wonder how many suspension systems have been severely compromised as the cars fly over these warning bumps. I mention this because the bus, which had a severely compromised suspension system to begin with, became airborne as we flew, without slowing down, over these bumps. The bus driver was delightful and full of fun! He proved to be a “wanna-be” race car driver, with his foot pushing the accelerator pedal to the floor and never letting up, he wove his way in and out of big semi-trucks loaded with coal, large trucks hauling pigs, chickens, and cattle to market, enormous gasoline trucks, and the pesky small cars that would not move out of his way. He passed with skill either on the left or the right, on the right hand berm and in between other vehicles if there was room. We all tried not to watch. But one instance is worth mentioning: the driver wove his way through trucks and cars at rocket speed and ended up hemmed in between several large trucks but with a small economy sized car in front not moving very fast. When the car did not move out of his way, the driver ended up using his last resort of stomping on the brakes – we flew forward. Blinking his lights, honking his horn with his front bumper inches from the back bumper of the car, the small car finally moved over to the right and we accelerated to rocket speed again. Several similar instances occurred and these resulted in Finnie writing a song to the tune of “The Wreck of Old 97” ( http://www.amazon.com/Wreck-of-the-Old-97/dp/B0010V7A4C/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1275643559&sr=8-16 ) .
Finnie’s lyrics are below for your singing pleasure:
Deb: Our driver stopped every couple of hours for a puff and our bruised bums had a chance to rest. In one of the rest stops that we stopped at around noon, we all discovered lots of goodies to eat – we were hungry and this was not the lunch stop. So by the time we all got on the bus we had a grocery store of rice balls in bamboo leaves, bags of rice snacks, and lots of bags of really delicious freshly made sesame crackers. Turns out that sesame crackers rapidly satiate your hunger after so many bumps. We were told that we would have lunch shortly at a very good restaurant.
Two hours later we arrived in Qufu. The bus stopped, we walked quite a distance to the entrance of the ancient city’s sites, another distance of winding our way through the grocery store before boarding the extended electric golf carts to go to the restaurant. We were famished. The lunch was wonderful – probably some of the best Chinese food we have had!
After lunch, we were ready to go see the Temple of Confucius, the Kong Family Mansion, and the Cemetery of Confucius. As we walked another distance through street vendors to the entrance of Confucius’ temple, Finnie spotted a pretty floppy hat that he wanted to buy for me. And his bargaining prowess kicked into high gear. He asked how much? The vendor said 15. Finnie said 5. The vendor said no way. Finnie walked away and the vendor said, okay, okay, 10. Sold. The Korean couple who sat in front of us in the bus seemed very concerned that Finnie would not come out of this deal okay, but after Finnie’s ability at heavy duty negotiation was proven, they seemed impressed. After all Finnie was negotiating the price down from $2 and ended up at $1.30! So the pictures of me in Qufu are with this hat.
As are most big temples that we have visited in China, Confucius’ temple is immense, with the layout designed similarly to the layout of the Forbidden City. The grounds are really beautiful with very ancient cedar trees towering over the grounds. Qufu served as the state capital of Lu during the 10th century BC and Qufu is the birthplace of Confucius. Confucius lived from 551BC – 479BC.
Confucius is revered in China and other Asian countries, as well as all over the world as a philosopher and moral leader. His teachings were compiled after his death in the Analects of Confucius. The small 3 room house where Confucius lived was removed as the temple to Confucius was built on that spot shortly after his death. Several additions have been added to the temple over the years into today’s immense size (second largest historical building in China – after the Forbidden City). We walked from the entrance to the main temple at the other end and then took a shortcut out of the temple to the Kong Family mansion. The Kong Family is the direct descendents of Confucius and was responsible for the upkeep of the temple and conducting religious ceremonies during the year as required. The last descendents (79th generation) lived in the complex until 1935 when they fled to Chongqing during the Sino-Japanese War and later fled to Taiwan where the current descendents live. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius) The many buildings that compose the complex have components that we saw in Beijing, Nanjing, and Suchow – open air courtyards, living rooms designed for women to gather and living rooms for men to gather, and peaceful garden areas for reflection (because the last remodeling of the complex was done during the Ming and Qing dynasties).
Taking a golf cart to the cemetery, we got there just at closing time. Quickly entering the gate and boarding another golf cart we were whisked around a huge cemetery complex. The cemetery was actually within a forest of ancient trees, grave monuments covering most of the many acres of this cemetery. We tried to take pictures but the speed of our trip through the cemetery is somewhat similar to our bus driver’s – at rocket speed. We finally arrived at Confucius’ gravesite. A large complex of sacrificial temples and courtyards leads one to the final resting place of Confucius.
As I was really tired after leaving the cemetery and we did not know how far we would be walking, Finnie suggested that we take a pedicab to the entrance. That was an interesting phenomenon – 2 large people squished into the cab of a pedicab and the pedicab driver staining his leg muscles to get us to the end. We paid him and then gave him a tip equal to the bargained price for the ride – he deserved it! We all gathered to go back to the entrance museum, back through the grocery store, and to the bus. I rested on the back seat while Finnie read and within 2 hours we were at our hotel in Jinan. Dinner was waiting for us. Soon after dinner, we collected our luggage and fell asleep.
The next day we started out at 8 to tour Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, and noted for its many fresh water springs. We first visited Jinan’s most famous spring located in Baotuquan Park. “Baotu Spring spurts … from three holes in the underground rocks at a volume of 1,600 liters per second.” ( http://www.china.org.cn/english/chuangye/41776.htm) We enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere, the orchestra playing, the old Chinese man practicing his calligraphy on the square tiles of the courtyard by writing Chinese characters with a big brush dipped in water, and the lovely garden.
Moving on from there we went to a lakeside pavilion to enjoy the view of DaMing Lake, a spring fed lake in the middle of Jinan. We spent about an hour just admiring the view and people-watching. I had been using my camera to record cute Chinese kids, and there beside us was a family enjoying their Sunday at the lake: Yeye (grandfather), Mother, Father, and adorable 2-year old son. The mother knew English and so said hello and we were soon admiring the son — who could also speak to us in English, and before long we were having our picture taken with the family! Another couple and their 2 year old daughter were also enjoying the nice day. The mother was blowing bubbles and the daughter was chasing them – I hope the pictures do justice to how adorable this was! Soon Adam, a friend of Finnie’s from UNK and who is now studying for a masters degree at Shandong University in Jinan and employed as a translator at a company in Jinan, came to visit us at the park! What fun to see a familiar face! We caught up with his news and he joined our group at our next stop – the best dumpling restaurant in Jinan.
After lunch we drove to the main entrance of Shandong University of Jinan, the “flag ship” of our university in Weihai. Our group dispersed and walked around the campus meeting back at the bus in an hour. The campus itself is about 100 years old and has a European Church at one corner of the pretty campus.
After visiting the university, it was time to say good bye to Adam, and head back to Weihai. The driver “put her into gear” and we rocketed home rhythmically weaving in and out of traffic, arriving safely (but bruised) home about 8 PM.
We loved this trip because we learned so much about Chinese history and how Confucius and his teachings have played a significant role in China’s cultural development. Thank you Lulu for arranging this trip, and for making it memorable!