May 30 - June 3
Last blog post of this trip which means I get to go back home and eat American food! Yayy!
Since I've last posted, we went to Hangzhou (杭州) for a weekend getaway and stayed overnight Saturday into Sunday. We took a two hour bus ride to Hangzhou which is known in Chinese folklore as being one of the two heavens on earth (the other being Suzhou). Once we arrived in Hangzhou, we went to a restaurant and ate lunch. Afterwards, we went to Yellow Dragon Cave (黄龙吐翠). There we saw a "marriage market" which is when parents of single late twenty early thirty somethings take resumes of their children to local parks and try to find a suitable partner for their child. The resumes include everything from one's age, height, weight, major, skills, salary, etc. It was very interesting to see in person because it seems like it is similar to dating websites but in real life. Also, in America the parents don't really do the suiting for their children (at least as far as I've experienced). The rest of Yellow Dragon Cave was like a wooded park complete with mosquitoes but our trusty tour guide David had bug spray for all of us! There were many areas to explore but not enough time to explore them all. There was a waterfall in the one area where the water fell out of a golden dragon's mouth. I wasn't able to get even a decent picture because the lighting was so poor. After Yellow Dragon Cave we went to West Lake (西湖) which is one of the most famous lakes in all of China. West Lake was really pretty because there was fog / mist covering the opposite end of the lake and made it look that much more interesting. We walked around the lake for a little bit before taking a boat ride on the lake. After West Lake we went to a tea farm where Longjing tea (龙井茶) is grown. Here, we were able to walk through some of the tea plants and learned how the workers dry the tea. We also were given samples of the tea and had the opportunity to buy the tea. I decided not to buy any tea due to my previous experiences with bringing back tea in my luggage...After the tea farm we went to dinner and then checked in at the hotel. We then decided to go back to West Lake at night together as a group to see the lake at night. Originally, I was very tired and just wanted to take a shower and go to bed but I decided to go and boy was I glad that I went. West Lake at night is absolutely gorgeous; there was a musical fountain that was mesmerizing to watch. After the musical fountain performance, we walked around the lake again and I did some shopping.
The second day in Hangzhou was another busy day; we started off with going to Running Tiger Spring (虎跑泉). The water from the spring is supposed to be very healthy for your body. The elderly get special access to the spring to collect water for themselves. When we were there, we saw an elderly man carrying approximately 3-4 gallons worth of water containers to fill up at the spring. Our tour guide David told us that many people will wait in line for hours to collect the spring water. However, only the elderly and other people who buy a "membership" are permitted to collect water from the spring. After we saw the spring, we continued around the rest of the area and saw many different halls with different statues and such. After visiting the spring, we went to a shopping street, but we first made a loop around the local fresh food market in the neighborhood nearby. When we were walking around we saw the usual fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole pig heads, and fresh fish. Oh wait whole pig heads aren't "the usual"...There was a butcher in the market and they had apparently just cut up a pig and left the whole head in a bucket outside of their storefront. I can remember seeing my parents' pictures from when they were in China in 2001 of animal carcasses hanging in the market but this was my first encounter of this kind on all of my trips. In addition to the fruits, veggies, and fish, there were also bags of live frogs and freshly sliced eels as well as live turtles to buy for dinner. YUMM!! Many of the people in the group were disgusted by many of the sights in the market but as a third timer to China, I've been around the block and know how common these things are. After the market, we eventually ended up at the shopping streets and enjoyed the shops for about an hour or more before hopping back on the bus to take a 3.5 hour bus ride (due to traffic) home to Shanghai.
Tuesday (yesterday) afternoon a few other people and I went to Jingan Temple (静安寺). Jingan Temple is literally a Buddhist temple smack dab in the middle of Shanghai's city. It was raining all day yesterday so the smell of incense and rain made the temple that much more mesmerizing. Visiting the temple made me reminisce about all of the temples that I visited while I was in Tibet. Anytime that I smell incense now, I always think of my trip to Tibet and how beautiful it is. I dream of the day that I get to go back to Tibet.
I had my last day of Chinese class today and it was really nice to know that all of my classmates (同学们) were sad to see me go so soon. We took many group pictures at the end of class and I received many text messages from my classmates telling me to let them know when I am in their home country! I told them that they are all welcome to come visit me in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (宾西法尼亚州匹兹堡市). Tomorrow morning I have my final exam for ECNU as well as my final for OSU. The ECNU final will cover all of the material that I have learned in the past four weeks but will not be counted towards my final grade for OSU because it is more for an assessment of how well my teacher taught me. The OSU final will consist of reading menu items in Chinese and translating them into English and will count towards my final grade for the course. I'm more worried about the ECNU final than I am about the OSU final haha. I know it should be the other way around but the menu reading will be really easy for me to do.
My selfie stick has gotten its fair share of use on this trip since I bought it about 2-3 weeks ago. I must say it was one of the best $3 purchases that I have made on this trip. Many selfies have been taken on this trip as well as many beautiful pictures of the sights of Shanghai and the surrounding areas. I'm not a fan of the way that this blog posts pictures so I am going to wait to upload the pictures to my Facebook (脸书) once I return to the states.
We have a farewell lunch on Friday as well as two papers due that day. My flight leaves at 3:45pm Shanghai time on Saturday and I'm ready to come home and earn back all of the money that I just spent on these past few weeks. I'll never forget this trip as it was truly different than my prior trips. I'm excited to come back to China and hope that I get the opportunity to go to southern China in the near future and fulfill my dreams of holding a panda. I've been to China three times now and have yet to see a panda in its natural homeland. Someday I will see a panda in China...someday.