NOTE: another picture test….let me know if you outside-of-china-ers can see these photos. if so, i’ll put a bunch of other pictures up from beijing and of my students, etc!!
On Thursday afternoon after dinner, I went to go down to the store down the road, but passed a little path that goes into the countryside and decided to go down it instead. I walked for a while past a bunch of rice fields, vegetable gardens and small houses, then the road turned into dirt and got about as narrow as a footpath. I kept walking down it and gradually it opened up into a construction site and what looked like an abandoned school with a weird obstacle course that was overgrown with weeds. There was a path behind a bunch of piles of dirt that led up a hill to a pagoda on the top. I had seen the pagoda from the roof of my school, so I decided to climb up and check it out. The path was strangely well-maintained considering everything around it, and so was the pagoda. When I got to the top I could see all the way down the big main road and my school and all the mountains around Liuyang. It was pretty cool and nice and quiet and deserted. I’ll have to go back there sometime and take a few pictures!
On Friday I had my 1st graders all morning, and so in between each class I go sit on the benches that are outside the classrooms to rest for a bit and some of my students will come and poke me and ask questions like ‘how come all foreigners have white eyes?’ and ‘are you from meiguo (america) or waiguo (foreign country)?’. On Friday’s all the kids get to go home, so I ask them ‘is your mom coming to get you or will you take the bus?’ and one little 6 year old girl said ‘I am from far away, so I only go home twice a year. I live with my teacher and she isn’t nice to me and she forgets about me a lot, but its ok, i find things to do.’ I couldn’t believe that a 6 year old would be sent away from home for so long! She was very matter of fact about it, and seemed very mature for a 6 year old, but I wished for her sake that she could see her parents more often!
Later that day after all the kids went home, Craig and I went to go climb the mountain on the edge of downtown, called ‘Xihu Shan’, or West Lake Mountain. We took a motorcycle taxi to the edge of it, and climbed up and up and up to a giant 9 story pagoda on top. There were a lot of people climbing that afternoon because it was friday and the weather has finally been getting cooler.
We decided to go down the other side, away from all the people. The path was only dirt and really steep and looked like it hadn’t been walked on for a while, but from some points on that trail I got some really good views of the country side and the Liuyang river and the mountain range that can’t be seen from the city-side. I also saw all of Liuyang and far far far away, my school!
When we got to the bottom of the mountain, we found the old section of the city. There were apartment buildings with wooden framed windows, and separate concrete and brick houses with tiled rooves and stray dogs, and a hundred years of grime on kitchen window sills. There were lots of old people sitting on stools, and if you looked in doorways you could see street vendors at home putting all the street-food barbecues on skewers. It was really quiet and almost no traffic, and felt to me like a dose of real China!
On Friday night I went out with Craig to that only bar we have called ‘Party Bar’ to see our friend Li Dong. I made friends with some people and they were all going to eat some fish at a late-night sidewalk restaurant, and they invited me along. Craig went home, so I went alone and it was great! No one spoke English so I had to speak Chinese the whole time, and I finally believe that I just might be bilingual, because there wasn’t really anything I couldn’t understand or couldn’t communicate. Now when I move to Beijing and take some more Mandarin classes, practice a lot and learn to read and write, I’ll be like a native!! Maybe someday…..
Today I went out for a bit downtown and found an old man on the street selling big maps for 8 kuai each. He also had big red posters of Mao. I’ve been wanting a world map, a map of China and a big picture of mao, and since they were only 8 kuai each, I got all three! Now Mao is calmly but authoritatively staring down at me every time I sit in my living room, reminding me where I am!