Things around here have been kind of crazy lately, and I’m not exactly sure why… I seem simultaneously busy and free. The classic case of lots of free time on one’s hands and not enough time to get everything done. I’m still trying to figure out this summer. Originally I wanted to go back to Japan for about a month, but it looks like I’m not going to have the funds. In any case, I’m definitely going home this summer. We’ll see what else happens.
But here’s some small news. Last Friday Wilson and I went to our new favorite barber shop to get haircuts. We also got a color change. He got a red tint and I bleached the hell out of my hair. It took five hours because they weren’t getting it as light as I wanted (and it all still only cost me US$10 total). In the end, it was still yellower than I wanted, but they said they got it as white as they could. Take a look. Anyway, if I thought I was standing out before, I really am now. I’m getting lots of reactions from my students. Lots of them are saying it’s cool, and lots are also telling me it looked better before (with remarkably little tact at times). Oh well. It’s fun for now…
Last Saturday I went with the church gang to a place in southern Hangzhou called DaQing Gu. Helene and Simon went along as well. The place was interesting because it was sort of a natural, remote location, with fresh air and lots of trees and mountain scenery, as well as tea fields. But then it also had carnival attractions like bungee jumping, target practice, games for prizes, etc. A strange combination.
Anyway, we had a great little mountain climb. It was an actual climb, instead of the typical Chinese “mountain climb” of climbing stairs up a mountain. We were actually scrambling a bit, grabbing onto roots and saplings, and ropes in places, to make it to the top. The funny thing was that a whole mixed group went, including middle-aged women, little kids, and girls who were horrified at getting dirty. There were quite a few slips resulting in dirty knees and butts, but no one got hurt, and everyone was able to make the climb, even when it got pretty steep. I don’t think the same group would have made it (or tried, anyway) had all the participants been American.
Simon and I also tried this thing called “Tan Tiao Fei Ren” (“Bullet Jump Flying Person”) in Chinese. It’s this thing where you’re strapped into a harness, and both sides of you are tied to bungee cords. You’re sort of in the pouch of a giant slingshot. Then they mechanically raise the ends of the bungee cord, and slingshot you up (it’s hard to explain clearly, but no, you don’t come back down and hit the ground!). So you can do lots of flips, suspended like that. It’s pretty fun, and was only 30 RMB (less than US$4).
Haha, I had to share this description of a city in southern China. It’s from a Dave’s ESL Cafe discussion board post again, by “oscar tame” this time. This guy’s evidently been in China a while (maybe too long?)…
Zhuhai – suspiciously pleasant climate, disturbingly broad visual spectrum, the ground unnervingly free of people and phlegm. the atmosphere mundane in the extreme, no swimming through and inhaling the interesting coal-and-diesel-fume soup air substitute that has been so conscientiously and considerately concocted for the inhabitants of many other cities. grim. on the plus side hong kong is very close, so one is able to quickly and conveniently unburden oneself of any excess and embarrassing money within the space of just a few hours when necessary.
I did some skits in class today. They were supposed to use some of the slang I had taught them, and I told them to make them love stories. (Nothing excites Chinese college kids like romance.) The following is a telephone dialogue from one of their skits:
> BOY: Hello, may I speak to Angel?
> GIRL: This is Angel.
> BOY: Angel, I need to talk to you.
> GIRL: What is it?
> BOY: I need to tell you that I think we should break up.
> GIRL: OK, see ya.
> BOY: …because I found another girlfriend who is more beautiful and nice.
> GIRL: OK, see ya.
> BOY: Bye.
I guess it’s a lot funnier to see the real thing… The girl’s apathy was hilarious.
Sometimes when you’re overseas you find yourself wondering why you did it. I got this from a post on a Dave’s ESL Cafe message board. I can really relate.
> Posted By: tomas
> Date: Sunday, 5 May 2002, at 4:21 p.m.
> In Response To: Is there freedom overseas? (jaj)
> Remember Janice Joplin’s words: “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. Freedom from the known is the real freedom, to lose complacancy and see things with new eyes. You (we) decided to take the road less traveled perhaps because we needed the freedom from all the noise that goes on in one’s head when involved in the aggressive business of acquiring wealth and status.
> Enjoy your humble but damn interesting life while you can, you might just end up back in the rat race. Stay alert, be here now, and stop questioning your decisions.
Well, I just got back from Nanjing. I saw the city as well as my friend Ray. A lot of people have told me that Nanjing is a boring city and not worth seeing, but I still wanted to check it out. It didn’t wow me at all, but I did think it was a nice city. It’s bigger amd more modern than Hangzhou, but without some of the touristy “West Lake and surrounding green mountains” charm.
So I got to hang out with Ray and his friends Yunfei and Xiao Zhu. It was an interesting experience. We saw the place where they work, a sort of weight loss clinic. Weight loss by machine, that is. Check out the photo section for pics of some of this.
Nanjing doesn’t have a lot to see… “Purple Mountain” and Sun Yat-sen’s tomb (along with some scattered attractions of scant interest), the Ming Wall around the city, museums, The Yangtze River, and the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. This last one was of greatest interest to me, as my studies have gotten me caught up in both Chinese and Japanese culture, and the relation between the two as well. I read The Rape of Nanking a few years back, and it left a deep impression. So I got to see the memorial to the estimated 300,000 victims recently.
It was definitely shocking. The memorial was built on the excavation site of one of the mass graves where the Japanese dumped the bodies of Chinese soldiers and civilians. This excavation site is on display, the bones of the victims laid bare for all to see. You can see skeletons of 3-year-old children, decapitated skeletons, skeletons with gauges in the bones and holes in skulls from Japanese bayonets and iron nails. It was really disturbing, realizing that these are the actual bones of those poor people I was looking at. There were plenty of photos and textual documentation within the museum as well, but the skeletons in the excavation pit hit hardest.
It was very moving. The horror, the plight of the Chinese. The bravery of those that tried to help. A letter written by a Japanese schoolkid who learned about everything for the first time on a visit to Nanjing. (It was on display, and I read it, but it was all in Japanese, without even a Chinese translation!)
But in some ways it was disappointing. Although some items, like the letter mentioned above, were not translated, most displays were in Chinese, Japanese, and English. However, I couldn’t help but compare the Nanjing Massacre Memorial to the two memorials to the atomic bomb victims I have visited in Japan. I can’t name many specifics, but those Japanese memorials just left overall impressions of very well-composed memorials (even taking into account that the Japanese displays make absolutely no mention of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor or the rest of the wartime context — they’re presented like war crimes committed in a vacuum!). Perhaps part of my disappointment was linguistic; captions for Chinese exhibits have a habit of telling you how you should react emotionally to what you’re seeing, and that’s definitely distracting and tacky to Western sensibilities.
I’m not going to make a laundry list of complaints, though. Overall it was done tastefully, the smoldering animosity the Chinese feel to this day over war crimes that still have not been atoned for or even fully acknowledged was withheld from the text of any of the displays.
It makes for a very depressing and draining several hours, but I feel like it’s something I have a human obligation to see. The Nanjing Massacre Memorial is a part of my China experience that will stick with me.
It’s been raining for days. That’s one of the drawbacks of living here in Hangzhou — the weather is not always great. There are times in the fall and spring when it rains for weeks, practically nonstop. Well, no sunshine anyway. That can really get you down. Fortunately, for the past 2 weeks or so I’ve been really busy trying to get my site finished, and now all the guys here are getting (back) into Starcraft, so we have stuff to do indoors. Now if only they didn’t kick us out of the office at 10pm every night…
I have been keeping a private electronic journal of my experiences here in Hangzhou, China since day one. Of course I’m not going to share everything here, but I would like to put some of it out there. I’ll start posting about what’s going on now, and later add some selections from the beginning of my stay here.