Saturday, July 12, 2008

Guiyang, Guizhou

Hey everyone! Writing now from Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou province in Southwestern China. Arrived yesterday afternoon after a very quick 1 1/2 hour flight from Xian. Just realized I haven't written since Beijing... a lot has happened since then! After the group's intital 3 nights in Beijing we took a 5 hour train ride to Luoyang. This was the first time I had ever ridden a train in China and it was quite an experience! The train station was chaotic and crowded. I kept telling the students to push, push, push! Really the only way we would've made our train on time! Some of the kids learned how to play the Chinese card game "struggle against the landlord" with the Chinese people on the train sitting near them. They seemed to enjoy it, and not even notice how long, and slightly uncomfortable the ride really was!
After arriving in Luoyang we settled into the hotel and went to explore the big square across the street. The square is filled in the morning with women dancing and elderly people doing tai ji. At nights, a similar lively atmosphere fills the air, with music blasting out of a small boombox, and people dancing all about. One guy was walking around with a large paintbrush that had been dipped in water...writing Chinese "chengyus" or idioms in calligraphy all over the ground. A beautiful sight!
Explore the Longmen Grottos, huge stone Buddha carvings that existed thousands of years ago. Visited the famous Shaolin temple, thought to be the oldest Buddhist temple in China. Witnessed a kungu performance that was out of this world! Several young monks impressed the crowd with movements unlike anything I had ever seen...putting their bodies into all sorts of bizarre positions, testing their flexibility and strength, fighting with swords...can you tell I thought it was amazing?

Did a lot in Luoyang the three nights we were there, and already it's difficult to recall it all!

After Luoyang we took another 5 hour train ride to Xian, this time we sat on "soft sleepers." Really this means that there is more space and leg room than in the "hard sleeper" section...the seats aren't any softer! Nevertheless, the extra room was definitely appreciated.

Spent three nights at a hotel in Xian's Foreign Language University's campus. Students practiced tai ji every morning, and we got to explore the terracotta warriors, ancient folk museums, walk through the Muslim quarters (an old market area) and visit a historic mosque. The mosque was quite impressive and itself was over 600 years old. The wall's along the inside of the mosque were covered with the Qur'an's teachings. Beautiful!

Last night upon arrival in Guiyang the students were introduced to their hometay families...hopefully everything will go smoothly! Some of them were nervous but most all were very excited. I'll be visiting each studen'ts family throughout the week to check-in and make sure everything's going smoothly. I, myself, would have had a homestay as well but seems like there's too much to be done on the EIL side of things as well as preparing for Bali! Wow...time's flying.

All for now, will try to write more throughout my stay in Guiyang! PS- Guiyang's weather is much more enjoyable for me than up North. Cooler here, usually in upper 70's or so. Higher elevation...flying in was a beautiful sight. Several small mountainous peaks encompass this city. Hopefully we'll do some hiking!

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