Saturday, June 23, 2007


This past week has been a bit of a blur. It's not that I was too busy, but the day for my departure approached rather quickly anyway. The week was filled with goodbyes which is not my favorite way to spend my time, but, fortunately enough for me, I'm coming back. I can't imagine how different I would feel if I knew I wouldn't be returning in two months.

Thursday a group of Derek's students came over to cook dinner for us. We were also blessed with the presence of many of our other close friends who came to hang out for the evening or spend the night. In fact, Sara and Jean who both have moved to towns outside Shiyan to begin their medical internships came back just to say goodbye. It was a pretty sweet evening.

Our plane home leaves from Wuhan (the capital of our province and a 6 hour train ride away) on Sunday, but Derek and I decided to leave Shiyan on Friday to spend a day in Wuhan checking out a coffee house (for me) and buying some souvenirs (for Derek). So all morning Friday we ran errands, finished up classes, and spent some last minute time with our Chinese friends. Our train left at 3:58 (to be exact, Angel!) and so we said our last goodbyes to most of our friends at our apartment an hour before. There was a great turnout, and it was such a blessing to see so many friendly and loving faces wishing us well. Derek will not return next year, and, again, I can't imagine what that would be like. It was hard enough for me to say goodbye for just two months!

We arrived in Wuhan last night around 10 o'clock. Another foreign teacher in Wuhan, Janell, lives about 10 minutes from the train station so we took a taxi to her place. She's at a great location and is very hospitable to many of us Shiyan people who have used her apartment on various occasions throughout the year.

I've been getting some advice about how to deal with jet lag. The general consensus is to wear yourself out before flying so that you can sleep very well on the plane. Last night Janell and I stayed up until 4 o'clock talking and tonight the Lewises (who arrived this afternoon) and the rest of us are attempting to pull an all-nighter. They've begun to watch season six of 24. I've only seen season one of this show, and I'm not as into it as everyone else, but I am going to try to stay up with them.

Today was a pretty nice day in Wuhan. Up until today, I have had nothing but rather negative experiences in this polluted, frustrating city. This morning we slept in, but then we met a couple of other teachers for lunch at a Brazilian BBQ place. It's been awhile since I've had so much meat at one sitting. Basically, these waiters walk around carrying different types of meat on a stick and a sharp knife. When they walk by your table, they ask if you want the meat. If you do, then they shave off as much of it as you want. It's an all you can eat place so we more than stuffed ourselves with lamb, steak, bacon, glazed fat and countless other types of meat. It was grotesquely delicious!

The afternoon I spent touring Mr. Mai's coffee shop. It's a coffee house that provides English speaking opportunities (among other opportunities!). It has a really cool setup. Plus, the coffee and desserts were a great treat after being subjected to underpar instant coffee for several months.

Tomorrow our plane leaves around 3 o'clock. From there we fly to Guangzhou and have a five hour layover. Then we'll fly to L.A and, hopefully, we'll all be so exhausted, we'll sleep most of the way (though I've already been assured by Courtny that I can expect to receive no sleep at all). We'll see.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I finally made it to Wudang Mountain. Were it not for the automobile industry and Wudang Mountain, Shiyan would probably be just another small village unknown throughout China and certainly throughout the world. However, the Dong Feng car factory establishes Shiyan as an important economic city, and Wudang Mountain ensures it to be a growing tourist destination. Wudang Mountain is credited with the beginnings of Taoism and a special kind of kung fu known generically as wushu. I'm sure I don't know much about the history or anything else important dealing with Wudang; all I know is that if you live in Shiyan and don't visit Wudang Mountain, it's like living in Siem Reap and not visiting Angkor Wat or living in D.C. and not visiting the White House. As important as Wudang is to everything Shiyan, it's surprising to me how few of my students have actually visited it. This could in large part have to do with the whopping sum of money you must pay to go there. For students it costs about 90 kuai and for us older folks a grand total of 180 something. But it's a pretty sweet layout. Last Thursday I canceled class and joined Derek, Brian, Matt, Amber and Dolly for a day of hiking Wudang. It takes about an hour or less by bus to arrive at the Wudang village and after browsing a few souvenir shops at the bottom of the mountain, we began our ascent. The hike was surprisingly both beautiful and very doable. We had all quietly assumed that the hike up the mountain would simply be hours of climbing a steep staircase consisting of uneven and broken steps. We had continuously received conflicting information about how long it would take to reach the top (anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours!), but we set off anyway. We took a bus a little ways up the mountain and then began our hike up. The trail was really nice. We had significant tree cover and there was a cool stream we walked along. The scenery really was spectacular. We were bombarded by gnats which grew annoying, but it didn't ruin the hike. I'm not actually sure how long we hiked for. We reached a spot where there were a few souvenir shops and restaurants, the first sign of tourist life since we began the hike. We did a little shopping and unanimously decided not to finish the hike. It was already after four, and the remainder of the hike was supposedly like we had envisioned the entire hike to be from the beginning: a rigorous uphill climb. We all felt we had gotten our money's worth (which included a thirty minute kung fu show mid-morning which we were fortunate enough to catch) and were ready to return home. I, fortunately, have the luxury of returning and finishing the hike next year which I plan to do. Wudang was much more beautiful than I had imagined. When people talk about it, they always mention Taoism and kung fu and how important it is to China, but I've never heard anyone mention just how naturally beautiful it is. I'm glad to have visited it, and I'm especially glad to be able to answer everyone who asks from now on that yes, in fact, I have been to Wudang Mountain. I do live in Shiyan, afterall.

Monday, June 04, 2007


For those who don't know, I'll be returning to the States on June 25th, only 21 days from today. The Lewis Five, Brian, Derek and I will all be returning at the same time. We will fly together all the way to L.A. where the Lewises will break off from our group, and the boys and I will continue to Atlanta together before our final goodbye. I'm glad we're flying home together. Somehow it seems like a fitting end. But actually I'm trying not to focus too much on my upcoming return home. I've still got two weeks of classes left which includes final exams, lots of grading, and filling out and completing teacher logs and final grades.


Last Monday three American friends of Derek arrived in Shiyan. Dollie and Amber are staying in my apartment, and Matt is staying in Derek's. The three are from Harding and had just spent some time in Wuhan before coming to Shiyan. They came at a good time because we've had quite a few activities this week for them to participate in. Saturday night we had a big potluck meal. I think it's actually the first official potluck dinner we've had, and I'm already regretting that fact because the food was amazing. After dining and socializing, the guys and girls split for separate family devos.

Saturday night I stayed at the Lewis house because Courtny's 16th birthday was the next day. She and I stayed up till 4 a.m. watching movies and being stupid. It was fun, though. Sunday morning the family gathered together for a little roadtrip. We went to the nearby Huang Long Reservoir where we rented a boat. It was my first time to go to the reservoir and I was amazed by the beauty of the surrounding scenery. Mountains jutted up all around us, and the water was really clear. After awhile of singing and learning, many of us went swimming in the cool, clear water. We were out there all afternoon, which is evident if you see Brian's red face!

Last night we celebrated Courtny's birthday with taco salad and lots of cake. Then we watched the season finale of LOST which was awesome. We had a full house, or I should say, the Lewises had a full house, and despite Brian's constant threats of dismemberment if anyone talked during LOST, everyone made it through the show entact. I spent the night again last night at the Lewises and decided to make use of their Internet while they go eat lunch this morning. I actually need to head home, probably clean up, plan my classes for this week, and prepare for meeting with students for dinner tonight. Brian and I rescheduled some of our classes to meet in small groups outside of class. Many of these groups have come to my apartment to cook dinner for us (which is pretty sweet because most of them can cook really well), but tonight I'm going to have dumplings at some restaurant with some of the boys in my class who can't speak English... It should be, um, well, a long evening.