I’ve never seen Mission: Impossible 3– which is not surprising when you consider that I have also never seen classics like Ghost, Pretty in Pink, The Karate Kid, Goonies, Dances with Wolves, or The Bodyguard in its entirety. I’m just not that interested in movie-watching, although I do grant exceptions for Harry Potter films and anything with Twilight in its title. But I think I’ll try to find MI3 at the Night Market soon because over the weekend, HFLS took us on a Foreign Teacher Bonding Trip to a water village called Wuzhen, and according to Bao, some of that movie’s scenes were shot there. Plus if I really concentrate, I think I’ll be able to remember Tom Cruise before he was (publicly, anyway) kind of a lunatic.
The school treated us like dignitaries on this mini-vacation. We had private transportation and upon checking in, realized that we had our own rooms too. (A luxury, although I have to say that I was a teensy bit disappointed that Trisha and I were not sharing a room, as we’re pretty much Siamese-twinned at this point.) This is beyond nerdy and not something I normally do, but I had to take a quick video of the room. It was just so…accommodating.
(As I note in the video, I did watch the last 30 or so minutes of The Bodyguard on HBO…the only 30 minutes of that movie I’ve ever seen.)
Other trips I’ve taken within China have been more like “adventures” than “vacations,” but spending the night in Wuzhen was more resort-y than anything. Some of my students had warned me that Wuzhen was very touristy, so I expected to meet people who would thrust fake gold watches under my nose and yell “HalloHalloHalloHalloHalloHallo” like auctioneers. Not the case. The part of town in which we stayed- the refurbished West End- is owned entirely by one company whose attention to detail recreates well the experience of living on canals. Things were very comfortable, very quiet, very beautiful. The one company thing makes it a bit like Disney World (except way cooler), which I’d not normally be interested in, but as evidenced by the Hainan excursion, I’ll try anything in China once.
And this really was a wonderful respite. Aside from the more-than-comfortable accommodations, one of the administrators at school arranged all of our meals, which we ate canal-side in the open spring air. One of my absolute favorite parts of this whole China experience has been slowing down enough to really enjoy eating (spoken like a true fat kid, I know). Social gatherings are built around these feasts, and friends linger over plates for hours as happy servers bring new dish after new dish. Everything is shared, so even if you’ve never met the person sitting to your right, you at least have the eggy pumpkin slices to talk about.
Our lunch table on Saturday.
The view from my seat at the table.
The dishes at lunch. When I get home, I’m going to buy Chinese dishware. The little bowl and spoon in the background are used for mixing dishes, for rice, and for soup; the cup in the foreground is for tea; and the plate is used for animal bones and extra fat, anything you don’t want to eat. Rather than pulling bones out of your mouth with your fingers (gross), you just spit them onto the plate.
Our languid dinner on Friday night lapsed into nighttime, so we had some lovely views of lights on the water and passing boats. My camera- bless its mechanical little heart- really can’t take a decent night picture, so bear with the blurries.
There are 2 musicians on this boat, playing traditional Chinese instruments.
This boat was one of my favorites.
This was the bar/nightclubby part of town. Bumping music, but still pretty quaint.
As we settled into Friday night, Sabrina and I opted for 60 minute foot massages rather than glasses of wine. Our massage practitioners were this pair of probably 20 year old men (I mentioned this in a post back in February, but women are always massaged by men in China- and vice versa- to maintain the balance of yin and yang) who kept us laughing throughout the massage and who took probably 25 pictures of and with each of us. I’m 95% sure my practitioner is now telling his friends about his redheaded American girlfriend, but since he brought us extra cookies (massages come with snacks!), I’m all right with that.
This guy cracked me up. Parts of my massage really hurt- he activated some sort of acupuncture hotspots- and when I would make a face or wince (or shriek, because that happened), he’d just giggle and tell me to grab onto the canopy supports next to me.
Though the massages are- in name, anyway- just for your feet, you get your back and shoulders worked on too. With mallets. Hurts soooo good!
This is actually Sabrina’s practitioner, but since we were all friends by the end of the experience, we needed a picture together too.
Saturday morning found us rested (my feet felt a-MA-zing!), so we explored our little water village (affectionately and proudly known as Venice in China). In these fields grow rapa plants, whose seeds are used to make cooking oil. They’re blooming all over the Hangzhou area right now. Sweet-smelling and fresh.
Some sort of ceremony was taking place in the village (Disney princess parade?).
This woman later climbed the pagoda (see above nighttime pictures) with her entourage.
This outdoor amphitheater looks like it seats thousands. We didn’t see a show in Wuzhen, but they have plenty of stages.
These men would row and drum, row and drum, up and down the canals. Trisha noted that these are Cooper colors.
The entrance to a small temple. Inside, Trisha gave Sabrina and I an impromptu lesson the major differences between Buddhism and Hinduism. It made me want to take her World Religions unit.
Fragrant incense. (Which, aside from being used in prayer, is also used to sweeten odiferous bathrooms. We’re currently using sticks of it to ward off the sewer stench that seeps up into our bathroom through the drain. Hopefully the worsening smell isn’t because of the warming weather…)
And all at once, we were back in Hangzhou. We left on a cool, damp Friday, and returned on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon. I apologize if the pictures of springtime here are getting old, but I can’t help it. I’ve realized that Hangzhou is a sort of city-garden. I feel like landscapers constantly comb the city and examine its every angle to make sure that there’s an orderly yet natural, wild beauty on every strip of land that’s not covered in paving stones or asphalt. And the farther out from the city center you find yourself, the wilder it gets.
Peach tree blossoms at school.
The tea fields near Meijiawu, which was recently written about in the Mpls Star Tribune! Thanks to Stephanie B, Charley B, and Mom for the article: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/119363114.html?page=all&prepage=1&c=y
Fun to read- especially because his take on Hangzhou is totally different than mine- but I’m disappointed that the author didn’t try any eel. It’s fantastic, and it’s about 483290483290432 times easier to remove bones from eel than from fish.
This teahouse/cafe/bar is called Luma. Trisha and I stopped here for some Longjing tea over Qing Ming.
And now, in the spirit of Asian writing styles, I’m coming around to the point of this blog (I’ve been working with a lot of students studying for the writing portion of the S.A.T. and/or trying to get into summer language camps with American style essays). Why Accommodations?
I felt very spoiled and very special this weekend to have my employer treat me to such a relaxing (and frankly, quite decadent) respite from city life and city crowds, although in many ways, I feel treated by the people and sights in Hangzhou as well. I have this overwhelming desire (which I’ve expressed before) to make the next round of foreign teachers at Minnetonka my new BFFs and in some small way, start to pay forward the kindnesses shown to me here. Which is why I was thrilled to learn this weekend that Anna, our co-teacher at HFLS, will be teaching at White Bear Lake this fall. Anna is funny and sweet and considerate, and we were lucky to meet her (new-ish) husband this weekend and then admire how in love they are. I can’t wait for her to visit Minnesota, and I want to accommodate her every wish and then some.
Not only is she a great friend, but she is the only person I’ve met in China who likes baseball. She doesn’t know too much about American baseball, but she played in college and loves the game. Good thing scalping is legal in Minnesota, because I’ll probably pick her up from the airport and take her right to Target Field. And though I will of course accommodate her schedule, I also plan to monopolize her weekends with trips to the North Shore and dinners at our favorite restaurants. I want America to be her second home, the way China is mine.