(I offer one excuse for the delayed posting. My internet sucks and it takes about 5 hours to post pictures.)
Been a while since I’ve updated, but in all truthiness I have no good excuse for my lack of posting. The past few weeks have been filled with quite a lot of adventures and all-around good times. Lesson plans have been coming more and more easily as I’ve gotten into the groove of teaching. Last week we talked a lot about Halloween and told scary stories to one another. This week, with the U.S. elections looming we’ll be talking about elections and government (in a very neutral manner, so I don’t piss anyone off).
The writing of Halloween stories did result in the creation of at least one sentence that is a complete gem. The whole story looked rather like a poor google translation, and somewhere in the middle was the line: “Optimus Prime fights Black Dragon.” What??? That just doesn’t make sense.
Aside from classes, the harsh cold winds of winter have set themselves upon Kaifeng. All of my students delight in telling me to wear more clothing and keep warm (as if I wasn’t aware of cold weather). I delight in their faces of shock and horror when I stroll into class in a t-shirt and a bottle of ice water (冰水!?! How do you drink it!? Just watching you drink it makes us cold!). We’ve been told that the heat in our apartments won’t be turned on til November 15. I delight in not being a stranger to the cold, and warmly (haha) recall my year in a Japanese home which lacked insulation and heat. Brrrrr.
So anyway, let’s post some pictures and other stuff for ya’ll (the pictures will be in a gallery at here, because it takes my internet 15 minutes to add one single picture, so feel free to click through them whenever you feel like it :-)).
On Sunday, October 17th, we traveled by van to the nearby, infamous Shaolin Temple (小林寺). Yes, the Shaolin Temple– not some knock-off. The monastery has long been an outstanding of Chinese martial arts, having been founded in the 5th century and since developing a unique form of Kung Fu. The night before our trip I had a dream that I was studying at their famed Kung Fu schools and that I had long, 18 hour training days. A pity I haven’t enrolled yet– I think it would be quite an adventure.
The day started out bright and early at 7:30. We met with Ms. Ma, the assistant director of the foreign experts, and promptly packed ourselves into the van. The ride took just under 2 hours, which was the perfect amount of time for me to grade a class-worth of scary stories and do a Chinese lesson. When we arrived, we purchased tickets and entered the gates. As I am apt to point out, I have always felt that Buddhist temples (like most places of worship) are a thinly veiled racket. The entry fee per person was 100 RMB or roughly $15. Not too pricey to the average foreigner, but to a Chinese (and a person living on a Chinese salary) this seems a little outrageous. This view point is reinforced by the all-too-typical, hypocritical monks who often partake in many, many pleasures of the flesh (including alcohol, computers, and even cellphones).
Once we had entered we approached a temple surrounded by young practitioners of Kung Fu. Apparently there was to be a Kung Fu show at 10:30, but the tickets were sold out for that particular time, so we chose to continue on to the main shrine area.
Anyway, we made our way through the monastery grounds until we reached the main set of temple buildings. There we spent a great deal of time walking around and observing. Everyone shared their knowledge of Buddhist temples, each of us learning a little bit in the process. We moved on, eventually, through the throngs of people who were now crowded into the main area, and utilized a small and sparsely populated high-road to journey to the nearby grave-towers. The view from the high-road was really quite lovely, and it offered us a breath of fresh air from the otherwise touristy sights.
After we climbed down from the high-road we were able to spend some time mingling amongst the grave-towers of the past abbots and important monks of Shaolin. The area was very beautiful, and certainly highlights the impermanence of this lifetime.
We continued onward, as Ms. Ma was getting hungry for lunch. As we approached a large set of steps up Mt. Song, a woman began harassing us to take the tram high into the mountains. Not being a group to disappoint a harassing woman, we began our unplanned ascent of Mt. Song. The tram ride lasted for a very peaceful 15 minutes, and would put the sky-ride at Cedar Point to absolute shame. On the way up I snapped several photos of the surrounding cliffs and mountains, trying my best not to scare my passenger.
At the end of our ascent by cable-car, we began to climb our way up the rest of the mountain manually. The stairs and hills provided little challenge for the younger members of our group, but Ms. Ma was struggling a fair bit as we neared the top. After some struggle and perhaps a half hour of climbing we reached the summit of Mt. Song and were rewarded with a gorgeous view. It was a true pleasure to sit at the top and pose for photographs before beginning our descent.
The cable-car ride down was slightly more scary than the way up as this time one could truly see the height to which we had traveled. Luckily we were able to make it back with no problem (although there were a good few moments of trying to throw a container of floss from one car to the next… with little luck). Ms. Ma’s tummy was grumbling, so we went to the restaurant located in Shaolin Temple and ordered the Kung Fu noodles. All of the food at the temple is vegan, in accordance with the Buddhist practices, so the soup was full of delicious faux meats and the tofu which was served with the noodles was divine.
As the day was growing late and we needed to return to the university we began to make our way back to the car. We walked back through the same paths which we had taken to get to the temple earlier that day, finally arriving at the original building where we had tried to see the Kung Fu show earlier that day. This time we had to wait about 10 minutes, but were able to assure ourselves seats. The process for getting in might be likened to running with the bulls. The moment the doors opened up the Chinese began pushing and shoving each other to get ahead and get a good seat from which to view the spectacle.
The show itself was pretty cool. It consisted of about 30 minutes of Kung-Fu practitioners showing off their skills as well as a final 10 minute audience-engaging section which required 3 audience volunteers to attempt to mimic the actions of the Kung Fu masters. As you can probably guess, this last bit was rather hilarious to watch.The participants were awarded with some sort of prize though, so it felt alright to laugh at them a good bit.
After the show we continued to head back to the van. It had grown very cold and I was cursing myself for not wearing clothes. “Ah well,” I thought to myself as I walked slowly. “Perhaps next time…”
Tune in this Thursday, November 11, for a fun filled post titled: “The Monster Mash! — Or, how we celebrated Hallomas in China!” Thanks for reading 🙂