Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31: 祝你万圣节快乐!

Dear Friends and Family,

Have a very Happy Halloween! I hope you're enjoying the Fall weather! It's finally getting cold over here, but we are still blessed with mostly sunny days! Halloween is not really celebrated over here in China but I "carved" a "pumpkin" anyways to get into the spirit of one of my favorite holidays! I also wore a costume to a birthday party dinner tonight, but I'll get the pictures tomorrow.

Maybe it was a cantaloupe and maybe I just drew on it with a sharpie. 

Happy Halloween in Chinese: Zhu ni wansheng jie kuai le!



TGIF: Thank Goodness it's Fall!

October 1-7: National Holiday Week


The first week of October was a week of celebration! In China people celebrate 中秋节, or Mid-Autumn Festival. Another name for this celebration is the Moon Festival. During this time people are supposed to go back to their families and eat moon cakes. Have you tried a moon cake before? I ate a few different types; they were interesting to say the least. One had pork fat in it, another had egg yolk, and the last (and I believe one of the more popular ones here) was a bitter bean paste. Guess which one I liked. Definitely not the pork fat...

Many Chinese students returned home during this national holiday week, so the International Student Office helped the International Students throw a little celebration. We made jiaozi (dumplings) and ate mooncakes, and listened to some music.  

Century Eggs
I also ate pidan, which is a type of preserved egg. According to tradition they are buried for a hundred years or a thousand years in ash, and then you eat it. (There is now a chemical process so I think it takes a month or less to make, nowadays.) After a chemical change in the composition of the egg, the egg white turns black and jelly-like and the yolk is blue-green. Talk about an interesting looking meal! I managed to eat half of one. They taste like very old boiled eggs. I usually like hard-boiled eggs, but I got psyched out by the color and texture of the egg and wouldn't finish it. 

黔灵山公园 (Qianling Mountain Park)

View of Guiyang from the tower on top of Qingling shan
In addition to jiaozi and mooncakes I planned some small Guizhou excursions with Jada, Mathew and Sara for the week. We went to Qianling Park (a Mountain in the middle of Guiyang that is well known for the monkeys that live there) on two consecutive days. The first day Mathew and Sara and I went to see the monkeys and the second day we all went paddle boating and climbed to the peak of the mountain. Once at the summit the view of Guiyang city was phenomenal!

 In addition to the monkeys, good scenery and paddle boats there were all sorts of other representations of Chinese culture. A few men were writing stories of their hometowns on the sidewalks by using water and huge brushes. I discovered a group of musicians playing the pipa, erhu, and several other instruments. Near the top of the mountain there is a Buddhist temple with a wall depicting the 9 dragons. 

Don't feed me century eggs!

Tower on top of Qianling shan

On the hike up to the top of the  mountain we fed the monkeys some snacks like bananas, pidan (see above), and nuts. The loved most of the food, but not the pidan! I guess monkeys and people are pretty similar in some aspects. Hahaha!  One of them even walked up to Jada on 2 legs and reached his hand into her pocket looking for food. Talk about brave monkeys! They were pretty much in charge of the middle section of the mountain.

I think that maybe every medium sized Chinese body of water has paddle boats you can rent. When I was in Yanqing we went out on one that has a bicycle pedal paddle. Not too tough. This time we got one with oars. We tried to cross the lake, but it took so much longer than we originally thought- so we only made it halfway. It was still a lot of fun and we got a bunch of strange looks and hellos from some Chinese tourists.

天河潭 (Tian He Tan)

Our next mini-vacation was to see the caves at Tian He Tan! This is probably one of the most well known tourist destinations in Guizhou province. It took a long time to get out to the actual park because it is not in the middle of the city. We trekked across the "100 Steps Pond" (actually 178, but who's counting?) and then  walked by a really neat old water wheel. The main attraction, however, was a boat ride through some caverns followed by an hour long hike back out to the open air. Here are some cool pictures from the caves and rest of Tian He Tan.
100 Steps Pond

There were a lot of multicolored lights in the caves.

Entering the caves!

These lights are obviously NOT NATURAL! But very pretty

I felt like I was in Candyland or a warp tube or something.
I just liked the way the light plays off the rock formations in this one.

At the end we zip-lined all the way back to the park entrance

Kaili and Leishan

Mountains around the Miao village
Hotpot! 1 side spicy, 1 side plain
Really pretty bridge outside of Miao village
So the last short trip planned was the longest! Jada, Sara, Mathew, Anupa, her husband, Arnab, and myself all went to Kaili for three days. Kaili has a large Miao minority population. While we were there we went to a Buddhist temple, a very sad zoo, and a smaller Miao village out in the countryside. It was a really interesting trip because I hadn't really been able to interact with many minority people. We also sat on buses a lot. In a spread out province like Guizhou, nothing is very close- except the snack shops! While in Kaili we mostly ate hotpot- when you're eating with Jews and Hindus in a city that doesn't serve chicken, kosher protein options are few and far between. I wasn't too excited about the hotpot, but we did try a Kaili specialty one night, a type of spicy fish hotpot. We also had a hotpot that used frog broth.

I just loved this sign!
A Miao girl and me
Traditional Miao dance

At the Miao village we ate some traditional food that I thought was better than hotpot. We also saw some cool dances and listened to traditional music. The best part about this particular village is that it wasn't overrun by tourists. We got to go inside some Miao people's houses and actually check out how they live for real instead of just "seeing a show", albeit, some of it was obviously just for profit.

The next day we went spent 2 hours in a bus on the way to Leishan. When we finally arrived we saw the fog outside and then took about 2 more hours back. No seriously- it was a bummer that the weather was too bad for this to be a good day. At least I caught up on sleep while riding the bus. 

And that was how I spent my Chinese National Holiday.