Monday, June 24, 2013

George the Galapagos Turtle

We got a phone call the other day from our company saying that we should attend an event.  I couldn't get much information from her so we decided to go since the school is very new and Michelle could possibly work there next semester since she will be changing schools. The only information we really received was that we would not need to do anything at this even and we should dress nice.

Only one of the two ended up actually being true.  We started the afternoon a little bit angry at our company since they picked us up in their car outside of our apartment gate, meaning that we had to walk through the rain in our nice clothes because they didn't think to pick us up at our building.  When we were arrived, a man, who we believe to be the headmaster or vice headmaster shook our hands and thanks us a lot. That seemed a little weird since all were we doing was sitting and watching some event. WRONG.  The next person we meet is a teacher who is in charge of the day.  She tells us that the school is trying to raise environmental awareness by holding this on the anniversary of the death of the last giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands (His name was George, he was 100, and he died a year ago).

"Cool," we thought as we checked out the amazingly new and technologically advanced schools.  Kids were playing on these touchscreen computers that were everywhere.  I was interested in the giant turtle they put in the lobby.  Then, like what always seems to happen in China, the instructions were completely wrong.  She hands us a few sheets of paper and tells us that this is what we will read for the ceremony...........Michelle and I glance at each other while trying to harness our rage at our company. Of course they didn't mention the reason why the school randomly wanted us there.

We followed the teacher to a big stage and seating area where we practiced our bit.  The speech itself wasn't so bad, it was just the fact that people struggle to give us a straight answer on a weekly basis here sometimes.  Besides running pretty long, the performances were really really funny.  Here is the video play-by-play of what happened during the show:

"George, we loved you."

Short people mic

It started with two tiny kids, a girl and a boy, paired with what we thought was a local news team to give the introductions.  The really little girl was cracking us up since she already had the news anchor and body language down.  This group came in from time to time to mediate between the different acts but in the very beginning it seemed they started too early.   Someone yelled at them to stop and wait for all of the important Suzhou Education Bureau people to sit down. They restarted and these little organizational errors filled the entire show.

The first performance started off nice and creepy.  Kids held a candlelight vigil for the poor dead turtle.  Michelle says they were celebrating his life.  I see it as the start of a resurrection process since my speech used those exact words. Another theory includes a flashback from last year where this is the funeral that was held for George.

The students and some woman sang about George and nature in general.  Makes total sense to me that this song would be the prelude to the next. Call it a George the turtle's soul rain dance if you will.

BOOM! Right into the ridiculous action I was hoping for.  Smoke, lights, children in weird costumes, and of course the rave music breakdown in the middle!  Again this is where Michelle and I interpret the show a little differently.  Obviously the soul of George the turtle has risen to speak to each and all of the Chinese Zodiac animals.  He is possibly warning them that their future might not be so bright.  Seems the exchange between him and the dragon is a bit awkward.  As you can see the student dressed in everyday turtle-wear is lip syncing George's actual voice (Possessed? Channeling George?) and the animals (now brought to life flowers) almost seem to threaten the audience during the rave section.  Can't tell if this performance is really happy or really dark.

Just some small students giving some poems about animals.  This is probably the comic relief part of the show.  I don't know why I laughed at the pig one though.  I think it's because it was getting a little long by the time the poems started.

No words.

I was running out of space on the phone so unfortunately I missed the part where the kid chased the frogs around with the machete. The moral of this story is that you should love and protect nature instead of randomly murder them all (it's a metaphor).

George has actually been resurrected! His physical body is shown on stage while the children dance around it.

While typing this I somehow forgot the part where the animal kids danced down from stage and of course the turtle grabbed us by the hand to pull us to the stage.  Once we were on the stage, all the animals and the head administration people that were sniped from their seats formed a big awkward holding hands circle for about 20 seconds.  Their may have been a leg kid thing that was trying to get going? It was too much for the lady who drove us there as she bit the dust and fell to the ground.  We then stopped, all the kids bowed, and come confetti bombs exploded. The end.

I think what they actually were aiming for was to try and get kids to protect the environment for future generations.  Obviously we didn't know what was being said most of the time, except for the random English slogans that would be inserted such as "We love animals"  or "baby"  or "George the turtle".  Even these might as well been in Chinese because we didn't understand "baby".  They had a conservationist from Ecuador speak (through a translator in English) to us about the importance of environmental protection.  We joined in right after him as the foreign teachers to try and keep the kids interested a little bit longer before the main part of the show.  There was also many drawn out award ceremonies throughout the 'celebration?' Hopefully Michelle can lock up a job at this school. It's literally one of the nicest schools I've ever seen in my life but regardless of that they put on a pretty awesome show!
*Don't' think I should have to say this but I think some people have been getting confused.  Whenever I write blog posts, most of what I say is a joke.*

Just the rave part again, since I know you'll probably need at least one more watch.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Little Miss Muffet

It was a VERY stressful morning two days ago. I got up, all excited that it was cool out which meant Tommy and I could go to this great street that is very Chinese with all these little shop (the street is called Shantang). 
Shantang Street from a while back.

Anyway, I go into the living room and see that our long curtains are stuck in the screen door. I pull them out and a HUGE JUNE BUG freaking drops on my foot. So I scream and dance away (and it was QUITE a scream, very: AHHAHAAA).
Not the actual June Bug just another horrific one for  you to consider while reading to understand the reason for my immense distress.

After my initial horrified shock has passed, I'm staring at this thing and it looks dead so I'm considering texting Tommy about the drama and trauma of this event when suddenly it starts moving which I totally feared it would having watched an episode of Doctor Who last night where the cybermat "played possum" as Matt Smith said with air quotes included.

"Playing Possum" with Matt Smith
So I grab some kleenex to pick it up because I can't squish it because it has that hard exoskeleton and I'm thinking I will absolutely gag if it crunches under my delicate fingers. Anyway, I'm going for a scooping method of picking up and I'm using two kleenex lest I am somehow able to feel the June Bug more under one kleenex. So I'm scooping away but I drop the June Bug again and it starts moving again so I scream again.

Self-evident: Me screaming at picking up the bug.

Deciding I'm so so done with this evil gross bug, (and all the screaming because my neighbors probably thinking I'm being murdered at this point) I snatch the June Bug up real quick and fling it onto our balcony and slam the screen door shut. Then I stand there with my heart racing while I watch the thing start twitching back to life to scuttle away.

So. Traumatic.

And during my whole bug molestation, Tommy was at work. Andddddd when he came home he was BARELY sympathetic. It was atrocious. What will marriage bring? I mean I survived something major here and Tommy is like, would you rather it had dropped on your shirt instead of your foot? -___-

Because bugs, BIG bugs, and Michelle simply do not mix:   

What Little Miss Muffet actually experienced.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

There is a paradise in heaven, On earth there is Hangzhou

Once again we experienced how China does holidays for Dragon Boat Festival and after working 7 days straight we we're rewarded with a 3 day vacation.  We chose to check out Hangzhou, which is about 1:40 from our Suzhou home via bullet train, to take in a bit of nature while doing some hiking near the famous West Lake (Xi Hu).

We arrived and with a little amount of confusion found the cab stand where an angry cabby almost refused to take us out across the lake until the nice guy who worked at the railway station told the guy to take us or leave.  Anyway we got to our hotel, checked in, and walked down this really traditional looking Chinese road with people chopping up vegetables and small tables being served noodles.  This made us a little bit nervous for what the room might look like but all fear was washed away when we entered.  It was the nicest room we stayed in during our time in China, only to be trumped by the hotel in which we stayed during our second night (we stayed at two hotels because everything was booked up).

China suburbia
After a short rest in the room, we were off at about 12:30 to do some hiking.  Anything East of the lake is a city while the entire West side is a national park which is completely covered in history and nature.  During our time in China, we realized that we took living in Michigan for granted with it's many trees, and clean lakes, rivers, and streams.  China's population is just too large for these things sometimes.  We took our cab to a place called Jiuxi 18 Stream named for its many streams.  3 hours of walking through temples, waterfalls, and trails up small mountains, we found ourselves on the top of a smaller village on the mountain.  Only our legs noticed the slight incline that we slowly took to get to the top and even though the view was really beautiful, our worries were focused on how we would get down.  This ended up not being a problem as we found a bus stop that took us back near the lake.

View from the top of our hike

Trees + Water + Peace Sign
Waterfall on the hike up
There is a lady behind me yelling "Hallo". She has tea for sale

Next, we took another cab to Lingyin temple.  The ride took us completely around the lake giving us great views of the many boats in the water and people riding bikes on the paths. Everywhere you looked people were riding the public bikes that the city supplies for about $0.16 or 1 Yuan per 90minutes after you apply.  Suzhou also has this program but we haven't used it since we bought the E-bike.  The other option is to rent bikes privately and these vendors are everywhere too.  Your options are the standard bike, a tandem bike for two, a tandem with three seats, or a tandem with three seats and a tiny seat in front for a small child.

West Lake's 5 star cruises

Public bikes

We got to Lingyin a little late since they told us that it closed at 5:30 and after eating lunch it was already 4:30.  We decided to pay the fee and enter anyway.  This was by far the best attraction we have visited in China.  The park was divided into two parts.  One part was the really huge temple that is still in operation while the other part is full of caves with ancient Buddhist stone carvings from the 10th to the 14th centuries called Fei Lai Feng.  We completely ignored the temple and spent the hour looking at the hundreds of carved statues in and outside of the caves.  One cave even had bats flying around and to our surprise a few sleeping bats (and giant spiders) showed up in a few of our cave pictures where we had been touching the wall and using a flash light but never saw them.  We could have spent hours in this park and plan to go back a different time.

Not sure if anyone brings night vision goggles to read the signs

Carvings on the outside of one of the caves

Stone carvings


Day 2 we had the hotel check our luggage and we started off early again to see the National Tea Museum.  This was another really unique place to see.  We walked through the museum posing in the model tea houses until a security guard nicely yelled at Michelle who became really embarrassed.  Usually in China if there are stairs or a path leading up to things like this it is fair game to climb on them.  After the museum we walked through the tea fields outside and headed back for our next point of interest.

Tea fields

Hangzhou has a love affair with waterfalls

Rows of tea


The next place we went was a large pagoda located on the lake.  We figured we'd find lunch before entering but we quickly found that there were not many places to eat on the national park side of the lake.  This resulted in us putting off climbing the pagoda until later and involved us walking a really far distance through a really nice park that we were too crabby and hungry to care much for back to our hotel.  What made us most angry was that after we were walking for a while through the park towards our hotel we realized it was surrounded by water making it a peninsula, so we had to backtrack the entire distance. I grabbed some pictures thinking that we could enjoy it after!  We got our checked baggage and headed to our next hotel, feeling pretty exhausted probably because of our ridiculously far hike the day before added on to our recent hike through the park.

These photos were taken by angry and hungry people

That awkward moment when there suddenly isn't a bridge

Stupid boat....maybe I'll use this picture later

We changed our plan a bit, rented bikes, and headed into the city side of the lake to get lunch.  We did consider the tandem but after seeing all of the people looking out of control on them we chose otherwise.  After lunch we biked down along the lake to Hefang Street to do a little shopping but it was mostly for looking and people watching.  We didn't really plan on buying anything as it was filled with the typical tourist items that we have gotten a bit used to but Michelle and I couldn't resist adding two very small pet jellyfish.  We bought them for around a $2.5 American, dropped them off at the hotel, and finished our previous plan of climbing the pagoda near the lake.

Not sure why the back tire is smaller
Xi Hu

Stalls on Hefang Street

Wait...Those are...JELLYFISH?!?! Get my wallet!

We ended the night by walking in the modern and westernized area of Hangzhou where we had dinner.  After dinner we completed the on going search to find Michelle the right flower hat that everyone seemed to be wearing around.  Next to the place where we got the flower hat we watched a musical water show on the lake before calling it a night.

The statue in the back is angry because she's sitting on their game

Fireworks are too common for "OHs and AHs". Water shows are not.

Day 3 we had time to cover some ground since our train wasn't scheduled to leave until 3:00pm.  We went straight to another temple that was located close to our hotel on our side of the lake.  The temple was pretty cool and was something worth doing since it was really cheap to get in.

Killin waves. NBD.

Next we headed by foot(again) to the City God Pavilion that was this huge place that we first saw when we walked through Hefang Street and later viewed it from the Liuhe Tower.  It took us some time to get to it since we had to climb a good sized hill . It was really big and there were many buildings including a 6 story tower each with many rooms to go inside of.  Along with the Pavilion there were many hiking trails that we took with  small caves and small waterfalls along the way.

City God Pavilion
Feet hurt but sooo cool

Imagine if this was your front door
Take 3

After another walking-filled day we had just enough time to grab some food accompanied with a coke ice cream float to make our train and speed back to Suzhou. For the next day or so our feet and legs needed to recover from the distances we hiked.  Though we were sad our awesome vacation was over, we didn't mind being back at home with both our e-bike and a way better public transportation system.