07.03.2012 - 08.03.2012 20 °C
Since my last blog, I have experienced my second ever woman's day. China celebrates this day with everything it has- every woman gets half a day off of work (though I don't think it really counts because they have to make up the work the next day), and many companies take women on 'field trips' to scenic areas, or spas, and out to dinner.
Our activities were preceded by an Junior 1 teachers party. All the woman were serenaded by the male members of staff- they even danced! The male teachers drew names out of a box to decide who they gave a rose to. I feel bad for the poor guy who drew my name; I could see him in the corner practice how to say 'happy woman's day', which, when it came down to the crucial moment, he stuttered 'woman day happy'. The principal came to join us, and was greeted with a standing ovation. Following her speech, she did the ceremonial cutting of the cake.
All the women from my school then loaded onto a a procession of buses; Roger and one other male teacher were the only non-female members on the excursion. We were told that they were there to 'take care of the women'. After driving for over an hour in awful rain and impromptu Karaoke, we stumbled out of the bus (which was full of women being sick!) and into the middle of a cloud on top of Lotus Mountain in Panyu. Apparently when they say we are going to 'hike up a mountain' they actually mean that the bus will drive us to the top and we will ponder around for a few minutes. Unlucky for us, we had really no view at all!
Gabriella on the left, and Shelly with a pineapple on the right
Roger and Jason, and a wishing tree (you can buy a red ribbon and throw it over the tree for good luck)
Roger and I found the artificial "beauty" of this mountain pretty ridiculous. Rather than enjoying nature, they have concreted over much of the mountain, and lined the paths with cardboard cut outs of rabbits, and giant styrofoam apples, strawberries and bananas, covered in plastic flowers that quickly fade from the humidity. It's a beauty that only Chinese people can truly appreciate I think.
Alongside a couple of English teachers from my office, we wandered down the mountain until we reached the bottom of cliff faces. Carved into the sides were big Chinese characters filled in with red paint. To us, they were rather obvious recent additions to the mountain, and we jokingly said they were there to look like 'ancient Chinese cave writing'... but our friends reactions were 'Oh wow! look at the ancient writing!!!', and hundreds of photos were taken.
After only walking downhill for 50 minutes, it occurred to the teachers we'd probably need to start walking uphill if we want to make it to the before it left in 20 minutes. When we met an intersection of a few paths, everyone panicked. Stepping back, Roger and I could easily see that 2 of the paths led directly into the side of a cliff, and another led down the mountain; as we needed to be going up, there was only one path that would be an option. It took the other teachers five minutes of debating to figure this out- and even then, half of them decided to walk on the path that would literally hit the side of a cliff 100 meters further. A sense of direction is something that is severely lacked over here. I can only guess that it's because they rarely leave the confines of the school, and when they do, they are normally accompanied by a tour guide and a large group of other tourists.
We made it back to the bus, albeit 20 minutes late, then we drove for another hour in the opposite direction from our school to get to a 'very famous' and 'very special' restaurant. When things are very famous here- they mean they are massive, huge open rooms full of thousands of people. And on this day it was thousands of women. It was a buffet style restaurant, and you have to hunt out your own food. This would normally be a good option for me, as I can see what dish I'm committing myself to, but in this case there is no other word to describe it other than hell. Chinese crowds, pushing and shoving are bad enough- let alone when there are 10 women fighting over one pancake that takes 5 minutes to make! We spent more time just trying to get the food than actually sitting at the table. Although there was probably a lot of good food there (NOT the Shark Fin soup section though!), my plate with 'Italian style spaghetti' did me just fine.
I always find it interesting how Chinese people really seem to enjoy themselves when they are in these incredibly crowded situations; at times I wonder whether there will actually be a crush and I hope there are no small children cramped in there somewhere. Where I get anxious, uncomfortable and incredibly annoyed... they smile, laugh, and look like they are really enjoying themselves!! This is a method I've tried to adapt to my own life, but I can only do it for so long before I have an elbow in my back and my mood swiftly changes, or when I'm standing patiently in a queue and someone walks to the front, ignoring the people behind.
Regardless, it's an experience like no other in the world.
A typical Pearl River Delta Town, next to the mountain; an incense room next to a little buddhist temple. They look like Vietnamese hats, but they are actually coils of incense
Unfortunately the weather wasn't clearer- otherwise we might see my school in the far distance!