Springtime in Liuyang

Trip Start Aug 08, 2004
Trip End Aug 2005

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ah...springtime in Liuyang. Rain, rain, and more rain. The week in Tibet provided a lot of contemplation and relaxation time, and somehow coming back "home" seemed even more distasteful after the brilliant skies and grandiose scenery of the Himalayas.

Remember those purple mushrooms that were growing out of my bathroom door back in October? Now I have some enormous bright orange mushrooms that have taken their place. And I think it's mating season for the cockroaches (do roaches have a mating season?). I've seen little ones running around my kitchen, so now I've taken to walking everywhere with a can of Raid in hand, as I did in the good old days of last summer. The long, cold winter seems like a distant memory.

Before I left town last week, I attended Maggie's wedding. Maggie is one of the English teachers at my school, and my foreign affairs officer. The auspicious time for the ceremony was apparently at noon on a Thursday. Which meant the wedding reception was basically a lunch break in the middle of a work day. The bride and groom hosted a party at the Liuyang River Hotel, right next to the McDonalds on Walking Street.

When Tommy, Gardenia and I walked in, the reception was at full swing in a large smoky room. Hundreds of people sat around circular tables, 10 people to a table. No one was dressed up in the slightest. Some people even wore t-shirts and jeans. All of the guests, who were munching frantically on plates of snacks and pouring drinks, seemed completely oblivious to the ruckus taking place on the stage at the front of the room. The ruckus being the actual wedding vows. The ceremony was loud and gaudy, complete with an emcee cracking jokes and people throwing gifts of stuffed animals onstage. Maggie and Patrick said a few things into the microphone, linked arms and drank a glass of wine.

Then we got down to the real exciting part of the wedding: the food. Soft-shelled turtle, roasted duck, pig stomach, bamboo shoots, beady-eyed shrimp...Maggie changed from her sparkly white wedding gown and emerged in a traditional red Chinese satin wedding dress, complete with the slit up to mid-thigh. She and Patrick proceeded to make the rounds, drinking a shot each of Liuyang He (bai jiu, or white alcohol) at each and every table. Less than 45 minutes later, the party was over, people having stuffed their faces and gotten wasted. Now it was naptime. Most of the guests filled plastic bags with the leftover food (oranges, apples, cake, and candy) and toted them home.

Later that night I went over to Rola's house for dinner. She is now over three months into her pregnancy and is taking some extreme precautions to make sure that this one is successful. She plans to stay in her apartment for the entire nine months, since going outside and being too active might be dangerous for the baby. She also shuffles everywhere within the apartment, since walking too fast might also be hazardous. In addition, Rola has given up eating all packaged foods, since they have "bad things" in them. It seems that the pregnant woman's craving for pickles is a universal phenomenon. She eats about a pound of pickled turnips a day, and sent me home with a plastic bag full of my own supply to munch on. Mmmm...I know you're jealous.

The teaching remains the same: tedious, but with rare moments of reward. Aside from the moments when I get a call five minutes before I leave my apartment to go to school and am told, "No class today. So I think, maybe, you can have a rest," things have been going fairly smoothly. To get a more comprehensive look at my school, check out this link: www.ccproject.org/china/liuyang The username is "world," and the password is "teach." This is from Paul and Lilia's trip (on behalf of Creative Connections) to Liuyang about a month ago. The kids are four of my best students: Alan, Mike, Sophie and Sally, who very obligingly offered to be tour guides early on a rainy Saturday morning.

Also at school, the students received the next round of pen pal letters from the American students. Handing out the letters was one of the few moments when I felt justified in being a teacher here. The level of excitement rivaled Christmas day (or in this case, Spring Festival). The letters they wrote in response, as usual, had a few particularly amusing quotes which I will share with you.

"Dear Bogarr, I'm Jemmy. I live in Liuyang, China. I am 13 years old. I love playing all kinds of balls." -Jemmy

"I want to be a roam about poet. Because is very cool!" -Gail

"Do you have girs friend? I have girs friend." -Andy (I'm assuming he meant girlfriend)

"I live in Liuyang, Hunan. Do you like me? I like you! My favorite food is hot dog."
-Carl (Carl was very excited about having a female pen pal. He wanted to know if she was interested in having a Chinese boyfriend, and if he could give her a call sometime).

"I want to be a people teacher." -Amy

"My favorite food is potato. I think it is great! Do you like it? My favorite animal is small pig. Because it is very cute...Ha! Ha! I am a funny girl!" -Gina

"What do you want to be? How's the weather? What kind of noodles would you like?" -Luke

"I am very happy to have pen pal from the Maryland. I think you are happy girl. Yes or no? Do you like dumplings? I can cook. Do you want to eat me cook!" -Sophie

"Dear Alex...I hope you can go to my home. My home is Liuyang. You true could like to have a look at your aspect. Alex you there are girlfriend. Jocose, you no should anger. My real greatly be aware of." -Sky

"Methinks you certain very beautiful." -Helen

"I want to be an air hostess. Because methinks. Fly." -Lily

"Dear Sarah...Thanks for your letter. You're very good at writing English." -Sally
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