Graduation, Trip to Guangzhou and semester's end!

Trip Start Jan 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2008

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Graduation Day, Jan. 19
Today, Saturday, was a busy day. First Travis and I went in to proctor the TOEFL test.

This exam tests for English proficiency-both written and listening. There were 47 students taking it and it was interesting-and boring. Basically, all we are doing is making sure they don't read ahead or try to go back and finish a section that's already been done. They really want to-at least some of them do. They also wanted to mark in the test booklet VERY badly. We had to stop that too. But otherwise, it was pretty simple. Then lunch and then grading the TOEFL. The essays were interesting. They concerned what was leadership and what made a good leader. Many talked about leaders in business and others about political leaders in China. As in all tests, Some were very good and some not so good.
Then we had the graduation ceremony. There were only 4 students walking the stage this time so it was small. The very proud parents came and first there was a very nice tea with some very unusual treats. Many looked sweet and were not. One looked and sort of tasted like silly putty dusted with coconut??? Travis said the soft buns stuff with something tasted like they were stuffed with cat food. Chinese taste in sweets and desserts is very different! Graduation was fun-I like going to these ceremonies.
The students were very nervous and excited and their parents very proud-the ceremony lasted about 15 minutes and then the picture taking began! Oh my! There was lots and lots of pictures taken-the students were very sweet and wanted me in the pictures though I'm not sure they know who I am just yet except that I am Mr. Lamkin's mother. Everyone took pictures! Then we all went home and the semester is over! Trip to Guangzhou, Jan. 20
The next morning we got up early to take the school van into GZ-it's free and that's good. We got out at the Garden Hotel which is a very nice hotel and a very good landmark.It also has a place to change money which I wanted to do. First, we had breakfast at Starbucks which was quite nice but very crowded. We had a line getting food and then we went up stairs-nice couches, everything is very upscale in the Starbucks there. Osman and Scott were there so we sat and chatted and then decided if we were going to get anything done before lunch we better get going. So, we went back to the Garden to change money. Everything in China involves lines and waiting. But after what seemed a very long time since there were only 2 people in front of me and two windows open, I got Chinese money.

After that, we took a taxi to the old market area-they sell all kinds of foods and things there-I saw starfish, seahorses, lots of cats and dogs and a few parakeets being sold as pets (not lunch)-we know this because it was by a pet store that sold dog food, shampoo and some really cute outfits for little dogs. Some of the puppies and kittens were so cute-we all resisted but it was hard. Then we turned a corner and there was a very neat little shop selling all kinds of stuff! Mao statues, watches, clocks. Carved wooden zodiac figures,brass dragons, scrolls-a little tiny shop with all these neat things! BINGO. We all three crowded in and started picking up stuff and just really finding lots of neat things. Travis bargained for us-it was very cute-the woman was impressed with his Cantonese and realized I was his mother and Melissa his sister. She laughed and chatted and came down some-Travis says probably not enough but she and her sister were very nice. We got all kinds of things-some presents and lots for us. It seems like a lot of money til you convert it back to US dollars-I spent just about 100 bucks or a little less. They really didn't want us to go-ever! They gave us their card so we'd come back. I think we will too-they had some really nice things.
After we left the shop, we turned down another shop and there were buckets of live scorpions! Travis, who does NOT like scorpions, had told us he'd seen them last time-Melissa and I wanted pictures-the tubs are in front of the shops and full of small scorpions climbing all over each other-creepy. But then we looked in another tub and there were HUGE black ones. Travis stayed way back and Melissa and I took pictures. There were turtles too but they didn't look especially threatening.

Then off to lunch at the Sultan Restaurant which is a Turkish restaurant owned by a friend of Osman's (Osman is Turkish too). What wonderful food-lamb, beef and eggplant, wraps with beef, onions, tomatoes, pickled cucumbers. We had yogurt drinks which looked like milkshakes but tasted amazingly enough like yogurt! Very good though. Osman and Travis's friend, N H, came and met us-he is a lovely man-moved to GZ from Turkey to help his brother start the restaurant and set up the computer system for it and never left. It's a beautiful place with some really nice paintings and lovely tiling all around Travis said they like to eat there almost everytime they come to GZ and it takes hours! They had Turkish coffee after dinner-I figured I'd had enough caffeine for the day-and then Osman read the coffee grounds and told Melissa and Travis what he saw in their future. Then it was time to go back to ZC. We did stop at the western store, as they call it-there you can buy Jiffy Peanut Butter, Planter's Nuts, Ritz Crackers-nice things to have at home. Then back to the apartments.

Monday, Jan. 21.
Travis had to go into to turn in grades today and Melissa and I washed some clothes and messed around with the computer some-I also watched the two playoff games on my laptop. Before I left, I got this neat thing called Slingbox which allows me to access the satellite tuner at home in the US and control it so that I can watch American TV-most of the time the bandwidth is an issue so the quality isn't great but early in the morning it's pretty good-and that's when the Patriots' game was on. I saw it and then the Giants-Packers-the quality faded by the end of that but it was fun to watch the football. It means I can see the Superbowl but I'll have to get up pretty early! Of course, I think I can miss most of the pre-game stuff so the game itself doesn't start all that early.
Later in the afternoon, the Hua Li school which is our host campus, sponsored a Hot Pot dinner for the end of the semester. This is a really neat way of having a big dinner-very Chinese. There must have been 1000 people there. Students, administrators, important visitors and the owner of the school, Mr. Zhang. He has become very rich in his many enterprises-he owns a lovely house in GZ as well as two in San Antonio and two in California and maybe others. He was there in a Houston Rockets t-shirt and hat so maybe he owns one in Houston too! Yao Ming is a huge (in more ways than one) star in China so that may have been it too.

So, for the dinner, you sat at picnic tables with about 6 people there. On the table was a small propane powered burner with a crock on top-inside were shrimp, beef, mushrooms, sausage and some other anonymous things simmering in chicken broth. Also, 6 bottles of Chinese beer-very large but very weak-Chinese beer is like 4% alcohol so what's the use? There was also a box of wine. As the night went on, they brought chicken to add, also fish. Ladies also circulated with large kettles of chicken broth to add. You just put the fish or chicken into the pot and simmered it until done. The only problem is that the Chinese tend to attack their meats with cleavers and you end up with small bone chunks or small fish bones all over but it was very good-you had small containers with all kinds of seasonings-peppers, garlic, caramelized onions, ginger. You spice yours the way you wanted. There way also cooked sweet potatoes to munch on and small corn on the cob pieces. At the end, they brought by rice balls in a sauce. It was really nice except when the flame went out on our burner a couple of times and they brought by these power lighters and were trying to relight it with us right by the flames. Exciting and warm! There was also a long show presented mostly by the students-many different skits and dances-some modern, some distinctly traditional. The male student acting as m.c. had a white tux on and the young lady had a lavender formal with a very wide skirt. Interspersed with the skits were drawings for prizes-they were VERY excited when they won as we all would be and then they got their prizes-one was a washing machine, we think-a huge box that he had to drag to his table. Many seemed to be quilts and bedspreads. In the middle of the show, there was suddenly a HUGE fireworks display provided by Mr. Zhang. It was really spectacular-we were all ooohing and ahhing in the proper manner.
The best part of all was a skit put on by about 12 young male students. They were dressed in blue jeans and jackets and some had on cowboy hats and dark glasses. The whole routine was set to a Backstreet Boys song. It started out slowly with two coming on at a time and posing. They looked like models in a fashion show-walking and then posing leaning on each other and then walking to the edge of the stage for others to come out. This went on for a while and was very funny-esp. the kind of pudgy, geeky looking guys trying to look like David Beckham or someone like that. You don't see fat Chinese in GZ or ZC but a couple were a little plumpish. Then it picked up steam-all of a sudden, they whipped off their jackets and were all oiled up! The crowd went crazy! They started posing, flexing abs, showing their muscles-some were very buff-some not so buff. There was screaming and about a zillion cameras taking pictures. Suddenly an older man, I'm not sure who he was-either a teacher at the Hua Li school, jumped in to the group. He is an older guy and well recognized by the students. He posed and then whipped off HIS jacket-the place went even MORE crazy. He flexed his muscles, showed his abs while the young men all pointed in amazement. It was hilarious.
After that high point, there was the last performance.
It was done with couples in traditional dress-the men's costume looked like an Aladdin costume, we decided. It was a red vest with white trim and white satin pants-very festive. They lined up and danced through bamboo poles being raised and lowered by other students-they had to do different kinds of steps and arm motions while not falling over the poles! The best part was that one of the men was a teacher at CIW-Scott Gebhardt who has taught there for about year. He looked distinctly out of place-tall and fair-as well as fairly uncomfortable-Wing kept saying he looked mad. But

he was trying to concentrate and dance and not fall. It was very funny. He did very well though and we all screamed for him. He's a brave brave man! After that, Mr Zhang came up on the stage and made a speech wishing everyone a Happy New Year. The New Year celebrations start soon and the schools are closed for about 4 weeks. This next year is Year of the Rat, just so you know. There was much toasting and hugging-many of the visiting dignitaries came by to toast Ann and all of us-luckily the beer is very weak! And zillions and zillions of pictures and videos were made. Zillions! They take so many pictures-I wonder who ever has time to look at them all but they love to take pictures with everyone and it was great fun.
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Bi Gui Yen
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patgower on

Re: .
NO DOG! THe regular food is mysterious enough! Today I think I had battered and fried bone.

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