At the end of the travelogue of 05-26, posted on June 7, I asked if anyone knew what this was? Well, contrary to guesses that it has anything to do with Chinese Physics, it is a handbag that a shy student carried to Anita’s small Main Campus information seminar, thus:
2017-05-29 to 30
Another bright and sunny day, but nicely cool, workers are adding polystyrene (Styrofoam) boards to the exterior of apartments near our hotel. Then they are adding a mesh and covering with stucco cement. I wish I had been there when they added the Styrofoam to see how they attach it to the existing concrete walls. Then mesh is just stapled to the Styrofoam and then coated with the stucco.
With the day clear of academic responsibilities, Bob joined Anita and me, along with our LA, TA and Joanne, an administrative friend, to visit the Changchun World Sculpture Park. Only a 10 minute auto ride from the hotel, Joanne and Yvonne drove us there. The following is a small sample of the sculptures in the park, which is HUGE! Even with walking from 9-12, we only covered about half the park, but it accounted for most of the 5.8 miles (9.3 km) we walked that day!
It is a beautiful park with a wonderful layout of the sculptures, far enough apart to enjoy each one, but close enough to entice you to keep on going to the next. There is a large exhibit of Rodin’s in the front of the park, including one of his famous “The Thinker.” Whenever we have encountered one of his “thoughtful statues” I like to pose with it, wondering along with The Thinker, where did he leave his pants? “That was SOME party last night!”
Other Rodin’s included Confucius, who did not attend The Thinker’s party and has all his clothes. We noticed many of the artists seemed obsessed with spring and one of our company noted many of them had “mommy issues.” Occasionally, we heard music, from Chinese traditional hymns to classical Motzart to Broadway show tunes, coming from discreet speakers that were their own special art form: “The Sound of the Rocks.” 😉
As in Nanhu Park, the water here has been a problem, and the city is working on cleaning it up, so there is a lot of construction proceeding to improve the beauty and enjoyment of the park. The black swans cannot find fish or food currently, so the administration makes sure they are well fed until the water purification project is complete. In the meantime, I “cleaned up” some water and put it around The Girl on a Dolphin to see what the park will look like when it is finished. Anita tried to figure out what everyone was looking at above. I expressed communication with my dialogue but no one would listen to my opinion! Anita was getting hungry and hallucinating. Bob found some of his soul-mates among The Gentlemen by Huang Wensian. However, nature provided the very best sculptures, whether trees, hedges, cottonwood seeds, or even dandelions!
Wearing down as we approached five miles (8 km) on my health app, we thought about “borrowing” some stilts, but they were anchored too well. The comments could go on, but I will let you use your imagination for any I have not mentioned.
Back on campus, we went to the office and worked on the computers for a while. Heading home, a student from the university was spotted on one of those Segway/Hover Board crossovers.
Today was the day Ms. Liu had set up a tour for the group to attend the Dragon Boat Races. These were to be held at Jingyue Park where there is a very large lake and a popular destination for Chinese on holiday, a fact we would discover when we tried to leave.
Our bus driver was a very kind gentleman and careful driver and allowed me to sit in the jump seat on the way to the park. This afforded me an outstanding view of the road ahead, but most of the interest was in the conversations and visits with the professors and their LAs who attended the races together. We learned that every police station has an “Eiffel Tower” for telecommunications.
Inside the park was a beautiful drive around the lake until we encountered some jamming at the site where the races were to occur. We had arrived an hour before the official start time of the races, so we had time to explore the smoky bathrooms where the No Smoking sign was prominently displayed, and the staging area for shows that would coincide with the races. Some martial artists were warming up and some musicians were getting in a last rehearsal before the shows would begin, but that was enough to satisfy me. The erhu and jaunquan were played by very good artists even if they were not in full dress yet.
Speaking of “dress,” our usually very professionally dressed organizer of the program had decided to make it a true holiday and dressed accordingly, in the youthful standard of artfully ripped jeans and bare shoulders. One would have thought we were being guided by a teenager rather than college administrator, but she did her job excellently, as always, no matter the attire. 😉
As more cars piled into the park, the crowd around us thickened and I learned that none of the Chinese with us had been to the Dragon Races before. Apparently the interest of several faculty asking about this had prompted the outing, which Ms. Liu had wonderfully put together for us. So we stood on the bridge near the “finish line” where the boats would complete their races.
However, looking down the shoreline, I spotted what seemed to be another hive of activity and my curiosity drew me to the start line of the races. There a newswoman was interviewing various teams who were giving their required “oompah” yells and pumping themselves up with their camaraderie and enthusiasm. As I took pictures of groups around me, a couple of people who seemed surprised to see a Westerner enthused about their races started taking my picture, and asking to be photographed with me. One mature gentleman in a team tee shirt approached me and asked in English if this was my first time to the Dragon Boat Races. We hit it off and talked about our families, our jobs, our recreations, and being about the same age, felt like we had known each other for a long time, rather than just meeting that moment.
John, Anita’s LA, had followed me, probably to keep an eye on me and make sure I did not get into any trouble, since I spoke NO Mandarin, and most of the participants would not be speaking English. So he was handy when “my team” was interviewed by the newswoman, who kindly agreed to have her photo taken with me.
As the races proceeded with the first round, I realized John and I were having too much fun without Anita, so we ran back to the finish line to retrieve her. By the time we returned, “my team” wanted photos of both of us, but when it came time to rally the team, they wanted me to raise the flag and the team sign, and join in their cheers. What a BLAST!!
With tremendous gumption, “my team” headed out to their boat, which was too far out to the end of the guarded pier for me to photograph, so I had to settle for a close up of a competing teams’ boat as they began their quest for the 3000¥ prize for the first round. If they won the first heat, they would then get to compete for the 5000¥ prize! Of course, when you divide by the exchange rate of 6.8, and then split that up between everyone wearing a team tee shirt, you can safely assume money is not the motivation for participation. It is for the bragging rights of saying “I was on the team, whether we win or lose.”
So when “my” race started, “my team” took an immediate lead of a couple furlongs, but by the time they had gone one quarter of the way, their energy kind of sputtered and they were outpaced by two other teams, coming in third. 😦 As evidence that participation was the goal, and not money, they regrouped after the race with the same bright smiling faces and joy that had launched them on their challenge. At the end of the race, I asked how I could acquire a “Team Tee Shirt” and one of the younger guys literally gave me the shirt off his sweaty back. If I had been thinking faster, I could have offered him my overshirt with its Kentucky Blue colors. 😦 My brain is just not fast enough these days. If, as promised, my mature friend emails me, I will see if I can mail my benefactor a UK shirt to say “Thanx for the Team Tee.”
I should mention that after Anita had joined John and me with “my team,” Ms. Liu and the rest of the UK crew came down to the start line and she was wanting to invite me to join in a group photo, but I explained I had to support “my team.” She laughed heartily and graciously acquiesced when she realized I was serious!! 😀
When we got back on the bus to leave, we discovered just how popular this park is to the Changchun residents! Worming our way through stopped traffic just to get to our bus was just the beginning. The two lane road would often be blocked by oncoming traffic when some bright bulb, seeing a break in the opposing lane would think he could pass a few cars . . . and promptly block everyone from moving until someone could finally let him back into his own lane. Add to that the cars that parked precariously everywhere, there was almost enough width to park their autos, and . . . well, you get the picture. The 15 minute drive out of the park took our bus over an hour!
At one point, the bus was simply stuck in the “parking lot” traffic, so a small group of us decided to walk. There would be no other way for the bus to go, and we figured it could pick us up, or we could wait at the entrance to the park if we arrive there first. A little further down the road we saw several of the scofflaws that caused the jams, and a couple of times we assisted in breaking the logjam by holding up traffic so someone could turn around or get back into his lane. One fellow in a minivan had tried to park off-road, and become stuck in the gutter off the shoulder with his butt blocking the traffic attempting to pass. Scott noted we had enough muscle to move him, so as a couple of us Americans and LAs began, several other passers-by felt encouraged to lend aid, and we had the poor minivan out in a few seconds. No longer blocking traffic, it again began to move and our bus shortly caught up to us and we boarded. Some Chinese folks looking at us boarding the bus came towards us intending to board, apparently mistaking our bus for general transport, but our driver had us on the road before they caught up to the door.
Several of us were longing for a potty-break, and Ms. Liu explained that as soon as we reached the entry to the park there would be a place for us. As we left the park, we noticed a couple miles (2-4km) of cars backed up three to five thick, waiting to get into the park. I was wishing there was a way to tell them how pointless their efforts were, because even after they paid the park entry fee, they would simply be stuck in traffic most of the time!! 😦
Back near the University, Ms. Liu had arranged with a Korean restaurant for a luncheon for the entire group. We were careful not to take the “12 o’clock” position, as we had been instructed that this was the position for the host or hostess. Though Ms. Liu did not really want that honored position, the faculty’s insistence prevailed.
An amazing soprano rivalling Eva Tsang entertained us with two songs, accompanied by an equally talented accordionist that actually made the instrument sound good! The first was a traditional North Korean song and the second a traditional Chinese ballad. Both were beautifully presented. We also learned about a traditional Chinese drinking toast called “Gan –bei.” One raises the glass of “China Water,” a potent whiskey substitute but with the clarity and alcohol content of Everclear (well, almost!!!). You make your toast, and then call out “Gan-bei” which means everyone is supposed to drain their glasses in one gulp! Only a couple of our group were able to actually do this, so we did not have a lot of “Gan-bei.”
We did have LOTS of food, though. And Ms. Liu had courteously ordered several dishes that were completely free of spice and green peppers to accommodate Anita’s allergies. Her thoughtfulness seems boundless. None of the pictures captures anywhere near all the food we consumed that day, as it was delivered in small portions, would circulate on the table’s lazy-Susan, and then promptly be removed by our servers. A lengthy discussion ensued over the term “lazy-Susan” which went on with avid interest until someone read its origins from Wikipedia. 🙂 By the time the day was finished, I felt like a chemistry student who had licked the spoon, in spite of one of our LA’s tee shirt warning!