Connecting Mandarin and English,
Moon Day in China
(September 14, 2008) (return
may be Moon Day and Mid-Autumn Festival but through the raindrops we see
no moon or sunshine. We shared a finder-food breakfast in our rooms as our
tour guide for the day was to arrive before breakfast
in the lobby. And she did. First we gathered in a small bus collecting tourist
from several hotels. Once we were gathered together, or herded to one place,
we were moved to a larger bus that started our of town. Another tour guide
explained our upcoming day and concluded with 15 minutes of commericals
about some wonderful products we could buy.
Stop one was a tea factory where we we ushered
into one of many tea rooms filling with our tours, given a glass (typically
good tea is served in a clear glass so you can see the proper color of the
brewed tea) and given an explanation about the production of the tea in
this factory. Of course, we didn't understand a word but we could tell from
the gestures that it focused on the sales pitch to buy the teas. This
was confirmed as the Chinese flocked to the table to buy their tea.
The next stop is a tourist gold mine (figuratively)
in China. It's one of four preserved ancient cities in China, two in the
southeast and two in the north. This one is Wuzhen in Zhejiang province
north of Hangzhou a couple hours on the bus. We had three hours to explore
but the first was used by herding, I mean escorting and guiding, us through
different museums and old buildings. The tour follows the narrow street
along a canal that had boatsmen passing by every minute or so. Across the
canal the houses (with current residents) extended out over the water. In
the past they would store their boats beneath their houses. One little girl
was "fishing" from her window. On the other side of the street
were vendors selling crafts and foods. Many craftspersons were working their
as we passed by.
A part of the guided tour included sites like
a the home and school of Mao Dun, a great Chinese writer; no know relationahip
to Mao Zedong. I was a little amused when I was told that the writing on
this one building was written by Mao Dun and when I asked what it said,
I was told it said "The store of the Mao family." Another site
was where they dyed the fabric blue but leaving white undyed designs. They
had a template with which they applied clay which resisted the dye leaving
the white colors. In the square actresses preformed a classic love story
of a mna selling his wife. Love story?
Strolling the streets, nibbling on the food,
watching artisans and cooks at work, bargaining over products and watching
the boats pass through the bridges made the midday a delighful relaxig time.
The palce reminded us of the old city of Rothenburg in Germany and even
some of the reconstituted historical cities in Eastern America, like Sturbridge
and Williamsburg. Again we had great fun talking to children and young people
in English. They all seem to want to practice this fasinating language.
Usually we don't get too far past "Hello, how do you do."
This evening found us downtown again for an
evening meal. The featured menu for Hangzhou includes a whole chicken steam
in lotus leaves and a steamed fish smothered in a barbeque type soy sauce.
Being the evening of Mid Autumn Festival several large groups of families.
As we were leaving apianist started playing on the white grand piano surrounded
by a goldfish pond.
Just a five-minute walk from the restaurant
a lady in a loud speaker said that the water fountain show coordinated with
music would start shortly. It did, and it was awesome. (There will be video
clips in the final report.)
A note about impressions
of foreign habits:
These observations were
precipitated but comments during a conversation with international
teachers. Quite simply the conversation centered around why don't
the people we work with do things this way instead of that way.
My analysis is that it is very easy for all of us, in all circumstances,
to overlay our observations of other people's actions and other
culture's bhaviors with a transparent template of how we do things.
If the actions and behaviors we are observing don't match the tamplate,
we have an issue. "Why are the 6, 8, 10 or even 15 persons
in a unit (room) in the dormitory? We typically have 2 and sometimes
4." "Why don't they have ovens?" "Why is there
no warm water in the dorms or apartments?" "Why this?"
"Why not that?" You know, it/s the way they've always
done it and they are comfortable just as we are comfortable in how
we do things. It is very easy for us to critique on the basis of
our overlay template and not on th basis of their template and lifestyle.
While adjusting to the random driving and
the excess of offering good food, the most adjustment continues to be the
people. They continue to be an inspiration and an amazement.
there are so many.