For Payton
and Deona


Connecting Mandarin and English,
          Chinese and American,
                    people with people

Moon Day in China
(September 14, 2008) (return to Homepage)
         It 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 crafts 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.  Truly there are so many.

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