Friday, April 26, 2013

From backstreet boys to erhu

Ahhh I'm sorry it's been so long! Letsee, I went hiking again, to different mountains, and the path turned into this, 

Which was nice, as this was the sort of hiking I was looking for. And eventually some sort of signs started to pop up, maybe there had been a race there recently? The Ascis logo was on them, it looked pretty official, so I was reassured on was on some sort of route.

Eventually I emerged from the wilderness, and started heading east to get back to the lake/bus routes. It appeared that I had entered some sort of a resort by way of a back route, so I tried to quickly make my way out of the premises. As I neared town, I saw this house, which also had its own large pond with those some nice stone walkways over the water, all really old looking. Of course they probably have a terrible mosquito problem in the summer, but I think it would be worth it. 

Skip ahead a couple days, Spring Break is over, we're all back in the daily grind, except an easier version since it was our first week back. I was running on the track the other day, and there was this man, maybe 60 years old (hard for me to tell) and he was doing pullups, which I was impressed by. And then, he started doing those pullups where he would lift his entire body up and then continue up until he was vertical and upside down. After some googling I'm still not sure what that is called, but I found a video which pretty much sums up the early morning scene on the track, (there is a different area with more pullup bars). Excuse the music during the video (rap, so if you're young turn the sound off : ) ), and imagine all the people doing the exercises are 40-70, and that everyone but me is proceeding about their business. Video here

On that Friday, we went to the tea museum (yes, the one I went to before) and then to a tea village for lunch and some tea picking! This was the vegetarian table.

Tea fields!

I picked some.

We then got to try roasting it, and we bought some fresh tea leaves. 

I've taken to taking random pictures of Chinese people, since I'm featured in so many family pictures in front of famous landmarks, I don't feel as strange about this as I maybe should. 

At the grocery store

We returned to the Mexican restaurant! All four of us ordered the vegetarian burrito. Ahhh I miss Juanitas. But these are very good too.

There were more tables stacked up on the back of bike under this bridge, I think this is a common Mahjong meeting spot.

Last Sunday I decided to walk to the West lake, since the weather was fantastic, and do my reading outside instead of living in my dorm room. Once I got there all the benches were full (of course, it was a Sunday) so I sat down with my back on a wall and with a nice view of the lake. I started reading and right away, I noticed shadows on the ground by my feet. It turned out that a foreigner reading characters was a rather remarkable event to the people walking by me. And so, they would gather around and watch me read, sometimes remarking to each other that I was in fact, a foreigner. Eventually an old man started to ask me some questions, but he had a very heavy Hangzhou accent, so I have a feeling I didn't always answer the question he had asked. He lapsed into silence, and stood by me watching the lake/observing the people who would gather around me. He started introducing my background to people who had gathered, but sometimes they couldn't understand him either. It was nice that he was there, it meant I actually got some reading down, and that when a large group of guys would come by and start asking "do you have a boyfriend" type questions, he sort of stared at them, and they moved on. But after about 40 minutes of this, I realized I wasn't going to get much reading done there, so I asked the old man if we could take a picture together and then I started walking to a more remote part of the lake.

Lots of wedding photos being taken around the lake.

I eventually settled here, where there was a chinese flute player playing some lovely Chinese melodies, and got down to my reading. It was amazingly beautiful, with the weather, environment and flute player. Plus it was sort of an island, so there wasn't anyone walking by.

Chinese police.

Sleeping on the bus and playing with phone.

So one night we were studying in our common room, and it was discovered that the Backstreet Boys are coming to Shanghai, while we're all still in China. Of course, the concert is during finals week, which sparked some controversy, but everyone was really excited. Eventually Tao Laoshi decided to move around finals so everyone could go. Well, not me, since I'm not sure who they are/I was probably listening to NPR when they were popular instead of them. Maybe I'll tag around to Shanghai, we'll see. 

Adorable baby with the look I often see on Chinese people's faces when I walk by.

We went to an elementary school as part of a class, this half semester, my Hangzhou research topic is Youth Education. 

The classroom was very similar to an American classroom, 32 kids in this one, which was 1st graders. We stayed for a Math and Chinese class, both which I liked alot. The kids had to formally greet the teacher, keep certain postures during class/while reading, and had to stand up when answering questions. But the math class was great, it focused on concepts and was already introducing division. It was also lively, and there was no gender divide when it came to answering questions and whatnot.

After class I was swarmed by students, and I wanted to take a picture of this phenomenon, but they noticed my phone, and so I took a picture with some of them instead.

After 2 classes they have a break, which consists of running around the track, their teachers joined in too, and then coming back to drink some yogurt, which some of the kids put on everyone's desk. (This is a public school)

As we left we noticed some of the older students fan dancing. 

And here is a new vegetable market I went to! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pizza and Hiking

In an unexpected turn of events, I did some new things in the past couple of days- first off, we made pizza!

The cheese was expensive but hey, it was pretty good cheese. Though at this point my cheese judging capacity is probably impaired by the cheese deficit I have been experiencing. We made some for our roommates too! We being Maia and I, the only remaining students over spring break.

So, at this point you may be thinking, "Homemade pizza in China, how can one top that?"

Gorgeous scenery, that's how.

But first we had to get there. Which proved to be a little difficult, as the articles we had read to "find" the routes, did not include maps, just rather vague directions. So I knew which mountains we wanted to climb, but had no idea on how to get up said mountains, which meant we asked people for directions a lot to get to the trail head, and then asked for more directions along the way, for good measure. We went into this cool cafe(?) to ask for directions.

We walked by this on the way

And we got there! It turns out the beginning of the trail was an old road (before a tunnel was made) over the mountain, and after awhile, it became like doing stairs.

We made to the top!

At each of the mountain tops there were these "helpful" notices about how to hike, I have pictures of them all, but I'll only have you read this, the first one :) 

Super super nice. You can see Hangzhou in the distance if you look closely.

Tea Fields! And Maia climbing up. 

The wilderness!

The trail was mostly rock, and sometimes we'd encounter what seemed to be fairly recently planted bamboo, but mostly the land seemed to be used to grow tea leaves.

After hiking for awhile, our trail started to lead us out of the woods, so we figured we had found the end of trail, since our directions were rather vague on how the trail ended. We figured we were probably close to one of the mountains we had climbed, but then we encountered this body of water. Most certainly not the West Lake. So where were we? 

We were at B instead of A. But no worries, after some help from a street sweeper, we got on a bus to bring us back to Hangzhou proper.

Where we celebrated a marvelous day with approximations of our idea of falafel, pita, hummus and salad. Very delicious. 

And that's it! I need to start doing my homework, the end of spring break sort of snuck up on me. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pretty Much just the West Lake

We're on Spring Break! Which means that I went to get some tea with my tea teacher, we tried lots of different kinds of green tea and some oolong too. 

Preparing the tea to drink is complicated if you do it the traditional way- you shouldn't drink the first seeping, instead you pour it out (those little statues change color if you pour hot liquid on them). 

A statue of what appears to be a frog on a carrot, at the tea shop, but I'm pretty sure it has a different meaning than that.

At the University store, buying sticky-notes, I came across this game.. "Close all your eyes"

It rained! And everything smelt great.

Lots of apartments. 

Everything is blooming!

A Convenience shop with high hopes.

Last weekend I met up with a friend from Andover, Joel, and his friend from Beijing, where there are both studying abroad. I always forget how nice it is to talk to someone from Andover, and spend some time reminiscing, it reminds me I'm not the only one out there whose friends have heard way to much about their high school. 

We went to a Starbucks after trying to meet up and go to the Tiger Spring. Some communication confusion meant we were on different ends of the lake, and then we found out the spring closed earlier than we thought it did. Plus we couldn't find taxis, we suspect because it was changing shift time. Anyways, so this is the view from the Starbucks! It's really really nice.

More Starbucks view. This is the first one I've been to in China, and I must say the location can't be beat.

Joel noticed a terrace on the second floor, so we moved up to get even better views! That lighted up building in the distance is Lei Feng Ta, the Pagoda I went to a couple weeks back with Nikki ++ . Of course now that the weather is so nice, the mosquitos are out, but despite the small swarm hovering in the air around us, we didn't get bitten. Joel had a flight out at 22, so we tried to find a place to get a quick bite to eat, but everything looked fancy, so Joel asked one of the street vendors where he had gotten his food and we got pointed in the direction of some more reasonably priced options. And they were off! Maybe we'll meet again in the summer, I hope so at least.

So I decided to go for a sunset run to the West Lake, on the way I saw a protest! There were tons of cops and everyone was filming this, I couldn't understand what they were saying but I showed a recording to my roommate and she said they want higher wages. 

The water was super clear!

And you can't see the background, which was nice and pre-sunset clear, but you can see me.. 


You can see Hangzhou, the city! I'm on the North side of the lake, the city is on the east, and there are mountains on the south and west side. 

Never get tired of the lake, sorry guys, this blog is pretty much just the lake. 

People were flying kites.

And that's it! I haven't been up to much, cooking, erhu playing, running, researching who I want to write my thesis on, reading Harry Potter, sleeping.. Oh! Today we're going to try to make Pizza, we'll see how that goes, and Friday we're going to the mountains for an adventure at the least, and hiking at the best.