Saturday, May 19, 2012

Yuelu Chute and Central China Expo

So I had a chance to go up Yuelu mountain again from the other side.  It's totally different coming from this direction and much more steep.  Whenever I would come to these seemingly endless steps going up the mountain, my tour guide wanted to play this game that is similar to rock paper scissors.  They say "Scissors, rock, clothing." You get to go up a certain number of steps each time you win (and it's a different amount for scissors, rock, and clothing). I found a really cute YouTube video of some Chinese kids playing this version of the game ( Anyway, you can see from the pictures some of the scenery which is quite beautiful.  It was a much clearer day than the previous time I went, so you can see what the city looks like from the top.  My tour guide planned to go down the chair lifts once we got to the top, but they were closed for repairs.  I'm now 0 for 2 on the chair lift attempts.  It did give me an opportunity to convine Ya Lun to go down the chute ride, which is sort of like a blobsled track that goes down the mountain for a mile or two.  Of course she thought it was only for kids, but I told her I had to try it out for my boys Nicolas and Ezra to make sure it was safe (wink wink).  The ride cost us a whopping 20 yuan ($3 dollars), but it was worth it.  You sit on these little sleds and there is a lever that lets you go really fast if you push it forward and slows you down if you pull it back.  The ride operator instructed us to not go too fast or we might fly off the track and to lean in the direction of each curve.  My only regret on the ride is that I let Ya Lun go in front of me.  Big mistake!  I kept having to brake to not run into her.  Because of this, I was not able to really test how safe this ride is, so I'll have to go back again soon by myself and give it a real test.  

In the evening, I finally had the opportunity to meet the dean of the Foreign Studies College.  She is the woman whose class I am teaching in and it took a surprising amount of time for us to meet up because of her schedule.  Her name is Deng Ying Ling and she took me out with Gene (the other American faculty member from a community college in St. Louis) to a really nice restaurant.  We had a private dining room and they served some really interesting dishes.  Some of the more interesting ones were goose, fish liver, pig's feet, lotus roots, and aloe.  They were all very good, but I had a hard time with the pig's feet.  It wasn't that the taste wasn't good, but they were so fatty and blubbery (I guess I shouldn't be surprise.  It is a pig).  I gave the dean a gift of an SUU flag and a nice rosewood SUU pen.  She said she was embarrassed that she didn't have anything for me.  Of course I didn't care, but I guess it's custom to do so and she seemed uncomfortable.  I didn't feel bad because I was told to ALWAYS bring a gift.  On my first day when I had lunch with the Director of International Exchange (Martin Tang), we exchanged gifts, so I was expecting to do the same with the dean.  Anyway, she was a very kind woman and I really enjoyed her company.  The only other somewhat awkward moment was when she wanted to engage in the classic Chinese drinking ritual called "gan bei."  It means "bottoms up."  She kept saying this to me and trying to fill my glass up with wine or beer.  I kept saying "Wo bu yao zhe ge, xie xie" (I don't want this, thank you), but she kept insisting.  So, I had to do it.... just kidding.  Of course I didn't drink it.  I raised my glass of corn juice (which is just cream corn in a wine glass) and toasted to "new friends and cultural experiences."  She seemed satisfied with this and I downed this corn juice until it was gone.  Then I felt like I was going to throw up, but I kept it down.  

After dinner, we parted company and I went with Ya Lun and Gene down to the Xiangjiang river to see the fireworks.  The Chinese light fireworks off on Orange Island every Saturday, but this event was different.  It was called the Central China Expo and it was a huge ordeal to bring in foreign investors to Central China.  Changsha was the gathering place for this massive event.  It was very crowded down by the river and the fireworks were the best I have ever seen.  I have been to Disneyland on New Years Eve and seen the Utah Summer Games fireworks and they were nothing compared to this.  The fireworks filled the whole sky and it seemed like every car alarm in the city was going off because the whole city just shook.  I felt like I was in some kind of war zone.  Ya Lun was teasing me because I was taking more pictures of the Chinese people watching the fireworks than the fireworks themselves.  I just found the images intriguing of these thousands of Chinese people with their cell phones out trying to capture this beautiful fireworks display.  

The next day, Ya Lun informed me that she had a surprise for me.  The dean had heard that I wanted to go to Zhangjiajie, which is a national park in the Hunan province.  Most people know something about this park because the mountains are featured in the flying scenes in the movie Avatar.  In the movie, however, the bottoms of the mountains are digitally removed so that it looks like they are floating.  The really surprising thing is that the dean booked a tour for me for three days and two nights, which included hotel, transportation, the tour guide, and food.  It was incredibly generous of her and I couldn't be more excited to go.  I'm leaving tomorrow and will be off the grid for a couple of days, but will post lots of pictures when I return.  If you would like to see what Zhangjiajie looks like, you can simply search for it in google images.  You should also look up pictures of what they call "heaven's gate." It's located in the park as well and features steps going up to a huge hole in the mountain.  The light comes through this hole and it seems as if you are walking up to heaven when climbing these steps.  

One more thing I want to add before I conclude this post.  A few of you (particularly my brother Keith) have asked about the teaching since it seems that I'm just touring around having fun.  The teaching was by far the best and the most annoying thing about my trip far. I don't think I talked about this much on my blog so far, but the Chinese are somewhat disorganized.  You know from my previous blogs that I adore the Chinese students, but the communication between myself and the administration has been lacking.  My main contact here told me I would be teaching for 8 or 9 hours per week from May 15th to June 15th and that I would have my own class and I could choose what I taught. So, I started prepping all this critical thinking stuff for about 35 hours worth of material. I didn't know what the daily schedule would look like, but I knew about how many hours I would be teaching. So, I booked my ticket to arrive one week before I started teaching on May 15th and to leave one week after it ended on June 15th. Plus, these guys knew since October that I was coming, when I was coming and they had my syllabus of things that I was going to teach. However, when I arrived, the man who set this up for me had flown to Africa and his assistant did not seem aware that any of this was already supposed to be arranged. She told me I would be teaching every Wednesday morning for 4 hours on May 9th, May 16th, and May 23rd (in someone else's class). A very drastic change from what I was told before. So, I was very upset, but I had just gotten here and I did not want to have a negative attitude about the people here. But, my last day of teaching was now May 23rd and my flight would not leave China until June 21st. That's like a month of nothing academic to do, plus all those Thursday to Tuesday gaps with really nothing. So, I've been touring around and getting Mandarin lessons for 2 hours every day. It's been a little frustrating to be so far away from my family when I don't feel like it needed to be quite this long. Also, the dean told me before I started a couple of weeks ago that she wanted me to teach this other material that fit better with her class and I said, "No, I need to be teaching what I was told I would be teaching." I stood my ground and I'm really glad I did. Why would I fly 7,000 miles to teach material that they give me to teach? Of course I would probably have agreed to it if I had known in advance, but I did not know and wasn't ready to teach anything outside of my field.  Anyway, so now you have the scoop.  I teach this Wednesday for the last time and then will be done with all my teaching.

I thought my boys would like this.  It's the fire station.  

I can't seem to get away from this guy!  He's everywhere!

This is down by Hunan University.  There are three universities right next to each other in Changsha.  The biggest is Hunan University.  The other two universities are Hunan Normal University (where I'm at) and Southcentral University.  

Some of the many steps going up the steep side of Yuelu Mountain.

More steps.

Will these steps ever end?!

View from the top.

Another view from the top, but on the other side of the mountain.

I've been taking a lot of these pictures because I think they are interesting.  Guys are always walking with their shirts pulled up to cool their stomachs off during the heat.  I once saw a guy wearing a tank top that did the same thing and I laughed to myself because it looked just like a sports bra.

More bare bellies.

Ya Lun said it was rude to take people's pictures without their permission, so I kept telling her to pose for pictures and then I would wait until the belly entered the frame and snap away.  

The chute going down the mountain.  It gets steeper around the corner.  I hope that red sign doesn't have a weight limit or anything.

Promotional poster for the slide.

Me, Dean Deng, and Gene.  I was going to say "from left to right" or something, but then I realized it probably isn't hard to figure out who is whom.

I avoided the squatter for two whole weeks by staying near my room, but those pig's feet messed with my stomach. Not one of my finer moments.  Just so you know, this is a really super nice bathroom.  
I absolutely love this picture.  It's one of my favorites so far.  Orange Island is really long and the fireworks were being launched along the entire island.  One set of fireworks were orange and looked like billowing flames just above the tops of the trees.  To me, it looked like the Chinese had gone overboard with the fireworks and accidentally started the island on fire.  But, this was all part of the show and the fireworks were intended to explode just above the trees.  I have never seen anything like it and I think the picture captures why I thought the trees were burning.  Incredible!

Beautiful fireworks.

Taozi Lake which is right on campus.

Despite the dozen signs I saw forbidding fishing, there were lots of fisherman.  Some were even trying to catch fish in these grassy areas along the shore with their bare hands (and were succeeding).


  1. What? No picture of you with bare midriff? What gives?

    I was offered pig feet for two years and never mustered the courage. Good for you. Though not exactly kosher.

    Can't wait for Zhangjiajie photos. Looks pretty stunning on Google images. Bring back some Unobtainium please.

  2. You are getting some great photos. The campus looks lovely compared to others I've seen!