Running in China

By Matt W., Teach in China Participant

Whoa, its been a while. I finally have found the time, and motivation to make a post, emphasis on the latter. So for this post I’m not going to do a day by day rundown of everything I’ve done but just get the highlights, as a consolation though I’ll try to keep events in chronological order!

So a few days, after the Chinese new year, I saw the departure of all three brits, Isaac, Holly and Lucy :'(. But Wies and Jarone are still here and they have been keeping me company! So, the day that Holly left, Jarone and I went with Isabella and the family to another town about an hour away to visit a government official that allowed Isabella to start her business. The main purpose of the visit was to wish the official’s family a happy new year. We ate some hot pot and Jarone and I did our best to converse with them because they didn’t speak a word of english. It was a little strange because shortly after we sat down to eat our hosts got up and went outside. I don’t know what they were doing but just me, Jarone and the family were there eating. A funny side story is when we were just sitting down, Yan Yan, Isabellas 3 year old son was playing with a spoon of hot chilis (mind you this isn’t just crushed red peppers, a tea spoon of these things will make you crumble) and he eventually dumped an entire spoonful into the pot, needless to say we had some very spicy hot pot.

So the next day was Super Bowl MONDAY! Since the Internet went out at the school I had to go into town to go to Mimosa’s cafe, to use their wifi. I was upstairs by myself watching the game on the slingbox. The chinese owners were probably pretty confused by this random american yelling at his computer as the game ebbed and flowed. Regardless the Packers WON! and I was happy!!!! other than that it was a slow day, I went running and Tina (Isabella’s 21 year old niece) gave me and Jarone a Chinese lesson.

On Tuesday a new guy arrived, an Italian named Fredrico! So Wies and I went with the family to Guilin for the day, and to pick up Fredrico. Guilin was pretty interesting. It was nice to go to a bigger city and experience the craziness that is Chinese city life. We started off getting lunch at a noodle shop. I got some Hunan noodles, which are different than Guilin noodles? I don’t know how they are they taste pretty similar to me. After that Mr and Mrs Meng, took Yan Yan to the park and Isabella, Wies, Tina and I went to this massive shopping mall in the center of Guilin. It was interesting because the mall was like one massive department store. Each brand had their little section, and when you wanted to buy something you went to the sales person told them you wanted to buy something and then they wrote a receipt for you which you took to the cashier to pay. Just one of those interesting differences that you’d never think of. After the mall, we went to this large pedestrian street that had tons of different shops, some selling legit stuff and then the usual knockoffs. Then to end the day in Guilin we walked over to a large park that had two pagodas in the middle of a lake. One pagoda was the “moon pagoda” the other the “sun pagoda”. Finally, on the way to the car we walked through the people’s square of Guilin. It was cool to see because they had a massive map of the world imprinted out of granite on it. We walked over North America and I showed Isabella where I was from. (to my frustration the Twin Cities was omitted on this map when other cities of similar size were included). Then we went off to the airport to pick up Fredrico.

Next day, we went off to Fengyan Village in rural China. Fengyan is a very interesting place. It is a very traditional Chinese village that has really held on to historical practices. I don’t really know where to start because there is a lot to talk about…. Well I’ll start with the house. The house we stayed in was built over 100 years ago, in the classical chinese style. It is a courtyard style house. So, when you walk in the front door there is a large room with a pool of water in the middle, and above that pool there is a hole in the roof, so when it rains the rain water falls into the pool. I don’t know why but I didn’t take many pictures of the house but hopefully I can get some from the others in the group. I did get some good shots of the town so thats good. So adventures in Fengyan village. On thursday morning, everyone (everyone as in all participants, Tina and her friend Hannah) went on a “walk”. Our walk started out as a regular walk through the hills but then all of a sudden our two track trail degraded to a single track, and then further degraded to rock scrambles and some pretty intense hiking. Mind you, nobody is dressed for this, we’re just wearing casual clothes. Of course I go to the front to see how far I get as the trail conditions get worse and worse. Kim (german foreign exchange student) and I do a pretty good job of finding the trail and making sure everyone follows us. Finally after crawling under some brush and seeing a wall of vegetation that is pretty impassable, we decide to turn around. We thought going up was quite the adventure, but it was going down that proved to be a real challenge. Typical of this region of China it was misty and all the rock scrambles we went up were quite slippery on the way down. It took a great deal of teamwork to get everyone down safely. I fell into a bush once, but we don’t have to talk about that.

New paragraph, that one was getting too long. Next day, we go for another walk. But this time we went walking along the road. We were going to Lin hua? Not sure on the name but regardless, Isabella told us it was a “model socialist town”. This place was 7km away, about 4.5 miles. The weather wasn’t too bad at the start but it got progressively worse as we went. So we stopped about 1k away from the town and Tina called Mr. Meng (her dad) to come pick us up and take us the rest of the way. When we got there we walked around for a bit and then went on a short river raft ride. Not too exciting. I don’t think our guide was too happy because she had to stand out in the rain while we were under the little cabana. After that the town had built steps to the top of a karst formation, 518 steps to be exact. We went to the top and got a really good view. I got some good pictures up here. After 10 minutes at the top we went down and walked through town. It wasn’t too remarkable other than the fact that the houses were pretty nice. My theory is that the chinese government made this “ideal” place to create a tourist attraction to create something called revenue….? hmmmmmm and this is model socialism? On top of that the locals were out selling little trinkets, even though we were the only outsiders there.

Saturday, we drove home met a new guy, Brit named Tom. Nice guy. I also met up fellow Minnetonka’n Alex Messanger! He has been in Yangshuo for a few days so little sense in showing him the town, but he came out to Stone Rose with the crew. Enjoyed the free beer at the price of getting your ears blasted out by the insanely loud music.

TODAY TODAY TODAY!! Today Alex and I went climbing, which was AWESOME!!!!!! For 180 Kuai (27 dollars and 29 cents to be exact) we got four hours of climbing in, pretty good deal if you ask me. I got to do 5 routes, ranging from 5.6 to 5.10a for those who know what I’m talking about. I got some good pictures, Alex got a lot better ones (he’s a much more serious photographer than I am). One thing I learned today about myself is that running is not really good training for climbing. My arms are completely dead, my legs are fine. A strange thing about climbing in china is that most of the routes here are controlled by a single climbing “club” which our guide told us was a cover for the mafia. There were signs saying “climbing prohibited without permission”. And today we were lucky enough to get a visit from the mafia! Luckily nothing too much came of this, the guides paid them 10 kuai ($1.50) and they were off. I don’t know how they make any real money…..

Okay, Its 9pm and soon we’re getting a new person! A girl form england, so I have to go meet her! Finally one last note. For those who are interested, my running has been going pretty well. I’ve been pretty busy but I get out running about 5x a week so not too bad. I don’t feel totally settled with routes and everything so I have yet to go out for a really long run. I’ve been topping out at like 50 minutes. Still pretty solid.

Cultural Embrace, Teach in China 2011

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