Sorry for not communicating. This is the first time I have been able to establish an internet connection since arriving in Shanghai almost a week ago. I am still unable to access email. I will keep trying.
In the few minutes available before our trip to Suzhou today, it is impossible to chronicle all we have learned and experienced in this past week. Our lecturers have been outstanding and I am eager to share some of this knowledge about China, its history and role in the global economy with my classes. I’ll try to update tommorow, internet connection willing. We leave in two days. While the days have flown by, the experience will last a lifetime.
Our schedule has been very fast-paced and some travel snafus have left me a bit over exhausted. I’ll try to catch up with some posts about our exciting days in Xi’ An when I get to Shanghai.
It poured this morning and we had just about dried out from the rain in Xian, but fortunately we began the day with a visit to the Art Institute here in Guilin. We attended a lecture on the art of ancient Chinese painting with a famous Chinese artist who demonstrated this incredible craft and produced a gorgeous piece before our eyes of specially prepared ink (paint) on rice paper. There are three categories of this type of painting (portraits, landscape and nature). The artists here first attend university for 4 years studying art and art history and then they apprentice with a master for a number of years. The color and subjects of many of these paintings are dictated by the seasons: Summer is represented by bamboo, spring is orchid, autumn is chrysanthemun and winter is plum. The artist chose to represent winter and we purchased this red and black painting for the School of Management. Gratefully, the rain subsided by the time we reached our next destination, a tea plantation. This particular tea farm is actually a research facility where we were treated to a demonstration of the process of tea making and instruction on the different types of tea – white, green, oolong and black which all come from the same tea plant. It was surprising to learn that green tea contains the most caffeine. Our host, Nico, was the same person who hosted us last year. We were then treated to a tea ceremony and learned about the formal protocal. We tasted four types of tea – yellow, flower, oolong and compressed. The compressed tea looks like a brick and is special to this tea farm. It has a shelf life of 50 years. Unlike our tea bags, the loose tea leaves may be reused 4 or 5 times and each type was incredibly flavorful.
Since the weather had cleared, we next visited Guilin’s highest mountain, called Yau Mountain, where we rode a chairlift up the mountain and climbed to the top above the clouds. While closed when we rode up, they were able to dry the mountain slide (which is called a tobboggan here) and we had a thrilling ride down the mountain.
Our city guide (Daisy) took us to a favorite restaurant of hers for a late lunch which was a bit different from the typical tourist restaurants that we have been frequenting. The dishes included duck, chicken and fish (both with the heads), prawn (feelers and all) and tofu which was delicious. Normally, I do not care for tofu, but this dish tasted like delicious barbequed meat. We also had some local rice wine that was just like schnapps. Since we were not far from our hotel, we all decided to walk back along the beautiful four lakes that are in the city’s center.
We will probably go out for pizza and a stroll later on and a bit of shopping at the open-air market that is set up along a main thoroughfare here at night.
Tomorrow morning we will take the Li River boat cruise before departing for the airport for our flight to Shanghai.
Late last night we arrived in Guilin– a humid and colorful city of (only) five million. A few members of the group and I quickly changed into fresh clothing and followed Dr. Ward to a local place with delicious (and cold) beverages, peanuts, and homemade pizza. It was just what the group needed to settle into our new surroundings; with beautiful lakes and mountains as our backdrop. Little did we know how grand these mountains would be…
We woke up to pouring rain but were determined to leave the hotel. Our wonderful tour guide Daisy knew just the spots: an art museum and tea plantation. At the museum we got to sit and watch an artist paint a beautiful plum branch; which represents the winter season. From there, we went to a government owned tea plantation where we got to not only see the tea bush, but learn what parts of the plant create the different types of tea and participate in a tea ceremony.
- Did you know that the very top “needle” of the tea bush is what makes white tea?
- Did you know that the top needle with the first little leaf of the bush is what makes oolong tea?
- Did you know that the top needle plus the first two leaves is what green tea is made of?
- Black tea is made of the remaining big tea leaves- but not the oversized, waxing leaves.
We were taught how to brew the tea, hold the tea cup and show our respect to the one serving the tea– an event the entire group seemed to love.
From there we took the short drive to the highest peak in downtown Guilin, Yao Mountain. We took a gondola ride to the top (about fifteen minutes in one direction) and got to walk above the clouds. The view was breathtaking; it’s hard to believe the city is embedded within this mountain range. On the way down we each took a bobsled– the group stuck me at the back in fear that I would coast too slowly, however, it was so much fun and I sped up so quickly, the men along the course had to encourage me to slow down. The adrenaline was rushing through all of us to carry our spirits to a late lunch at a local restaurant.
And here were are with the afternoon off and the anticipation of the evening’s activities. We are all cramped in my room, laughing, sharing stories and building relationships that will last a lifetime. Until tomorrow, ciao!