Last Saturday, our previously chilly temperatures soared into the 80s, making it the perfect day for a picnic.
The new English Center inductees along with the former members invited me along to their first picnic in Zhong Shan Park. Very few county towns in China have a park but Longzhou is proud to boast that, despite it’s small size, it does indeed offer residents a weekend get-away.
The park is quite large and one which Becky and I had toured when she was here.
If you arrive before 7 a.m., the park is free but after that, it’s 3 yuan (about 50 cents) to enter.
Wandering the pathways, you will come across a pond with a gazebo and pagoda nestled in the center island areas. There’s a small cave with a Buddhist altar which seems to be frequently visited. I noticed candles burning and offerings left when I was there. The park hugs the Li River so there are some lovely views to be had of sampans, wooden fishing vessels and house boats chugging along.
There was once a small animal zoo but, thankfully, the cages are now empty aside from 2 very sad, diseased monkeys. A zoo is a typical sight for Chinese town or city parks. Luzhou also had a zoo but at least the animals seemed somewhat in good shape. These two monkeys in Longzhou were in great need of better care and a better life.
The gathering point in the park is the Martyr’s Memorial obelisk which rests in the center. The area is surrounded by a concrete square which makes it a great place for students and others to hang out.
When I arrived a bit later on Saturday morning than the students, they were already in full cooking mode. They had their tin troughs and grills set up, the wood chips smoldering away, and were already chomping down on their picnic feast. Kabobs of tofu squares, corn-on-the-cob, chicken wings, and sticky rice chunks were offerings thrust into my hands as soon as I approached the group.
Our vice-dean of the English Department, Liang Ling, was likewise with us. Her 9-year-old daughter was happily entertaining herself by bouncing a basketball.
After everyone had eaten themselves silly, it was time for the program.
The new volunteers had carefully planned an afternoon of activities. We sat in a circle and heard performances of English poems, songs, and jokes. Then it was time for outdoor games, such as popping the balloon and group ski-walking on wooden boards.
As the sun became higher and the air hotter, it was finally time to call it quits around 3 p.m.
I was impressed by how carefully everyone cleaned up their mess left behind. They picked up all the trash, collected all the cooking utensils and even made sure to sweep the area of the burnt wood.
That is unusual for China, where most people just drop their trash wherever and don’t bother to clean up after themselves. Obviously, the years of government announcements about the environment and public accountability are paying off.
For this weekend, the English Center is hosting a movie night for those who wish to drop by the Center to watch. Showcased will be a Christmas movie provided by Connie herself. I dropped off 10 Christmas DVDs to the English Center 2 days ago for students to enjoy during the holiday season. I’m interested to see which one has been chosen for tonight. Being a huge Christmas fan, you can bet I’ll be over early to get myself a seat in our little Center.
On that note, I’d best get going!
Here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your 2nd Sunday in Advent.
Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities
125 Dushan Road
Longzhou County, Chongzuo City
Guangxi Province, 532400
P.R. of CHINA