Every year, for the past 10 years, I’ve always given each of my students 2 laminated photographs as a memory of their foreign language teacher. The pictures are usually of me and Little Flower, with poses around our school or in holiday attire for special occasions. The students are thrilled with their gifts, taking them home to show family and friends. My Chinese friends and chance acquaintances also enjoy having something to remember me by.
The first photo is always in winter, taken at Christmastime.
The second photo is in the spring, given for May 1st, the UN announced Labor Day Holiday which China and numerous other Asian countries recognize.
Where To Go?
The Christmas picture is an easy one. My apartment decorations are the ones to usually provide a festive backdrop. But then comes the spring, when it’s a bit more challenging to find the perfect spot for a gift photo.
Last year’s May Day picture was taken at the famous Detian Waterfall, a 2-hour drive from Longzhou. Detian Falls are located at the border between China and Vietnam, with half the falls in China and the other half in Vietnam. It’s a popular tourist site with quite impressive scenery. Just beautiful, and no mistaking you are in southern China.
While the students certainly appreciated the photo of me grinning at them with the waterfalls in the background, they were disappointed. Little Flower was not in the picture. I got a lot of flack about that so this year, I paid particular attention to getting us both in the shot.
A Site is Chosen
Yet where in Longzhou would be a memorable spot which gives this little town its notoriety?
The school’s campus wasn’t it. Shady trees, grassy lawns, wide walkways. Nothing special there.
But the one thing that truly sets this town apart from any others in China has to be Da Qiao (Big Bridge), our magnificent hand-cut, hand-laid stone bridge over the Li River, which is just outside the school’s back gate. What a great background this would make for not only the Chinese but my friends in America as well.
Once the site was chosen, I needed photographers. Among my second year English Education majors, I had 2 volunteers. Eleanor (Li Jualan) and Jasmine (Wei Qiuyan) were more than eager to help with photo taking. Partly what made them so enthusiastic to help was that they knew their reward would be to take as many pictures together and then with me as they wanted.
For the Chinese, photos are a huge deal. They love taking them, sending them and sharing them. For foreign visitors, Chinese can really wear a person out with all their photo hype. Patience and understanding is definitely needed. Over the years, I’ve gotten plenty of practice in both when it comes to a camera in the hands of the overzealous Chinese. Hundreds of shots will be taken so best to go with the flow and enjoy.
The Photo Shoots: The Right Spot, The Right Angle, The Right Snapshot
We made an appointment time for 1 p.m., a week before May 1st, so I’d have plenty of time to get photos copied for everyone.
I donned a colorful shirt, put on my make-up and gold earrings, gave LF a bath and nail trim, and off we went to meet Eleanor and Jasmine at the school’s back gate.
Jasmine was just as gussied up as I. She had dressed in a long, flowing skirt, pinned up her hair and was ready for her photo session with me.
Of course, it would have to be a horrendously hot day, very steamy and stuffy outside. LF was already panting when we came to our first photo shoot, located behind the fruit seller stands alongside the road. Here the bridge could be seen from one angle but it wasn’t very clear. Too much glare from the hazy sun.
The next vantage point had us on the other side of the bridge. After passing through one of the arches, we selected numerous places along the town’s busy river road. We even hiked down to the river itself, hoping for a better view of houseboat life on the river with a distant Da Qiao behind us.
The Finished Product
After a good hour, we all were ready to call it quits. I had plenty of photos to choose from and we were all hot. The girls were happy with the many pictures we’d taken and I knew that somewhere in all those poses and shots, I had my May Day picture.
It was a bit of a challenge to choose the right one, but I got it. No complaining this time around that the dog wasn’t in the picture. She and I were front and center, me with a smile and the dog with her tongue lolling.
Hope you enjoy our Da Qiao photo shoot in the slideshow below. Now we’ve gotten this year taken care of but . . . where to go for next year?
From China, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.