An Always Changing China

Dragon Boat Festival: June 6

         All of China enjoyed a marvelous 3-day weekend due to Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional day which is, as of 3 years ago, now one of the official 1-day holidays we have off. 

           Most likely, you’ve all been seeing dragon boat races on the news which take place all across the country at this time.  Even in America, I’ve heard dragon boat racing is a fast becoming a new sport for rowers.  But one thing you won’t find for Dragon Boat Festival in Americais the food that comes with this special Chinese day.  That’s zongzi.  

            Zongzi is a sticky, glutinous rice glob wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed.  There are many kinds to buy either in grocery stores or from venders selling homemade varieties for those who don’t want to bother making it themselves.  There are the savory, salted meat kind, the sweet red bean filling, or  the plain with pork fat drippings as flavoring. 

            Every province has it’s different version, style and shape. Guangxi is no different.

            Most zongzi in China are triangular but this province prefers it shaped as a huge rectangle.  If you line up zongzi across a table from the different areas of the country, you can spot a Guangxi zongzi a mile away:  they are huge and triple the size of the average ones.

 A Nanning Trip for the Holiday:  Pool Time!

          While my students spent their holiday here on campus (not enough travel time to go home), eating their zongzi from outside sellers, I spent mine inNanning.  The insufferable summer heat is upon us and the cooling waters of the pool always beckon.  After joining on a 3-month membership 6 weeks ago, I’ve managed to make it to my usual  relaxing water-world almost every weekend.

            For newcomers to my blog, the indoor pool complex I patron is located on the Xiyuan Hotel grounds.  There’s a 25 meter lap pool for those of us who are serious swimmers and an oblong-shaped pool for the young kids and floaters.  Towels, lockers, shampoo and other amenities are provided. 

             Since the water isn’t heated, not many are seen during the winter. Only the die-hard swimmers, such as myself, will be seen taking that plunge into the 55 degree, frigid pool from November to March.  But now that the summer is nearly upon with, with kids soon to be released from school in July and temps soaring into the 90s, there are a few more than usual  cooling off in our waters.

An Iconic Structure Falls

              One of the lovely parts about swimming at this particular pool is that it’s located in a lovely area.

             The Xiyuan Hotel is a conference center, sheltered from the surrounding city by it’s vast, walled-in grounds.  The place is huge with beautiful landscaping.  Dense trees for shading, wide grassy areas, silent walkways and small ponds surrounded by benches and arching bamboo groves make for a restful respite after a calming swim.

            One of the charms of the place was a palatial European-style building with columns, turrets and a majestic dome.  Looking at this gigantic structure, no long in use, left one awestruck.  It was such a strange thing to be seen inChina.  I wondered if at some point this was a foreigners’ club from the 1930s, a historical landmark of some sort that fell into disuse and was left as a reminder of the foreigner’s influence those many years ago.

            I never did find out its history, and now I probably never will.

            This Dragon Boat Weekend, the entire thing was being demolished. 

            A huge crane was busily roaring, grinding, swinging and knocking down the dome on Friday.  By Sunday, only the façade stood with most of the back end in rubble.

             The workers stopped on Monday for the holidays.  After my swim in the morning, before heading back to Longzhou, I took a long, last look at what was left.  By my next visit, all will be gone.   

            My guess is that a spiffy new high-rise complex is going up to add to the rather outdated main hotel which is certainly in need of refurbishing.

             It’s a little sad, but things change rapidly inChina.  I’m just fortunate that I have plenty of before pictures to keep our grand palace of the 30’s deep in my memory.

A Facelift for the Park

           While one of my favorite spots was demolished, yet another received a facelift.

            The small public park that is next to the hotel I stay at inNanningreceived a new appearance for the holidays.  New landscaping of plants, trees and small bushes, enclosed by 2-foot walled tiles, greeted me when I walked through the area on my way to the pool.  This small park is always filled in the morning with bamboo-caged birds and their owners, dozens of men who enjoy sitting about, chatting, drinking their tea and fussing over their birdies. 

            Before the park facelift, they brought their own chairs and stools to sit on.  But with the low-lying wall enclosure, there are plenty of places for them to park themselves while watching over their charges.

            I can’t say I’m 100% pleased with the changes made.  Before the landscaping, there was more green grass and wider spaces. Now, the park feels a bit crowded and enclosed.  It’s lost some of that wild, free, untamed spirit that it had before.

            Despite my opinion, the men are still quite happy to continue their morning ritual every day in this place.  I didn’t notice their numbers had dwindled at all from my previous visits.

             I stopped to talk to a small cluster of them when returned from my morning swim on Monday.  They told me a bird costs about $50 – 70, depending on which one you wanted.  They also said that the park had more sitting places for them, which was better than having to drag around their stools all the time.

             I mentioned that I preferred dogs to birds but, of course, a dog is a lot more work. Birds are less trouble to take care of.  They all nodded in agreement, although watching them carefully haul around the cages, fuss, fret and coo at their pets, I wondered if maybe a dog is a bit easier to care for after all. 

            Those guys certainly adored their feathered friends!

            I guess diligent owners of any animal, bird or otherwise, have the same feeling toward their beloved pets: spoil, spoil, spoil!  I know I certainly fall into that category with Little Flower

 Last Holiday Finished; Ending of the Semester

            We have now had our last holiday for the school year.  Already, my students are having their final exams in my class.  My last class day is June 24, but students will continue with their Chinese classes until July 9.  The foreign teacher always ends early, allowing students to concentrate on their other courses rather than worry about English Conversation finals.

            We are in the second week of testing and, so far, everyone has passed.  The second year English Education students are busy planning our end-of-the-year party.  Next semester, they’ll be off doing their practice teaching (what we call student teaching, in the States).  I won’t be seeing them much or have regular classes with them, which is sad.  Thus the party so we can all celebrate the end of our time together. 

            2 years together is a long time.  I remember them as young, frightened freshmen. Now they are growing up on me, soon to be in the classroom as novice teachers.  Their final exams have been teaching lessons in groups of 5 to their classmates, and I must say, they have done a marvelous job.

            It’s very fulfilling to watch them stand in front of the class as well-prepared English language instructors.  I must say, they have done a splendid job so far and their test results have all been in the 90s.

             It’s been a very rewarding experience to watch them progress to this level in just 2 years.  I’m very proud of all of them.

 

            And on that note, I’ll close for the day.  Ping An (Peace!) for your week.

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 18 years as an English language teacher. 13 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my second year in Guangxi Province at the 3-year college, Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities. The college is located in smalltown longzhou, 1 hour from the Vietnam border.
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