Yesterday marked the ending of two events at our school: First was the May Holiday (Labor Day), which had me in Chengdu for 3 days, and the second was the last English class held with our faculty soon to be traveling overseas.
After teaching my Sunday make-up classes, I headed off to the bus station for my 3 ½ hour journey to Sichuan’s capital city.
I found the traveling crowds quite impressive as everyone began departing for their May 1st holiday.
I had wisely bought my bus ticket the day before, which proved a good move considering the lines at the Luzhou station ticket counter. Very, very long!
My stay in Chengdu had me swimming every day among my buddies at the natatorium. This time around, however, I had more choices of pools.
May 1st marks open swimming season for the Chinese. The complex’s outdoor pools, which had been closed for winter, were open and ready for business. We had 2 days of great weather, in the 80s, so my swims took me outside since the indoor pool was too crowded.
Most Chinese prefer indoor swimming to outdoor swimming due to the strong sunshine. Women in China are very careful about becoming too tan by not taking on the appearance of what they call “peasants” (Our vocabulary uses the word “farmers”). They would much rather hold to their light skin, categorizing them as middle to upper class.
Even on the beaches in China, women protect their skin. Cloth wetsuit-type swimwear is becoming all the rage with women completely covered from head to toe, as well as gloved hands and masked faces, to protect themselves from direct sunlight.
How anyone could enjoy the pleasures of a sandy beach decked in such a get-up is beyond me but it’s a new trend and one which will increase during the sweltering summer months as people get out more.
At Chengdu’s outdoor pool, I was the only female in the water during my morning work-outs . Perhaps the temps were a bit chillier than the lady swimmers are used to but, mostly, I’m pretty sure it had to do more with the bright rays shining cheerfully down upon us than colder water.
Back in Luzhou
Thursday morning saw my classes somewhat vacant. In my class of 63, 15 were missing and in my other freshman classroom, I had 6 gone. Quite a few couldn’t resist taking off the entire week. Why return for just 2 days of classes when the weekend was just around the corner?
Ah, to be a student again with such freedom!
And it was a good day to be away, too. Our temperatures suddenly dove into the low 60s with constant rain the entire day. All of us were digging into our winter wardrobes once again. I was pulling out pants and long-sleeved shirts which I had hoped would not be seen again for at least 5 months.
Sadly for the next few days, not so.
Our Faculty Course Ends: A Night of Accomplishment
In the evening, I was speculating just how many of our faculty would show for the last class in their English language course. This being evaluation night, we 3 foreigners were wondering if many wouldn’t be scared away by the prospect of being tested, not to mention the miserable weather on top of it all.
As it turned out, we had the usual crowd, including Dean “Horace” He and Vice-Dean “Lisa” Zhang who came for our group photos.
The evaluation went smoothly.
After visiting the different testing stations, our adults excitedly received colorful praise stickers on their papers and fancy pencils as rewards for their time with us. Everyone left with a feeling of accomplishment, including us, their instructors.
Down Hill from Now On
Our spring term will be ending around July 5, which means it’s down hill from now on.
In just a few weeks, I’ll begin to talk to my classes about our oral testing schedule, which takes me 3 weeks to complete. Thrown in there is yet another holiday, Dragon Boat Festival, which gives us June 13 – 16 off and will most likely have me back in Chengdu braving the “peasant” look along with the guys in the outdoor pool.
I do have women swimmers ask if I’m concerned about “becoming black,” as the Chinese say.
In so many words, I explain: “Hey! I’m from a farming community in America. Being a ‘peasant’ is just fine with me.”
From Luzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) from along the Yangtze