We started the day with an American breakfast – eggs and bacon, eaten with a fork! Not that I really missed this stuff; it was just a surprise.
Then we went to the airport and said our goodbyes. Mr. Fan and Wan Ding have been fabulous hosts. Wan Ding said he will come to Baton Rouge in 2002; I look forward to it. [Ack! His trip was befouled by the bureaucracy.] Winston’s leaving was especially tearful for Rikki.
We arrived in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, after a short flight. We shared some jokes with our tour guide (Qiao Lan, a woman) about spicy food and “spicy girls.”
After a brief stop at our hotel, we went to a Daoism temple. This temple was actually cool. It was in a beautiful area with lots of green plants. Some monks were doing a ceremony while playing wonderful music (using entirely percussion) and chanting. I was tempted to buy a wind gong (198 yuan) to bring home with me.
Our dinner tonight was great. Lots of dishes were spicy and full of flavor. I was especially interested in the Mapou tofu, a dish my mom makes. The Sichuan version is much spicier than my mom’s.
Tomorrow we will move to another hotel. This is because we were originally supposed to fly in to Chengdu on the 21st, but we had to change our schedule because the flight was cancelled. The new hotel is said to be in the middle of the city with a lot of good shopping, including department stores, nearby. (Note: There is no bargaining in department stores. They're more Western.)
This morning we went to class at Sichuan Normal University. We had a 3-hour lecture on the history of Chinese music. (All Chinese lectures are that long.) I would have liked it better if we had been able to see and play some instruments, discussed the structure and reasoning behind the music and instruments, etc. But I suppose most of the group is not trained in music and find the history more appealing. Also I had trouble sitting still for so long, even with a break halfway through.
After that we went to the home of a poet named Dufu who lived in the 700s. His house was on a very large plot of land with many ponds and gardens, including a bonzai garden. Dufu also liked bamboo; many different varieties of bamboo were everywhere. I liked them, too.
I had to quit writing earlier to go to dinner. Continuing:
After Dufu’s house, we went to a tea house. It was really cool: bamboo seating, very traditional. We sampled three varieties of Oolong tea. (Oolong is my favorite.) They were all good. The whole group especially like one type that is a little bitter at first, but has a wonderful sweet aftertaste: it can only be bought in Sichuan Province, so I got some. I was tempted to buy more, but I don’t have room to pack it.
Tonight after dinner we went shopping. Our hotel is smack in the middle of downtown, a very commercial area. It reminds me of New York. There is even a McDonald’s and a KFC nearby, and a Pizza Hut in the hotel. The department stores are much like the U.S. version. One here was six floors. I bought more film, gifts, and CDs.
Tomorrow should be exciting; we are going to a research place to see pandas! Also we are supposed to have another lecture and an opera.
Chinese women dress “prettier” than American women. More dresses, almost no jeans. Men dress about the same. There is some see-thru clothing on both sexes.
The people in Chengdu are a bit shorter than in other areas we have visited, though the Chinese in general are of comparable height to Americans.
|McDonald's value meal||16.90||2|
|McDonald's ice cream||1||0.12|
|Pizza hut (most expensive pizza)||85||10|
…even the foreign stuff is cheaper.
This morning we went to see the pandas. We saw about 10 pandas. The cutest were some babies (9 months old) that were playing with each other. The adults can move faster than you’d think, even with their stocky build. It was really cool.
The panda place also had some other animals, such as goats, peacocks, cranes, etc. They also had more pandas that we did not see, in research.
Geoffrey stepped on a snail. Lee was mad. Then somebody stepped on another snail. Lee was mad some more.
There was a lecture on painting, but all of us language students skipped it to have a Chinese lesson. We also shopped; I bought 5 more CDs, a DVD, and some snacks.
At night we went to the Sichuan opera. At first I was reluctant to go, but afterwards I was glad I did. It was much better than the Peking Opera. Here it was not strictly opera: there were also band performances (about 10 members in the band) which I really enjoyed, puppet shows (excellent!), and an especially good act called “Changing Faces and Breathing Fire.”
Lee was tormented by mosquitoes. She says she has malaria. I bet her that she doesn’t. [I won.]
Tomorrow we have a 10-hour drive to Jiu Zhai Gou, which is said to be an extremely beautiful natural area. We will be going to altitudes of about 4000m. We are actually going to stop and buy oxygen just in case.