We started off this morning by heading to a special needs school. Our local guide, Grace, said that is was a school for kids with "mental disease". When we got there the kids took us by the hand and brought us to our seats. Then 5 of them got up and did a sweet step aerobics routine for us while two kids rode around them on rollerblades. One kid rode a unicycle around the room while dribbling a basketball. It really felt like circus kids on display for our amusement. I was cute and a horrifically sad in a very, very wrong way. So then the kids came and brought us out to teach us a dance and then played badminton, hula hoop, and yo yo. On our way out Grace was telling us that the school was scheduled to be torn down tomorrow. All the classrooms were empty and we were the last P2P group to visit that school.
After the 8 point earthquake they had in 2008 and lots of schools collapsed and hundreds of children died the government is in the process of rebuilding schools with a higher standard for support and earthquake codes.
I am really learning a lot about the Chinese Communist government. In my American mind, Communism= Bad but being here and seeing it really doesn't seem like the worst. They government really pays for and takes care of everything. We saw some windows being replaced in a high-rise because they were old. Kitty told us the government was replacing them so they could have their best face forward. I mean there are certainly things that I don't like about it. We learned a little more about the one child policy and I can't say that I would be happy about that but on the other hand, I can see why they have it.
Kitty told us that it stems from China's past relationship with Russia where they were taught that more children, meant more people and more power. Chinese women used to be encouraged to have as many children as possible. That sure backfired on them! But I digress.
The next stop on our tour was a silk factory. There they showed us the silk worm's cocoon and how they find the beginning of the strand, thread it into a machine and unwind it. One cocoon will have over 1,000 meters of silk. They have a giant machine that will unwind all the silk then they stretch it and either weave it into fabric or stuff it into blankets and pillows.
I have found that the fabric is much cooler. If I weren't halfway around the planet, I may have bought a silk comforter. Instead I bought a place setting and some bottle covers. My plan was to buy a scarf. They had a ton but none of them caught my eye. As I was checking out one of the workers brought out a silk worm he was holding in his fingers. This fat little sucker was wiggling all over the place. It was about the size of a golf ball. I am not one to be grossed out by bugs with the exception of centipedes but this was a nasty little dude. Kitty told me that some people eat them. Chinese delicacy. She said at the outdoor markets in Beijing they deep fry them on a stick. I'll pass. I asked her if she eats them and she made a grossed out face and said, "No". As a matter of fact I bet there are very few Chinese that eat them and they just put them out there to scare the foreigners!
Lunch was a bit different today.
We went to a Mongolian BBQ restaurant. They way it worked was that you went up to a raw meat bar and scooped uncooked meats into a bowl. They had chicken, pork, beef and lamb. Then you scooped different veggies and sauces on top. You walked up to the kitchen window and hand the cooks your bowl. There they throw it onto a giant, circular, skillet thing and beat it with a stick. They toss it around and back into another bowl. They give it back to you and you go to the rice and noodle station to top it off. I thought it was quite good actually. I am not sure the kiddos liked it very much because some of them opted to buy 2 or 3 ice creams for lunch instead.
From there the plan was to visit a local family. We needed to prepare a gift for them.
So reminiscent of last year's grocery store debacle of 2009 (see my Wales blog) we broke up into groups and headed to the grocery store. Each group was given 100 RMB to spend. The plan was to get them something practical that may remind them of you. One group did a great job getting things that are North Carolina related. Another got a ton of rice, water, milk and practical things. My group probably had the best presentation, purchasing a bowl to put everything in. The group that bought the practical things ended up winning. We brought the things to a local family’s apartment. They live in the old section of Shanghai that was built in the 50's. Shanghai is one of the newest cities with a history only going back about 200 years. We talked with the Mom and looked around the apartment. Grace interpreted.
She told us that when her grandparents bought it, it was about 2,000 US dollars and if they wanted to sell it now, it would probably go for about 200,000 US. Not because it is very big or nice, but because of it's location in the city.
From there we went to the local circus to see an acrobatics show. We arrived about an hour before the show started and were able to watch the acrobatics warm up and practice. Then we got up on stage and they taught us how to juggle hats and Chinese yo, yos. When it was time for the show to start, we moved to our reserved seats. The show was very similar to Cirque du Soliel. There were contortionists, jugglers, acrobats, magicians and even the big round cage for the motorcycles to ride in and almost give me a heart attack.
The thing that reminded me the most of Cirque do Soliel was these two men who lifted each other up and did all these power moves in slow motion. I wonder who did it first. I am going to guess the Chinese. One of the things I noticed was their serious faces. Barley any of them smiled. Also they did not count the music for their choreography. They would just have one person yell something along the lines of, "go". I would have to say my favorite part of the show was when a bunch of the men tumbled through hoops. They would do these spectacular dive rolls through rotating hoops. They did front and back hand-springs, tucks, and layouts. It was sort of cheesy though because they were all dressed in "hip hop" clothes. I use the term very loosely. They did not look hip hop at all. So in between the tumbling, they would do freezes or 1990's or a little top rock. It looked so forces though; no musicality!
After the circus we headed to the best meal of the trip so far; Pizza Hut! I know, I know, I sound like the kids.
It tasted so damn good though. Not that the Chinese food is bad, because it is not. I am just getting sick of the same meal every day for lunch and dinner. So Pizza Hut and KFC are visited as special occasions here in China. As a matter of fact, Kitty had her first date with her husband at KFC. This was the fanciest Pizza Hut I have ever been to. Nice decor, sit down restaurant. They gave us wings and waffle fries for an appetizer. As I scanned the restaurant, I noticed all the Chinese people eating their wings with a fork. We looked like savages eating them with our fingers. I didn't care though, soooooo good! Barely any of the Chinese people in the restaurant actually had pizza. Most had salads, wings and soup. Guess they don't like the greasy goodness as much as us fatty Americans. After we all gorged ourselves, we all took a to-go box and felt fat and happy.
When we returned to the hotel we gave the kiddos a late bed time because they had been behaving themselves.
Also because we had a late wake-up call the next morning. Guess we won't be doing that again because a group of boys took this as a good opportunity to try to sneak into the roof-top bar. They got kicked out and then came back to the floor to brag about it. Jill overheard their conversation and busted them. By the time morning came, they had gotten their story together and made is sound like no one did anything wrong. I give more credit to the three kiddos that didn't get up their friends. To others were trying to take the rest of them down with them.
I'll take this moment to talk a little about some observations about China in general. The traffic is the scariest environment imaginable. The pedestrians do not have the right of way.
This is the same in most countries I have been to but they are serious about it here. There are cars, mopeds, scooters, bikes, trikes, wagons and other various vehicles everywhere. The funnies vehicles are the ones that are loaded up 6 feet high with boxes or trees. Sometimes you will see the most random things stacked high on the back of a bike or moped. They all move together in a carefully choreographed dance. No one wears a helmet including children hanging off the back of their mom's motor cycle. It is not uncommon to see men in suits and women in dresses cycling down the road through traffic. Traffic signals are not quite obeyed. Everyone just kind of goes. I am amazed that the small spaces our bus seems to fit into. No one uses their turn signal to switch lanes and actually lanes aren't really used either. Sometimes cars just thread the needle in between two cars. They will drive in the break-down lane, on the sidewalk, anywhere to get around. No one stops and no one looks. Our bus drivers have been careful where he drops us off so we don't have to cross the street that often.
It gives me a heart attack every time we have to because the kids have no common sense and just walk with the crowd. More than once have I had to grab someone's arm and pull them out of the way.
Another observation about China is that they hang their laundry outside to dry. That's not strange you say? Well consider that everyone does it. They hang it out the window of their high-rises, on the sidewalk, on trees and poles, just about everywhere. They also hang everything from blankets, shirts, pants to under where and bras.
The Chinese do not sit on the ground.
Ever. They squat. Which is probably good practice for the toilets. Some carry around little stools with them. Others find something to sit on. If we sit on the ground, we get funny looks. I tried to sit down on the stairs at my homestay and my MaMa made a big fuss. She went out of her way to find a piece of paper to put under my bum.