Saturday, July 9, 2016

Walking home from dinner: A Life or Death Situation

Aaaa I don't care how American it makes me, there is something comforting about being able to chill in a Starbucks with a caramel macchiato just like home wherever you go.  An added benefit of Starbucks in China is the people watching.  The American influence on the culture is strong.  It's so neat seeing Chinese citizens sitting with a cup of coffee and working on their laptop.  Even better is that this behavior is mostly isolated to Starbucks, so the American setting is an option, but not taking over the original work culture.

I'm sitting here with my coffee reflecting on a day of adventure our group experienced yesterday.  One of the main sites to see in Hangzhou is the XieXie Wetlands.  It is this vast national park with several ancient Chinese villages as well as several walking paths and restaurants.  We are fortunate that the Wetlands are within walking distance to our school.  We started out on our two mile walk in the surprisingly cool afternoon weather.  Upon arrival, we learned that the entrance to the ancient villages was already closed for the day, but several of the paths were open to roam.  We wandered around for quite a while exploring the different paths and enjoying the beautiful art that was completing the natural views of the park.



My favorite was this little building made out of thousands of little people!  Art in China is not as easy to come across as it is in the United States.  In fact, one of the main reasons we are here working with teachers and students is to encourage more creativity through vessels such as the arts.  Hangzhou is actually a creative arts hub since there is a large art university located here.  That being said, it is still difficult to come across local contemporary art.  On our walk, we discovered several large empty buildings.  Perhaps they will be used for some indoor exhibitions in the park?

After our stroll in the park we stumbled upon a row of restaurants and settled on Thai food for dinner.  It was a fantastic dinner that was a much needed change from our routine Chinese food, not to mention exceptionally reasonable.  I had an amazing bowl of chicken curry with rice along with some of the best spring rolls I've had in a while.  It was wonderful.  Even better were the prices.  While a night out at a Thai restaurant in the US would cost at least $20, and that's just for the meal and drink, I stuffed my face with more than I should have and only paid about $14.  I wish the place was closer, I would be there all the time!

But now to the part about the life threatening walk.  In China, it is understood that traffic and pedestrian rules are merely suggestions.  This is even more so in construction areas, which is basically every road around the school.  By the time we made it out of the restaurant the sun had gone down and we were navigating in the dark.  Fortunately, it was a straight shot from the restaurant back to the school, but in came the construction.  For nearly the entire walk, we felt in danger.  In fact, there were actually a couple serious close calls.  In China, it's important to note, that open construction zones are neither considered dangerous nor off limits to the public.  Needless to say, our entire walk home was through an active construction sight, complete with big machinery, wet cement,  large open holes in the sidewalk, and even wet tar.  It was truly a dangerous walk that could only occur in China.  At one point a scooter lost control after colliding with a bike and came extraordinary close to pinning our group of walkers against a wall.  I regret not taking any pictures of this delightfully Chinese walk, but felt it was not worth risking my life taking my eyes off the road, even for a few seconds.  It was such a thrill, though!  There is no need for amusement parks in China because you get a real life thrill just walking along the street!!

Well my caramel macchiato is winding down and I am getting the urge to start exploring, so I shall end my blog here.  Stay tuned for my next blog, which is going to talk about my week with the teachers, which was both humbling and informative.  A wonderful experience indeed.  

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