Well...its been a long week, and there's been a lot happening!
The most exciting thing is that we became Chinese TV stars, and we're saving a town!
Mark, the head of English here took us to his home town, Tonkgnan for the day. He told half of us that we were going for dinner with the mayor, and the other half that we were going to see a temple. We did both...and a bit more.
We left at 9:30 in the morning and some people fell asleep in the car with their shoes on...this is a silly thing to do, it makes you fair game!
Bad luck Mat!
Then, we went for dinner with the mayor, and what seemed like the whole council for the town. Mark's got it into his head that i don't drink now, so i was safe on coke, while the others were forced into drinking games. They were drunk by midday...
The dinner was in a small place that had the most beautiful tree in the middle of the courtyard
Apparently this is the Tree of Chongqing and is over 300 years old. It is beautiful and has lots of twisted roots spiralling up the trunk.
After lunch, we had a look around Tonkgnan
After the tour around Tonkgnan, in which i had to walk around holding the hands of the mayoress and another top ranking woman...(the chinese girls really like holding hands or linking arms...), we were taken to Mark's Middle School. We were told it was to speak to the headmaster, and to meet some of the teachers and children...UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR!!
We went to a short meeting where they told us the history of the school and a bit about it, then we went to 'meet some children'...I went to the toilet and then the mayoress walked me down a small road bit to meet the children. Mat and Carolina had already arrived there. As I turned the corner, there was a massive cheer and round of applause...and a podium covered with red material, with big seats for us to sit in...and microphones...and this greeted me:
oh yes...what seemed like thousands of children, all sat in neat lines...they all cheered and applauded as i sat down, waiting for Alison and Pete to arrive...
Then...i looked behind me and saw:
There were hundreds of them..all hanging off the balconies to see us. I waved and got a massive round of applause and cheering from the balconies too.
It was absolute madness, especially as we were followed around the streets and through the schools by a TV camera - we had become celebrities.
There was a speech from Mark to the children about learning English and how useful it was, and the best ways to practice, then it was over to us, so we gave short introductions and then Mark took over again.
After about an hour of Mark talking, he got up and left and we were mobbed...literally mobbed by children wanting autographs! They were coming from all angles giving us books, pieces of paper and body parts to sign! I was being hit in the back of the head by books, squashed by children and getting them shoved under my nose as well. Poor Mat was on the end of the table, so he had them coming from 3 sides! In the end, it looked like they were going to kill him, so being the tallest and most outspoken i stood up and motioned for the children to move back. They got the idea and then a teacher came over to move them back and things were a little better.
Being mobbed by a school of children wanting autographs, whilst being videoed for TV has to be one of the most surreal experiences i've ever had, and i have the feeling that China has a few more ready for me...
So, after the madness of the school, we finally got to go to the temple. It is the Temple of the Golden Buddha. Sadly, the day we went, the Buddha wasn't quite so golden - he's being re-gilded.
The temple was gorgeous, so attractive. I seriously contemplated giving up being a hedgewitch and becoming a buddhist!
the surrounding scenery:
We saw the largest Chinese symbol in the world - it says Buddha
and the Man and Lady of the temple - these are natural formations caused by erosion and water, an excellent example of simulacra that is so appropriate - the man is on the left, the lady on the right. The man looks very typically Chinese. It couldn't be better!
We went to the Singing Steps - they're supposed to make a different sound on each 7th step. I stamped as hard as i could, but really didn't hear anything...
From the bottom:
from the top:
and the statues around were beautiful. I love Chinese art, especially the stone carvings.
After all that, a bit of R&R was in order, so we got taken to a karaoke bar, where the owner not only fed us copious amounts of popcorn, but gave us packets to take away too!
I asked Phoenix to write my favourite foods in chinese, so i'm sorted for ordering food now:
tomato and Egg thing
Sweet pork (i know i know...but they don't do chicken. I have been suffering...).
Now i'm busy trying to arrange for us to go on the Yangtze cruise for National Day. We can either get the cruise from here to Yichang, or we can go upstream (i'd prefer that) by flying to Yichang first and then catching the boat first.
I've found lots of tours that i want to go on as well, including a Kung Fu tour (anything to get back to the Shaolin temples!), and some classic tours. There's one going to Tibet - you can only go to Tibet on a group visa, and i would prefer to go on an organised tour rather then getting a group visa for us and then going just us... Another tour goes to the grasslands of Mongolia...and we get to meet local farmers and talk and eat with them. I want to do that one, but to do it on my own is twice the price of managing to convince everyone else to go as well...we'll see...