There are two tales I forgot to tell about Monday. After we finished up at Qianling Park, we decided to simply just take a cab back to the hotel. Our hotel had a unique location in a sense that you couldn’t take a left turn from the main road to get to it. So you can either drive past it and pull a “Michigan left” later or turn left into a district near it and go through the back streets. However, there was a rather long line up to take the second option - maybe 30 cars, waiting to make this left turn. Our cab driver didn’t want to wait that long, so he pulled over to the opposite side of the road. Thank goodness there was barely any oncoming traffic before he turned into the area. My parents started laughing, so the driver asked me if they were laughing at him. I admitted that they were and that doing what he just did was illegal in the U.S. He grinned and said “well, it’s illegal here.” After dropping us off he offered to be our driver for the rest of our stay, if we were interested.
Tale number two: When you check into Gui Zhou hotel, they give you a little voucher for a free “welcome drink” at the sight-seeing hotel on the top floor. We figured we’d give it a shot and went up to the 29th floor to check it out. When we arrived the lighting was dark and we couldn’t see or hear anyone. We checked the board near the elevator and found the bar was open from 7pm till 1 in the morning and by our watches, it was 8pm. So I called out if anyone was there. A man came from around the corner and said that yes, they were serving and let us choose a table. Now, this “sight-seeing” bar had curtains blocking the view. We got them to open some for us and the view was nice. I explained to the waiter that we had we had two vouchers for the free drinks only to learn that the two free options were orange juice and lemonade. There were no mixed drinks on the menu, so we tried to explain to the man that I wanted a glass of orange juice with a serving of vodka inside. This was a foreign idea to him and it took a while to get the point across. Once he got it and went to take care of our drinks, he came back to inform us that the only hard liquor was a kind of whiskey and Kailua. So much for a well stocked bar. Mom and I finished our orange juices, dad his beer, and we went back downstairs.
Tuesday morning we woke up to see that it had poured while we were sleeping and many areas around the hotel were covered in water. There was nothing officially on the agenda for the day, but I had told them about a park we could go to - Tianhetan. We went to the bus station, armed with umbrellas, and took the hour bus ride to the park. By the time we got there, it was close to lunch time so we sat down in a restaurant I had visited the last time I had been there in the fall. Good food. We were quite the spectacle for the locals, but there you have it. After a filling lunch, we bought a 3rd umbrella for dad - “Hello Kitty” - and continued on our way around the park
I went to Tianhetan in the fall with Ms. Zhang, Jerry, and some of their friends. This time it was just me, mom, and dad. Because of the rain, there were very few tourists so we were able to enjoy the two main waterfalls, whose water level was high and made me a little nervous for the big waterfall we were going to see later that week. We were the only people on the boat in the wet cave and then we were with a group of maybe 15 to walk through the dry caves. Because of all the rain, it wasn’t so “dry”, but it was still beautiful to walk through.
Here's mom and dad with the main waterfall at Tianhetan.
On the bus ride back into town I started receiving phone calls from Yvonne’s mother, who was preparing our dinner that evening. She was asking after what things my parents enjoyed eating, then later called to see if she had to buy forks among other things. After refreshing ourselves at the hotel, we walked over to their home. I had spoken on the phone with Yvonne a couple of times about the dinner. I wanted the food to be a sampling of the daily dishes the Chinese commonly have. There are a number of things that a Chinese host is supposed to cook for a guest and I stressed that my parents could get that in a restaurant any time they wanted. The other thing I had stressed was keeping it a small affair, meaning me, my parents, and her parents. I won on the food part, but a couple of uncles and aunts were invited along. Before Yvonne’s father arrived, none of them could speak English. So conversation was challenging as I had to translate everything to my parents and then back.
Here's a picture of Yvonne's parents and my mom and dad. Yvonne's mother cooked the meal and is retired. Yvonne's father is a professor at a local university and teaches biophysics, specifically dealing with the brain. Yeah.
When Yvonne’s father arrived and after introductions, asked my father a very important question. “Do you like wine?” to which my father answered that he did. His face lit up like he was 5 years old and it was Christmas morning and then he hurried into the kitchen to find something for them to drink. They were taking a while, so I went in after them and found them searching the cupboards for a bottle of mao-tai. When something was found (not mao-tai, but pretty close), Yvonne’s father poured my father a whole wine glass full. Dad took his first sip and his eyes about bugged out of his head. The meal was delicious, the company was good, and we had a wonderful time. Yvonne’s uncle ended up driving us back to the hotel, but without the defroster on. It was a wonder the man could see the street.
Wednesday morning we ate breakfast together and then mom and I left to do some shopping, while dad waited to be picked up for golf. Arranging the whole golf thing had been quite the experience. Dr. Li had put me in contact with Mr. Wen, the man who owns the photo studio I had my pictures taken at. Mr. Wen couldn’t go golfing with dad because he had meetings that day, so he arranged for some of his friends to accompany my father. Because none of these men could speak English, Mr. Wen had assumed I would go to act as translator. I explained that it wasn’t possible because I had lessons that afternoon. So Mr. Wen tried to get Betty to rearrange her classes so she could go with my father. We made it clear that if that was going to happen, my dad was no longer interested in going. He had simply wanted to go for fun and to inconvenience anyone would not make it worth it. In the end, we won out and dad was able to go minus translator and had a great time.
Mom and I bought a couple of things uptown, I had her try siwawa for lunch, and then we headed out to the school. I finished packing everything that was left at the school and then got ready to finish up the exams with the students. This was also the last day of classes for the J3 students, so many of them would come up to me, say goodbye, then run off with their parents to go home. They had their exams that weekend, so it was like a mini-vacation for them to rest before taking them.
J2C2 didn’t have many exams left and I didn’t have anything planned for the rest of the lesson, so we went down to the basketball courts where the boys played basketball and I played a couple of games with the girls. I had some time to kill before the next lesson, so I spent some time with the teachers and prepared the raffle I would be having later. It was the same set up as I had done for the J3’s - any student who answered all the questions correctly on the exam had their name put into a cup and once I drew their name, they could come and get a prize. I finished testing the rest of J2C1 and then the raffle began.
Now here was one excited group. I explained the premise again to everyone to make sure they understood and once that was done, I started drawing names. The first boy actually got a round of applause and unlike with the J3’s, everyone stayed and paid attention to what everyone else got. There were some more coveted items that got taken fairly early, but they all had a good time. Once the raffle was over I thanked them for being such wonderful students and that I hoped one day I could meet them again, and dismissed class. My eyes watered, but I didn’t cry. Mom is my witness.
This, however, did not last. Some of the students I had been closer with lingered behind and while I has started to clean up the classroom, Liu Yichan (one of the girls I had gone home with) started to get really sad. I told her not to worry, that I was staying for dinner and it wasn’t goodbye just yet. She started to wail. I kid you not. I have never heard someone cry as hard as she started to cry (other than me) and for a moment I was absolutely shocked. Her crying set off a bunch of the other girls off so there were about half a dozen girls crying and then about ten other students just hanging around looking sad. This set me off. I pulled Liu Yichan into a hug and she just sobbed into my shirt. I then went around and hugged all the girls who were crying and although I was crying, tried to tell them that this wasn’t goodbye forever. And I promised to eat with them at dinner. I got the first group to go and then maybe five minutes later another group showed up - no crying in this group, but some definitely watery eyes.
Dinner was fried rice, as is all Wednesday nights at the school cafeteria. I wasn’t too hungry and most of the students were silent. I went back to my room, gathered my things, and then went to leave the school. But first, I had to stop at my classroom. After I made sure I had everything, some students came into the room and asked if they could walk me to the main gate. They also had spent the last half hour scouring the clovers to find me four 4 leaf clovers and one 5 leaf clover to wish me good luck on my journey home. As I started to make my way to the gate, I had maybe 10 students walking me. The closer I got, the more students there were. When I turned around as I was leaving to wave goodbye there were about 30 students just standing there watching me go. It was a very touching goodbye and I’ll miss them all dearly.
The next morning we got up early and were picked up by the school’s driver, Betty, Sunshine, Ms. Wang, Ms. Feng, and Ms. Han. Because the J3’s were done with classes, some of these teachers no longer had a school year. Betty doesn’t teach on Thursdays and she pulled Sunshine out of school for the day. We had two planned destinations: Huangguoshu Waterfall and the Dragon Palace. As is expected, this did not exactly go according to plan. We got to the main gate from the waterfall only to find out that we couldn’t buy tickets there. We had to go back to a new ticket center to buy the tickets. Once there we found out that we couldn’t just buy a ticket to the waterfall separately. We had to buy tickets for the waterfall and two other attractions in the area. If we wanted to just go to the waterfall, we’d have to buy the group ticket anyway. So there really was no choice, we had to buy the expensive 3 park ticket. Now the Chinese don’t want to see their money go to waste, so we ended up going to all three parks.
The first park is new in the area. There’s a good sized waterfall and a path that leads to it, but other than that, not much to offer aside from all the peacocks walking around. I actually saw my first albino peacock, which was very beautiful. But really, not worth going to and I don’t remember the name of it.
Here's a picture of me with the teachers who joined us on this day trip. From left to right, it's Ms. Feng, Ms. Han, Betty, me, and Ms. Wang.
Second park was the Huangguoshu Waterfall. My parents were intrigued by the bonsai tree and rock garden on the way there. Let me add, that the bonsai trees are people sized and almost every one of them is different. Once we reached the actual waterfall, the water level was high but not high enough to make it overly dangerous. It was Sunshine’s first time to the waterfall and because of the water spray, Betty ended up getting her one of those cheap one time use ponchos. And due to the wind she’d sometimes blow up like a balloon. The park wasn’t very crowded, which was refreshing. We were able to walk through rather quick without delay.
Here's mom and dad with Huangguoshu Waterfall.
After the waterfall, we stopped to eat lunch. Mr. Zhang picked out of the place and ordered while we were in the park, so everything was basically ready once we got there. After a filling meal, we headed on to our next destination which was Tianxing Bridge Park. This is the park with the stepping stones, the stone forest, and waterfalls. Very awesome park, but I originally had no intention of going there simply because of all the walking it required. Well, due to the fact that there weren’t many people in the park, we were able to go through it rather “quickly” - around 2 hours.
From this area it’s about a 2 hour drive back to Guiyang which means we’d get back around 6. However, we still hadn’t visited the Dragon Palace - which is a very, very large cave group. I had actually never been there which is why it was a destination to begin with, so because everyone was tired I said we could skip it. Then Sunshine got upset that we weren’t going and then the driver said that I should visit it at least once. So off we went to the caves. We only wanted to do the boat part to go through the caves, so it ended up being cheaper than the whole ticket. I must admit, the cave was one of the larges I’ve ever seen and they were very beautiful. In fact, when we were exiting a woman sharing our boat had a flashlight and she pointed it to the ceiling and we still couldn’t see the top. In hindsight, I wish I would have stuck with my first decision to go back to Guiyang, but it was still interesting.
Here's Sunshine in the Dragon Palace. She was quite the trooper making it through the entire day without real incident.
The original plan had been to have a formal goodbye dinner from the administration of the school to thank me for being their teacher. With our late arrival back into town, the original restaurant was no longer an option. So we ate at a place near our hotel that had hotpot along with other dishes to eat. Bill (one of the former foreign teachers from my school) ended up joining us for the meal and then the administration dropped by as well, including Mr. Huang and Zhang Wei. Really, it was a fun dinner. And afterwards, even though the hotel was an intersection away, they insisted on driving us back.
In the morning, before our hotel took us to the airport, Mr. Wu (the headmaster) and Betty came to our hotel to see us off and Mr. Wu gave us a thank you present. After chatting for a while, we got into the van to the airport where I was able to get the airline to waive the one checked bag limit. We arrived into Beijing with no trouble and were picked up and dropped off at our new hotel.