Saturday, July 08, 2006

DongTou, and starting Uni.

Again a long time since posting. But no one is reading, so what do I care?

We had expected to be in YangShuo right now, but when we went to get a ticket... welllllll, it was a bit of a disaster.
Initially I got the tickets but I forgot to ask at the beginning for a sleeper, and when she handed the tickets to me and I asked for a sleeper (in Chinese read from my phrase book) she said ‘mayo’ (meaning none). Brad was waiting outside so I paid and then went out to see what he thought. No sleeper, not even a seat, a 22 hour journey. He said no. So I lined back up and asked for a sleeper. Tomorrow, the next, the next, 4 days time??? “mayo mayo mayo mayo”. I left the line again and asked Brad again what he thought. Of course the answer was the same "We can't possibly stand it." So I joined the line a 3rd time and got my money back. The whole process took about an hour with the lining and the talking in all the Chinese I can. Then we went to the bus station, but the busses in the town don't go there. After that we just gave up.

It was so lucky though, a few days later I saw a student I had spent some time with. It was lucky because he just came to the school to pick up his books and it was VERY random that I ran into him. Anyway – he lives in a tiny island county off the coast of Wenzhou called Dong Tou. Until 2 months ago the only way to get there was by ferry, so it is very under developed, and very beautiful.

There is a new city being built now, but when you get away from that the feeling of “real China” is unmistakable. Anyway, I obviously asked this boy to take us for a trip to his hometown and he was extremely happy to oblige. We went on Wednesday and came back on Thursday afternoon and spent the night at his friend’s house. It’s the first time we have spent time with a really Chinese family like that, and I felt quite uncomfortable around his friend’s mother, but around Calvin (the student) and his family I felt extremely comfortable and happy.

On Wednesday we went to visit a lookout with spectacular Budas carved into the rock faces, and views that were quite nice (too bad the air pollution from Wenzhou city had travelled the distance).

On Thursday we went to visit the sight of the last stand of the KMT (The party that now rules Taiwan). They had fled to the island away from the Communist soldiers and they were found there 3 years after the official victory of the communist party, and the founding of the PRC. The PRC soldiers apparently fought past a range of heavy weapons, many died but eventually the leaders of the KMT escaped and… you know happy, happy ending.

I asked Calvin to translate the text for me, and initially he was unwilling. He said it was boring and too difficult, but I insisted and he told me the above. He also said that the Communist side shouted some things like “Kill them, Get them, revenge, we must make a contribution to our country to make it strong” at this last comment I laughed and said “do you think they really shouted that?” Calvin said that it was probably just written to make it sound better, but that’s just the kind of thing that the Communist Party of China does. Funny, people over seas think Chinese are stupid or brainwashed, but if you really get to know them you find out that politics just isn’t a common topic of conversation but most of them don’t really like the government.

Anyway – at the top of the mountain they had a low ropes course. It was easy, but fun and there are some photos attached of Brad and I having playing on it.

A few weeks ago we went for a long walk with Mailing (a good friend who is a teacher here). We were talking about beggars in China and I suggested that some of them should take up busking. Well, she didn’t know what busking was, but when I explaind she said it sounded like something she had experienced in her Childhood growing up in a farming community. During festivals and special occasions some men would go from door to door singing and entertaining each house. Perhaps a little like clowns and carollers mixed together. They would improvise an amusing song based on what the people in the house were doing. They would entertain the people for some time and the head of the house would give them some money for their trouble. Mailing said that these kinds of performers can’t be found in the country side any more, but I thought that this was one of the most interesting things I have heard about traditional Chinese culture.

I got my Uni books on Friday and started studying right away. The semester doesn’t begin for another 2 weeks, but I have been eager to get started for a while now. I really have to start early too because we will be travelling around China during semester. It seems to be pretty interesting, but I have only done the first 2 modules of one subject and 1 part of another and I already have things I can’t do here. One task asks us to record the speech of a Child and listen to it so we can compare first language to second language acquisition. Well, there are NO English speaking children around here, so I’m not sure what to do. It’s not assessable, but there are a few activities that ask us to refer to it so I will no doubt be missing some important understanding if I can’t do this. I’m thinking about asking Julie to record Zander.

The most interesting thing I have learnt so far is that the main thing that differentiates our language from that of other animals is our ability to be creative with language; to take its elements and reorder them to create new sentences. That’s easy for us to do, but it’s the one thing that animals can’t. Their communication is not adaptable to new situations.