August 26, 2013
For me it is actually 6:55am on Tuesday August 27th, but I am going to write about yesterday’s ventures since I passed out as soon as I got back to the hotel last night.
It was our first day of orientation! We started the day off by crossing the busy intersection in front of our hotel to go get morning drinks. Coffee is not a staple here like it is in the US so, as a coffee lover, I’m having to either grab coffee as soon as I see it despite the quality (which is a challenge in comparison to Asheville coffee), find some other source of caffeine, or go without. I’m not sure why but grapefruit juice has sounded delicious the past couple of days in the morning so when we stop at the little shop, Duncan orders yi ping keko kele (bottle of coke) and I order yi ping guozhi (bottle of juice).
We wandered back over to the hotel for our orientation breakfast. It was set up like a standard American buffet style breakfast but there were no eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, or croissants. To be honest I have no idea what I ate but it was delicious and, once again, healthier than any American breakfast I’ve have in at least the past few months.
Regarding our orientation, there really isn’t much to say about it on here other than it was 8-5 lectures from experienced teachers about how to effectively teach and three levels of crash course Mandarin. Duncan and I have both been extremely impressed by the quality of this orientation and all dealings with CIEE so if anyone is looking to do a similar thing in the future, definitely go through CIEE. The lecturers were extremely informative and helpful and very enjoyable.
At night we took a field trip of sorts to a really fancy restaurant in a different part of downtown Shanghai. Thus far, I haven’t really felt like I’m in China. I’ve been feeling more like I’m in NYC or and it just so happens that all the signs are in Chinese characters as well as English and communicating with people is a little more difficult. But when we went into this other section of Shanghai last night, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Now this is what I expected China to look like”. There was the traditional Chinese architecture, lanterns outside of the shops; the streets were smaller and quieter. Baoding will look a lot more like how I expected China to look and I think I’m going to love it!
The dinner we had was served, like most Chinese meals, on a giant lazy Susan in the middle of the table and dishes were served family style. Again, I don’t know for sure what I ate but it was pretty much all delicious.
As we ate we watched a sample performance of Sichuan Opera. Apparently in Sichuan opera there are always the same acts with the finale culminating in what I can only describe as a face changing routine. Two performers come out wearing masks hiding their faces and they dance around and move across the stage and occasionally they will change their masks. But changing their masks doesn’t involve their hands. They just shift their head slightly and the mask on their face is suddenly completely different! I cannot figure out how they did it but it was certainly very enjoyable. What I found very interesting about the performance is how the performers would do a trick or mask change and look directly at the audience and tell them to applause. I just kept thinking about how in a dance performance, even after some phenomenal move, dancers would never indicate to the audience to applause. It’s a very enjoyable interaction with the performers.
Tomorrow we’re going to be visiting Old Shanghai Quarter after the day’s lectures so stay tuned in for that.