We got mail in China! Today was a day of packages and pleasantries.
I taught all of the fifth grade classes today which were a lot of fun and very successful. They were probably my most successful classes yet (minus the fact that I told every single class it was September 17th instead of the 18th). We played a verb conjugation relay race game using regular present and past verbs and then we played a word game in which the kids had to come up with a new word that started with the last letter of the previous word. Some clever kids realized that if I didn’t specify “no repeats” when explaining the game, they could repeat “eat”, “tea”, and “ate” over and over again. All of the students seemed to enjoy the games and did very well. My fastest time from all of my classes was a team that finished the verb conjugation chart in less than 9 seconds! I am definitely going to play those two games with my other grades in the future.
During lunch, we went to QLH and found out that we had a package! A few days ago I mentioned that we found a music shop street and that we had browsed around for a little bit. While we were there, we decided that we want to spend some of our free time in China starting to accomplish a mutual life goal of ours – learning how to play the violin. We didn’t find any reasonably priced violins in the music stores so when we got home that night, we explored Taobao, the Chinese Amazon.com. On Taobao we found two cheap beginner violins and an extra bow for about $60 total. Sounds great! But when we tried to order them, we discovered that you cannot make purchases on Taobao without a Chinese bank account, which we do not have.
Somewhat disheartened, we shared our disappointment with our Chinese friends at the coffee shop the next day and asked them if they knew of any other music stores that might have second-hand violins. In reply, they offered to buy it for us on Taobao right then and to have it delivered to the coffee shop! We agreed, promised to pay them back in cash the next day (which we did), and today, when we walked into the shop, they pulled a big box out from behind the counter with my name on it!
We excitedly ate our noodle lunch and returned to our apartment so we could open up our box. Inside were two violins (in cases which we did not expect), rosin, and three bows (we had ordered an extra one). We played with our new toys for a bit and watched some beginning tutorials online before our afternoon classes started.
When we both returned to the apartment after our classes were finished for the day, I had an email letting us know that there was a package for us in the main office of the school. Excited, we retrieved our other package – this time a care-package from Duncan’s mom. Inside was a wonderful collection of kids’ teaching materials, home décor, and family photos. Thank you!
How exciting! We now know we can get mail in China from the United States!
For other news, tomorrow is the beginning of Mid-Autumn Festival in China. Here is some information about the festival from our CIEE Shanghai coordinator:
Tomorrow is the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is traditionally based on a full moon. The joyous festival was celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, around the time of the autumn equinox. On the day of Mid-Autumn Festival, it is a time of reunion [for] Chinese people. [For] people who are far away from their homes, they undoubtedly miss their relatives and friends much more on [this] day.
[Below] are some [festival tips] for your reference:
What to do?
Family reunion – It’s just like…Christmas to [Americans. Usually, Chinese families] will [gather] on the day and have a big meal together.
Moon cake – for generations, moon cakes have been made with sweet fillings of nuts, mashed red beans, lotus-seed paste or Chinese dates, wrapped in a pastry. Sometimes a cooked egg yolk can be found in the middle of the rich tasting dessert. People compare moon cakes to the plum pudding and fruitcakes that are served in the English holiday seasons.
Nowadays, there are hundreds [of] varieties of moon cakes on sale [the] month before the arrival of Moon Festival.
Moon observing -The traditional way [of] celebrating the festival is to set a table in the yard, with lots of fruit, moon cake and a pot of Chinese tea. The whole family [will then] sit around the table chatting and telling stories about the moon.
Unfortunately, we were told we do not get Mid-Autumn Festival off from work, so we will be at the school the rest of the week and in Baoding this weekend (unless otherwise notified tomorrow morning which is very likely due to communication complications). We were invited to go to Beijing with Enkui and his family and we are disappointed that we cannot join them. Hopefully we will be able to join them for another holiday adventure in the future.
Finally, for any of you worrying about our safety as we go around the city on Kuai Long (the motorbike), I want to tell you about bike lanes in China. Bike lanes in China are nothing like bike lanes in America. Here they are specifically for all motorbikes, motorcycles, rickshaws, and bicycles and are physically separated from the part of the road cars, trucks, and buses drive on. Occasionally you will see a rude automobile driver trying to bypass traffic by going through the bike lane, but in most situations, we are physically separated from other vehicles.
This has made riding around much safer and much more enjoyable.
Baoding street at sunset (notice the disk in the sky that is the sun covered in smog):
Over this holiday weekend we will be thinking of our friends and families back home. So to end tonight’s post, here is a phrase said by some Chinese people during the Mid-Autumn Festival:
Dàn yuàn rén chángjiǔ, qiānlǐ gòng chánjuān!
Wishing us a long life to share the graceful moonlight, though thousands of miles apart.