Security Guards, Needles, and Beer

Ambiguous blog titles are the best kind of blog titles.

This week is the beginning of the end – we’re almost done with the textbook and we’re about to move on to simple listening and speaking practice. This means, after this week, no tests, no quizzes, and no worries for the rest of our days! (Kind of)

Monday was a public holiday, with class canceled so we could observe the Dragonboat Festival with the rest of Chengdu. Since Chengdu isn’t very close to the water, the festival isn’t given the fanfare the other festivals are so we marked the holiday by going to Tianfu Square.

Tianfu Square is Chengdu’s version of Tiananmen Square, except smaller and with a less controversial history. It’s downtown, with a botanical yin yang design that can only be fully appreciated from above in its center. The highlight, however, is the enormous statue of Chairman Mao benevolently saluting his people in front of a science museum.

After politely admiring the grandeur of the statue and exploring the mall underneath the square (yes, an underground mall), we wandered around the square and absorbed the immensity of downtown Chengdu. Things got interesting when we discovered several vendors selling ribbons and other children’s toys.

Erica and I, being the mature adults we are, were immediately drawn to the ribbons. When I say ribbons, I am describing three feet of glorious fabric attached to a plastic wand – ideal for twirling and general happiness. We each bought one (much to the delight of the vendors – they now had foreign advertisers!) and naturally began to twirl and spin with much delight.

After patiently allotting us fifteen minutes of fun, the security guards grumpily shooed us away – we had attracted far too much attention for their liking, and they kept an eye on us until we had escaped to the street and were no longer a threat. We realized after that we had decided to visit the square in close proximity to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square; happy foreigners and the potential implications of our appearance probably alarmed the security guards.

The paparazzi.

Later on, a small two-year-old saw me playing with the ribbons back on campus and I was able to entertain her for a good hour and a half. Ribbons bypass any kind of language barrier, even when you have to take it away when it’s time for her to go home.

Besides basic class work (Deng laoshi has begun giving us random words and having us come up with paragraphs within minutes using said words and specific grammar points), we also participated in a Chinese medicine class and toured a beer factory.

I have an aversion to needles, so I thought I would dislike the medicine class quite a bit. However, I was able to happily participate in the cupping aspect of the class and completely ignored all the needles sticking out of my classmates’ appendages (except when a picture was needed). Cupping involves fire being whisked around in a glass cup and then the glass cup being stuck on whatever appendage is aching. It feels like a heavy suction cup on your back, which is where I had mine.

I’ve always struggled with back pain when I’m stressed, so it was interesting how the suction managed to alleviate some of it. Apparently the acupuncture needles worked the same magic, but I wasn’t willing to skewer myself for science.

Luisa getting skewered for science.

Friday afternoon, SWUFE decided to sponsor a field trip to the Tsingtao beer factory. The legal drinking age in China is 18, so everyone was allowed to tour the factory, watch the beer get inspected and process, and (most importantly) taste the beer itself. I’m not a beer connoisseur (I’m 18, 21 is a long way away), but if all beer tastes like that beer, I don’t really think I’m missing out on much. Apparently it’s a weak beer, but it was just weird and icky and I couldn’t stomach my entire cup. It was interesting watching the process behind the beer-making though, I feel like the smashing-the-inadequately-made-beer-bottle job would be a great anger management solution for some people.

The beer bottle-smasher

Saturday marks a ten-hour bus drive to one of China’s most renowned national parks, so more adventures soon to come!

Happily needle-less and beer-less,

康愛梅

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