Posted in China

A day of worship

Today (12-24-2011) we left the house around 8:45 to pick up Shuyan’s parents. The plan was originally to go to the place where the House of Flying Daggers filmed the bamboo scenes (fabulous scenes, btw), but they decided against it because of the weather and the fact that it wouldn’t be as nice to see in winter. The new plan was to visit the giant Buddha statue made of bronze that is over 88m high. The drive took more than an hour, but the scenery was great and the park beautiful. We didn’t have any free tickets to the place, so we had to pay the 180Y per person entrance fee.

The morning was very cold, and it was very windy. We had a lot of fun looking around and wrinkled our noses at the scent of incense on the breeze. At one point on the trek up the stairs to the statue, we had a man take a group picture of us all. While he was doing this, his buddy surreptitiously took pictures of me, and then the man asked if he could take a picture with just me! I allowed it and he left, thanking me greatly. I wonder what kind of story he will use with that picture, haha. We thought it was hilarious, and I said we should charge 20Y for every picture with me, and her dad said not to sell myself short and to charge at least 50Y! I’ve definitely won over Shuyan’s father 🙂 We were really cold in the morning, but we saw the lotus flower opening fountain little Bhuddha show at 11:30 from the perfect vantage point. We got hungry and munched on some snacks (including a tofu that tasted like Indian food as it had a hint of cumin) and found a restaurant for lunch. We’d been told that the dishes weren’t that great, so we instead each got a bowl of noodles. They loved watching me eat, and took several pictures of me struggling and laughing. I managed to eat everything with perfect ease while I was in China except for that blasted shrimp dish and any bowl of noodles. I’ll  have to return for a rematch! I was told that everyone likes watching me eat because it’s cute watching me struggle, haha. I won’t include those pictures in here because I know *exactly* how funny I looked.  Funny story: people like watching me eat in America as well as I apparently eat like ‘an aristocrat.’ I still have no idea what that means. I managed to finish about half of my bowl to everyone else mostly finishing (except Shuyan’s mom, who gave her husband much of her noodles) and then we went back to climbing the stairs.

I saw a couple of other people taking pictures of me, so I made sure to smile as often as I could and joked about how much money I was losing. While climbing to the top, we came across a group of people who would take three steps, prostrate at the command of a monk while chanting, and then repeat. There were a couple of little kids with them who were also prostrating on command. It’s interesting seeing things like this, as the Chinese are very unreligious but very spiritual. At the top of the statue, I prayed my early afternoon prayer, taking care not to face the Buddha statue and be in a corner away from people. I’m sure lots of people were confused as to why I was bowing and prostrating in the ‘wrong direction,’ but I didn’t mind the looks as I hope it gave people something to think about 🙂 

We went to a few other buildings, including an amazing temple that was more like a palace. Shuyan’s father said that every year or so, all of the monks come there for a retreat. Such grandeur for monks! I saw several of them throughout the day, and most of them were on cell phones. The temple was opulence to the max, and being inside was truly awe inspiring. It reminded me of Catholic churches due to the stained glass, dim lighting, and excess of gold, art, and statues. People were generally quiet in the temple, except for before and after a show of Chinese dance. We arrived a little too late to enter the show, and decided against waiting for the next one as it wouldn’t begin for another three hours. How times have changed! There was some musical chant being played on speakers throughout the park, and Shuyan and her family were shocked to hear me mimic the sounds/words/tone after listening for a few minutes. I tried to explain the phrase of ‘having a good ear,’ but I’m not so sure that it translated well. I explained that I have the ability to mimic something very easily, be it words or sounds or melodies. It’s a blessing, and it definitely helped me cheat during my piano lessons as a child!

The plan had been to make dumplings that night for dinner, and we found out right before we left that Shuyan’s father had forgotten to buy the flour (even though he’d repeatedly said that he already bought all the necessary ingredients)! Shuyan’s parents had been in a competition all day over taking pictures, but she was now dangerously quiet, and I knew that no matter how many good pictures he took, he’d lose because she’d just bring up the flour later 🙂 Women are the same everywhere, lol!

When we had seen all that we could see, we went to the car and drove back to her parent’s apartment where I quickly made my ablutions and performed my  post-sunset prayer. We relaxed in the main room for a bit before going down to help with the dumpling making. Shuyan’s mother is sensitive to strong smells, so they converted the downstairs garage into a kitchen and eating area! I though it was a genius idea. It was fun making the dumplings, and I wasn’t too bad at it. Hanshin and Shuyan’s dad had been working down there together, and Shuyan was happy to see them getting along. They had also prepared a chicken soup, as dumplings are dry and need a liquid to go with them. Her father steamed a set and fried the others, and though they were a bit rubbery (he hadn’t added enough butter to the dough) and needed a bit of salt, they were good. They made beef dumplings just for me, even though the tradition is to make pork dumplings. The Southern people of China never make dumplings; it’s a Northern tradition, and one continued in Shuyan’s family because her paternal grandfather was from the North before moving down here post-war (he was a real soldier in the war over China). Hanshin teases her because he’s 100% Southern, and his father is from a town even further South than Huzhou.
After dinner, we went to play pool with Guy in the Hat and another guy. They both challenged me to play a game. Right after Guy in the Hat challenged me, he answered a call and said he had to leave to go pick up Crazy Girl, who had been calling and didn’t know where to go. I knew at this point that he wouldn’t come back. I played against the guy and didn’t do too terribly; I sunk one of his and two of mine before he won. I was at least able to hit them, but not with much accuracy. I was very firm in telling the guy not to go easy on me, and even though I didn’t do too well, I was able to mess up enough of his angles that the game took longer than usual for him to win. Score for me! Guy in the Hat called the guy and said he wouldn’t be coming back, just as I predicted.

After paying and leaving, Hanshin told us lots of secrets of his friends. In order to keep my trust with Shuyan and Hanshin (and not expose the secrets of people 1000 miles away), I will keep the numerous stories out of this blog 🙂

I’m hoping to learn more about China and the culture before I leave, as my time is almost at an end. My last day in Huzhou will be the 27th, and I’ll probably be spending most of the 26th in Shanghai with Shuyan for her university stuff if she can’t get anyone else to do it for her. I’m not sure of our plans for tomorrow, so it’s going to be nice being a bit free. I hope we can get some shopping done as we really haven’t done any! (Disclaimer: I never really got any shopping done, but I have no complaints or regrets! Such a fabulous trip!)

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Enjoy my little descriptions of life and experiences, and feel free to leave any comments and or suggestions!

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