On Saturday morning, Mike and I departed for the city of ZhengZhou with Lois and Hero as our guides. On the bus ride into the city, we were able to see the countryside between Xuchang and ZhengZhou, as well as a city that is growing at an amazing rate. The city of ZhengZhou has over 4 million people, and it is the capital of Henan province.
As we drove into the city, we were amazed, not only by the number of people that we could see, but also by the amount of new construction that was occuring. The skyline was literally full of cranes that were helping to construct high-rise buildings.
When we got off of the bus, we shopped around for a while in the square. Hero called his good friend, "Monkey" to pick us up and show us around the city. We ended up going to Hero's brother-in-law's restaurant for lunch; a nice little restaurant that was not too fancy, but like many other restaurants we have tried, had amazing food. Once again we were treated like royalty with many people offering us drinks, cigarettes, and pretty much everything on the menu. Paying for any of it was not an option.
After leaving the restaurant, we decided to visit the ancient city of KaiFeng. It was only about 80 KM from ZhengZhou, and many people had highly recommended it to us, so we figured that since we were this close, we should go ahead and see it.
When we arrived in KaiFeng, we were met by yet another friend of Hero's, actually a former student of his. Unfortunately, we were late arriving, and were unable to visit the many temples that it is famous for, however, we still managed to have an excellent time in the city. Hero's student (David) arranged to borrow his father's van to show us around the city. When the van arrived, David's father and a friend of his from Xuchang (along with the man's son) decided to join us on our tour.
After touring around the city briefly, we went out into the countryside to the "Yellow River." The Yellow River is one of Chinas longest rivers, and it gets its name from the mud. As Lois told us, "if you dip a bowl into the yellow river, the bowl will be filled with half water and half sand." We spent probably an hour by the river, getting to know our new friends and taking pictures.
When we returned to the city, David's father insisted on taking us out to supper. During supper, we drank a few bottles of the famous "white wine" which is probably closer to "white lightning" from where we come from. We had another great meal, roast duck, and a variety of other dishes. I ended up eating "the blood of duck," but I did not require seconds. I learned that it is wise to ask what the food is BEFORE picking it up with your chopsticks!
After a couple of hours of drinking with my new friends, it almost seemed that we were all speaking the same language, even though David's father and his friend could not speak a word of English. At the end of the night, I was quite full (food and drink, mostly drink), and we ended up spending the night in KaiFeng.
On Sunday morning, we all went out for breakfast, eating in a little restaurant that the lady in the travel immunization clinic in Charlottetown probably would have been scared to walk by. The food was excellent, although the conditions felt as though we had stepped into a time machine and gone back 90 years. I would have loved to have taken pictures, but I was afraid that I might offend the owner, as well as my friends.
After breakfast, David's father's friend, drove us back to Xuchang. Along the road, we got to see several loads of watermellon being hauled into the city. When I say several, in the hundreds would not be exagerating. Apparently this part of the country is known for its watermellon supply.
We arrived back at the apartment around noon, and after a short rest, we received a call from two more instructors wanting to show us around Xuchang. Although I was tired, I figured that there will be lots of time to rest when I return to PEI!
Location: Xuchang, China
It's Friday night in Xuchang. Our first week at the University is over, and at our afternoon meeting with the instructors and their leaders, it appears that everyone is pleased with the progress that has been made thus far.
At lunchtime today, we went back to my favorite restaurant (my third time this week), this time as the guests of the leader of the Computer Science Department. We were joined by his young daughter, and his wife, who also works at the Xuchang University. We were also joined by Shao, who is in charge of International affairs, as well as a lady who is a friend of hers and is the head of the Dance department at the university, and the lady's husband, a lawyer who works for the government. Once again, we had a great meal with great company.
On Friday evening we went out to eat with some of the instructors (Hero, Lois, Harry, Stone, and Gerry), as well as two of Hero's cousins. As it turned out, it was Hero's birthday on Saturday, so we ate, drank, and had birthday cake. If I had any plans of losing weight while I was in China, I can clearly see that it is not going to happen.
Location: Xuchang, China
Another hot day in Xuchang. I just checked the temperature online and it says 32, but with the humidity it is 42 degrees. We are very fortunate to have air conditioned classrooms.
Hard to believe that my first work week in China is almost over. I am not with the instructors this afternoon, as they are participating in a ceremony to honor a colleague who lost his life in the earthquake in Sichuan.
Last night, Mike and I walked into the downtown core of the city. We must have walked over 8 KM. Xuchang has many new buildings and an impressive road system (although, being from PEI, any road that is not full of holes is impressive).
The instructors that I have been working with are great people. They are very interested in Canada, and often ask me questions about my country. Although our countries have many differences, we are not all that different. Hopefully, they will get an opportunity to visit Canada to see for themselves.
At lunch today, Mike and I went to the restaurant that the instructors had taken me to earlier in the week. I got the feeling that the staff remembered me from earlier. The rice there is excellent, and I am sure that I will return next week when Michelle arrives.
I am not certain what is happening this evening, but at the moment, I am feeling as though I have not adjusted to the time difference as well as I thought that I had. Perhaps the Chinese are right about the afternoon nap afterall.
Location: Xuchang, China
Hello from Xuchang. So far, China is living up to everything that I have previously heard about it; very hot and travel is an adventure. I find it hard to believe that there are not more car accidents with the amount of aggressive driving that takes place.
Our entry into China got off to a rough start as our plane was delayed by 2 hours. When we did get on the plane, there were a few technical issues that prevented us from taking off. Eventually arrrived in ZhengZhou and were quickly taken to Xuchang (quickly meaning speeds of up to 150 km/h weaving through truck traffic.
When we arrived in Xuchang, we were taken to a very nice four star hotel for our first night. The next morning we met with the VP of the University, as well as other leaders from the different departments that we are working with. I was running on about 3 hours of sleep, but I managed to make it through. We then took a tour of the campus, and went to see the staff apartments where we ended up moving to. It is not quite the four star hotel that we left, but we have everything that we need, and the air conditioner here actually works better than at the hotel.
In the afternoon, we met with the instructors that will be delivering our programs. Everyone is very nice, and they are eager to learn.
On Monday night, we were taken to a very nice restaurant by the VP and other leaders from the international office. I tried many dishes that I had not even heard of before. I was fairly adventurous in what I tried, but there are a few things that I am not ready for (head of duck for example). Suprisingly, the fish stomach was my favorite (very spicy).
On Tuesday we began to work in our individual groups. At lunch time, the instructors took me to what I am told is one of the best restaurants in town. We had a very nice lunch, and once again, I tried many new dishes. On Tuesday evening, the staff and leaders of the Economics Department took me out for supper to yet another restaurant for a hot pot meal. I had my first taste of the white wine (closer to our Vodka). I ate a lot, but they wanted me to eat more. We are truly being treated like royalty.
Location: Toronto, Canada
We arrived safely in Toronto, a bit late due to turbulence, but safely. Mike and I are currently camped out at gate 175, getting set to review our agenda for our first day in Xuchang.
I just called home using Skype, and I must say that it works quite well for a free service. Hopefully it will work just as well in Asia.
Another 4 hours to go before our flight leaves, and then another 13 hours in the air!