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V, that China Doll’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 19 Jul 2011

Location: Wuhan, China

MapFor some strange reason, we continue to have cooler than normal temperatures here in the midst of China. Cool being about 83 degrees but overcast so not so hot. We've also had very little rain--just sprinkles and it could be a tad less humid than normal but that's hard to tell when you're dripping in sweat after a 5 minute walk.

Today, the students were playing Pictionary and one team wrote the clue "naked marry" for the other team to draw. I found out that the real term is "naked wedding" which means a couple marries with no house, no car, no money. Apparently, this practice is frowned upon. Here in Wuhan, there are also "matchmaking" sites in the parks just as I saw in Shanghai. The young people are nowhere in sight as the parents scream out the attributes of their children. Since each child has a set of parents and two sets of grandparents to support, it's important to "marry well."

We are all struck by the old people in the little parks all over the city. They're out every night doing "Chinese line dancing,"--there's a leader, music, and it seems everyone knows the steps. One of the dances is a Bollywood type. My students tell me that's just for old people--they're retired so they have time to practice Tai Chi, dance, and "just enjoy life." The young people do have to learn the traditional 24 step Tai Chi routine when they're in high school and yes, there is a test. It's funny how parents, but especially grandparents, throw their children at us. If we take a picture of one, the grandparents want us to take a picture of their cute child. They also want to show off the kids' English, so we hear a lot of "May I have your name please" and "My name is Tommy." Some of these students don't have English names but among our favorites is Darwin and Smooth Tiger. All Yaos refuse to take English names since they figure we know that one.

On the weekend, I went to three temples. Two were close to each other--one Buddhist and one Thai. At the Buddhist temple, they gave us books about Buddha in English. Then later, someone gave us the books in Chinese. When we tried to explain that we couldn't read them and didn't want to take them, we heard the Chinese word for "learn." The school also gave us a tour of Wuhan--their museum and the Yellow Crane Tower, both of which are spectacular. We had a tour guide who told us he couldn't speak English but was sent because there aren't enough tour guides to go around during this vacation season. He told us we should learn Chinese if we go to China.

Tonight I taught my speech club and I was struck by how the students never use notes--they memorize everything. On the other hand, students in high school divide themselves into science students or arts students. Science students learn no geography. Two students told us one night not to ask about north, south, etc. because when they describe directions, they just say "right" or "left." We asked a girl where her province is compared to Hubei and she had no idea. She just knows what train to take. She thinks it may be to the left of Hubei province but she's not sure. The stereotype about girls hating math is true in China, also, but most of my homeroom girls are math majors.