Happy New Year everyone! 新年快乐! Xin Nian Kuai Le!
Nothing like a new year in a new (to me) country! Last night and this morning were and are times of reflection in the Wang household. I joined in to ponder the past year, and look ahead to the adventure of 2013. During my reflection, I am able to think about the last 10 days that I have spent in Wang Chao’s home town, that have provided an explosive explanation point to the most exciting year in my life to date.
Level 2 Part 3
The Wangs have invited me on a special pilgrimage with them to Mt. Putuo, which is a tropical island not too far off the coast. I am most likely the first Kansan to ever set foot on this Island, as Wang Chao suspects. To me, the island itself is a sight. This is the first time I have seriously been off the mainland.
Our journey to get here was most exciting. A plane, a taxi, a boat, and a bus got us from Shanghai to our destination on Mt. Putuo. This mountain is covered by a multitude of Buddhist temples, including some of the most famous in all China. Emperors of ages past had massive monuments and intricate temples constructed on this site.
I was taken into what Chao told me was like the Mecca of Buddhism. I was permitted to see Wang Chao and his mom pray and make offerings in many Buddhist temples. I saw monks and statues ranging from enormous, to small, the size of a house to the size of a mouse. There were many people here, all on similar quests. Lots of emotion mixed in the cool, humid, nearly tropical air. It was an overcast day, and I got to squeeze into a bright orange poncho. I was careful of my etiquette, no pictures inside the temples, no pointing to the Buddha, and no touching the elevated base of the doorframes. This is an experience I will not soon forget. Pictures may serve better than my words here. Or not, camera malfunction: picture compilation at end of the blog
Below is the only Mt. Putuo video/picture I could get on.
Sheng dan jie kuai le!
Happy Holy Birth Holiday!
Merry Christmas from China! Christmas Eve is over, and I can no longer receive the Merry Christmas Eve cheers from my Chinese hosts. The Chinese actually have a different phrase for Merry Christmas Eve. Which I would surmise may be as big a holiday as Christmas day.
This has been the most memorable Christmas I have experienced for sure. Could be due to the low doorframes of course. Wang Chao, his mother, father, and grandpa all accompanied me to the Shangri – La hotel where we went to a hopping Christmas party, with a raffle and a decoratively fabulous buffet. We won a bottle of Merlot wine, which we hope is legit. Turns out that good wine is pretty hard to come by in China due to lots of imposters. We then enjoyed tea, while being entertained by the performance of a talented Cuban singer. Good times.
Our original Boma plan was for Wang Chao to get the opportunity to experience Christmas in an American home, to see what the day is all about. The new plan, however, was turned in my favor, as I was allowed to see how Christmas is interpreted in the Wang household as a gift for their guest. I was dreaming of a white Christmas, and we have snow in Changchun! Probably no snow back in Wichita, but I could be wrong.
This is definitely the whitest Christmas the Wangs ever had; I don’t think they ever spent it with a white person before. I did not know what to expect of the number one American holiday outside of the USA. So I asked W.C. Christmas has indeed become a factor in China, mostly the commercialization, Wang Chao informs me. I observe this too, as Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, and jingle bells are a common sight in the places we’ve been. The Christian aspects are not utterly apparent. I have not really seen a nativity scenem for example. Christmas music plays in hotels where we have been eating, working out, and hanging out. That’s the spot for the famous people, whom I now consider myself to be a part of since I am staying at the Celebrity Changchun Hotel. Jingle bells in many of its variations seems to be the go to song. There is a lot of laughter in our midst on this night. Got some video to boot.
Changchun, Jilin, Zhongguo
Wang Chao’s hometown
12/23/12 – 1/1/13
When we arrived in Changchun I was surprised to be even more pleased to exit that aircraft than I was to get off the 12-hour flight from the States. Being overdressed, and pinned in next to an overweight guy with a sleep-flailing problem, can have that effect. All this combined to make the most extravagant reception I have ever received feel even sweeter. Wang Chao’s father, and much of the household, an excited crowd of about 5 people, met Wang Chao, his mom, and me with three huge bouquets of flowers, distributed to each of us. Next I was given snow pants and a snow jacket to put on since the current temperature in Changchun at that time was approximately -4 degrees Fahrenheit. On the trip to wherever we were going, I thought to myself that project Boma had finally begun.
During the past week and some odd days in Changchun I have been able to have a piece of the Wang Chao experience. We have been all over the place, and my experiences grow by the hour. We have done things ranging from normal everyday, all the way to special occasions, courteously designed for the guest. We have gone to the gym and school, gotten physical examinations, dental examinations, eye examinations, looked at new apartments and houses, visited the temple, gone to his parents’ work, and the supermarket. We have toured factories, went bowling, had special dinners, had Chao’s grandfather’s 89th birthday party, karaoke, Christmas parties, went to a snow park where we rode horses, snow mobiles, tubes, sleds, go karts and more, we met a government official, went to a car dealership, as well as a driving tour of Changchun. I am exceedingly grateful for all that my kind hosts have allowed me to be a part of.
Although my thankfulness for the things we’ve done and the food we’ve eaten is great, it is surpassed by my thankfulness to my hosts for allowing me to intrude upon their lives. I can only imagine how tiresome I must have been, not understanding anything, needing constant attention, diverging the normalness of home from my friend by making him consider everything he may take for granted. Maybe he’ll blog about that, haha. I cherish the “normal” times the most. The tea after lunch, the television with Wang Chao’s grandfather, whom I affectionately refer to as Yeye, the radio during car rides, the weird things we see on the streets of Changchun, trying to communicate with people who speak no English, trying to follow a conversation in Chinese, trying to speak Chinese, people trying to speak English to me, everyone laughing as I invent new ways of breaking cultural norms every day.
It has been a blast to say the least. I can honestly say that if my Project Boma experience ended today, I would feel as if it were totally fulfilling as it has already surpassed my expectations. That being said, we’re leaving soon for Beijing, and the “full Chinese experience”. What a tremendous blessing this trip has been.
I have been with my good friend Wang Chao and his family. I have experienced life, as it is, in a new culture, from a new particular perspective. The glitz and glamour of the experiences that I had been blessed with in Shanghai, WuZhen, and Mt. Putuo, pale in comparison to the natural everyday reality of my friend in what I would call his natural environment. Much of his family is here, many of his friends are here, this is where he experienced childhood, schooling, and learned how to be a man. I have learned almost as much about Wang Chao as I have about China. I feel like our friendship is deeper than it ever could have been had I never been able to come to his home.
There just seems to be something special about being brought into someone’s home. I guess that’s what Project Boma is all about. We get to feel at home in a land that is not our own. Witnessing and experiencing how life is bigger than our own experience, we see variation and diversity in the world, and that after all is said and done, people are people. Happiness, sorrow, success, failure, sickness, health, anger, and peace: some things speak louder than language. I have been in the dark as far as my vocabulary, but in the light as for my humanity. I find it easier to pick up vibes of conversation, rather than new phrases. Although I must say, my three semesters of studying Chinese under the direction of Yang Laoshi have proved to be exceptionally helpful. In my currently composed list of “China Travel Tips”, being able to speak Chinese is near the top. Picture time!
- Christmas fireworks.
- Changchun is growing!