May 3, 2015
It is a holiday this weekend and not many students are around. We had 3 students who wanted to take us to the park on Friday. I have walked through the amusement park many times and it has felt haunted. Today it was alive! There were kids and families everywhere. All the rides were functioning and games were being played. It was such a fun, energetic alive atmosphere to be in. We decided to ride the bumper cars. One of the students is taking drivers education classes and failed the test 3 times so she warned us she is not a good driver. I am sure I was 16 again riding and bumping into everyone. We gathered a lot of onlookers watching us having a good time. Once we left the ride everyone else did too. Once again we are rock stars; being Americans in China they all want pictures with us or with their kids.
From there we went to the lotus park and had an artist paint our names in Chinese on a banner using pictures. It is really beautiful. We rode the paddle boats around the lotus pads in the green water with weeping willows drooping over our heads. One of my students said she is graduating and has never been to this park or rode the boats. She is a nursing student and very studious. She said her mother would be so happy to hear she had such lovely day, in fact the best day she had in a long time.
A little boy 11 years old on roller blades kept following us around. We sat on the grass and he sat down with us. He tried his English with us and the rest my girls translated. He was delightful, singing us songs and saying the alphabet. When he left he made a cross on his heart and said “God bless you.” It will always be a sweet memory.
Saturday we went to Kaifeng. The traffic was bumper to bumper and men and children were getting out of their cars and peeing on the side of the road. There was a lot of honking but no impatience and swearing obscenities. The honking is just their way of warning people of where they are and they are coming through. I have decided Chinese traffic is not as bad as I thought. They have a place to go and need to get there and will warn you when they are coming your way with a honk. They all seem to know this rule and follow it. There are no particular lanes to follow, just get where you need to go.
Kaifeng is a garden city with an ancient park (every city in China has an ancient park or monument) that was like an amusement park. All the rides were self-propelled; there were men that were doing all the work. Even the boats on the water were being rowed by a man with a Chinese hat on rowing with one large paddle. There were many performances of old world traditions and beautiful costumes. We dressed in some emperor clothing for photos and became instant rock stars. Everyone wanted to take pictures with us and their babies. We decided we should have charged to take photos with them.
The buildings and grounds were like a painting and we were a part of it. Like Mary Poppins when she jumped into the painting, we jumped in and became a part of the masterpiece. There were a lot of people but it was beautiful to see the trees, rivers, bridges, water wheels, and ornate buildings preserved for hundreds of years.
My friends hosted us for the day. For lunch we had special steamed buns or boutza and dumplings famous in Kaifeng. After the park we went to an indoor food court with all the unique culture foods from that region. I have heard stories of the Chinese eating large bugs but never have seen them until now. We saw 4 inch black scorpions, and black spiders, centipedes, scorpions, grasshoppers, and cockroaches on skewers, rabbit head, chicken blood, sheep testicles and more. It was quite eye opening and great for picture taking. I am far too fearful to try such things. With all the many options in this huge court I settled for steamed rice in half a pineapple (delicious) , a mango shake, and egg cakes (tastes like custard pie).
I loved being with my friends and enjoyed their company. I am learning a little Chinese so I try my words and they always laugh to hear me talk. The culture of service continues to play out when we are treated to anything. They paid for our meals, our entrance to the park and refused to let me pay. They said “it is my honor to treat you.” What a beautiful lesson to be learned.