A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan!

Okay, so we spent a few more months in China that I haven't blogged about yet... now you know.

The day we went to Taiwan started off something like this:

Sooooo...

We were farther away from the Guangzho airport than we expected. Everyone who we asked where the airport was just seemed to point in the direction we headed for the hotel, and seemed to have a vague air about them that let us know it was not too far away. So we came out to the main road from the alleyway our hotel was on and hailed a taxi. I watched in nervous horror, well, maybe horror is too strong of a word, how about dark foreboding, as the price on his meter kept rising higher and higher. We did not want to have any extra money from China left over to exchange because the charge for money exchange is usually more than we have, so I was pretty sure that this taxi ride that was already over 30 minutes long was going to break my wallet. Luckily, just as he was hitting the end of my bills, I started to see airplanes!

We ended up having extra money still to spend before getting on the flight (no charge for checking all our luggage!), so after we made it through the boarding pass line, we hit up McDonalds as our last Chinese meal. Then we got on the plane, and headed over the ocean.

Leave China!
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Enter Taiwan!
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Green! Trees! Lakes! Clean!
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Beagles that sniff your luggage!
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Shops with people sized shirts!
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And yes, that line of clothes are called MiniChe (I wanted to get one, but then remembered being questioned about my Che knowledge by a kid from South America, and I thought better of it. Speaking of, what are your thoughts on Che? He was saying that we are all basically only fed what the US government wants us to think, so our opinions on the subject arn't really our opinions at all.)

Your thoughts:
[You're just going to have to settle for adding a comment at the end of the blog, so for anyone reading this and curious as to what other people think before you fess up yourself, see the bottom of the page.]

Now that we are here in Taiwan, we have to try and contact Master Yang's Kung Fu brother Master Ma. As in China, we had no luck getting a hold of him. And by the tone of the message, I fell like his phone is disconnected. It didn't even ring, it just went straight to a Chinese woman speaking a message every time. So, next step was to try and find Channa who we told we would like to Couchsurf with in case of just this situation. # on the agenda: find internet! I was so worried about this, because in China there was no internet. But almost first thing out of the airport and onto the subway we found Starbucks! And Starbucks in Taiwan not only has wifi, but the most amazingly wonderful green tea/ black sesame frapachino (I really am addicted to black sesame).

First we tried emailing Channa through Couchsurfing, then we tried to skype with her, and then we tried to google map her location. Then we took a break from that and emailed my mom's Taiwanese neighbor's sister who lives just outside Taipei. She was online, and we were able to skype with her and set up a time tomorrow to hang out with her.

Eventually we were able to get ahold of Channa, and by night fall, we met her at a Burger King (Taiwan has fast food other than McDonalds and KFC! Not that I eat Burger King, just noting the differences, which are many) near her place. Wondering through the Shida night market (so many shops!) we dipped behind a strange T-shirt kiosk next to an awesome jewelry kiosk to her apartment door. They literally had their shirts hung up on a cloth draped over the entrance to her apartment, and the whole neighborhood was like this!

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Channa was ready to go out and party, but Joe and I were exhausted. However, I was at that point where I am so exhausted that I thought a drink would be a really good idea, so Channa and I left Joe at her apartment and we headed out to Roxies to get our 2 free beer tickets. It was Wednesday night, so this bar gives the first however many people free beer tickets. But Chana thought it was too early to end up at Roxies, so we waited in line, got our free beer tickets, then jumped back out of the line into the bar and headed to the 7-11! At first I was thinking that this was going to be kinda a weird thing we were doing to be cheap, buying beer at the 7-11 rather than at a bar. But when we got there I saw about 30 foreigners drinking outside the store (in Taiwan you can drink outside)! We went inside and got some beer, and then headed outside the store to hang out with some of her friends. Most of them were British, but later on an American and a Chinese kid came to hang out with us. The Chinese guy didn't speak any English, but the American guy spoke Chinese (they do that in Taiwan too, speak Chinese that is), so he would translate for us.

They both really wanted to hit up Roxies to get their 2 free beer, so we said good bye to her friends at the 7-11 and we went back to Roxies. This place was packed full of people and they were playing the most American songs and all the Taiwanese kids were singing along while crashing into one another during the White Stripes, then head banging to Led Zeppelin, and then dancing like crazy hippies to Across the Universe. I tried to get it on tape with Joe's camera, but I forgot that his camera doesn't have sound... so the video is kinda lame.

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Halfway through the night Chana mentioned that the Chinese kid isn't Chinese at all, but a Japanese guy named Mokoto! So, I, way too drunk to only have had 2 beers, attempted to circle communicate with him. At first we spoke alright Japanese to each other, but then I would occasionally add some Chinese (I just spent 3 months there, my mind is a little confused with my languages), the occasional English, and then we whipped out my note pad. I would write a slue of Romaji (Japanese written with English alphabet), Hiragana (Japanese Japanese), Katakana (English in Japanese), and Kanji (Chinese) as the 3 of us would spin the note pad around the table (me: English/ Japanese, Mokoto: Japanese/ Chinese, Branden(?): Chinese/ English). It was really fun, and I think we eventually got our points across, but I think that was mostly due to Channa's friend Branden(?) who spoke Chinese (and of course English) fluently.

Branden(?), Channa, Me, and Mokoto's girlfriend:
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After drinking Channa and I head back to her place and stop at the fruit counter for some Buddhas head! Its not what they call it, but the woman told Channa that b/c it was her nickname for the shape of the fruit. At first it looked like an apple, but then when you bite it it has the consistency of a gooey pear (in other words, delicious). You just had to be careful of the gargantuan black seeds.

Then we headed into her room, and she continued her earlier rant about how much she hates Branden(?) b/c of this that and the other thing. I feel like even though I only just met her, that I kinda saw right though her words. We talked for maybe 3 hours or so about what its like living in Taiwan, the number of good men you can find, and how the ones who come up just short of perfect can really piss you off, but at the same time, you can be hurt by loosing year long friends as they travel back to their homes. We also discussed how I take Joe for granted. When you are with someone for so long, and you are always with that person, sometimes they drive you ridiculously crazy. She told me that even though he can be a dope sometimes, that I have to remember that I love him, and that sometimes what I consider as joking side comments can really be seen as hateful jests(sp?). That evening, after being reminded how lucky I am to have someone like Joe (goofy yet sexy... nice to look at without a shirt), I woke him up on the sofa, told him that I loved him, and apologized for taking him for granted. Then I took my place on the floor, and fell right asleep.

Posted by - Rain 05:31 Comments (0)

TMA!

(Traditional Martial Arts)

The next day we woke up pretty early and headed out to meet Master Li, a man that Master Yang told us about when he first taught us Xing Yi. When Master Li was about 40 years old the doctors told him that he was dying and didn't have very much time left to live, maby a few months, maybe a few years, but the end was coming soon. On the way home he passed a park where we saw someone practicing Xing Yi. Never having learned Kung Fu before, he wanted to experience it before he died. So the man in the park taught him one element from one form. Every day he would practice the Wood element from Xing Yi, and eventually the years passed, and he still lived. He went on to learn all of Xing Yi, and now at the age of 104 years old, he is a master of the art. He runs a school in Jinan with his son, the yonger Master Li, and now it was finally time for us to go out to there training grounds and see some real Chinese Kung Fu!

Wei Ping dropped us off at a park called Hero's Hill. This hill (more like a small mountain) is where many fallen solderers are burred and there is a monument to all who give their lives somewhere on this hill (we never saw it). The hill was terraced off as if for growing crops, but instead of crops we passed loads of people practicing Kung Fu, and on each new terrace, there seemed to be a new group of people doing something different. Some were playing with those double cones attached on a string, and you toss them into the air, and catch them like you see at festivals or entertainment parks, and others were practicing Tai Chi, etc. We came over to a group where Master Wong was hanging out with a bunch of his “friends” he introduced us to (but I believe that they were actually students), and next to his group was the young Master Li's students. Master Wong talked to them all a bit, and introduced us etc, etc. Unfortunatly Master Li's father only recently started not coming to practice, so he was not there, but we have more time in China and Master Yang said that we would maybe be able to meet him sometime later. Then, everyone stopped practicing, and a full blown demonstration started!

First, to twist Mr. Allen's words: Who says there isn't anyone who practices martial arts in China:

Chain Whip:

Ba Gua:

Xing Y (Metal, Water/ Screw):

Long Tassel Sword:

Chen Style Tai Chi:

Rope Dart:

Spear:

Xing Yi Connection Form (All the elements):

2 Person Xing Yi Form (young Master Li on the right):

Wu Shu Sword (Master Wong):

Xing Yi:

“Go ahead and pick who you want to learn from. These are all my friends, so if you want to train with them, they have to train you guys because you are my students.” Master Yang told us.
Joe felt a little bad for the Xing Yi group Master Li taught, because Master Wong's group was much more of a demonstration group, while the internal styles really weren't as flashy and entertaining to watch. But still, at the end of the day I was excited to learn from Master Wong, and Joe really wanted to learn from Master Li.

At lunch we met this guy who trains the Chinese army with martial arts and we had a book signing where he passed us each out a copy of the book he wrote. Then he let Joe feel his shoes (heavy weighted soles for weight training). I made Joe let him feel his own shoe... which was a crock (light weight for easy traveling).

Haorongs mad photographing:

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Then after lunch both of them preformed some martial arts.

Joe's strange and not his best improve and this guys strange and interesting mix of quick and light mantis movements with strong and sturdy stances:

Next Master Yang tells us that we need to pack our things and that he has a place for us to stay for the next month! He said that he could find us work and a place to stay in Jinan, and he was delivering. We were actually going to move into WeiPing's best friend's father's apartment! Haorong (WeiPing's best friend's son) would stay with us there to make sure that if the Red Guard ever came to our door wondering if we were squatters or something, he could enplane to them that we were his guest. I didn't understand that this was the arrangement at first, but then after Haorong's parents left the apartment with WeiPing, and Haorong was still there, I got the idea.

But first, in the evening we had one last dinner with Mr. Yang, and Wei Ping gave us back our calligraphy all ironed out and set on large scrolls. He said it was 200 yuen, but when I tried to give him the money he said that Mr. Yang already paid him. I tried to give it to Mr. Yang, but the little old man wouldn't budge. “Gift, gift, my gift to you!” He really was the sweetest thing, and not because he gave us a gift, because everyone did that in China, it was because he did it with the largest grin on his face that said he knew that we were American's and would be embarrassed by all the gift giving, but that we were his son's students and were going to get this gift and like it if we liked it or not... but she smile went all the way to his eyes, which then said that he knew we would love the gift.

Haorongs mad photographing part 2:

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After dinner WeiPing drove us across town to Haorong's grandfather's place, and we got set up in the master bedroom. Haorong's grandfather has 2 apartments in different cities he travels between, and since he was here last week they told us that it should be a month or so before he returns again. Haorong set up on the cot between the kitchen and the living room. I felt bad that this poor kid who only knew us for 2 days had to move out of his bedroom at his parents and into his grandfather's place without any privacy.

At this time Master Yang was only in Beijing. He would be there tomorrow as well because his plane didn't leave until the morning of the 15th, so the next morning I called Master Yang and told him that while it was extremely nice of them to let us stay for free, that the $10 a day apartment he had told us about earlier would be a more preferable situation. Master Yang seemed to understand and said that he would have WeiPing make some calls. Little did I know that leaving the apartment would bother Haorong's family more than having us stay. Having us stay was no problem at all, in fact, it was necessary. Having us on our own would cause them so much worry, they wouldn't know what to do with themselves! This, being independent from the age of 5, was a hard concept for me to grasp, and to this day I only grasp it, I still do not embrace it.

After getting off the phone with Master Yang, Haorong said that it was time for breakfast, and his mom was cooking. His place was only about a 10 min. walk away, so we headed out of his grandfather's first floor flat, down the street through the morning market, across one of Jinan's main streets (raised high way above the BRT bus line that acts like a metro with 3 lanes for normal car and bike traffic on either side of the BRT lanes), through the gate to Shandong University (his father was a professor there so the school provided them free housing on campus), to the 3rd apartment building complex, then up 5 flights of stairs (no elevators).

His mom was an extremely good cook and she made all sorts of steamed vegetables, dumplings stuffed with carrots, onions, beef, and cabbage (I love the carrot ones probably to death), steam buns, and eggs. His parents didn't eat the eggs because sunny side up eggs were not something you ate in China, but Haorong likes them, and we were western, so she would actually continue to make us sunny side up eggs at every meal she prepared for us. She also gave the 3 of us milk boxes (you can't buy milk in anything bigger than a juice box in any Chinese city we've been too). Haorong's father made fun of him the whole meal of how his son already eats like a westerner so he will fit in well when he goes to Canada. Haorong's family was one of the few people in Jinan who didn't have a car because they saved that money to pay for Haorong to go to Canada to study in the fall. Because of this, his mother's brother came over after breakfast to drive us around.

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It was very cold this morning, so I was grateful for the heat he turned on (Chinese people only turn on heat in their cars if there is a westerner onboard. Air conditioning they will use 24/7, but heat was something they simply never used). He took us to the north side of Jinan to where the Yellow River runs through. All their water comes from the Yellow River now because the government is protecting Jinan's natural springs as a national landmark (probably why China is so intent on Tibet not separating from China. Everywhere you see signs for Tibet Spring water... I guess those don't fall under national landmark status).

Big Dragon wall protecting the river:

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The river low b/c the rainy season isn't until summer:

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Yellow water:

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Statue only recently uncovered and then new copies were made all along the river. It is a distinct animal concoction that was designed by the ancient people of Jinan to guard and protect the river from evil spirits of drought and contamination:

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Laptop statue:

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Beached ship:

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Joe begged to pose in a pagoda:

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Then they were going to take us to Diamond Lake, but Joe begged them not to make his nose fall off (his nose was a little ice-sickle). So they took us to lunch in the city at ta place where his mom has an in with the staff. We got a private room and they brought us all sorts of hot soups that you put your raw food into, and the soup water boils it! So they had raw veggies all over the table and raw chicken, and you put it into your soup, wait a minute, and then it comes out all well cooked and safe to eat. They also brought us special Jinan potato noodles that Haorong's mom was very proud of as being a signature dish of Jinan.

They wanted to keep going with the touring around Jinan, but after spending 15 days tourning with Master Yang, we were both kinda ready for a ½ day in. So they drove us back to Haorong's grandfather's place and we chilled with him the rest of the day.

Posted by - Rain 07:37 Comments (1)

YaawwwwEiiiiOwwwww

"How"

This morning we woke up early to take the train back to Jinan:

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Huge train station.

Then we got booked back into our old hotel where Mr. Yang was still staying.

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(That leads to where the continental breakfast is served... pretty snazzy)

After lunch at the China Post Hotel Restaurant (I still think its a really weird combination), the rest of the day, all the way until dinner, we spent with Bing Qing. She took us shopping again (poor thing hates shopping) and she got us to finally buy some nice clothes. Tonight was going to be a huge banquet with like 50 people or more to for Mr. Yang. Originally he asked if Joe and I wanted to preform for them since no Kung Fu people would be there, just friends and family, and I thought, sure, we could do the 2 man form he taught us. And then I though, no. No, I would not be preforming anything in front of 50 people who, even if they don't practice Kung Fu, know and cherish the art as their cultural heritage. Joe at least still trains more than once a month, so he agreed to do his Ba Gua form that evening.

Then, the bad. Bing Qing didn't know how to get to the dinner. Joe and I both wanted to go back to the hotel to change and get our cameras, so on the 30 min bus ride back to our hotel Bing Qing got the address from her mother. At the hotel we took our time and got ready, then we decided to finally head out. "So where are we going?" "I dunno still." She told us. She only know what bus to get on, but she didn't know the end stop yet. She called her mom back. Not good. Turns out we travelled 30 min. in the opposite direction of the dinner. We actually passed the shopping center where we bought our clothes on the way to dinner. Wei Ping told us not to be there after 5:30pm, and it as 5 till our deadline. "Taxi!" Bing Qing told us. We needed to get off the bus and catch a taxi. At the next stop we desperately hailed a cab. You know whats a bad idea to do in the capital city of a Chinese province? - Hail a cab, and then try to take it somewhere fast. At one point Joe asked if we should just get out and run. Luckily we didn't because the next time we moved we actually made it through the light, and we started hitting a decent speed for a while. When we got out Bing Qing didn't know which building it was, so we started running around while she called her mom. Her mom told us to stay put, and she would come outside and find us. "Bing Qing!" We heard calling us from the building we almost walked into on gut alone. Running up the steps we made it into the grand hall... and we were still waiting for about 1/2 of the other guests... sigh of relief.

Everyone was walking around, mingling, and then Master Yang was standing with a group of people around a large line of tables against the right wall.

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This man is a well-known art professor at Shandong University.

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And then Mr. Zhang of course did the calligraphy on the painting.

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With Mr. Yang is Lili's mom and nephew.

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That was the sequence of Joe making Lili's nephew cry.

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On the left is a family member that got lost for about a decade! I believe she is some sort of 2nd cousin to Master Yang or his father, I'm not sure. But they worked really hard to find her after some family members passed away and she disappeared into poverty. Now they found her maybe 2 years ago or so, and she is very happy to have relatives again.

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Then we sat down for dinner (we are at the table of honor with Master Yang and his father, and I don't quite fell comfortable with it. I hope there is no resentment... but this group really likes us, so I know there is not... I'm just paranoid):

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And then, after eating, eating, eating, the festivities begin! Lili narrated the entire night, first in Chinese, and the in English (yes, we were the only people who didn't speak Chinese there, so that second part was just for us).

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Speeches! First, Wei Ping:

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(I have no idea what he is saying, but I heard Joe and Nisha, and then some good natured laughing caught on across the room)

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Now we see Wei Ping hold up his finger and mimic sewing it at the knuckle... and we know he is talking about Joe (so why does my face turn red?)

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Then Mr. Yang's speech:

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And Lili's mom recites a poem:

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Then, the opera singer preforms:

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And just like our first night here, Master Wong follows her with his story about the tiger. (He does better with a small group setting. This large impersonal group just made me feel like the format was wrong.)

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Most of these photos are from our soon to be good friend Haorong (Wei Ping's best friend's son, and not just current best friend, but best friend all the way from primary school!). He is an amazing photographer and did tuns of documentation photography. This last shot is one of my favorites of his. I know its our video camera in the shot, but I'm only 80% sure that is Joe doing the video taping.

Then, it was time for this apparently very famous traditional Chinese singer. She made such an impression on me that night, that I named the title of this blog after her song. Her first time up she had to sing without the background music... and it was hard on my ears. Then, just as she was giving up, the sound people got her music working, and she started all over again.

This wasn't the best one either (she jumps up on stage 3 or 4 times during the rest of the night). Her singing in person was really shrill! They had the microphones turned up way too loud as well, so when she would hit a high note, it actually physically hurt something in my head. And then sometimes when she dances she would make the most ghastly expression that Joe likes to imitate to this day. She would open her eyes real wide, then rather than smile she would sneer almost as if she was some sort of evil villain about to cackle their manacle laugh. But many of the people in the crowd would call out “How” ( = good, wonderful, excellent, great) when she would make my ears hurt. I didn't understand it, but I got the impression that back in her prime she was very good at this traditional singing, but now in her later years, still living off of her memories, she can't quite make the strange tones work for her.

Then, it was time for the gift giving!

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Now, the pressure is on Joe! He heard that Lili was going to introduce him and that they wanted Joe to say something. Worried that he couldn't say it in Chinese, and that Lili's english translation had something to be desired as well, Joe desperately tried to get BingQing to come on stage with him. “I cannot, I am not important,” she tried to explain to Joe. It would be out of protocol for him to bring someone uninvited to the stage with him. So then he tried to get her to write down what Joe was saying to her in Chinese for Lili to read. However, KungFu sounds very much like ConFu which is how the chinese pronounce Confucius, and so Joe's whispers to BingQing to give to Lili were already off on the wrong track. BingQing had already given Lili the cheat sheet when Joe found out that she was going to say that Joe didn't learn about Confucius to hurt people! Oh no! And Lili was stepping up to the microphone! I tried to signal to her not to read what BingQing had given her, but it was too late! “Master Yang, what is Lili saying?” He told me that she was simply reading what she had prepared to say, and didn't seem to say anything BingQing had given to her. “Phueph!” Then Joe went up on stage and very nervously spoke in english to everyone about how its been wonderful coming to China and meeting all sorts of new friends.

Master Yang started to laugh when he heard Lili translate what Joe had said before his form, so I asked Master Yang what she said. “She not say anything Joe said, she just say what she wants to say.” Then while Joe was preforming I heard people around the table talking, and I tried to get it on tape, but if my camera isn't pointed at them at the time it is very hard for the microphone to pick them up. Mr. Yang was asking what type of KungFu Joe was doing, and Master Yang was explaining that he was doing BaGua. Then around the table were surprised exclamations of how good Joe's performance was. Master Yang never took credit for Joe's abilities, but explained that Joe was a very gifted student (I love Master Yang).

Then, the dreaded woman came back to the stage. At this point, I am really actually kinda drunk. Everyone kept doing “Gampie!” and making everyone “empty their glasses.” I started off with a clear liquor that reminded me of 151, and then I promptly switched to red wine. The alcohol though, did not improve my taste in listing to her singing. At one point Joe jumped on the bandwagon and yelled “How!” after one of her “impressive” notes that reminded me of nails on a chalkboard. I immediately called him out on it, “You don't mean that!” I felt confident in saying this rather loudly because nobody spoke english except for us... then I see Master Yang practically spit as he began to laugh hard while taking a sip of wine. “Master Yang! You speak english! I forgot! I'm sorry!” All three of us are about to fall out of our chairs as Master Yang grabs the wine and fills all three of our glasses and gives us a hardy cheers as he salutes my honesty and probably our shared belief that her singing was not something we particularly enjoyed.

And, gifts.

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And, Gampie.

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Then her husband (not honored enough to sit at our table), jumped onto the stage and relieved us of her singing and began to sing himself! His voice was actually really nice, but not something you might be considered famous for. He sang a song that reminded me of a chinese version of Frank Sinatra. He didn't have the same pipes as Sinatra, but after listening to his wife, maybe I might think he was better than he may have actually been.

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Then the woman in the red shirt steals the microphone again! And now, enter the drunk guy stage left (or is that right? I can't remember my Strongsville High School theater crew rules).

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She was not amused by him. He kept clapping, and then theatrically moving his arms on different notes. I think he caused her to feel uncomfortable, so she ended her song a bit early and finally put the microphone down. (I say this really harshly, but I actually really enjoyed listening to how bad she was. It was actually really interesting.)

Now, the best part of the night! The drunk guy hands the microphone over to the opera singer, and he starts doing the same things to her. He tries to anticipate the climatic notes and waves his arms in the air as if conducting the background music. The opera singer though finds his antics neither this or that. She was singing a song that happened to be a duet, and then it happened, he knew that she needed help, she shouldn't have to sing the male and female parts... and he grabs the microphone!

Back and forth they go with the microphone, and he shocks the room! I don't think most people expected him to actually be able to sing opera! We clapped enthusiastically, and the whole room changed from being involved with food and their own conversation to the extravaganza these two were creating. Watching them was a blast, and in my opinion, the highlight of the night.

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Then the traditional group photos.

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And then Joe and I make the rounds to drink to each table.

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And finally, someone struggles the camera out of Haorong's grasp, and we finally get a picture with him. After this night he becomes our translator, tour guide, roommate, and good friend.

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(I feel like Leia hugging Han and Luke, am I really that short?)

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Posted by - Rain 04:53 Comments (7)

Hijacked! - (jk)

At continental breakfast (in China that means a hot buffet, not muffins and cereal) Master Yang explained that he wasn't sure what we were doing today because in Qingdao, Master Zhang is the man, and Master Yang goes where he says he is going to go, and sometimes he doesn't even tell him where that is. So the events of today are up in the air I suppose. Master Yang is just as in the dark as we were (which was actually a little comforting to have some company in the WTF is going on club).

Possibilities:
Hike up the Laoshan Mountains to see where Mantis Style Kung Fu and Taoism religion were invented
Visit several different temples around the city
Go to the Qingdao beer factory
See the Qingdao museum

Joe:

After Breakfast we had free-time!!! Our teacher said that Master Zhang won't pick us up for over an hour. I walked through the employee only doors in the lobby like I couldn't read English and found my way to the rear courtyard of the C shaped Hotel. It had a Beautiful little pond with little trees, bushes and Benches scattered thickly around the grassy area. I'm sure it was especially nice a little later in spring when some flowers and more leaves would be out.

I practiced some forms and was practicing improv. Kung Fu, which is inevitably my style and changes all the time depending on many influences. An older middle-aged balding Chinese man walked up to me. He had walked past a few minutes earlier quite intrigued. He started asking me questions and it took me several tries to understand each question.

Chinese people don't use any of the proper standard sentences that I learned in university. They certainly don't use English sentence structure or our choice of words. An intelligent person with absolutely no Chinese would probably figure it out about as quick. I would listen really hard. . . after two tries It would still be Chinese to me, or maybe Greek. Then I would would start spouting random answers to expected questions. If that didn't work I would sometimes recognize one word and figure it out, or I'd give up and ask him a question. This is about how every conversation went in China and Taiwan, even after 4 months; except when the person was a young college student with no interest in learning English.

This chinese man was so happy to speak to me. He really appreciated my interest in Chinese culture and he said my Gung Fu was very good. He proceeded to imitate some movements. I saw this a lot.

Nisha:

So, not sure of where we were going to, we packed into Master Zhang's car, and we headed out into the unknown.

Stop #1:
Zhanshan Buddhist Temple

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The first temple we enter is the Hall of Sakyamuni (大雄宝殿). The epithet “Sakyamuni” means “sage of the Sakyas," and that hall honors the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama. But, in the more important temples they watch to make sure you don't take photographs so we don't have any pictures of that one. Joe and Master Zhang kneeled down and bowed on the provided pillows, while Master Yang and I walked around the temple and took in all of its details. Exiting the temple Master Yang explained to us (in English, so Master Zhang couldn't have been offended) that he never bows down and prays to Buddha statues. "Why all these Chinese people bow down to Buddha I dunno." He was right when he said that Buddhism is an Indian religion, and that the only true Chinese religion was Taoism, but it still seemed strange to me because he was the first, and the last I believe, Chinese person to denounce Buddhism to us.

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Those pictures are of the Hall of Three Saints (三圣殿). Outside this temple Master Zhang bought Joe and I 2 laminated drawings at a kiosk stand. One was smaller with the 3 golden saints on it, and the other was a large one of a Buddha statue that had a poem written on the back in Chinese.

Next is the Hall of the Recumbent Buddha (卧佛殿), where, behind a long altar lies a bejeweled statue of Buddha that is almost twenty feet long.

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Then we climbed up to the Bell Tower, and inside Master Zhang paid a monk for 3 bell rings. So Master Yang, Joe and I each got to think to ourselves what we would like to ask Buddha for, and then we rung the bell.

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Master Yang, Joe and I each got to think to ourselves what we would like to ask Buddha for, and then we rung the bell.

Master Yang: "I don't need anything else, so I just think of nothing."

Joe: I want to strike the bell softly, but with power and an open strong beautiful sound. Wait I need to think of what Buddha will bring me. Hmm. . . I need nothing so I'll think of n-- No, that's no good. Buddha please heal my spine—or how about bring me a great Kung Fu Master who fits me perfectly, two-person sparring games, drills, and basics! Please just let me not fall in line, buckling under the pressure of two strong Masters expecting a hugely powerful strike of the bell! AAAAAAAHH! Buddha just free me from this crazy high speed mind of mine! *silence[i/]
Bell: “CRASHOOOONNNNnngggggg”

Joe: [i]Epic fail. That was not serenely powerful.[i/]

Nisha: "Please don't let me hit the bell like a girl."

I felt mine was very sincere because I had forgotten I was supposed to wish for something, and I was just naturally already praying to the Buddha not to embarrass myself.

This statue I think was Joe and my favorite. We agreed it held a lot of philosophy and Feng Shui to it.

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The inanimate Buddha waters the animate plant not with real water, that has to be done by the monks, but with holy spirit water given to the statue by all who recognize it as their connection to the higher realms, thereby causing the monks to never forget to diligently feed the thriving plants below. (Either that or they were fake plants and the whole philosophy we came up with is a sham!)

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This temple houses the ashes of many important people, and people who felt that their loved one was important enough to pay for their bureau there. This temple actually has the ashes of Master Leu, Master Yang's Kung Fu master! However we just looked at the temple, took some pictures, and then headed out! Maybe it was because Master Yang doesn't believe in bowing and praying in front of a temple regardless if it is Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, or a grave site of his beloved master. I never asked, I'm sure you can understand that.

Then it was back into the van and we headed across town to... well, we don't know.

Then...

We park the car on the yellow painted zebra triangular section of the road that in America would indicate "this is not to be driven on, stay on the road" but in China meant "parking lot." We get out of the car. "Whats that?" I pointed up a hill to 2 towers with large red balls on top. "That is where we are going." Master Yang explains. Master Zhang refuses to let us pay for the tickets, and then Master Yang explains that either the Germans built the towers as radio and such towers for the war effort in WWII, or the Chinese built them for the same purpose and the German's took them over. I dunno. It was a neat place to walk though.

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As we got higher and higher we could see more of the city.

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Then we came to the Locks of Love bridge (its just what I call it). People buy these heart shaped locks and link them onto the chains when they get married, and some of them even get married at the church at the top of the hill (one of the res spheres was turned in to a church after the towers were put out of use... yeah, I thought it was strange too. They should have at least repainted the thing, well, you'll see what I mean).

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Then we came to an awesome pool with dragon statues that looked out onto the city:

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And finally we made it to the top:

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That last one is of the church... at least they gave it new, more appropriate doors.

Rushing now, Master Zhang ran down the staircase on the other side of the hill, and Master Yang, Joe and myself trailed at our own pace behind him. Both Joe and Master Yang were having knee trouble, so it wasn't good for them to jog down the stairs. Master Yang slipped on some ice walking his dog and hurt his knee, and Joe hasn't liked how his knees feel ever since I've known him. I'd describe it to you, but Joe always says I get it wrong, so I won't.

Back at the van some guy came up to Master Zhang and asked for money. Master Zhang blew him off, but they guy pointed out that he wasn't begging, and that Master Zhang needed to pay for parking. He pointed at his stand on the side of the road with a woman sitting at it. Master Zhang hopped out of the car and started giving both of them a piece of his mind. You see, most Chinese tourists wouldn't have a Qingdao native with them, so they would just pay the man and be on their way. To top off the pay off, there were Americans with the Chinese tourist! So they could rip us off, and get extra money for it. But Master Zhang wasn't a tourist, and he wasn't American, and they people just started walking away from their stand when they realized that Master Zhang may report them. They folded up their one foot high squatting chairs, and just headed down the road.

Now it was time for lunch, and Master Zhang took us to a small joutsu place (stuffed dumplings kinda like ravioli). He only ordered meat joutsu, so I picked at my shrimp joutsu until the beef ones came and I could camouflage my small dipping plate with all sorts of dumpling stuffings.

Next... I still don't know. "Aren't we going to the Mt. Master Yang." "No, I don't think we have time anymore." That sucked b/c I really wanted to see the Mt. and get out of the city again, but I couldn't complain b/c everywhere we went we didn't pay for a damn thing.

We came to the ocean and Master Zhang dropped the 3 of us off at the side of the road. Master Yang said that Joe and I were to walk along the boardwalk to the end where the Qingdao beer museum is where they show you how they make the beer and then let you sample some, and then we were to meet him back at the sea side bazar of street venders.

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Those spikes on the boardwalk are people.

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Walking along the board walk there were all sorts of cloths laid out with souvenirs you could buy and we actually found those necklaces they were selling at the International Marketplace in Hawaii! (The ones that had the large sharp tooth made out of bone with some sort of animal carved into the root that connected to the chain.) After being in China for a week or so and never seeing anything even remotely unique looking for sale I thought that the International Marketplace was a sham! But here they were, in China, selling the same trinkets they told us were from China.

Then we made it to the end, and didn't cough up the 12 yuen it cost to get in.

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We met Master Yang, and got picked up my Master Zhang, and what happens next, nobody know(s)!

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We drove to the Qingdao museum!

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That rock formation was the only photo we could get off b/c every room had an officer standing in it to make sure nobody took any pictures. They had 3 stories of things, in one wing we got to see some paintings and calligraphy, another they recreated a scene like you were walking through an old Chinese village, and another was for kids to learn how to make their won stamp art, then another had pottery, and the most interesting one I thought had you walk through war time occupied Qingdao and we got to learn about its modern history that sets it apart from Chinese ancient history that tends to blend together for me:

[i]When China was defeated by British forces during the Opium War of 1840-1842, much of the nation’s coast was opened to colonization by Europe. In 1897, German soldiers took over Qingdao and created the now-famous German ‘concession area’ akin to Hong Kong. This event shaped the modern face of the city, turning Qingdao into a Bavarian-looking village through its architecture and cultural details. The Germans were also responsible for introducing the famous Qingdao Beer Brewery which still produces China’s most popular beer Tsingtao.

During the distractions of WWI, Japan invaded the city in 1914, sparking a 30-year struggle for control of Qingdao between Japan, Germany and China. After its defeat in WWII, Japan surrendered the city back to the Chinese. But it wasn’t until 1984, when the government declared it one of the 14 coastal cities which would be opened to foreign investment, that Qingdao began its current rise to prominence. Along with industry, tourism also began to receive attention, as the historical Laoshan Mountains returned to the limelight.

It was obviously much more interesting than that little explanation I found on the internet, and it was very insightful to hear how a native Taiwanese (Master Yang) person discussed feelings about Japan (damn warmongers really, and I had to agree) and the Europeans (not so much into war as long as they can have your land and resources).

After the museum we ate dinner, and then we walked around the night market for a bit, then went back to our hotel and packed b/c in the morning we had a train back to Jinan.

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(Master Yang and Mark)

And for our Chinglish of the day, I leave you with this description we took a picture of in the museum after the guard stepped out (not the greatest, but more so for its use of hyphens, and the fact that its in a museum):

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mo-untains, disco-vered, bro-nze

We figured that someone who was most likely British (they said valleys and dales), wrote the thing but had a different sized box maybe?
So, when they would do that thing thats really annoying where you split a wo-
rd to make the font more "justified" without changing the spacing, and a Chin-
ese person copied it, they simply copied their hyphens in even though they no-
longer worked in the English sense b/c they weren't at the end of the lines an-
ymore.

Posted by - Rain 04:38 Comments (3)

5 Rings, Multiple Faces, and ABC Food!

In the morning I had toast and juice for my continental breakfast, and the events from yesterday seem to have been the events of yesterday (thank god).

Master Zhang then picked us up in his van and drove us to where the ocean part of the Olympics were held (thinks that need boats like Crew and... um, Crew).

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Then we drove for over an hour through the city of Qingdao (this city really really never ended!) But it was still kind of pretty because every so often you would pass by a street where you could see a direct line all the way to the mountains!

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Joe: After driving across this never-ending construction site of a city, we went out of our way to go to this poor area. You can't see in the above photo (because I missed the shot), but there were kids playing inside the courtyard of that building (and by courtyard I mean "A shoddy wall made of piled up building rubble surrounding that shamble of a building"). They were playing football (Soccer) amid the giant piles of trash everywhere inside. The city is obviously getting ready to demolish those homes and replace them with a set of identical ugly tall apartment buildings. Some look nice, but in the poor areas the buildings look 100 years old as soon as they're built.

I remember talking with someone in Jinan who was saying, "this entire road didn't exist two years ago."

I said, "Wait. I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that These buildings had no road going between? Just a dirt path or grass?"

She said, "No. These buildings didn't exist either."

I was like "What?!" I couldn't understand. The buildings seriously looked really old and rundown. They were rusted, falling apart, and colors were faded everywhere. They had holes in the concrete and cracks everywhere. I guess they just build them really badly in poor areas (please don't have an earthquake!)

Nisha:

He drove us to Qingdao's lake where they get the water for Qingdao beer (they are very proud of Qingdao beer here, I guess not surprisingly). The mountains around this lake house the temple that the monk who invented Mantis Kung Fu was sent to meditate. The other monks disliked him and thought that they were doing him a disfavor by having him set up his Kung Fu school in such a lousy place, but it was through his being sent into the mountains that he saw a praying mantis fight another bug, and he realized his own fighting form.

Master Zhang didn't take us to that section of the mountain though. Instead he took us to the other side where he knew of a really great family restaurant and we had lunch. He said it was too late in the day to hike up the mountain, so we would go maybe tomorrow.

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Yes, that is a wall made out of Qingdao beers, and yes, that is a little girl standing like an unknowing domino at the end of the line.

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Master Zhang is also the president of some sort of magician's association, so any magician certified as authentic by his group has to show him their tricks and how they accomplish them. One of his members came and ate with us, and later on he promises to preform for us. Master Yang explained that he wanted Master Zhang to teach him the routine where you magically switch to different masks so he could gain more peoples attentions at demonstrations. Having a student preform one type of martial art, and then bam, new mask, and he would do a different style martial art. I thought it sounded like a really cool idea. (Don't let the dream dye Master Yang!)

But before we could get to the entertainment, we had probably the strangest meal of the entire trip. Lots of whole fish, whole shrimp (eyes and all), deep friend grubs,

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And worst of all...

deep fried bees!

Luckily everyone knew that I was either sick yesterday, or faking sick so I wouldn't have to eat Chinese food, so after a few new people offered me food it was left at that. Joe, however, ate a little bit of everything. There were half eaten worms, shrimps w/o heads, and fish tails all over his plate. But again, worst of all, was the half eaten bee that just so happened to fall on the ground next to me, bumping my arm on the way down. EEARRRRGGGG!

But then, the kid (probably about 20), left the room with his suitcase to prepare. About 20 min. later Joe can't take it anymore so he gets up to go to the restroom. Just as he opens the door, this walks in:

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He freaked me out when he came right up to my face. But other than that, I thought it would have been way cooler if preformed the way Master Yang explained it. Then he left the room and quickly returned in a brand new outfit with a balloon, a sheet of glass, and a box of needles.

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People were hesitant to clap b/c the trick didn't really work. Sure he popped the balloon, but he left a huge cracked hole in the glass, and Master Yang said that the last time he saw this kid preform the same trick all you could see was a thick needle sized circular hole. This way it doesn't prove that all that went through the glass was something the size of a needle, so it isn't as impressive. Sorry guy, but your Chi Gong at the beginning was really cool looking, even if it was only for show and not actually to build chi to do the trick. (Who knows, maybe he told Master Zhang its only for show, but he actually does use chi through the needle to pierce the glass.)

After that we rode back home for a break before dinner.

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Joe thought it was freaky how in Qingdao there would be tons of these high rise apartments that looked exactly alike. It reminded me of Number Four Privet Drive in Little Whinging, except with taller buildings.

That evening I was thinking about skipping dinner after this afternoons food spectacle. But I was really glad that I didn't because first Master Zhang took us to Qindao's shopping mall. At first I was like "Why are we going to a mall?" And then I was like "Can we come back here everyday?"

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It was like I was finally home! Not that Las Vegas was home, but it really was one of my fonder memories of the trip. It was Joe and my first day back together after his week in the wild and my tour through New Mexico, and it is something distinctly American. Its like Disney world or Bush Garden's Williamsburg. Its fantastic and beautiful and full of lights and decorations and street performers in costumes, and I just felt uplifted, especially by the star dome!

This woman was playing beautiful classical western piano music:

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Then the three girls inside this stage area were playing classical Chinese music on traditional instruments:

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This girl Master Yang was sure was decidedly not a girl:

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And everyone laughed at me when I almost walked into this emperor guy. (I was busy looking at the "girl" to see if Master Yang was right... and I thought he was a statue after I almost walked into him, so I kinda jumped when he started moving).

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And then this castle just reminded me of Ireland, and as much as I was only there for 4 or 5 days, that country felt like home too. Or maybe I just look longingly at too many of Brittany's photographs of Ireland and I've existed there vicariously through her.

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Then Master Zhang picked up his son Mark (Master Yang's godson), and took us all to a beautiful restaurant down the road a ways. (I was glad we didn't eat in their Vegas because it looked kinda expensive and those types of places just have overpriced bad food, but I was also a little sad to leave.)

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This staircase changed my mind. I couldn't even remember the Las Vegas of Qingdao as we passed through rows of bamboo and twinkle lights laced perfectly accenting the greenery and the many waterfalls that sparkled across the delicately carved rocks. The table we sat at had a pond with real lotus blossoms floating on its surface and a twisting pillar with water running down its sides in such a way you would think it defied nature.

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Then the food Master Zhang ordered was all very simple and very CA (Chinese American) looking and tasting. We had for the first (and last) time in China a plate of Orange Chicken! (I love that stuff!) It was real CA Orange Chicken too. There were no bones, no beaks, and no feet! They also had Kung Pow Chicken! Another favorite dish of mine! And they had these extremely addictive eggplant wedges fried in a savory sauce and lightly breaded with a mildly spicy breading (so good!) They also had a crispy plate of of steamed bamboo with diced chilly peppers and so much more. I ate and ate and ate, and I think Master Zhang's wife was going to burst with happiness. I felt bad, thinking that they may have only bought all this non-authentic food just so I would eat, but I really was sick before, and now I really was feeling better. But either way, we all left dinner feeling happy, so its all good.

Posted by - Rain 08:15 Comments (1)

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