Saturday, March 17, 2007

International Women's Day Excursion

In honor of International Women’s Day, the law school arranged an excursion for the women professors, and they were nice enough to include us. It was an all-day affair, and tons of fun. We met at the law school at 8 a.m. on Saturday, and returned at 8 p.m. We went to a mountain park and a hot springs. It was great fun.

We took a bus to the mountain park, which took us over the bridge connecting Xiamen Island with the mainland. We drove for about an hour. There were about 25 women, and 4 kids (I don’t think all of them were professors, though Tracy told me the excursion was for professors. She introduced 3-4 women to me as “Professor So-and-So” and others as “Miss So-and-So,” but I’m not sure what all of them did. And a number of them were definitely past the Chinese retirement age for women – age 50 (men retire at 55)).
One little boy, Si Bo, aged 7, became Zoe’s special friend. He is learning English at school, and had fun asking her, “What is that?” Zoe prefers to be the teacher, rather than the student, so it was hard to convince her to ask him what things were in Chinese. His mom brought an entire bag of snacks, and all three kids ate their way to the mountain park!

When we got to the park, we had to switch to the park’s bus – they only allow their busses in the park out of environmental concerns (I’m glad to see even this small sign that China is taking seriously the environmental devastation wrought by their rapid economic growth). We drove up the mountain to a lake, and wandered about. Si Bo made a paper airplane, and then another and another, and they all had fun throwing them in the air to see if they would fly.

Then we took the bus to a higher point and walked up about a million stone stairs to a small Buddhist temple. Then we walked down another million stone stairs to a steep road, and then walked and slid down that to a larger Buddhist temple. Zoe was intrigued when Si Bo burned incense and bowed to say a prayer. She was very interested when I compared things at the temple to what we do in church – there were kneelers there as well, and I explained that burning the incense was like burning candles at church (we’re Catholic).
We then took the bus to a higher point on the mountain, and walked around a lake on a wooden walkway. As usual, Zoe wanted to go a zillion miles an hour, and Maya wanted to meander, so Zoe ran ahead with Si Bo and his mom, and Maya and I brought up the rear. In fact, Maya and I brought up the rear each time! When we were walking up the steep path from the temple, Maya kept stopping to rest – which was a good thing, since I needed to rest, too! Whew! Everyone was impressed that Maya kept going, and didn’t ask to be carried. I was told several times that kids her age in China would never have made it up that hill!

We then drove to a near-by town and had lunch. It was quite good, especially the stewed chicken soup. Maya practically ate her weight in chicken! There were about 12 of us at our table, and I could tell that they were talking about Zoe and Maya, and I’d ask Tracy periodically for translation, and it seems they were saying how impressed they were with the girls. And it seems I’m a great mom! OK, do you think maybe Tracy was fudging the translation?! At one point they were pointing at the girls, and the conversation seemed kind of heated, and Tracy told me they were remarking on how much they disagreed with the one-child policy, and how much better it would be to allow two children – see how well the girls got along and what a caring big sister Zoe was!

As we waited for everyone to finish eating, we took the kids outside to the parking lot to run around. They were delighted to see a herd of goats! Zoe wanted to follow them back to the farm to make sure they made it home, but then they crossed the road, and she’s not allowed to cross the road by herself! Little did we know at the time that we would go to a different restaurant for dinner, and we’d be served goat! (I clarified with my translator – yes, it was goat, not lamb or sheep!) The girls happily tasted it, and Maya liked it and Zoe didn’t – which is typical for most meats.

After lunch, we went to the hot springs. It is quite an elaborate place, with a hotel and spa. There were lots of pools, all man-made of stone, with the hot springs water piped in. The pools had different temperatures, and some of them had “healthful” additions – one pool was spiked with red wine, and another with a Chinese rice alcohol, all designed to get the blood flowing faster and give the heart a work-out! One had a gauze bag full of flowers floating in it, and you could definitely smell the faint aroma of flowers as you got in the water. Another had a bag full of Chinese medicinal herbs – the girls said it smelled like shrimp – I think they were detecting garlic, since that’s what most of the shrimp we’ve been eating is cooked in.

The pools were at different temperatures, and Maya wouldn’t go into the first one because she said it was too hot. It didn’t take her long to become accustomed to it, though, and then it was hard to get her out of the pool! It felt great to me, especially good for sore muscles after all that stair-climbing on the mountain. The pools were fairly large, and Zoe loved “swimming” from end to end. The water was no more than chest-high on her in even the deepest pool.

The “clothing police” are still in full force when you’re in swim suits, I discovered. We were walking from one pool to try another, with the girls wrapped in their towels, and one of the workers thought Maya was not adequately wrapped, and as she re-wrapped her discovered that her towel was wet (how could it not be?). My lord, you would have thought I’d draped a rabid dog over her! The lady started chattering at me, and dragged us back to the entrance of the pool area, and insisted that another worker go into the locker room to get dry towels for the girls!

We finished up in the largest pool, lolling on stone beds imbedded with water jets. Ah, bliss! We were at the hot springs resort for about 3 hours, and I would have happily stayed longer. The only down side was that everyone kept trying to foist this boiling-hot sickly-sweet drink at us – apparently it is necessary to boil your insides as well as your outsides at the hot springs! They would insist that it was absolutely necessary for our health while in the hot water. (After the third time of trying to refuse, I just took the glass and dumped it in the grass later!) I agree that it’s important to keep well-hydrated, but I think my bottle of water did just fine, and we suffered no ill-effects!

It was then about 5:30, and I thought we would head back to the law school, but the excursion included dinner, too! We went to a restaurant that specialized in seafood, which is very common in Fujian Province cuisine because of the locale on the ocean. It was very good, but I especially liked the vegetables. As usual, I had no idea what the green stuff was, but it was delicious! The girls were thrilled because there were noodles. Again, the main topic of conversation at the table was the girls. Again, I’m a great mom, it seems (this was with a different group of women)! I was seated next to an incredibly bossy woman who insisted that I take everything and wouldn’t take no for an answer! She even poured the orange juice in my bowl, when I indicated that I didn’t want any because my tea cup was full! She was also quite distressed that I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt and no jacket – never mind that there were 25 people stuffed into a room made for 15, with no air circulating. So the “clothing police” regulate adult garb as well as children’s dress!

As we drove back toward the law school, I was concerned about how we were going to manage the walk back from the law school to our apartment in the dark with two tired girls. I needn’t have worried – the bus started dropping people off near their homes as we drove. Tracy, for example, lives in the downtown area, and called her husband on her cell phone to come pick her up at a place the bus would pass. We were the last to be dropped off, at South Gate, but we were so grateful not to have far to walk!

So, quite a grand celebration of International Women’s Day. These three women had a great time!


mimifrancoise said...

It sounds like you had a great day. You must have been very tired by the time you got home...the girls too. It's a good thing the bus took you close to home. Is Zoe trying to speak Chinese a little? Maya probably could care less.
bises to all my three girls.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a grand adventure!!