Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Day Warm on the Sand

Sanya! The Chinese Hawaii. The southernmost point on a Chinese island (Hainan) in the South China Sea. I kept hearing about it from other Disney English people, so I decided to go while I could still appreciate the warmth. It has been about -5 to 10 degrees Celsius (freezing) in Nanjing, so temperatures in the 20s (70s in Fahrenheit) were amazing. 

Sanya has 3 main beaches - Xianlong, Dadonghai, and Yalong Bays. I went to and stayed on Dadongbai. Fortunately, the expected rain stayed away. Tuesday, I played beach bum - I  walked on the beach (until I stumbled upon the nudist part), laid on a different part of the beach, read my book, listened to music, window shopped, explored the main streets, and got a massage. Very relaxing. My favorite part was going swimming in a resort hotel's pool.

Wednesday, I went back to the role of tourist. In the morning, I walked to Luhuitou on Sanya Bay, which is a famous peak in Sanya, known for the statue of Deer Looking Over Its Shoulder. A plaque said "Luhuitou represents the legend of mountain and sea and gathers endless love." The legend goes something like a hunter was about to kill a deer when a bright red cloud appeared and became a beautiful Li (Chinese ethnicity) girl. They looked upon one another and fell in love. I liked the views. 
Deer Looking Over Its Shoulder
View of Sanya from Luhuitou

After that, I picked up my stuff from the hostel and took a bus to Tianya-Haijiao, also known as "The Edge of the Sky and the End of the Sea" (or the ends of the world). It's basically a series of giant rocks on the beach. But it's very pretty, and there are also nice gardens to explore. There's even a star named after it. Tianya is the Safe Stone, so if you touch it, it will bring you safety and happiness, and Haijiao is the Lucky Stone, which brings you luck. And there's another rock that is found on the back of Chinese money. It's interesting how the end of the earth is also in the greatest romantic paradise. 

Then it was back to winter in Nanjing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I've Got No Strings

This weekend I went to Harbin. It had been recommended to me as a "must do" before I left for China because if it's Snow and Ice Festival. Harbin is in the northernmost province of China, and it used to be the Russian headquarters when the Russians invaded China. It is very cold with a lot of Russian influence in the architecture. When I arrived it was flurrying and a warm -11 degrees Celsius (12 Fahrenheit - I had heard of temperatures as low as -33 degrees). After I got settled at the hotel, I headed off to make my way to the festival.
The blur in this picture is a snowplow on the airport tarmac.
First I had to cross Songhua River. Harbin has 2 parts, and I was staying south of the river while most of the festival was north of it. The river was frozen over, so I followed the crowd and began walking. Of course, I slipped and fell almost as soon as I stepped on the ice. I got back up, past a number of people selling stuff, and saw people doing something that resembled seated skiing. So I tried that too. You rent a kind of stool chair with ice pick type poles and scoot yourself around the ice. Some people were being pushed by their friends. I was actually more successful at seated skiing than real skiing. I made a circle and continued walking.
The frozen Songua River
If you look closely, you can see frozen snowflakes

When I arrived at the other side of the river, I was on Sun Island Park, where the Snow Sculptures built by teams from around the world were displayed. There were sculptures of people, stories, objects, buildings, animals. Some were very impressive, some less so, some abstract in concept, some symbolic and thought provoking. There were also sculptures (although I think they might have been statues at this point) from award winners from previous years. Very beautiful.

US submission to snow sculpture competition
One of China's submissions to snow sculpture competition

Snow Village
From there, around sunset, when the icicles started forming on my eyelashes, I found my way to the 13th Annual Harbin Ice and Snow World - ice and snow buildings and sculptures lit up by neon lights. I took a horse drawn carriage around the area and then walked around, climbed on some of the buildings, luge-d down an ice slide at a ridiculously fast speed, and saw some performances - ice skating, acrobatics, dance, etc. It was very cool.

Ice slide

There's a third section to the festival - ice sculptures in Zhaolin Park. However, it opened at 3:00pm, so I was at the snow sculptures the first day and had to catch a cab to the airport at that time the second day. Something very amusing is how no one actually knew very much about the festival - you ask what time it opens, and you are given evening hours when it opens in the afternoon; prices are slightly off; and the information from the Internet was wrong. It was an experience. 

I spent the second day looking around the area by the hotel. I went to the Church of St. Sophia - the largest Russian Orthodox Church in East Asia and apparently the surrounding area was a Jewish area at some point. It's a very dark building compared to all the light colors of the rest of the buildings in Harbin, but it was gorgeous. It also had a museum inside with photographs of the history of Harbin. Then I walked to Zhongyang Street, a pedestrian street and open outdoor architectural museum. I liked seeing all the different styles of buildings. 
Church of St. Sophia
Zhongyang Street

Then I took a cab from the hotel back to the airport. My cab driver was wonderful - he pointed out sights, stopped for me to take pictures, and spoke very slowly so I could sometimes figure out what he was saying. And I made it back to Nanjing with all my fingers and toes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Now I see the Light

1) It's snowing!

2) Let me tell you something about China: They love fireworks. Rarely a day goes by that you don't hear something exploding. And it has greatly increased over Chinese New Year. 

Monday, I woke up to the sound of fireworks/firecrackers. I came home from work and saw fireworks being shot off behind my apartment building. When I went out later to meet my coworker to go see the Lantern Festival, I saw no less than 10 different fireworks displays. It was awesome. 

The Lantern Festival is a special celebration during Chinese New Year. It was described to me as being like Christmas Eve. Of course, I'm not so sure about the significance of Christmas Eve celebrations either, but I figured it's a nice time to go out and see some lights. Jessi found out about it at church and invited me to go after work, so we got on the bus to go see the Lantern Festival by Fuzimiao (the Confuscius Temple area). On the bus we saw another coworker, Celine, with her roommate going the same place. We followed them around because it was very crowded and they seemed like they knew what was going on. They were friends with a police officer, who kindly ushered us onto a boat for an evening river cruise. On the boat, we saw some girls with masks, and when I said their masks were pretty, they gave them to us! Over the speakers, there was a narration with the history of the area, but it was in Chinese, so I kind of only half paid attention. But the lanterns on the streets and the lights on the river were very beautiful. We walked (and rode) around for a couple of hours before going home. 

Photos from the Lantern Festival:
From the Boat

Over the weekend, I continued to explore the metro (finally finished it), caught up with my friend Natalie over a cup of tea, played Scrabble at a local bar, watched TV, and had lunch with some of the FTs from the other center. Very relaxing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Not much to update - went back to work this week, but we have in-service, so that's time for planning, report cards, extra demos, preparing for parent-teacher conferences, etc. When I wasn't working, I stayed home, studied Chinese, and rested. I explored the metro some more, and some of us from the center went to a Chinese movie. (We had free tickets.) It was a cartoon about some goats and wolves that teamed up to defeat the evil dragons who took over Dragonworld from the good dragons. It turned out to have English subtitles, which was nice, but it was a weird movie. And then I had to get a new phone charger because mine broke. 

I promise my next update will be more exciting.