Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An interruption post about volleyball

I know I'm behind on National Holiday and my subsequent trip to Shanghai, but today was amazing and deserves its own post while I'm still reveling in it.

The Chinese language department had a volleyball tournament between all the classes over the last couple weeks, and my class had been doing pretty well. I always went home right after class so I never checked it out, but today Leanna had another class so I agreed to step in for her just for the first half hour because the rules stated every team needed at least two females.

Well turns out one of my classmates is actually a volleyball coach, and three other students (two Korean and one Russian) were also really good. I played on a team for two years, but that was like five years ago, so only basic skills like underhand serving and passing/setting really remain. I was more backup; but the coach and one of the tall Korean guys set up a set and spike almost every single volley, I was very impressed with our reaction times and strategic movement.

Our first two games we beat the other team 25-21 and 25-23, then the next two they beat us 25-18 and 25-20 (or something close to that). So going into the last game the refs (just young Chinese students) said we were only playing to 15 points...we ended up neck and neck the entire way, and the game finally ended with a tense 19-17. In all the games I played on a team I never was so into a game, nor did I enjoy winning a game so much. We ended up winning the Final as well after that, though it wasn't as much of a challenge.

It was fun as well because they mixed rules; you could use any part of your body- meaning you could kick the ball, bounce it off your head, etc...I made an incredible save by bouncing one off my shoulder.

I was impressed, I think every one of my classmates made it out to see the match by the end. So I got to interact with them outside of the classroom, and am now fully convinced we are the best class ever, we have the greatest personality and energy. They were all waving around trash bags making noise and the most enthusiastic la la dui (cheerleading squad), even when it started to drizzle and the sky started darkening at 4:30. My listening and intensive reading teacher even showed up. I'm so glad I decided to stay and experience the Chinese university life for once instead of going back to my apartment and lounging about on my laptop like I always do.

Four hours after we'd started, we finally finished taking pictures, getting our prizes (giant 'premium containers' of Nescafe) and congratulating each other, and we all went our separate ways...but I still get to see them tomorrow morning! As if leaving Dalian in two months weren't hard enough, now I'm in love with my class....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wild Wild West Day ONE: Tombs, Movies Sets, and Helan Mountain

Right so I've been home about a week now. Time is really flying by, somehow I've managed to fall behind yet again.

Our first day in Yinchuan was freezing. The day started off on a great note when our driver, not even two minutes out on the road, accidentally rolled backwards into another car. There was a great deal of arguing between the two drivers over fault, and I got out of the van even to take pictures of the bystanders.
Our first stop was the Xi Xia Mausoleum, which were tombs from the Xi (Western) Xia Dynasty. Honestly, they just looked like giant anthills. The gloomy weather didn't help our lack of excitement either. But because there were four of us camera-happy girls, we took loads of funny pictures.
  Our next stop was a giant movie set where numerous films have been shot. Danny, our director, told us a whole generation of filmmakers who grew up during the Cultural Revolution used this set, because they would make films about the Sent Down Youth or the Re-education movement of the 60s and 70s. One of my favorite movies I recognized as having taken place there! To Live, which is from 1994 and stars Gong Li. Highly recommended. Anyway, we ended up exploring and taking more funny photos. There were also two tied up monkeys in the complex, they looked like they were going to bite my nose when I got close to them. The set is obviously just a tourist attraction now, but we could have spent half the day there if Danny let us, just taking pictures. My favorite part of the whole trip there might've been when a group of tourists kept trying to take photos of Brittney and Leanna just because they were white, and I started making funny faces whilst standing in between them. Imagine looking at a picture of two white girls with me in the middle scrunching my nose and sticking out my tongue...brilliant.
Our last stop of the day was Helan Mountain, which looked to be just giant rock formations but they actually had ancient carvings and drawings. I couldn't see a single one without having to stare at the same boulder for ages, but some of the others could really pick them out. It started to drizzle while we were there, and by the end of our walk through it, we were all just wet and cold. I ended up holding everyone up though because I was bargaining for some souveniers to bring home. I think the matter of contention was five kuai? So less than a dollar...but really, it was a matter of pride.  I ended up winning. Dinner that night was on Danny's contact in Yinchuan, who is the sister of a coworker in Dalian and whom Danny had never actually met. She's a professional singer, or was, and now gives voice lessons while her daughter is a news anchor on the local television station. Her husband turned out to be Shanghai born and raised, so we had a conversation in Shanghai dialect, which made me very happy, as it always does. The dishes at dinner were all fantastic, and kept coming even when we were stuffed. Because we were in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where a good majority of the people (the Hui minority) are Muslims, lamb is a staple meat. One dish was lamb raised so as not to taste gamey, and it was so tasty, the meat seemed to melt off the bone. Even the tea we had -ba bao, or Eight Treasure tea- was delicious. The dinner was definitely a good experience not just for the culinary satisfaction, but also because through Danny's polite conversation and the way he acted towards these three, it was a perfect demonstration of how Chinese people form and maintain guanxi as well.
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