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Last Class and Some Goodbyes

Yesterday was our last day of class. Becka and I combined our classes for the last two hours so that we could do some things together. Becka dictated ten questions to the students in English. After writing them down, they had to answer them according to their lives and preferences. Then we set them about the task of finding other students who had the same answer for a question. The winner was the first one to have ten names written down - a different name by each question. At first the students were quite timid, but by the end they were mixing well and it was difficult to get their attention to end the game. Below is a picture of the students playing our game.

the students playing 10 questions

After the game we sang several American folk songs, several French folk songs, and one final song in English, French, and Chinese - Silent Night. Earlier this week we had both talked about holidays and their origins, and so singing this song was quite natural and thoroughly enjoyed by the students. The final hour was spent in a room with a ping pong table that was perfect for enjoying the cookies and Coca Cola we had brought for the students. They did not seem to know quite how to respond since they are not used to teachers doing nice or special things for them. We had a good opportunity to talk to some of them one on one. Many expressed appreciation for our teaching and several were interested in things that are vitally important to us.

After classes were over, we were treated to lunch at a fine restaurant in town. This special meal was going to be breakfast on Sunday, but for some reason it was moved to Friday noon, which was just fine with us. Almost all the same people present had been there in the same room for our welcome dinner three weeks earlier. Below is a picture of the dean and her husband.

the dean and her husband

On the menu was a special cold soup called YinYan Soup. This must be a challenge to make! In the plate to the right of the soup is something called "fish lungs."

YinYan Soup

This morning (Saturday) we were treated to breakfast by the parents of Ruth's helper, Carter - the little boy whom I mentioned in several earlier blog entries. The restaurant where we had breakfast was huge and there were hundreds of people having breakfast there early on a Saturday morning. Carter's parents have been wonderfully kind to us during our time here. Below is their picture.

the parents of Carter

Many of the items were wheeled by the little room where we were eating, and our hosts chose items for our breakfast. Below is a picture of Carter's father checking out the food "Ã la carte."

some of the food carts

We were *finally* able to try Hainan noodles, one of the regional specialties that, for the entire three weeks of our classes, our students had been telling us about and asking us if we'd tried. Here's a picture of the famed Hainan noodles:

Hainan noodles

One of the items on our menu today was the seemingly ubiquitous chicken feet. Becka and I somehow artfully dodged them, but I was able to snap a picture of Carter's mother's plate with an uneaten chicken foot and the remains of the ones she had already enjoyed. I have become shamelessly adept at making it look like I'm photographing one thing when I am actually taking a picture of something else. On to the picture of the chicken feet...

chicken feet - before and after enjoyment

After breakfast we did some grocery shopping to get the final ingredients for dinner at our place this evening. We are having our closest associates and friends here in for a meal together before our departure on Monday. The shopping trip was capped off with a trip home in one of the other type of taxis I showed you in a previous post. I would post a picture, but our driver would not allow me to photograph her and, at my most devious, I had no way of doing so clandestinely. Once again, the mind's images can be even more vivid....

Tomorrow if I am able to, I hope to post some final random pictures. If I'm not able to, I'm sure everyone will understand. Please remember us as we begin our trip home Monday morning. For those of you in the good ole USA, that will be Sunday evening your time. We will spend Monday in Hong Kong, before taking the long flight home on Tuesday. I don't know how I'll continue a blog after we're home. Our daily lives there are so drab in comparison to the colorful life we've lived this past month! But then, our experiences have been the result of our time here being a special event - the university officials and Ruth and some of her friends wanted us to experience as much as possible during our visit. Ruth's normal life here is nothing like what we have experienced, and we could not last for long if we lived year round the way we've lived this month!

BBQ and Final Days of Class

Last evening (Wednesday) we were invited to a special farewell barbeque by Mr. Chen, the man who runs the student canteen where we eat lunch each class day. He moved several tables out on to a balcony, and we enjoyed a relaxing, delicious meal under a beautiful sky. The temperature was quite pleasant thanks to heavy rain earlier in the day. As our evening drew to a close, we were treated to a beautiful sunset. Below is a picture of most of the group present and a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Chen, our gracious hosts.

the group at the barbeque

Mr. and Mrs. Chen, our hosts

Our final day of classes is tomorrow (Friday), and as I look over the blog, I realize that I have not posted any pictures of our students. Below is one picture from each of our classes....

Here are some of Becka's students working on a project:

students working on a project

Here are some of my students listening to me drone on:

students enthralled with my lesson

As we end our teaching time here, we are realizing how much we are going to miss these dear young people. They have welcomed us so warmly, and now they are showering us with gifts, cards, and emails expressing their appreciation for our classes. I must tell you something that we have been laughing about all day, me more so than Becka. One of my students wrote an email to thank me for my teaching, and in his note he made the following comment, "You are a very good person. Your wife is very graceful indeed, despite her great age. You are very humerous . You can make us happy in your class." (And yes, she knows I'm posting this!) 😀

On a little grocery shopping excursion this afternoon, I captured a few now familiar sights close to our apartment. These are scenes that we will miss.

a woman carrying her wares to the her "shop" on the sidewalk...

a merchant carrying her wares

a shop where you can buy all sorts of household necessities...

a typical housewares shop

a row of shoe repair shops on the sidewalk...

several shoe repair shops on the sidewalk

and another type of taxi available almost anywhere...

in case a conventional taxi is not your style

In case you're wondering what her face looks like...


And why on earth these women who "drive" these taxis all dress like this in 100 degree weather I will never understand - but they *do*!

Our Trip to the “End of the World”

weekend of tourism

Well, two weeks of classes down, one to go. We are getting to know our students better and are going to miss them very much when we return to the USA. This weekend, once again, the officials of the university here insisted that they treat us to some more discovery of their island. They have been extremely generous on these trips, paying for everything but any souvenirs that we might purchase.

I used the term "sensory overload" concerning last week's tourism. Last week's "overload" pales in comparison to this week's! This week we experienced more than I could ever, in good conscience, relate in the blog - neither you nor I have the time to write or read it all, and you folks with slower connections will have enough trouble loading all the pictures I'm putting out today! We saw the extremes of wealth and poverty, luxury and simplicity, beauty and ugliness.

We left Friday afternoon at about 2:00 and headed south to go to the southernmost tip of the island. This area is the touristic choice of many nationals and foreigners, although at this time of year there aren't many vacationers due to the intense heat. On the way south, we took a small detour to visit Boao, the site of the annual meeting of the Asian Forum. Below are several shots from there...

Conference Center at Boao

So where are all the *other* world leaders?!

From Boao we drove to Sanya City to dine in a restaurant that specializes in spicy food. And it *had* to happen at some point - one of the items on our meal menu was chicken feet. Alice already knew she loved them, and so she enjoyed them immensely. Becka made it look like she was tearing into one, then hid it in her one bowl. Try as I might, I wasn't able to get even 1 gram of meat from mine. I then followed Becka's lead, hiding the remains of mine under some other stuff on my plate. 😉 I'll spare you a picture - sometimes mental images are more vivid.

After dinner we headed out of town to visit Deer Turn, a park high above Sanya City. According to legend, a handsome young hunter was chasing a deer that we was going to kill for food. After a long chase, the deer turned around towards the young man and turned into a beautiful girl. They fell madly in love and married. From the park there was a spectacular view of the city lights below. My camera could not adequately capture the beauty of the lights, but I at least took a picture of the statue at Deer Turn.

the stature at Deer Turn Park

From there we made our way to our hotel. Part of the trip to the hotel was over some pretty rough road along which were the homes and fields of many peasants. Our rooms for the night were in a modern 5 star hotel in the Nanshan Buddhism Culture Park. The hotel was unbelievably luxurious. The rooms were huge and luxurious, with a king-size bed, TV, AC, and spacious bathroom. We were surprised to find the words "American Standard" on the bathroom fixtures! And "American Standard" they were - unlike many that we've seen in other places! 😎

After a good night's rest, we awoke to thunder and a light rain, which continued all morning. This was actually a blessing in disguise because the temperature was much cooler than it would have been otherwise, and the cloud cover diminished the normal harshness of the sun. We all had breakfast together in the hotel restaurant, and our breakfast can best be described as "East meets West." Below is a picture of our table once most of the food had been delivered. Our little group all enjoyed trying each other's breakfast items. The eastern breakfast included hard-boiled eggs, rice porridge, Hainan noodles, JiaoZi, and some kind of pickled vegetables. The western breakfast included Rice Krispies, several breads, lemon juice, and fried eggs and sausage garnished with cucumber slices. (The sausages looked like hotdogs, but they really *were*!)

"East meets West" breakfast

After breakfast we walked around the cultural center to see the beautiful gardens and ornate temples. Below are pictures of one of the temples and some of the idols inside.

a beautiful temple at Nanshan

some of the golden idols we saw inside

On the way out of the park, our hosts asked our driver to stop so that they could show us the world's largest Buddha. The statue was visible from many places in the park, including from our hotel window. Our host James (seen in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture above) told us that normally visitors can go inside and go to the top of the statue, but unfortunately the elevator was broken. I asked him, "So Buddha's elevator does not go all the way to the top floor?" to which he replied, "That's right." I just smiled. 😀 Reflecting on this since then, I've thought how blessed I am to know and adore the One who has no "top floor" - the One who is infinite. Anyway, here's the giant Buddha statue....

close-up of Buddha statue

After visiting the culture park, we left to go to the "End of the World" - a very famous place along the seashore. In the early Qing dynasty, the characters "Tianya Haijiao" - the Edge of Heaven, Corner of the Seas - were inscribed on rocks there, marking this place as the south-eastern extent of the Chinese empire. Below is a picture of one of the two famous rocks.

us at the "End of the World"

On our hike to the rock pictured above, we saw some other "Kodak Moments"...

...a bush trimmed and decorated to look like a fish...

some bush sculpture

...and a great view of the beautiful scenery in that area...

a gorgeous view of the sea

After visiting the End of the World, we headed to Sanya City for lunch. We went to a place that was well off the beaten path. One of our university hosts, Judy, knew of a restaurant where the locals enjoy fresh things from the sea, without a lot of tourists present. Boy, did heads turn when we walked in! They must have known we were from the northern tip of the island!

It's hard to believe that from a kitchen like this (notice the blocks for cutting the meat)...

fish restaurant kitchen

...you could get a lunch like this...

our lunch at the fish restaurant

In case you cannot tell from the photo - in addition to the two different vegetables, we had squid, shrimp, and what we *think* was red snapper.

After lunch, we took off for Yalong Bay National Resort. Along the way, our driver gladly stopped for us to take pictures of one of the many water buffalos we saw and one of the many peasants working in his rice paddy.

a water buffalo with several of his friends

a peasant farmer in his field

We were astonished at the oppulence and beauty that awaited us at Yalong Bay! Our driver pulled up in front of the large Sheraton 5 star hotel to let us out. We followed our hosts inside and walked around as if we were paying guests. They led us through the hotel, past the pool behind it, to the magnificent beach. We had not come prepared to take a dip in the South China Sea, but we waded and enjoyed the beauty surrounding us. Below is a picture of our little group - James, Judy, Becka, Rob, and Alice.

our little group on the beach at Yalong Bay

By then the rain had stopped and the sun was more intense. Not wanting to spend too long in the sun, we took advantage of the chairs under the umbrellas for about two hours to snooze, enjoy the scenery, snooze some more, enjoy the scenery, and snooze ... you've got the picture. Here's the gorgeous place where we were "beach bums"...

what a gorgeous place to be a beach bum!

After that, we started the drive back to Haikou. What a wonderfully tiring trip!

Birthday Celebration

Monday of this week was the 11th birthday of Carter, the boy who has been helping Ruth in her English class for children this summer. His parents ordered a cake to share with the others in that class. Below is a picture of the cake -- in case you cannot tell, the decorations include a log cabin, chocolate "trees," and fresh fruit.

birthday cake for Carter

Here is a picture of Carter between his parents...

Carter and his parents

We were pleased to be invited as their guests for a special dinner that evening in a nice restaurant near the campus. The first item on the menu was something both beautiful and tasty -- Spicy Fish Head.

Spicy Fish Head

Saturday Tourism

We have finished the first of our three weeks of classes, and our students seem to be enjoying what they're learning. The officials in charge of us here at the university are eager for us to experience many of the places and cultural aspects of the island. At first they wanted us to leave with a tour group on Friday afternoon and return late Sunday. We asked them to please shorten that to just the day Saturday since we needed time this weekend to rest and to prepare for next week's classes. They said they understood and that we would just concentrate this weekend on several sites not far from our city of Haikou.

The only expression that I can think of to describe yesterday's day of tourism is "sensory overload." I do not at all mean that in a negative sense - it was an absolutely great day! During the course of the day, though, every one of our five senses was assailed by so many sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures that it's hard to know where to begin to recount them to you. I'll just go through the day in chronological order. We were met at 7:40 a.m. at our appartment by a university mini-van and its driver, the vice-dean of finance, and one of my students, the daughter of the man directly responsible for us "foreign teachers" this summer. Alice, another "foreign teacher" who is a former student of mine from BJ, and her fiance Caleb who lives here completed our group of seven.

We went first towards the sea, stopping at a stand so that each of us could drink the milk of a coconut.

our first coconut milk

We made several stops along the way to see some beautiful places along the sea. The picture below shows the early morning sun on the South China Sea. You can see the city in the background.

the sea with morning sun

Our main destination of the morning was Crater Park. At this park we hiked to the top of an extinct volcano. Below is a scene along part of the hike up. There were beautiful gardens almost everywhere.

beautiful climb to crater

We even saw bird of paradise in bloom.

bird of paradise

As you can see, it's not at all a rugged trail. The only thing that made the climb difficult was that the temperature was moving toward the 38 C (100 F) degree mark that would be the high for the day. Here is a look down into the crater - remember that this is an extinct volcano.

a look into the crater of the extinct volcano

On the way down we stopped by a tourist stand in the park. Caleb bought us all a Magnum ice cream bar. Those of you who have ever had one can best imagine how much we enjoyed this cool treat.

After the hike we returned to the city for lunch at Dumpling Plaza. Not only did we enjoy several kinds of JiaoZi (see an earlier blog entry for an explanation), but also a hot pot typical of a family dinner table. It contained potatoes, green beans, pork, small sections of an ear of corn, and many other etcs. Around the sides of the pan were sweet corn meal pancakes.

our lunch at Dumpling Plaza

After lunch, during the heat of the day, we all went home for a nap. The same group met again shortly after 3:00 to go on a slightly longer drive to see the mangroves. Along the way we saw many things that I was unable to photograph well from the van - rice paddies with water buffalo, duck farms, banana groves, and buildings ranging from simple farm houses to gorgeous governmental buildings.

At the mangroves we went to the pier below.

pier at the mangroves

As best we can determine, the motor on the tour boat was broken, so they negotiated with a fisherman to tow us in a boat behind his fishing boat.

fisherman pulling our boat

We learned that mangroves are trees that grow in salt water, and only in a few locations in the world. The trees have the ability to filter out the salt and take in only fresh water. Below is a closer shot of the mangroves.

some of the mangroves

While there we also saw some wild pineapples. They grow on tree-like plants taller than us!

wild pineapples

Then we went back into the city to Green Park, the largest "green space" in the whole nation. From the size of the crowd, it looked like there would be a festival going on - but it was a typically good way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon/evening. Below is a cute little girl - I couldn't resist photographing her pigtails!

cute little girl at Green Park

Then we went to another restaurant for dinner. One of the neat experiences here was the tea we were served. Below is a picture of the server filling Caleb's tea cup with hot water.

server filling Caleb\'s tea cup

Below is a picture of what our chrysanthemum tea looked like - extremely tasty!

what our chrysanthemum tea looked like

At this restaurant the food and floor show after the meal are typical of the northwestern part of this country.

some of the food at our dinner

the floor show after the meal

After all that food, we may need to reread our latest iv on diets!