Olympic torch relay week

This past Monday was the torch relay in Qingdao.  I and most of my classmates went down to the main gate of the university where the torch would pass by.  I got there about 6:15 so I could get a good spot, only to be moved three different times by policemen shooing bystanders back and down the street so that the students bearing flags representing various donors could be right next to the street.  Not at all fun, but understandable.  So anyway, I finally found a spot and then proceeded to wait around for three hours for the torch.  I had heard it would come by at 8 am, but in reality it started at 8 am and didn’t come by the university until 9:30.  In that time I chatted with some Chinese people, did some homework, and watched the excited crowd practice chanting in unison “Zhongguo jiayou, Ouyun jiayou” (Go China! Go Olympics!).  I also practiced chanting with them and managed to procure a little Olympic flag and china flag to wave around.  China is a great place and I have made many friends here, so I felt it was appropriate to chant in support of the good people in China and for the hopes and dreams of the individuals who would participate in the games.  I also noticed that at the university gate, behind the cheerleaders (of which there were many) was a long line of flag bearing students.  The flags were those of the many different countries participating in the games and I was happy to see the American flag among them.

The torch passing was decidedly unexciting, except for the fact that everyone else was so incredibly excited that there is nothing for it but to be excited with them.  I mostly went just to say I had been there, as well as for the cultural experience (I am studying Chinese after all).

This weekend’s excursion took us to a Buddhist monastery on the outskirts of Qingdao at the base of Zhan mountain.  We toured the monastery and were fed lunch in the dining hall.  Lunch was signaled by a monk beating rhythmically on a huge metal creature, some kind of mythical beast, that was hollow and set on an enormous stand.  Lunch was entirely silent (no talking allowed) except that before eating all the monks recited some kind of prayer together.  The meal was rice, a roll, boiled vegetables, and tofu, no meat or oil.  It tasted wonderful and I liked it a lot better than a lot of Chinese food I’ve eaten at many a restaurant, mostly because I love vegetables and I don’t like oil.  Most Chinese food is cooked in large amounts of oil and I am pretty sick of it.  I’ve been trying to find somewhere to eat that will serve you boiled vegetables instead fried, but so far I have been unsuccessful.  Anyway, I really liked the meal and it was cool to eat with the monks.  We had a guide that I talked to a little about Buddhism, but other than that we didn’t really have any contact with the other monks, they just went about their daily lives while us weird foreigners gawked around their monastery.  And just for clarification, this wasn’t some off limits, remote place, it is right next to the city open to the public.  There were a fair amount of Chinese people there paying their respects to the various shrines, and there were also a few tourists besides us.

Friday night Hongmei’s good friend and her family asked me out to dinner.  Hongmei’s friend and her friend’s husband are Christians and they have a little girl who I believe is close to a year old (maybe nine months?).  I thought is was just going to be us four, but then Hongmei showed up with her mother and son, I was delighted!  We ate at a nice restaurant where you get your own private room.  Hongmei’s friend took me to order dishes and I tried to be helpful, but I didn’t order enough according to her!  I got brave and ordered a fish (it as alive when I ordered it!), which turned out to be very good, though the way it was served I was staring into its gaping, wide-eye face while I was pulling meat off its body (they serve it whole).  We also had broccoli (yeah!!) potatoes, ribs (better than anything I’ve eaten in the US), various dumplings, chicken soup, and other stuff that I can’t recall at the moment.  Oh yeah, and we drank watermelon juice.  Not juice made from watermelon, but literally juice squeezed from a watermelon not five minutes ago.  It was really good, and would have been even better if it was cold (grumble) but it was warm along with everything else we were eating.

Saturday I spent most of the day in my room doing homework and reading.  Oh yeah, on Friday after we finished visiting the monastery, I went to look for a store that a friend had mentioned to me that sells swords.  I managed to find it and buy a Jian, a practice sword used in the martial art Jian Shu, which I am learning right now.  It was only about the equiv. of 17 dollars, and I like it.  The only problem is it won’t fit in my suitcase and I was just look up shipping rates and I might end up leaving it here with a friend because shipping it back would cost four or five times as much as the sword cost in the first place.  We’ll see what works out.

As usual, there are pictures, but at the moment I have no time to post them.  I hope everyone back in the States is doing well, I will be home again in two week.  I look at my two weeks left and, understandably, am filled with great joy and great sadness.  I really don’t want to leave China, I love it here, but I really want to see home again and I can’t see it unless I leave China.

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