Saturday, January 30, 2010

Red Tourism

This week we were able to get out of the apartment and experience the last bit of sightseeing that we could here in Wuhan.We had already been to all of the tourist attractions in Wuhan with the exception of the stone museum and Mao Zedong's Villa and the accompanying "museums". We still don't plan on going to the stone museum because the idea of looking at 2,000 + rocks doesn't thrill me like it should. So, we spent the day at Mao Zedong's old Villa and the old buildings around it.

The Villa was pretty cool. Mao used in back in the 1920's so it was neat to see how a fancy home would have been built at that time. The outside walls of the villa were extremely tall gray brick walls, and the inside walls were lacquered wood panels. We were only able to see the bedrooms and the office type area of the home because the back section and the upper loft of the villa were locked up. One thing that we have found very interesting about old buildings of interest here in china is that they always use a portion (sometimes a large portion) of the historical building for living quarters. It is quite frustrating to go to an amazing old chinese building and want to see more, but then see the bed and the chairs and the boiling water and the laundry strung across a number of the rooms. For some reason it really bothers me that they have the workers staying in and trashing these amazing old places. It seems like such a waste to me. Oh well, I don't have any say in the matter.

After going through the portion of the villa that wasn't being lived in, we visited 2 old schools, one of which was across the street from the villa and the other which was just down the street. The old school at the end of the street was used to give peasants military training right before the peasants revolt in China back in the 1920's. My knowledge of Chinese history is not very broad so that wasn't as interesting to me as the architecture and seeing the living and teaching conditions. The building used for a barracks at that military school was a beautiful European looking brick building. I found out that the England used to have quite the colony here in Wuhan, and part of the revolt at the time was kicking the British out! So once they got rid of the British they had some really pretty buildings to take over and turned them into military bases, which is what they did with the second school that we visited.The whole upper floor of the barracks building had been turned into the hall of Mao. The entire top floor was row after row after row of pictures of Mao. There was no English anywhere so I had no idea what was going on in the pictures, but some of them were interesting to see anyway.

The second school that we visited was taken over by the communist government and turned into a military headquarters. They don't use it much anymore, but they built a pretty cool museum in one of the buildings all about the rise and current reign of the communist government. They actually had some English translations in that museum, so even though there were some major translation errors, I learned more about the rise of the current Chinese government than I ever wanted to know. As we were leaving on of the schools we happened to stop at the tourist information desk and read that we were viewing some of china's "Red Tourism" and decided it is a pretty fitting name for all the tourist sites dealing with the rise of communism. I don't much care for learning about communism and reading (and then laughing at) some of this country's crazy propaganda, but it was nice to get out of the house for a day.

Here are some pictures from the trip:
Outside Mao's Villa
Inside Mao's Villa
At the school used for military training
The students barracks
McKay with the 5 founders of the Chinese Communist party

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Missing Students

The semester here at Wuhan University of Science and Engineering ends on January 29th, but we have been done teaching classes since the beginning of January. It has been about 3 weeks without teaching now and I am finding that I miss some of my students. The students who tried hard in class and who really wanted to improve their English are what made our move to China worth it. There were a few students who went the extra mile and tried desperately to be our friends outside of class. I am finding, and I am sure McKay is too, that I miss some of their happy faces and their broken English. Hopefully we can stay in touch with some of them over time through email. So this post is a shout out to Day, Alice, Yolanda, Stefanie, Candy, Miracle, Sharen, Amy, Carina, Molly, Rocey, Disrose, Roman, Moor and Jack Yang. You guys are the coolest and made my experience in china totally worth it.

Do you know how to use a toilet? Because Chinese people don't.

One thing that I have found very interesting and very frustrating here in China is the inability to use a western style toilet properly. When I am lucky enough to find a western  style toilet when I am out and about, chances are pretty good that a Chinese person used it before me, and chances are also pretty high that the person who used it was unfamiliar with how to use it correctly. It is not surprising to see an absolutely filthy public toilet here in China, or anywhere for that matter. What is surprising is seeing foot prints on the toilet seat! The Chinese people try to stand on and the rim of the toilet seat so that they can squat over it like they do their little squatty potties. Not only does it gross me out to find footprints, it amazes me. You would have to have pretty good balance to stand on the rim of a western style toilet like a chinese person. I think I would fall off. Anyway. I got a good laugh in the other day when we went to Wuhan's fancy concert hall. I had to go to the bathroom and when I went into the stall with the western style toilet I saw this lovely sign.

I couldn't help but laugh out loud. I absolutely love that (a) they had this sign and (b) they needed this sign. There were not any foot prints on my toilet seat that night so I guess the diagram was good enough to get the point across to the chinese folk using the restroom.

 I cant wait to get back to a place where images like these are a thing of the past...