Welcome to the Nu Wa Blog as you follow Eth-Noh-Tec and the storytelling delegation on their adventure to CHINA! We launched this week on Sept 11 and arrived the following day on Sept 12 (with all our luggage! YAY!). Please copy this link and share it with friends to hear more about our storytelling adventure: http://tinyurl.com/nuwachina
DAY #1, 2, 3,4: Sept 12, 13, 14, 15
We arrived in Beijing in one piece!! It was a pretty good flight with Air Canada’s wide seats and 2.5 meals, unlike last time when we went on United with one meal at the beginning of the flight and none for the next 12 hours!
Beijing is sooo filled with people and cars and tricycle bed trucks and scooters and busses and bicycles and pedestrians, all weaving, seemingly haphazardly, through each other to cross the wide boulevards and streets. With the people finally getting some living wages, there are many more obvious signs of, not necessarily wealth, but enough to buy beyond food and shelter.
MEET THE NEW GEMS
Our Nu Wa delegates are (seen in pix above left-to-right): 5th timer Elaine Stanley, newbies Doris Feyling and daughter Kirsten Feyling, and sisters Luanda Wesley and Melinda Kanios. This is our 6th time.
We are having a great time eating, sightseeing, in the parks participating with dancers and game players of all kinds. And, we have become the Nu Wa shopping tour as well!
Our delegates are all women! So shopping is indeed a draw. Both Robert and our all time favorite guide Peter Liu, who is with us for the 4th time, are ever so patient!
Sunday Sept 14: HEAVENLY!
This is our third day and we have been to the Temple of Heaven, Panjiayuan flea market, the Silk & Pearl factories, the Summer Palace, on boat rides filled with people because, once again, many more Chinese are finally above survival and can travel to see their own country. So one has to imagine what it was like to be one of the concubines, or handmaidens being the only ones walking the beautiful landscapes surrounded by mountains, lakes and gorgeous architecture in these temples and palaces. Or if one dares, to imagine oneself the Empress Dowager… and for Robert, the Emperor or … a Eunuch!
DAY #5, 6: Monday Sept 15 & Tuesday 16
WALKING THE WALL
Today we are off to the Great Wall. What is new at the Great Wall for us is a new area opened that has a tram and a chair lift going up and down, or if one wants, individually driven toboggans to maneuver on the way down. Of course walking up and down those hundreds and hundreds of uneven stairs is definitely the way to go so one can say they’ve “… climbed the Great Wall!”
Breakfast time, so see you in the next blog!
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Yesterday, the Great Wall was amazing as usual, but very special was that there were not many people. We have been to the Badaling area of the Great Wall many times. In 2002, it was sparse with visitors. But every time after, it was so crowded it was difficult to maneuver. Again, the Chinese nationals are able to visit places in their own country.
STONES & BONES: Day #4 Monday Sept 15
In this new place, however, it was not crowded, perhaps also because it was Monday. Thus the walk was pleasant and the views were magnificent. We had time and space to ponder the unfathomable amount of hard labor, freezing winters, hot summers – impossible conditions of the steep mountains upon which the conscripted laborers had to work. Countless lives were enslaved and lost building the great wall over the 600 years of constant construction. We were walking on the skeletons of these laborers buried under the wall. We were winded just walking up and down the many stairs let alone carrying up heavy bricks and cement blocks to build walls, stairs, towers. With reverence, we gave thanks to those ancestors who were sacrificed to build a wall that the common people didn’t care about. It is unbelievably mind-boggling.
Still, for us contemporary humans, we not only appreciated the wall, but enjoyed it. The gondola, chair lifts and toboggans were fabulous. The weather was perfect: blue skies, sunny, about 75 degrees and a lovely breeze. Our energy was well spent climbing hundreds of stairs, and so were we! Still, we stayed awake for the astonishing feats of the Chinese acrobats that night. We even had enough energy to roam the alley outside of our hotel afterwards to eat at a downhome eatery. We then slept well despite the hard beds!
DAY #5 Tuesday Sept. 16:
IT’S TEMPLE TIME
The next day, at the Lama monastery, we lit many sticks of incense to give thanks to our ancestors and to make requests for our troubled world. We next roamed the grounds of the Confucian Temple, then off we went to have lunch and pick up ONE MORE Gem, Xiao-Juan Shu who will be joining our adventure as a part of the translation team.
Now on to the real heart of our Nu Wa Cultural Exchange in Gengcun. We arrived in the city of Gaocheng where we stay. Rainy, cool and dark. The first thing is we tested our beds! Pads on the box springs!! We ate the specially delicious food of this hotel and then sorted out all the gifts we were bringing for the classrooms and for the tellers, chiefs and heads of the associations.
DAY #6 Wednesday Sept 17:
ARRIVING AT THE GENGCUN VILLAGE
Then, the magic began the next morning! Our shuttle got closer and closer to the village’s red gate. We passed under and soon we could see a small group of villagers standing near the school.
We pulled up. We heard music. We looked out the windows and saw a group of 12 dancers dressed in red under the roofed entrance of the school to welcome us. They were dancing, not a traditional dance with Chinese drums as before, but disco music!! Dancing in two lines to disco music! It was fabulous!! We cried when we saw our old storytelling friends. The people are so warm and open hearted. We hugged and ‘Ni hao’ed’ everyone!! Smiles smiles smiles!
Welcome speeches in the new Hall of Stories, smaller in size but the same set up with tables making an rectangular shape, chairs all around with the center empty. They gave us gifts of tea and tea caddies. We came empty handed. Drat our lack of knowledge about the proper rituals, even after all these times! (YIKES! our “Bad!”) We DID have gifts however, but we were waiting for the following days to give. And we didn’t know how many officials would be there to give gifts to. Oh, for me – to be Chinese American! It is right when the elder Chinese who immigrate to America meet Chinese Americans and call us ‘jook sing’. It means ‘like bamboo: looks like something on the outside, but empty on the inside’. We don’t know our culture at all. But, why would we?
ART FOR HEARTS SAKE! ALL HANDS ON DECK! (or Desks)
We ended the day with sharing stories both in the Story Hall and with the children in the school. There are only 3 classes left: 1st, 2nd and 3rdgraders about 8-15 in each class, and what a rowdy group – the boys of course! We were happy to unload all our school supply gifts to the “oohs and ahhs” of the children! The following day we returned to the classrooms to an arts activity.
A very satisfying, and quite exhausting day #6 (and part of day #7).
Day #7 Wed. thru Sat Sept 17-20
SWAPPIN’ STORIES IS WHY WERE HERE!
Story sharing in Gengcun is the highlight of this trip. We went into the village, into their homes to share stories.
A typical home is one large room with a couch, a dresser and a large very hard bed. There is now often one extra room on each side: another bedroom, a room used as a kitchen. In our western world, these are not rooms we think of like in our own homes. Each of these 3 rooms are concrete squares or rectangles. Then they are filled with what the function is. Kitchens will have a concrete sink and a wide concrete ledge for portable propane burners. A small very used wooden table sits in the middle. We rarely saw a refrigerator and if we did, it was in the large middle room where one gathers with the family or friends, and in our case, storytellers. We sit on the bed, the couch and the tellers share these spaces with us. If there are not enough spaces, the tellers sit on small, low little benches for a single butt. At ages 70’s and 80’s they can still ‘squat’ so these tiny benches are nothing for them to sit on and get up quickly. We, on the other hand, would mince going down and groan coming back up!
MEET OUR STORYTELLING UNCLES & AUNTIES!
Most of the storytellers are now the women. Many of the male tellers have passed since the first time we came in 2002. Other mid-level tellers between 40-50 seem to be out of town, possible working jobs in bigger cities and sending money home. It is so very sad. Another 7 have passed away since Robert and I came by ourselves in 2011: 5 more men and 2 women storytellers we adored. Nine altogether have passed from our circle of Gengcun storytelling friends since we started 12 years ago.