Published: January 23rd 2011January 23rd 2011
my local friends threw a christmas eve party just for me!
Looking at my last few weeks and I really can’t believe it, it has all suddenly speeded up (as people warned me it would). So how much more can I fit in before this weird and wonderful year comes to an end and I land back in Britain with a bump………...
I have experienced a Christmas, New Year and birthday here, Chinese style, with a little help from my friends and now we are looking forward to Spring Festival (what in UK we call Chinese New Year) and the frenzy for 2011 the Year of the Rabbit is building up here, just as Christmas does for us at home.
I have just returned from a VSO business trip with Sifan, to Sichuan – the home of famously spicy food (not my thing unfortunately). You cannot go to Chengdu without visiting the panda breeding centre. As it was out of season, at first we were disappointed that we could not get 'up close and personal' with the babies. But as we explored this huge park we came across the ‘nursery’, which looked more like a nuclear bunker from outside. Then we discovered we had arrived at feeding time, just as
a new batch of bamboo had been delivered to each panda ‘villa’ and we were treated to a demonstration of strong teeth and bamboo stripping techniques, personally for us. (Panda facts I learned – they only make use of 20% of their food intake which is why they need 17kilos of bamboo each per day and do a lot of sitting around to conserve their energy, which is why we sometimes think of the panda as being lazy.)
Back in Beijing, I took myself off to the The Hutong School for a traditional cooking lesson. I know you will all expect me to be a crack Chinese cook when I return so thought I had better gen up on a couple of authentic recipes instead of my usual creative but ad hoc assembly of throwing whatever ingredients I recognize into a wok and hoping for the best! It was good fun and we got to eat the results.
What else – I saw a wonderful dance performance called Reflections of Yunnan, a province I have not managed to visit - although I have reached 10 out of 33 which isn’t bad in 12 months. The lead dancer is
cream cake attack
not sure f this is a chinese tradition or just my team!
very famous for her amazing, speciality 'peacock' dance but there were also 60 young, high energy dancers and drummers, fantastic traditional costumes, smoke and lighting effects, the works, quite a spectacle. The same night I joined a fun quiz, in aid of migrant children, but my all-Chinese team had an extra challenge with the questions being inspired by a UK quiz show, which led to some hilarious answers. Of course the ex-pat teachers team won – ya boo! I realised I had not ticked the Drum Tower off my list so I climbed the steep stairs for a view of Houhai Lake and a short but impressive drumming display. Houhai has been transformed into a Breughel painting with ice skaters instead of the swan pedalos of summer. If you can stand the cold you can hire their unique chairs mounted on skis which you punt along with ski poles, a rather safer way of taking to the ice perhaps – although ‘elf n safety’ are not high on the list of public priorities here, in fact, just yards from the roped off area inhabited by hundreds of skaters the ice is thin and watery, not sure who decides which bit
Qing dynasty bridge in Sichuan
is ‘safe’ enough. Admittedly it is shallow but I wouldn’t fancy an icy plunge (although there are a crew of old men who swim in this lake all year round).
The rounds of goodbyes have already started; my boss Mr Guo was in his element last week with another foreign expert from UN, Elise, also visiting so we were treated to the full traditional Chinese banquet with toasts and heartfelt speeches and suddenly he seemed to genuinely ‘get’ the work Karen and I have been doing all year and was full of praise. Up until then we hadn’t been so sure he cared, not that it is making it any easier to get my DVD and case stories book approved by the 3 leaders and into print before I leave, but that’s another story………. In fact Karen has already moved on, to another job, with UNESCO, although she has promised not to completely abandon me for the last few loose ends.
Anyway she has to organise my leaving party!!
There are more photos below