Monday, April 21, 2014

Returned from China

I'm back from Suzhou, China with 2 weeks of cultural experiences and stories to share. 2 weeks with students from Hosford Middle School who came with a load of field study work and a chance to have a unique experience in the country they have been studying for the past 9 years. I'm honored to have shared the trip with them and appreciate the hard work that went into orchestrating this trip. I'm also very lucky to have been chosen to come. I had to turn in an application that was reviewed by the students and go through an interview before being accepted. I applied the year before and this year I had a sudden job change that could have effected the trip.

I came as a chaperone by day, a watchful eye and protector while they kept me from getting lost or finding trouble. Students guided each other to many sights and historic places including old towns, museums, shopping, religious sights from Islam to Buddhism, modern structures, and did I mention shopping? The students enjoyed haggling at the markets and finding knockoff Dr Dre Beat headphones. "After school" I had the opportunity to spend time with my host family (Chen) and we got a whole weekend to go out and visit places only locals go. Such as the Lianhua island in Qing Jian Lake. Everywhere you could see Rape Flowers known for harvesting canola seeds. We went to a man made beach where I pretended to drive a Ferrari with my host family student Cherry (Xiao Man). Cherry is studying English and its actually really good. Her parents work at a hospital. Her father, Jen, is a neuro-surgeon and mother, Rung, a nurse. While together I shared a cultural activity we know as Hacky-Sack. We played under a Chinese Pagoda near the lake one day and really hit it off.

While in China I shot pictures and video (until my camera lens broke). My plan was to organize an epic video journal of each day. That turned into compiling a couple days into one video and then it turned into hoping we could get a couple great movies and trailers put together. I'm now on the quest to gather more video and pictures from our trip to finalize the piece for families and friends. Luckily Karlan, a parent/chaperone, did a great job shooting video and we collaborated on getting footage together. I'm only bummed that I didn't have more video of my Wei group adventures. With clever editing though we can turn our trip into something special for everyone.

Ok I can't forget the food. My favorite was the traditional Suzhou noodles and second was the Muslim pulled noodles from the family operated restaurants. The food is usually inexpensive. In comparison to Portland, you would get more delicious food (and quantity) for your money in Suzhou. I enjoyed breakfast everyday which usually included jellyfish and rice porridge. The street food was amazing. The only places I didn't seem to care for was the "famous" or well-known locations. I tried KFC and Pizza Hut while there and didn't find it appetizing. Portland has so many great places to eat I almost never eat fastfood so it wasn't surprising I didn't like KFC anyways. I did notice KFC didn't have the much touted chicken bucket we are so proud of in America. Anyways my host family taught me how to make Wontons and also a traditional soup called Yan Du Xian which has pork and bamboo carried in a tasty broth.

I have a ton of pictures and a couple videos posted online. You can find them here Be sure to read the captions for more on our story in China. See if you can figure out this delicious rich stuffed dish below.