Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 7

Sunday, February 27, was the last day of the conference. Some of us were assigned to juror the projects designed by the teachers/adults according to a rubric that had been developed for that purpose. We had just a short amount of time to score the projects in order to determine the top three, and then we met in pairs to talk to each individual team about their projects.

The closing ceremony was planned by a team of students. The top teams of students and of teachers presented their projects and videos, and students gave testimonials about their experiences at the conference. There were thank you’s and farewells all around, and at 12:30 p.m. everyone dispersed.

After a quick lunch, our UNI group reunited with Vincent, our charismatic tour guide from earlier in the week. He took us to a teahouse where a young woman introduced us to the Chinese custom of brewing and drinking tea. Most of the group then went to the Pearl Market for some more bartering/shopping, but since the Temple of Heaven was right across the street, Jennie Kies and I decided to go there instead.

We learned that this area is larger than the Forbidden City, and it is where the emperor and his entourage would go to pray, fast, and sacrifice to Heaven. On this Sunday afternoon, however, the walkways were filled with people smoking and playing poker and Chinese chess. From one area we heard what sounded like a choir singing and Vincent told us later that they were singing an old army song. You can listen to it too—watch the video at the bottom of this post (that's my fearless roomate Jennie waving at the end). It doesn’t sound like the Chinese music that you would expect to hear, does it?

At dusk, we were taken on rickshaws through a hutong---an area of narrow streets, alleys, low homes and courtyards forming neighborhoods of common people in the oldest, central part of the city. We stopped to see the Bell and Drum Towers which are at opposite ends of a plaza, and our guide explained the symbolism of the doorways to the homes. For example, if a home has four beams sticking out above the entrance, then a wealthy family lived there at one time--probably someone who worked for the government, since those were and still are some of the richest people in China. If there were only one or two beams, then they were not so wealthy.

Today, people of all economic levels live in hutongs because they enjoy the community life. The homes have electricity but no bathrooms, so the people who live there use public toilets and showers. Our guide took us inside a home in the hutong where we had tea with a retired gentleman who told us about his life and his home. He is the fourth generation to live in that home.

We finished the evening with a meal at a traditional Chinese restaurant. I’ve figured out how Chinese stay so trim—restaurants give you only one little plate to put your food on and you have to work so hard to get it in your mouth with just two little chopsticks. In this particular restaurant, the plate was smaller than a cup saucer, so I had to fill it up multiple times before my hunger pangs went away. The food was good, but I’m ready to go back to eating Western food with a fork again.

1 comment:

  1. Deb, thanks for visiting the Temple of Heaven with me. It was a great adventure!