Tea Farm, Pagodas, lake walks and more
7/6/07 - 7/8/07 37 °C
I've just arrived at school for my second to last day of class! I can't believe how quickly time has gone by and I will miss my walks in the park. My recent favorite phenomenon is the systematic power washing of trees there and on campus. I'm not sure if there's more to this or if it just create jobs, but it sure stirs up a lot of dirt. We've been lucky to be here during a bit of a rainy season. Generally it is very hot and humid, but about once a week we get great thunder and rain storms. They bless us by cooling it down a little and dragging some of the moisture out of the air for a half day or so. It also agitates the cicadas into a lovely crescendo which I never get tired of listening to. Though they seem ever present, I still have yet to see a live one. One of our professors referred to this time of year as "Yellow Plum" season because all of the rain ripens the plums to a beautiful color and taste. She warned us this is only recognized in this small, coastal region, where the north and south winds meet the ocean breezes.
We were all able to get away this weekend for three days on a field trip to Hangzhou ("han - jo"), where the beautiful West Lake is located. This is where President Nixon met Mao Zedong in 1972 in a monumental trip which began the first bilateral discussions of friendship and cooperation between modern China and the U.S. At least President Clinton has also since visited Hangzhou since. Perhaps a Chinese retreat or Camp David of sorts.
On Friday we visited a tea farm and ate some fresh green tea.
The Chinese “eat a cup of tea” because they do not filter it and you end up eating a lot of leaves.
While that might sound bitter, the tea we tasted was head and shoulders above any green tea I had ever tasted and chewing the leaves was pleasant. Of course then they offered to sell us teas- including different levels of quality. The highest was the Emperor's Tea, the next highest (the one that we tasted) was Daughter tea. The third quality was called Daughter-in-Law and the lowest quality was called Mother-in-Law. Joe and I agreed the lower qualities were poorly named, but nonetheless we did not buy any in-law tea.
There were also a lot of temples and pagodas to be seen Saturday. And there were mountains and clear skies! We weren't sure they really existed after spending all this time where it is so flat it seems like you could see forever if it weren't for the smog.
The clear skies made way for a strong sun and incredible heat - the lows were about 35 degrees celcius (95 F) for all three days. Saturday night, about fourteen of us went out for tremendous Indian food (a buffet with a mango focus), followed by a river walk to where else but Haagen Dazs and Starbucks.
Sunday, after visiting the "elevator pagoda" (which had been rebuilt in the past several years so you did not have to walk to the top), we got back in the bus to come home. It was about a 3 hour bus ride, but the savvier Shanghainese take the hour and a half train to get to and from the city. It really did feel like a rest from the bustle, so it was ironic to discover that Hangzhou itself is home to 6 1/2 million people.
Many more pictures from our Hangzhou trip are posted in web albums.