Classes stated today, unfortunately I was late as I went to the wrong block. Luckily as it was the first day I didn’t have to sing the alphabet in Chinese! Phew!
The breaks in between class are quite a pleasant experience…no grinding noise of the school bell, that dulls the senses and causes partial deafness, and no relying on the (often unreliable) lecturers watch. No, in China, or at least in Heilongjiang breaks are indicated by a rendition of Beethoven and other classical musicians pumped through the speakers in the corridors and classrooms. Which makes a 4 hour morning class of Chinese language somewhat more bearable!
The evening was fun tho as it involved a night out at the Dragon Tower restaurant which revolves around, so every time you look out the window you are looking at somewhere else! They even had a viewing platform where you could admire the view directly below, pretty cool! At the top of Dragon Restaurant was a special gong which must be banged three times for luck. Obviously the wooden pole it is hit with is wrapped in red ribbon as this is the colour of luck in China.
Later that week it was time to immerse ourselves in real Chinese culture. This came in the form of some old ladies teaching us Tai Chi, fan and sword dancing- a very highly respected tradition…apparently I have a very good sword stance! 😀 It turned out that these old ladies were in fact champions in their disciplines and therefor not to be messed with!!
That evening the Americans took us to Coco Jiuba (‘Jiuba’ means ‘bar’ in Chinese) which is the height of decadence in Harbin! Unfortunately for us, attempting to squeeze through the locked doors to our apartment at 2.30am failed so we give up and spent the 4 remaining hours of the night in a 24 hour noodle bar playing cards until we fell asleep
We had balanced the week well with study, cultural immersion (trying to shop in the markets in Chinese, clubbing, karaoke and…historical sight seeing). Starting the week with a walking tour of Harbin, we discovered the beautiful Russian architecture – so prominent in the city – was a result of the Russian emigrees who fled here in 1918, after the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, and the Soviet Occupation of Heilongjiang in 1945 after Japanese invasion. One of the most iconic landmarks of Harbin is the Russian Orthodox Church in the centre.
In the same day we ventured off into Sun Island Park and tried our hand at abseiling, bouldering and three person tandems (how ridiculous!!) After all the days excitements we had worked up ridiculous appetites so off we went to the ‘Orient King of Dumplings’ and had…noodles!
Later in the week we took a trip to polar land where the cages were definitely too small and a visit a not-so-sanctuous tiger sanctuary and finished the day chilling out in the shade of chipmunk-filled park with old men scraping away on wonky instruments. Everywhere we look there are the funniest Chinglish signs including ‘Carefully Ground Slippery’ and my personal favourite ‘Do Not Disturb, Tiny Grass is Dreaming’. I feel a whole blog post dedicated entirely to Chinglish coming on!!