21 October 2009

Class Trip, Pt. 2

Our flight from Guiyang to Chongqing has been delayed about an hour, so since I have my laptop with me, I figured that I would catch up on some computer matters.

The trip has been great so far! We’ve visited four Miao villages, an old Han village, a traditional Ming/Qing dynasty town, a batik factory, an aluminum factory, a market, a minority museum, and the biggest waterfall in China. All of the minority villages were really neat and gave us a lot of bai jiu (“white lightning”), or strong, locally-made rice wine. I enjoyed seeing the costumes and getting to talk with the villagers about their jobs, living conditions, and traditions. In one village, we stayed in the home of the village chief and feasted upon some of the most delicious food that I have had in China. The rooms and facilities were not the nicest, but it felt good to be authentic - especially after we had worked up a sweat plowing fields and harvesting potatoes outside.

The old Han village was really neat in that we saw a traditional opera performance up close and personal and the village seemed very un-touristed. The dynasty town was one of my favorite stops of the tour thus far: we saw a variety of religious places, including a Catholic church, a Daoist temple, and a Buddhist temple, and we also were provided with lots of unique shopping opportunities to buy everything from food to bags to clothes to crafts. The batik factory was another favorite stop of mine, as I love the batik style. We got to see the entire process, and we also made a Furman/FiC-inspired small cloth that we are going to have made into group t-shirts.

We just went to the aluminum factory this morning (to really work in the environmental aspect of this class trip): that was enlightening. I did not know anything about the process before, but now, I feel much more educated. The market the other day was very interesting, as well - it is where all of the local villagers go, so we saw the carpentry section, the ironworking section, and lots of clothes and food. We also went to a distillery and tried fresh plum liquor. The minority museum was nice, but a little small, and since we visited after we had been to the actual minority villages, it was a bit anticlimactic.

Our trip to the waterfall yesterday was great. I kept being reminded of Blackwater Falls in West Virginia, though the height of the falls here dwarfed Blackwater. The amount of water flowing seemed to actually be less, though I was told that this is more of an off-season. One of the coolest parts of our journey was that we walked not only to all four viewing platforms but we actually went behind the falls into a cave that was full of natural windows from which we could look out and sometimes even walk out and touch the plummeting water. I got wet, but I luckily had my poncho in my bag, so I was a lot dryer than I would have been otherwise.

Along the way, we have had lots of good talks at meals, on the bus, and in the rooms, and we make sure to take evening walks around the cities in which we stay. I don’t want to jinx this, but everything is going well so far!

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