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Living and teaching in Hangzhou

First Night, First Day in Hangzhou

CHINA | Saturday, 4 April 2015 | Views [249]

First Meal

First Meal

First Night, First Day In Hangzhou


Perhaps because it came after our 15 hour flight, the longest part of arriving seemed to be the 5 hours it took to get from Shanghai to Hangzhou. We passed through customs and our hosts met us without incident, but we got caught up in Friday night traffic before the Qingming Festival Holiday Weekend. Introducing their English names, our hosts became “Charlie” and “Ann.” They say they take such names because it is easier, so I asked if I could have a Chinese name for the same reason and after serious thought on the subject, “Ann” gave me the name “Meishali” which reflects a blooming plant called “wintersweet” and bears some relationship to our name “Meredith.”


Before long, Rob and I began to fade out in the back seat, with the radio on and the chatter in the front seat to lull us. The scenery was lush, plantings of blooming trees and heavily pruned ones at that, gave an orderly feeling. Flat fields, some blooming in yellow rapeseed, some flooded grids of plantings, spread out in the mist and light rain between heavily developed areas, older manufacturing and newer constructions. There was much water in canals and in rivers, with barges bringing goods all the way from Hangzhou to Beijing. Once in Hangzhou, the terrain shifted to include some irregular mountainous outcroppings with terraced tea farms even right up to the roads.   Laughing, talking farm women in colorful clothing were walking along the steep wet road coming off these terraces with their bundles of picked tea as darkness fell upon us.


Finally we arrived at our modern hotel just at the edge of the campus of the School of Architecture. This interesting building is but one of many built here by Wang Shu, a Pritzker Prize winning architect. Though lively design, it had us stumped for a while with our suitcases and exhaustion, wandering in the labyrinthine maze of walkways and stairs between sections, among pools. Eventually we left our bags in our new home base and headed out for a magnificent meal at a nearby restaurant with our hosts and several of their friends from the China College of Art. We especially enjoyed the “broad beans,” “Spring Bamboo,” “Chinese Yam and Fungi,” and a version of water spinach. There was also an entire fish and a stewed chicken with shrimp and fish that we vegetarians left for our hosts to enjoy. They introduced us to a locally produced “yellow wine” which is a rice wine, Kuaijishan Shaoxing Wine, and we all laughed to think it might help us sleep, having been up already 28 hours.


One more adventure before we finally got our bags unpacked and our heads on the pillows: a chaperoned trip to the largest area shopping mall market near campus to pick up a few things that would tide us through the morning. This huge building houses clothing, housewares and a wide array of groceries, including fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, baked goods, and packaged foods.


As it turned out, we had breakfast provided to us at the hotel. We slept a normal night’s worth, and got up to an offering of noodles, eggs, pickled vegetable, sweet potato, and sautéed greens, along with fruits and rice starch soup, packages of sweet cakes of various types, and fresh green tea. It was a lovely start to the day. This first day is a quiet one for us, the morning spent walking around campus near the hotel, investigating the buildings in the School of Architecture and the Design School. Observing the morning crew of workers who clean and maintain the grounds, using traditional bamboo sweeping brooms, mops and pruning saws. There is a mixture of families, couples, and young people walking around campus to enjoy the blooming trees and shrubs, taking pictures of themselves and the place. We hear that many people are spending the holiday at West Lake, but there are plenty of people here as well. By accident, we came upon a cash machine and used it, along with discovering an art supply store and picking up a few things.


Our quiet day continued with a return trip to the store, just to see if we could find our way there, an experimental vegetable bun from the grocery, and the purchase of a clothes hanging apparatus so we can hang our wash the way everyone does here. Then we napped, and will find our way to an evening meal. Day one was a mix of gray, mist, rain, and the occasional sun that heats up the cool damp immediately. We have no grand plan other than to adjust to the place again tomorrow.


Tags: architecture, china academy of art, food, hangzhou

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