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Living and teaching in Hangzhou

Day 25: Good Friends, Warm Weather, Hard Work

CHINA | Wednesday, 29 April 2015 | Views [377]

vegetarian feast

vegetarian feast

Our day began with a struggle to create an evenly lit space in which to photograph Rob’s final works. He will be leaving all the drawings here in China, taking his sketches and preliminary drawings back with him to New York. Our hotel room is fairly dark, and the best light is uneven through the window structure. We figured it out as well as we could, and barely finished in time for him to meet his students and tackle technical issues of construction and installation with bamboo. It will probably be  a major task to figure out how to pound in posts to support the sculptures, or affix pieces to public structures. Yesterday a test was done, using a nearby rock, since there were no hammers of any kind to be found. We’ll see how final installation goes tomorrow. Here’s hoping that construction is finished and tools can be found! 

Much to our delight, our young friend from the tea market invited us to lunch. We had been trying to figure out how to have an evening together, but every evening that we considered ended up swallowed by unforeseeable events of one kind or another.  Our plans are pre-empted by other events, and when we think we have put something on the calendar, it slides off. The only time we stood up for ourselves in this matter was about getting away to Suzhou. All the little things tuck under the next wave and that’s that. So the plan to have dinner yesterday was hatched at lunch and pre-empted any possibility of  inviting other people to join us for dinner! The feast we had was truly remarkable, being right near the famous Buddhist Lingyin Temple, originally founded 1600 years ago by an Indian “master monk” named Huili, as the story goes. Vegetarian restaurants surround the area, and pilgrimages are made. We traveled through a charming, but clearly touristic, tea growing area called Meijawu Tea Culture Village. It was lovely in early evening, the view of steep hills of row after row of now pruned back tea bushes, and nearly a teahouse in every house. We were told of a very expensive retreat hotel run by the monks (5000 Yuan a night), and were treated dish after dish under the canopy of the night sky. Local vendors came by with fresh fruits, Loquats and Mulberries were especially marvelous. We ate sliced lotus, baby cucumbers (so many it looked like green beans), eggplant, bamboo, peapods, sautéed melon balls, a whole small pumpkin, spicy sweet sour cabbage, tofu with fungus in spicy soup, fried purple yam fritters, a true “rice soup” and more! Plans were hatched at dinner to have supper the next night with our host at his home, but by mid day today those plans had changed.

Rob worked in the summer weather with his crew of students, two boys working on a big project originally requiring 300 pieces of bamboo cut into “random” lengths that are to be strung in a quasi-wind chime fashion under a bridge across a stream; a boy-girl team that is using the steel structure of the girl’s making and placing a bamboo structure mostly of the boy’s making within and reaching out of it in an angular way; and the final team of three girls who are creating a cage-like opening spiral of bamboo to be placed on what the students call “lover’s hill.”  Tomorrow is the end of class. The smaller works will be culled and some placed in official cases along a hallway in the sculpture building.

This evening is being co-opted by a public lecture being given on the downtown campus by a visiting architect-artist, or at least that is what we can glean from what we’ve been told. Of course, we are going, with the flow (not sure who is taking us or when) and there will be dinner afterwards, in a restaurant. Upon inquiry I learn that perhaps the lecture is in English with Chinese translation, but even this is not certain. We just have to wait to see what the next two very full days hold. Tomorrow is a sure to be a big day of finishing sculptures, creating the exhibition, celebrating the class, giving a public lecture and probably another late night supper. Friday will perhaps be a daylong trip to Ningbo to see architecture and art there with our host and then the long promised dinner at his home. Saturday we depart Hangzhou, by means we do not yet know, and will find ourselves once again at Shanghai PuDong airport, simply American travelers, and no longer the visiting professor and his wife.

By Saturday morning we will have figured out the packing situation, but as it is, we now have a considerable, and bulky, collection of tea.  This is definitely “the gift” of the region. We met our sweet tea vendor family very early in this adventure, buying their local medium grade Longjian green tea and a small amount of their premium early spring harvest Longjian. We were so pleased with this (see earlier post). Then our host took us for a studio visit and gave us more local Longjian green tea. When we went to Wushan Square market downtown we bought Fujian black tea. Then Rob’s students gave him more Fujian black tea! Our dear tea vendor’s son took us for lunch and presented us with two adorable tins full of their lovely Longjian tea. We do enjoy tea, and plan to share it when we get home, but packing this to bring home has become a serious question. Oh, I forgot to add in a box of traditional medicinal tea given to us by the father of Rob’s translator! Each comes in a box, some also in tins within a box, some in sealed bags. Some boxes are thin wood, some are bamboo, some are cardboard. Of course we have given the gifts we brought and had hoped that would make space in our bags, but this will definitely be a challenge!

I did the last laundry that I plan to do. Hand washing for two people all month has been surprisingly easy if I deal with it daily. We bought a great hanging gizmo at the grocery store that pivots open into 6 arms , each with 4 clothespins on them and accommodates quite an array of items. In combination with the plastic hangers from the grocery store we can handle almost anything. The hot weather, my yoga plus Rob’s working with bamboo and the dusty nature of cutting and splitting it, generates a laundry pile, but now that we are near departure, this task ends. Our toothpaste is nearly gone, our washing soap is nearly gone, and we are down to the last days of vitamins. I told the young woman at the hotel desk this morning that we only have 3 more mornings here and she looked so sad. I’ve been wondering how I can honor those relationships. I know that the staff has taken special note of us – seeing our daily laundry and fruit peelings, accommodating us as we come and go at strange times.  Today they gave us clean sheets without being asked. Usually, we request clean sheets after a week., but we were away the weekend and now there are only 3 nights left. This hotel and its occupants are our closest neighbors, right down to the fish in the ponds we walk past several times a day. I do look forward to brushing my teeth with tap water, and eating fresh raw food. Rob reminds me that we will be home in time for berry season.

Tags: bamboo, fluid plans, gifts, laundry, lingyan temple, packing, tea, vegetarian food



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