09.08.2008 - 09.15.2008
Monday classes were canceled at the school this week as Sunday was Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival. About all I know about the holiday is that it's a time when people visit their families and eat mooncakes, small pastries covering a various filling (usually sweet). Though, and fortunately not due to personal experience, I have now learned that some mooncakes are filled with various kinds of meat. This surprised one of the other teachers as they bit into a mooncake expecting a sweet filling and ended up with a mouthful of unknown animal!
Due to the long weekend, I was hoping to have a chance to travel to Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain to see another locale in China. Unfortunately, since virtually everyone in China had a three day weekend, the only tickets left on the trains to the mountain from Suzhou (about a 9 hour train ride) were standing-room only. Evidently, Chinese national holidays + 1.2 billion people + only the same number of trains routes as in Germany + not being able to purchase tickets prior to 5 days before your departure date = not enough tickets to go around... So, I ended up staying in Suzhou this weekend, explored more the city with other teachers at the school, ate dinner at an all you can eat and drink sushi place to celebrate the birthday of another teacher, came down with a cold, and went to a night market, among other things.
This past week also included Teacher's Day in China, a national day where all teachers in the entire country are celebrated. Our school's festivities for the day included an assembly including lots of speeches that I didn't understand, and a few dances and performances to music (including one Ricky Martin song) from some of the Chinese teachers and students, and a huge raffle with bicycles and electric teapots as the gifts. There are about 300 Chinese teachers at our school and 15 foreign teachers, so whenever a foreign teacher would get their raffle ticket number drawn and run down to the stage to claim their prize, the entire auditorium would erupt into applause and cheering. I get the feeling that the main reason we are at the school is to provide endless entertainment to all of the Chinese teachers and administrators to see what crazy thing we will do next (and a few of the teachers definitely live up to their "role" as an entertainer). The assembly was quite crazy and I spent most of the time trying not to burst into laughter at the various antics.
A few pictures that I had mentioned are now posted in last week's update (I figured out how to attach pictures into the body of the text. You can also see all of my pictures I've uploaded at http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/rdut/ ...) I promise more will be added this week.