A few days ago Kevin came home from class saying the school would be taking the foreign students on an all day trip. Our semester schedule listed a “Spring Semester Practicum,” but we didn't really know what that meant. The teacher wasn't able to provide many more details, except the general time frame (8:30-3pm) and that we were going to 农村-“the countryside.” We should bring lunch and dress Juliana for indoors and outdoors. We figured it could be interesting, and class was canceled, so we decided to go.
Yesterday morning we waited at the classroom building as the 150+ students slowly started to gather. Juliana was already in a strange tired/shy/clingy mood. After about 45 minutes, we finally got everyone loaded into the buses and drove about 45 minutes into the countryside, ending up at some kind of agricultural area associated with our university. 农村can mean countryside or farm, so perhaps that's what they were trying to tell us. We joked that maybe they would hand us all shovels and assign us some “education through labor.” That would have been kind of funny and only halfway surprising.
|We were wondering why the girl in the middle was carrying around a large, packaged teddy-bear. We discovered it was to present to the man giving the speech. Seems like a strange gift for a middle-aged man...but it's China.|
We all stood around and listened (or not listened) to some guy give a speech, and then we walked around some fields while a guide said things like, “These are beans.” He said other stuff too, but even if we could have heard him, our agriculture language is just not up to par. So we walked through some fields. Then we walked down a road to look at some other fields. I guess if you had never been to the countryside in China, or if you had never been to a farm in general, or if you were really fascinated with corn it might have been interesting. Maybe. We figure the only real reason for bringing us there were the pictures and video cameras trained on us – obviously they were using our foreign faces to make some school production look good.
|Walking around the fields|
|The non-western foreign students are enthralled by Juliana|
|Workers stare at the foreigners traipsing past their fields.|
|A worker in the field, shielded from the sun.|
Fortunately all Juliana really needs to play is some open space for running or some exercise equipment to climb on. Of course, we could have found that right outside our apartment.
|Juliana off for a run|
|Trying out some exercise equipment. You'll rarely see a playground in China, but this exercise equipment is everywhere - usually with kids playing around on it.|
|Juliana and her little friend Jo-Jo running around together|
After lunch we piled back in the buses for another hour ride. Everyone was hoping they would just take us back, even though it was early, but no such luck. Instead we drove to some kind of newly opened/not quite finished horticulture expo. We went inside a giant greenhouse building where a fake river wound its way through gardens. We were herded into little round rafts and sent on our way. Unfortunately there were only enough paddles for one per raft. You can probably imagine about how effective one paddle is in steering a round raft (in a fake river with no current).
|Rafting on the fake river|
This part was pretty interesting since it wasn't too hot and we laughed with the other foreigners as we all tried various methods of coercing the rafts forward. It would have been more interesting if we weren't just ready to be home. Several rafts behind, the teachers got into a water fight. Not even the 13 year old graduate-student/teachers that teach our class but the real, middle-aged teachers. Get teachers out of the classroom and you just never know what they're going to do.
After the rafting, we walked through another giant greenhouse building filled with salad. That's what it felt like anyway. They showed us different types of lettuce and tomatoes and gourds they were growing. Finally they let us pile back on the hot buses for the 40 minute ride back to campus. It was already almost 3pm, but let's be honest – who really expected us to get back on time?
It was now a couple of hours past Juliana's naptime, and she was hot and tired and wound up. She and her little friend took turns crying and wailing until her friend finally succumbed to sleep. Juliana continued to alternate between crying and playing gymnastics on my lap, repeatedly pulling on and off her socks, and calling out, “Car! Car! Car! (x15). She finally slumped over about ten minutes before we got back but woke up as soon as we tried to get her out. Terribly tired and unable to figure out why she wasn't in her bed, she cried the whole walk back to our apartment and until I finally got her to calm down enough to finish her nap.
So, it could have been worse. Like last fall when they took the students to another town for an optional 3k which ended up being a mandatory 6k just to get back to the buses. Thank goodness we didn't go on that one. Apparently in the past the school has taken students on some good trips, but I think next time we'll be a little bit skeptical.
|Juliana pokes a panda|