Exploring Nanjing

28 08 2009

The last two days Jeremiah has been in his orientation with everyone else who lives in our building. I’m getting a taste of what a day in the life of a 1950s housewife was like if the housewife lived in a dorm room that wasn’t dirty and didn’t know anyone. I’ve already watched pirated DVDs (30 Rock, Season 3 for $4.50) and stared out the window. Yesterday I ventured out for some shopping but I had my first bout of Chinese tummy trouble this morning and have been taking it easy. Nothing left to do but blog!

So far we’ve visited a small number of the sites- our first day we walked to the drum tower and on the way found gorgeous city parks with a pavilion for dancing, a tower for who knows what, and a pond for watching. This city really outdoes itself in gorgeousness. Every street is lined with mature trees that shade the roads and filter the hazy sun. When we get taken on taxi rides I keep thinking, “I’ve been down this road before. I remember these lovely trees.” I have yet to have been down ‘this’ road before. All roads are just filled with lovely trees. It really takes the edge off enormous, obnoxious blinking signs in Chinese.

If you’ve been keeping up with our fancy new Flickr account, you will have seen pictures of Jeremiah in full Chinese robes and a hat. Down by the Confucius Temple is an area that used to be an examination school. It was filled with thousands of teeny cubicles which people came to take tests in since 1100AD or something (I’m sorry that I don’t absorb details like names & dates…) They have pictures from the 1800s so you get an idea of how enormous the area was, and they have reconstructed a few dozen of the rows and filled them with creepy mannequins reenacting possible situations (i.e. I have studied so hard! There is a snake in my cubicle! There is a fire and I cannot escape!) I remembered reading about it in the guide book and seeing that you could dress up and pose for 20Y (about $3.) I spotted the lady with the costumes about halfway through our tour and immediately demanded Jeremiah participate since he has been trying to get me into a corset for an olde tymey picture since the day we met. Photographic magic occurred. The lady posed him in about six poses with props and different backgrounds while Allie (our fellow tourist/teacher) and I laughed.

The Confucius Temple itself was nice also. We saw the big Confucius, paid 3Y (45 cents) to ring the big bell and beat the big drum, and caught a song played by a lovely girl on a traditional string instrument in the temple’s theatre. Outside of the temple is a HUGE shopping area. In fact, it was difficult to find the temple and test area because of all of the shops. The history is definitely an afterthought in this area. Tons of knock off bags, pirated DVDs, sweet shops, clothes, shoes, etc. etc. etc. We also saw a set of 3 year old twin girls that I almost stole. Almost.

Of course, we discovered the Nanjing public library since librarians run in JW’s bloodline. It is a beautiful piece of architecture. We went into the basement looking for an art exhibit and discovered that the floor in the basement is glass so that you can see the ancient ruins the current library was built upon. It’s a very surreal feeling to be walking on glass over thousand year old streets and looking up to see a modern atrium. Across the street is the International bookstore with a few rows of very expensive English novels and corset rippers. Our favorite thing about the bookstore was that there was a section called Crazy English and the sign for Crazy English books was everywhere. I’m still not quite sure what they were going for.

Yesterday in JW’s class he was told that a pagoda we can see from our window is actually a Buddhist temple that has a bunch of vegetarian restaurants. We headed to it for dinner last night and it is right next to Nanjing’s ancient city wall and the entrance to this gorgeous lake park. After eating (I’ll save the food for a food blog, if you remember the first paragraph, it didn’t agree with me…) we walked through the park and, hands down, it is my new favorite thing in China. It’s a series of islands connected by land bridges and people were out walking, watching the un-fishy smelling water, hanging hammocks between the trees, doing tai chi in the vine covered arbors, walking their pooches, walking their babies, and generally enjoying the 20 degree drop when the sun goes down. There were also paddleboats with twinkle lights that we will rent in the near future. I cannot emphasize enough how magical it was.

Tonight we head to Castle bar which we have heard conflicting reports about (it’s a western bar, it’s a bar with creepy old men, it’s a gay bar, etc.) but the 22 year olds have declared that’s where we’re going, so the old people (that would be us) will follow.

Love, Missy

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjchinablog

1- Jeremiah in the library.
2- Jeremiah as an ancient scholar. (On flickr there’s a few more, including one with a fan.) 3- Trees, trees, trees. This is the view out our front door.

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