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Ni hao! Wo jiao Yan Yi Li!

Guilin, China

It's the end of week one and I've so much to write about I don't know where to begin!
I arrived in Guilin after a long flight and a very long wait at Shanghai airport. I was met at Guilin airport by Ting, who is one of the co-ordinators of my program, and she took me to the hostel in the city centre where we'd stay that night. The 3 others on my program (1 English, 1 Dutch and 1 Belgian) had already arrived so Ting took us straight out to eat (it was about 6.30pm by then). Guilin is a pretty big city, very touristy with lots of neon and fast food restaurants. We took a quick walk along the main street but really all we wanted to do was sleep so we went back to the hostel pretty quickly.
The next morning we were driven 3 hours south of Guilin to Fengyan Village which has been our home this week. Fengyan is a tiny, very traditional village surrounded by karsts (the big pointy hills you see in any pictures of China back home that aren't of the Great Wall) and fields. The karsts go on and on for miles and miles and are stunningly beautiful. The farmers are able to grown crops a long way up them which is pretty amazing! The village is full of crumbling old houses, you can't tell which ones are just riuns and which are still people's homes. And there are stray chickens, puppies and children running all over the village. The older people of the villlage generally ignore us but parents with young children always bring them out to say hello when we pass. Quite often we'll have 3 or 4 kids following us when we walk around the village.
We are staying with the family that runs our program - Isabella who is the head co-ordinator, her sister and brother-in-law who drives us about in his minibus, Ting, who is their daughter, and another in-law who cooks for us. This week we have also had 2 Chinese girls with us to help us out. Isabella has a 2 year old son who is doted on by everyone and as a result thinks he owns the place. He's quite badly behaved, but it must be very hard for the family to disclipline him when every 2 weeks a new bunch of foreigners arrive to spoil him rotten and laugh when he does something naughty. There is also an Irish guy with us who will stay here for the next 6 weeks teaching at the village primary school.
The house is gorgeous - they bought a very old but very grand house and did it up really nicely. Our neighbours have 2 rooms with dirt floors and no electricity.
This week has been very busy, we've had Chinese language and culture lessons, visited the nearest big town, Gongchen, which has a temples to Confucious and to the master of Kongfu. We've also been to a village that was built recently by the government as a example of what a perfect Chinese village should be. The houses were very big and it was very clean, but a little soulless. We were taken to a popular tourist spot for the Chinese, another modern village in front of a kasrt with steps to the top. The view from the top was incredible!! So much green!! We took a boat on the river that runs through the village, during which the Chinese air force turned up on a day trip, all in immaculate blue uniforms. The boats were like great big punts with a table and chairs amd a canopy. Most of the air force took a boat ride as well, and as they were all getting on their boats, one of the houses next to the dock caught fire. All the villagers came running with fire extinguishers - the men from the air force just sat and watched!
We went to the market in a nearby small town (a big village really) called Lianhua and were given some money to haggle for food for dinner. We had been taught the phrases to use, but every time I tried to speak to a stall holder they had to explain to our Chinese guides that they only spoke the local dialect, so even though they could understand me I wouldn't have been able to understand them. And the one time I was getting on fine with a stall holder the potatoes I was trying to buy were so cheap I didn't need to haggle!. The market was full of crazy vegetables and lots of chuncks of meat, including pigs' feet, ears and faces! Not very nice.
During one of our culture lesson we were given a list of hundreds of typical Chinese names so we could choose one for ourselves. Mine is Yan Yi Li - Yan is the family name and means a swallow and Yi Li is the given name and means moral and beautiful. I wanted to add modest as well but there wasn't a character for that!
This weekend and the next few days is the Qing Ming festival during which families will clean up their ancestors' graves and eat lots of dumplings, so last night we were taught how to make dumplings and had a bit of a dumpling party! We made hundreds of them!
Next week we were supposed to be teaching a lesson or two a day at a school in Lianhua but because of the Qing Ming festival there are no classes on monday or tuesday. So earlier today myself and the other visitors took the bus back to Guilin where we will stay til tuesday seeing the sights here. Then it's back to Fengyan to teach the english alphabet and nursery rhymes to Chinese kids! The week after we will go to Yangshou (another very very touristy place) for the week, and the final week of the program will be a week of trekking and visiting minority villages.
The weather has been pretty bad - apart from a few hours of sunshine earlier in the week it's been cloudy and quite rainy. On the bus to Guilin I was talking to a Chinese lady who said this weather is pretty bad for this time of year which is a little disappointing. Our house in Fengyan is very cold - usually colder inside than out during the day. They have a bar which has been the warmest place to be in the evenings so we've spent a lot of time playing cards and Majiang down there. The food we are getting is OK, usually the same things each meal which is getting a little dull! Yesterday morning we had noodles and pancakes rather than noodles and rice which we all gobbled down. Guilin has a few western restaurants so we've just been for pizza and cake and coffee. It was so good! As we were drooling over the menu displayed outside an Australian said "been living off rice for 4 months too?" and we had to admit it had actually only been a week which was a little embarrassing!
The internet at the house is extremely slow and unreliable so I probably won't be able to write again next week. I have taken loads of pictures but no-one speaks English in the internet cafe I'm in at the moment so I don't think I'll even try to ask how to upload pictures! Hopefully in Yangshou I''ll be able to. "Cafe" isn't quite the right word for where I am at the moment - it's more of an internet warehouse! There must be about 200+ computers here, most of them occupied by people doing internet gaming.
Well that's about it for now, fingers crossed this computer won't loose this entry before I can display it!!
Happy Easter!!! xx

permalink written by  JillR on April 4, 2010 from Guilin, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
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Yay!!! Glad you're having a wicked time!! HAPPY EASTER TO YOU! I've just eaten 4 creme eggs and I might eat another one in your honour..

Cant wait to see pics and read more about all the exciting stuff you're doing! Love ya, stay safe xx

permalink written by  Evil Twin on April 4, 2010

Wow!! Sounds like your having an amazing time out there. I'm glad your enjoying it and can't wait to see the pics!! How are you getting on with the other people, I hope they're nice.
I won 655 easter eggs in a "guess how many eggs in the box" competition at work. wahoooo!

permalink written by  Naomi Lee on April 4, 2010

I didn't eat any easter eggs in sympathy pains for you.
I like your new name but does someone with this name drink 1 or 9 beers? The truth will out!
Nothing to report from home except Bury St Edmunds has lots of fit crew men! x

permalink written by  Kat on April 5, 2010

Wow I sure am gutted to be missing out on Bury St
Edmunds! I do have a creme egg with me but I’m saving it til I‘m desparate!

permalink written by  JillR on April 5, 2010

Hello!!! Yan Yi Li, so pleased your doing so well. I have just read everything, and look forward to seeing your pictures. V pleased your safe and surrounded by beautiful scenery. I have news to tell you too, so if you know my email address, email me so I know yours. I somehow can't find it. Take care and keep having fun! x

permalink written by  Sarah Hayley on April 7, 2010

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