Friday, February 27, 2009

Buddhas and Basketball


We boarded the bus this morning with our hosts for the day, Kitty and Marie. We drove out of the city to a smaller city, Xindu, home of the Baoguang Monastery. The Zen Buddhist Monastery contains the Arhat Hall which contains 557 statues of Bodhisattavas and Arhats and ancient venerable monks. Each five foot tall statue has a different facial expression , pose and details. You enter the hall, women turn to the right and men to the left and begin studying the statues. You look them over carefully, and when you find one that is pleasing to you for whatever reason, you start counting statues in order, working your way down the hall. You count statues for the number of years you’ve been alive, and then you add one, and then you read the number that statue is assigned. You remember that number and go outside to a counter where you pay 5 yuan to buy a card with your fortune. Everyone had a terrific time having their cards read.

After a wonderful tour of this tranquil place with a great tour guide, we lit incense and headed for lunch. Buddhist Monks are vegetarians, and we ate at the Monastery. The food was delicious, and everything was either vegetables or tofu. Tofu in every shape and color and texture and flavor.

After lunch we had a chance to secure our happiness for the coming year by walking the length of a courtyard with our eyes closed and touching the red Chinese characters written in the middle of a very large wall. Most of us will indeed have a happy year, although it took a good deal of “left, left, now right, now straight!” from the crowd.

We spent two hours on Jin Li street, a shopping area that specializes in traditional crafts. The Starbucks (yes, Starbucks!) was popular because it boasts a western style toilet, a sink with soap, toilet paper, and heat! Woohoo!

Two brave students, Tutu and Will chose to do a very Chinese thing- have their ears cleaned on the street by men with tuning forks and a variety of tools. As with any endeavor that takes place in the street, it drew a big crowd!

After Jin Li, we returned to campus for a game of basketball. We drove into the schoolyard to find 500 students standing in their school uniforms around all four sides of the basketball court. Zach, Will, Alex, Jonathon ,TuTu and Mr. Baker put on their game faces, and with the rest of our group making up a very small but earnest cheering section, we got down to business. Their students were good, They even had a ref- this was serious b-ball. Back, forth, 2 points here, two points there, mostly two points there. It was all about friendship, and everyone had a great time. Meanwhile girls were talking to those of us who were not playing. The students are always anxious to try out their English conversation skills, and more than a few girls were quite fascinated by our boys!

A seventh grade girl approached me and asked me what I thought about Holden Caulfield’s feelings and thoughts in The Catcher in the Rye. We then talked about Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, Emma and The Devil Wears Prada, all books that she has read in English under the covers at night with her “torch”, but “shh, don’t tell my teacher, I should be sleeping!”

After the game everyone left for the weekend with their host families.



  2. By the way that's from TUTU