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New Year’s

Our schedule has been a little strange since Christmas. We had Monday (Christmas) off, worked Tuesday as usual, then had Wednesday and Thursday off like any other week. Friday was mostly normal except I had my Monday night class. Saturday we had our Tuesday classes again, minus night classes. Then we had Sunday and Monday off. Tuesday we had our Saturday classes, and today (Wednesday) we had our Sunday classes. We have tomorrow off, and then back to normal–or at least as normal as we get. It’s been quite hard to remember which day is which!

Once you look beyond the confusion, you’ll see that we got two days off for New Year’s. Well we had to do something to mark the occasion. Most of the other teachers were heading to Shanghai, but we decided that we didn’t want our first Shanghai trip to be the total zoo that Shanghai becomes during holidays. Instead we opted to make another trip to Suzhou (pronounced sue-joe, by the way) along with Lee (the newest teacher) and Lynn (one of our TA’s). We quite enjoyed our first trip, but there were many things we wanted to see but we ran out of time. This trip we set out earlier in the morning, and headed straight to one of the gardens that Suzhou is so famous for. We went to the “Humble Administrator’s Garden.” It’s a world cultural heritage site, and even in winter it was impressive. It was also very popular, so we got to be just a handful more tourists rather than an item of note. We spent an hour wandering around, and the pictures we’ve posted are just the highlights! We could easily have spent the whole day there and not seen everything worth seeing! We’ll definitely be going back in the spring.

After the garden we stopped for lunch and a little shopping, but we soon returned to exploring the history of the area. Our next stop was the Suzhou silk museum. Suzhou is, and has been historically, one of the primary silk manufacturing and export centers of China. The museum was amazing. They have the entire silk-making process on display: from a small grove of mulberry trees complete with period peasant farmer cottage, to silkworms eating leaves and making cocoons, to looms with works in progress and a finishing stone, to examples of ancient silk–both originals and reproductions. There was clothing worn by Emperors on display. It was nearly a religious experience. Again, we will have to return in the spring to see the place fully operational. As an added benefit, I finally found silk embroidery floss in the overpriced museum gift shop. Now that I have some I can use it to show people exactly what I’m looking for.

After the museum, we wandered to the nearby Northern Pagoda, whose name doesn’t do it justice by far. It is a Buddhist temple complex centered around a nine-story pagoda. The complex contains a garden and a beautiful wall mural that depicts the geography and history of Suzhou. We bravely climbed our way to the top of the pagoda, and despite my aching legs, the view of the city from the top was worth it. Even though the day was overcast we could see much of the city from the top of the pagoda. It was incredible. Suzhou is the oldest city I’ve ever seen, let alone explored; and I just don’t have the words to describe what it felt like to see that juxtaposition of incredibly ancient and ultra-modern. We could spend every “weekend” of our time here in China exploring Suzhou and still not see all it has to show. And it’s hard to resist the temptation to do just that.

-Nichole

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Your Family :) | January 3, 2007 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Hello from Easter Island :) we saw the funny stone guys, the beach, the rocks, the volcanoes, the everything. we love you lots and lots :)

  2. wench | January 5, 2007 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Happy New Year! Suzhou sounds _amazing_. Thanks for writing about it! :D

  3. Mean Aunt Pat | January 6, 2007 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Oooh! Gardens! I am getting garden catalogs, I am getting garden fever! I also want to hear ALL about every visit you make to Suzhou!

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