I’ve got a surprise for you! I’ll provide you with a fresh entry before I leave for Yunnan with some other travellers. The journey will consist of hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge, visiting some rice terraces and checking out the villages of Nuodeng, Dali, Shangri-la, Lijiang and Kunming (although Lijiang and Kunming can be counted as a cities nowadays). Last weekend we celebrated the Dragon Boat festival. It’s a traditional Chinese festival to honour the dragons, as they bring good fortune and protection. In ancient times, they provided farmers’ crops with water and protected the families they had chosen as their protégées. There were boat races taking place at the East Lake and along the Yangtze and Han rivers. People have picnics and send little wooden boats with fires lit on top of them to float along the river. The Children’s Day is celebrated almost immediately afterwards. The day is devoted to children themselves and the inner children of adults: there is lots of program specifically for children, and the parents join in the games.

I have made some plans with my dad and my friend: Dad will visit me at the end of June, and my friend will come here in July. We will fly home on the same plane. My other friends got a bit emotional (“Aw! She is coming to fetch you back home from there!”) and I expect the return shock to be bigger (as I had virtually no “shock” upon arriving here). I’ve listened to my friends’ experiences and this seems to be the case. At least there will be a surreal feeling of familiar surroundings — which I have to get used to again. I’m mentally preparing for severe inner confusion upon arrival.

My classmates seem to be very interested in the Finnish education system. I stayed behind to talk with a guy from my class called Leo — his Western name — and I didn’t notice everyone else had left until the cleaning lady shooed us away from the empty classroom. He asked me if he could treat me for dinner and I agreed, since it’s always annoying to have to end an interesting conversation abruptly. He seems like a very welcome exception to the rule of Chinese guys being shy. (Although they make up for this shyness with being gentle and/or polite and very considerate, which is something that seemingly isn’t valued as much in the mainstream culture in the West — yet. It’s a real asset they have. There are exceptions! Take the hint, Western reader-guys! Girls like kind and confident guys! :D) We had a really good time and ended up staying for almost four hours at an adventurous restaurant (= they only had local Wuhanese, ie. spicy, “unusual” according to him — and heavenly according to me — food) next to the lakeside. We also tried several different kinds of Chinese beer. There’s a local brand called “xuehua” which means “snow flower”. It’s very good and brewed from barley, an unusual crop in China. On a side note, there is wheat tea available. I don’t think I’ve ever tried wheat tea in Europe. Qingdao (“the green way”), probably the most commonly known Chinese beer brand, is basically the “Koff” or “Karjala” of China: the most basic beer there is. 😀 I strongly recommend having a go at Chinese beer, if you can get your hands on it somehow.

Earlier today I met Wen and one of her students for lunch. We talked about the Chinese zodiac system and Chineasy, an online platform for foreigners wanting to learn Chinese. As an educator, I see the innovation as brilliant, because they use pictures to construct mental images of the words in your brain. The problem with Western people learning Chinese is that our brains have been wired to process text as text. The Chinese characters, based on ancient cave paintings, are thus processed as individual images. In other words, when it comes to Chinese, we are all dyslexic by default. It’s understandable that Western people struggle because our brain has to rewire some neural pathways concerning language processing in the beginning. This image-like nature also relates to the myriad of symbols in Chinese culture. Because the words are represented as pictures in the mind, a physical object is similar to a word or sentence. You can basically say things with different objects. For example, if you give someone an apple, you are literally giving someone peace or tranquility, because the characters are similar. If you give someone a pear, it means you want to break up with them. It’s fascinating when you start seeing the language for what it is — a form of multiform art.

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Me, my friend and Wen (taking the picture) enjoying lunch at a restaurant on campus. There is mapo doufu (spicy tofu, thanks to my Finnish friend for recommending this!), a whole fish, vegetables, and the most Western-style-Chinese food I’ve eaten to date: chicken and rice. This is the first place I’ve been to during my stay in China that had our very own chicken and rice.

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The campus of education. Would fancy something like this in Finland too!

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After lunch, we attended an interesting lecture on architecture, UX and design. The presenter told us about her own experiences working with UX in IKEA.

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Another interesting discovery. At the beauty and hygiene section in the supermarket, they sell snake gall oil and sheep placenta sod milk cream. I wonder what kind of health benefits they have.

Mili

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