North to Harbin

Russian, Chinese, French, and Cambodian forces all colluded spectacularly with each other this past month in a Herculean geographical effort to give me a cold.

Once every year, in the far north, above the wall where white walkers roam, in the Chinese city of Harbin, there is a Snow and Ice Festival that garners much national and international attention (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/03/travel/harbin-ice-festival-2014/index.html, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/harbin-international-ice-and-snow-festival/2014/01/03/8cf808d2-7491-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_gallery.html). Years ago, in this remote municipality of frigid air and freakishly low temperatures the denizens of this wintry wasteland huddled together and, inspired either by Russian alcohol or the alluring promise of frostbite, decided that they should shape and mold the snow surrounding them into specters of objects less…snowy. Well, that’s one interpretation, I suppose.

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Xiao Ming and I hopped on the high speed train right after work on that Friday and then spent the weekend wandering around the icy capital of the Heilongjiang province. A large group of teachers went as well, but we kept pretty much to ourselves and traversed the northern city on our own (not because we’re anti-social! Our schedules that weekend just didn’t line up with the other group’s).

 

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Brrrr.....My face froze like that and I had a goofy smile until two pm the next day....
Brrrr…..My face froze like that and I had a goofy smile until two pm the next day….

 

 

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Hello....not creepy at all.
Hello….not creepy at all.

 

 

On the train ride up and back though, collectively about 9 hours, I read and annotated two booklets I put together on modern Chinese history 1830s-1930s. The first one was about a hundred pages and the second one nearly two hundred. Over the last two and a half years I’ve availed myself of historical and cultural information regarding the Middle Kingdom, and it’s helped me in the classroom, but I actually put my knowledge to use “for real” by teaching a history class recently. In order to not sound like an idiot I reread everything I could get my hands on, and put together a 50 slide power point with a lot of photos and tidbits that allowed me to take more than a hundred years and consolidate it into a two-part presentation. We got through the Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, the Unequal Treaties, and ran right up to the XinHai Revolution, but 1911-1937 had to be left for the second session of the class. Gotta’ say, I thoroughly enjoyed putting the presentation together and presenting it. History and culture are two passions of mine.

 

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Once back from Harbin, we had two days of school. Going from the cold of the north back to Dalian wasn’t all that rough, but we were heading to Cambodia in less than seventy-two hours. I just hoped my body wouldn’t mutiny against me…

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