Life in Yuyuan: What I’m Learning, Doing, and Eating!

Hi Everyone!

I’ve been getting tons of emails, messages, and Snapchats asking if I am alive and well… good news! I am! It makes me happy that so many of you have found interest in Yuyuan and my adventures here. I’ll make sure to update you on my past week (or two ;-)) the best I can! Read on for LOTS of awesomeness…

The Jinhua Homestay Project has set us up with a jam-packed, fully booked, go-go-go type schedule (my favorite!) and I’ve been experiencing this culture in such a raw and beautiful way. Lots of which I’m super excited to share with you!

Over the past week our events and activities have been centered around helping us learn all about Chinese culture so that we can best understand and re-create our experiences for potential future Yuyuan visitors.

Okay here we go…

Home+ Food Competition

Never have I ever eaten ants, pig blood, chicken feet, animal intestine, pig ear, or crawling critters, but with a bottle of Diphenoxylate pills in my system (Look it up you’ll understand)… I can now say I have lived to tell the tale!

I’ve always considered myself a “foodie”– finding great enjoyment in trying new foods, appreciating great taste, and noticing top-notch preparation. So, because of my “foodie” status, I decided to be a judge at the Jinhua Home+ Food Competition, where the area’s top chefs come to Jinhua to cook their traditional Chinese meals. Sounds so amazing, right?! I was really excited!

Truthfully, I expected to be trying a lot of rice, pork, mixed vegetables, and maybe some noodle bowls. My expectations completely changed when a bowl of ants were set in front of me.

Ants

I thought, “they don’t really expect me to eat this… do they?” But the chefs stood around me with their very typical, “Eat! Eat! Eat!” look, so I decided to go for it. I have a very adventurous palate, but ants are one thing I’ve never considered tossing into my dinner. It wasn’t my favorite, but I got through it.

Here’s How It Happened:

Step 1: Sniff to make sure it’s edible

Smell it Step 2: Overcome my fear of eating insects and go for it!

Taste it
Step 3: Take in all that crunchy goodness!

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It is safe to say I wont be adding ants into my diet back in America, but I am definitely glad I gave them a try!

Amongst the ants, there were several other dishes I tried. In fact, enough dishes to last two hours of eating! I was stuffed. Similar to the kind of stuffed I am after an intense, American-style Thanksgiving dinner. Delicious but painful! I had so much fun judging the competition, and while I can’t handle the ants… I still consider myself a “foodie” after all. Chinese cuisine is fresh, tasty, and unique–that’s for sure!

Cultural takeaway: Do anything once, twice if you like it! (Ex: Just eat the ants. You’ll never know until you try)

Traditional Chinese Wedding
Well this was something I will never forget! EVER! In America, our weddings are a lot less colorful and involve a lot less organized activity. Bowing, spaghetti eating, and kneeling are just a few examples (amongst much more) of what took place during the Chinese wedding I attended. It was beautiful but different than anything I’ve ever seen before.

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The ceremony is actually called “Hun Li” which literally means dusk wedding; the ancient Chinese believed that dusk was auspicious. You’re also probably noticing the overwhelming color of red shown in the pics above. The Chinese LOVE the color red and see it as a symbol of good luck. I’ll be honest with you, I really believe in luck so I may have purchased a couple traditional red chachki items myself. 🙂 *If you’re really into things like that also let me know before July 10, I’ll try and grab you one while I’m out here!*

Cultural Takeaway: Immerse yourself from the beginning! Be open and welcoming to new ideas, perspectives, and activities. Take it all in!

Traditional Chinese Folklore
Folklore is extremely important in learning Chinese culture, and the Jinhua Homestay Project didn’t hold back in this area. I’ve participated in so much!

Tai Chi
For an always on-the-go girl like me, relaxing doesn’t come easy. I’ve been eager to try Tai Chi because I know it is all about stability and finding your center through relaxed, controlled movements. I had preconceived notions that it would be fairly easy since I have a background in dance… but I was wrong! Tai Chi was so much fun and I felt like a local, but I definitely needed day one to get the fundamentals down.

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Pottery

Before coming to China, I knew the culture was known for its pottery and sophisticated porcelain. Even in the states, we refer to our nice porcelain as “china”. I was excited to make my own masterpiece! I am an avid coffee mug collector, so I decided to create a coffee mug decorated with my Chinese name. (Thanks Dr. Tang from Western Illinois University for teaching me it!)

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Lacquerware
I wandered into a room intended for decorating jewelry boxes, but found the folklore master to be decorating a vase. The work she was doing was incredibly tedious and challenging, but I couldn’t avoid the opportunity to ask if I could assist. To my surprise, the master was delighted at my request and handed over her tools. She had me breaking small ceramic pieces into tiny squares and using a tweezer to place them onto the vase in an organized but chaotic manner. This art requires a lot of patience and determination! I was truthfully freaking out that I’d press too hard an shatter the vase. I made it through though!

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Paper Cutting
Back home I love to craft, so I was thinking I’d have a knack paper cutting… I was wrong again! The intricacies and details in paper cutting are very intense.

paper cutting

Tea Pot Room?
I put a question mark on this title because I honestly don’t really know what the folklore was in this room… Before I could get to the learning part, the media swarmed like I was Britney Spears! They were handing me teapot after teapot snapping pictures, then handing off their cameras to friends so they could jump in the frame with me! It was like something out of a movie. Most of the villagers in Yuyuan haven’t ever seen a foreigner, so my “American” look often gets me long stares and constant awkward photos. But hey, I totally embrace it!

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Cultural Takeaway: Take time to learn from the locals and appreciate the beauty in small detail– in all aspects of life. Oh, and smile for the camera!

Chinese Dragon Dancing Performance
I attended a traditional Chinese dragon dancing performance, an event that is typically held during Chinese New Year.B fam drag

The performance was made up of several hand crafted wooden benches that represented each family in Yuyuan (my Papa was building his all day!). All the benches were lit up by lanterns and then connected to one another. Once the several benches were connected they were snaked into a smaller open forum, quickly moving to the beat of the percussion being played. The movements had gotten so quick and fast that the wooden benches were roughly pushing and pulling villagers, sometimes dragging them across the cobblestone ground! I know I am becoming attached to my family here in China, because I was awfully worried about my Papa. I wanted to run into the performance and get him out of there!

Apart from the danger, the ceremony was unlike anything I have ever seen; So lovely and beautiful.
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Cultural Takeaway: If you don’t know whats going on, don’t get too close! 

As always, please leave a comment with your thoughts on my adventure, ideas for new blogs, or questions about my experiences! I’ll always respond.

Talk soon!

xoxo

Karissa

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