Life in Yangshou is not like life in China. This town is Haven for foreigners. It has a very homey and comfortable feel, with small cobblestone alleys,lots of restaurants and bars serving Chinese and western food and many people speaking English
. It has beautiful surroundings, the Li and Yulong river, the many limestone mountains, small villages to meander through and caves, etc. There are lots of things to see and do if one has the money. Many foreigners work as English teachers in any of the numerous colleges scattered around town. Yangshou also has lots of markets and little food stalls. Going through the markets is always an experience and you have to be prepared for what you will see. I love the different fruits and vegetables, though the vendors like to bargain and overcharge foreigners. It was here that I saw a man boiling three dead rats, probably for dinner but I didn't really wanted to know. And yes, there is dog meat available (luckily, I have not seen it yet), and I talked to foreigners who ventured into trying it. I don't want to know. My favorite food is noodles, dumplings and Chinese bread which looks like big soft white tennis balls. The are plain or filled with pork or sweet stuff.
On my last day of chines class,my teacher Clint took me to his village of Lipu,about an hour from Yangshou. There, we were invited to visit a small business where a couple of people made clothes hangers. I was invited to try my skills and could have stayed there for a while and work with them. Lipu used to be a poor town until factories on the outskirt of town sprang up producing a variety of products. After my hard labor at the little factory, we went to an English school for children
. There was big welcome sign for me and very friendly teachers who were excited to have an English speaking guest at there school. I taught two classes; the first class consisted of about 20 students aged between 10 and 13. I told them about my travels, the place I was born, etc. It was fun working with them. Then, I had a 10 minute break and off to the next class which in fact was 2 classes together. I didn't enjoy it as much as the first class because there were too many students in class and it was level one. For one, there is much respect and discipline in class. Students raise there hands and then stand up to ask a question. They are also uniformingly greetings the teacher. It reminded me a bit of my childhood growing up in East Germany. After the teaching, we were invited for yet another Chinese feast with lots of food. Then it was picture taking time and after that, the boss took us back to Yangshou in his car. Great, because this meant I could go and hang out in Bar 98 to listen to some life music and have a beer.
On Sunday, a few people from school hiked up the TV tower from where we had a great view of Yangshou and the surrounding area. Great here is relative as it was rather misty and no clear blue sky. But it was a fun trip especially since I would have never found the trail on my own.
The next week was consumed with Tai Chi and otherwise doing nothing. I did rent a bike and with two of the students went out to visit some of the villages. We were out there for about 6 hours and got lost. What we did discover is that the government is building a new road from Guilin to Yangshou which cuts right through some of the villages. i am not sure if this is a curse or a blessing for the people. For one, there will be noise and pollution from the cars where at this point there are only bikes, a few motorcycles and nature. But China is relentless in pursuing advancement; building new roads and new apartment complexes are some of the most eagerly pursued projects.
I have been in Yangshou for almost 2 weeks and its a place where one can easily get stuck for a month or a year. My Chinese lessons finished and though I learned lots of vocabulary, I can't pronounce anything. But,I am not giving up; after all, its only been 2 weeks. I took Tai Chi for a week (2 hours a day) and really enjoyed it. The people in my group are taking Tai Chi 6 days a week , 4 hours daily. For them, that's the only reason why they are in Yangshou - take Tai Chi with master Ping. I still have to learn more than 15 movements to complete the first 24 movements but I have neither the time not the money at the moment. For me, it was just something to try out and to get a feel for it. And have to say I like.