Saturday, December 1, 2012

Zhuhai--Part 2

The next day dawned ... Tuesday the 27th and the plan was to go sightseeing the city. We -included Raja's Indian friend, Rabi (who took a day off)and his wife Deepa who have been in Zhuhai for about a month. Raja of course was at work.

At about 9 am Raja's Chinese friend who speaks English, picked us ( Rabi, Deepa and me) and we drove first to a historical place Chen Fang's residence. Chen Fang was China's first consul to Hawaii and first overseas Chinese millionaire. After his return to China in 1890, along with his Hawaiian wife (of Royal family), he engaged in a lot of charity work. The Emperor Gaungxu allowed the construction of the stone archways as a recognition of Chen Fang's philanthropy. Apart from the the stone arches, the residence had interesting pieces of architecture which was a mixture of Chinese and Western. He had about 7 children of his first wife, a Chinese and 17 of his second wife, the Hawaiian.
One of the  halls has wax figures of well-known people of Zhuhai, including a famous, erudite monk, and China's very first world table- tennis champion.

Our next stop was to see the quintessential of Zhuhai, the iconic, Fisher girl statue on the waters of Xianglu Bay. Standing on a rock, she is a symbol of grace and beauty, draped by a fishing net and hands holding aloft a huge pearl. There is a legend around it, which sounds quite I won't repeat it here. 

We did some other visits such as a huge museum chronicling the people who built the city of Zhuhai,including the person who first used block printing as an art. But the highlight of the day were the visits to Chen Fang's residence and the Fisher girl statue.

In the evening we dined at Rabi and Deepa's house.... a simple Indian meal and they shared with me the travails of living in a city where you do not know the local language. They get by to a large extent with a pocket dictionary....searching for the English word and showing it to shop assistants for them to read the Chinese translation! 

The next couple of days, I spent sketching, marking Stats papers that I had carried with me, going for walks around the hotel and capturing local life through my camera. The weather was chilly with a slight drizzle almost continuously. 
Friday's dinner was at a Chinese restaurant, hosted by Raja's counterpart at Jutal and it was the first time I could manage a meal with chopsticks...vegetarian meal of course!
And now we are in HK for a few days, before I return to Singapore alone, while Raja goes back to work in Zhuhai for another week.

Zhuhai --Part 1

This was written yesterday in 'Notes'. Copy pasted today...when we could access FB and my blog :)

Today is the last day of my visit to Zhuhai, China. I thought of blogging about it, but my blog  does not open, so I guess just like Facebook is banned, the ban applies to private blogs as well.
It's been an interesting 5 days here in Zhuhai. We arrived on Sunday by ferry from Hongkong where we flew from Singapore. It's a one hour ferry ride from Hongkong. My husband Raja visits this place often on work. He is a materials engineer and works for FMC, Singapore. FMC stands for Food Machinery Corporation, and has quite a bit of history. It is now making equipment for oil extraction ...called subsea equipment among other things for the oil industry. Currently their customers are Chevron, and to make this equipment a company in China is engaged (Jutal, Zhuhai). Raja visits Jutal, Zhuhai to do NDT (Non-Destructive Testing) one of the procedures required in enforcing quality of the product according to customer specifications.

This is what I have gathered from what he explained to me. With absolutely no background in Engineering,  I sometimes find it difficult to wrap my brains around  the work Raja is involved in. But he simply loves what he is doing and I think that is great, because I am not very fascinated with machines or how they work.
As he frequently visits Zhuhai, this visit coincided with a week of my own free time, and hence I decided to accompany him.

Monday evening (after Raja's work) we went to Ocean Spring Resorts. This is China's first 'National Development Base of Vacation Tourism'. It has many amusement activities in it, including hot springs.
We however watched a spectacular show 'The Memories of the Sea" . It had about 200 performers from different parts of the world who told a simple story of a little elf trapped in a fishing net..the kind fisherman who saves her and their lovely relationship thereafter. They wove this simple tale with the help of music, dance, ballet, acrobatics... Simply lovely. The grand finale was a performance with doves, that were later released in the hall, and all of them flew to their homes backstage... Well trained ones!!

Later that evening we went to the Indian Kitchen (restaurant) for dinner, a haven for vegetarians like me.  Great way to end the day!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Some reflections

It has been a long time since I wrote. Many things have happened in this time. I have become a Singapore citizen and therefore have a new passport and painfully have to take a visa to visit India. Anyway as someone said, when you pick up one end of a stick, you automatically pick up the other end too.
I have immersed myself deeper into the practice of Vipassana, now working more closely with the area teachers and taking on a few more responsibilities. My recent visit to Malaysia, where I served in the 10 day course was another huge learning experience, as all courses are.

From time to time I am quite intrigued by the fact that Westerners find India and Indian ways so confusing. For instance, the many languages that India has, what is "mother-tongue", what is caste and how do you know who is a brahmin and who is not; things which are so natural and automatic to my understanding requires a great deal of explanation to a Westerner. I suppose it is the huge cultural difference. India is far too complex, too many layers, divisions and sub-divisions to grasp for a Westerner with the added confusion of caste and social class.

In any case I have been working on my native language, mainly learning through the internet and can now read quite well. That has also been a subject of curious questions. How come I have to learn my native language? How come I do not read and write in Tamil? And then I take them on a Indian Education System 101 :) . Hindi is the national language but all Indians do not speak the language (especially South India). But since it is the national language we have to study it in school. Further, each state of India has its own language. For instance, my home town is Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh where Telugu is the dominant language, so that language is offered in schools. However, we do have an option to read Sanskrit instead of Telugu. Finally, partially giving up the attempt to make sense of all my explanations, my teacher (a Westerner)simply said..."India is a vast country indeed....a real vast country"

Some where in the process of giving these explanations what I have noticed is a subtle but a sure transformation of how I view India and Indians. I now understand how a non-Indian sees India and have gradually become more objective in my views about India. Sometimes these complex perceptions become a disadvantage as it comes in the way of relating to extended family members back in India. For instance, there seems to be a thin line between what genuine concern and an exercise of control. Suggestions are rarely just suggestions they become commands that one has to follow.

However, I do love to visit India and especially visiting friends and relatives there, and the experiencing the  richness of Vipassana meditation practice in the centers. In addition sharing my experiences with friends and their families who for various reasons are not able to do the courses but want me to share with them my insights. In a vicarious way they benefit from my conversations and hopefully inspired to take up the courses in future.