This morning we went to Zhang Laoshi's (he is the teacher who taught us a lecture on being healthy in China who is a science teacher here) parents-in-law's house. It was such an awesome experience. Zhang Laoshi arrived at 9:40 exactly - which was the time he designated to pick us up. When he arrived, I told him that one of the students who was going to come was unable to because he is sick. Zhang Laoshi asked me to see if another boy could go (there were three girls who were still interested including myself). Unfortunately, none of the boys wanted to go, so I told Zhang Laoshi that everyone was either still asleep or they were also sick so that maybe they wouldn't seem rude. He told us that his in-laws were expecting a boy, which made us all try not to laugh at the absurdity that three girls interested in experiencing a Chinese home was not good enough - that there had to be a boy. When he was convinced that there really could be no boy, he resigned himself and we left.

On the way there we made conversation with him and he was very nice. He told us about the three times he had come to America. The first time he was in America 1 year studying "cats" in a zoo (we figured out lions and tigers and such) in Hawaii, then in Ohio and a couple places in California. I can't remember what he said about the second time, but the third time he came to North Georgia as a teacher exchange program for about 6 weeks.

The apartment that his parents-in-law live in wasn't very far. When we arrived Kate and I whispered to each other that we had better talk about football or something so maybe they will like us as much as a boy (joking, of course) and we went up. It was a gated community, but as we were walking up and looking at them from the outside, they didn't seem very nice. We were very surprised when they opened the door to see a very spacious, two bedroom apartment with hardwood floors and kept very well. We loved it. The layout was something we all agreed we would be very comfortable living in.

The husband worked in construction making roads until he retired, and she worked in the office of an elementary school. We think that the husband must have worked in a high up position because they showed us these wonderful photo albums (they had probably 100 in this giant, beautiful long bookshelf that they have filled only with books they have read or of photo albums) while we were sitting and being served tea nonstop in Chinese traditionally tiny glasses, and in a couple of the albums there were pictures of him in Denmark observing and working with construction management looking people there. Roads in China is a relatively new phenomenon, so we were guessing that he might have gone over there to learn new techniques or safety precautions or something of that nature.

Speaking of their photo albums, they have been to so many places! They have traveled a lot, and a lot of the pictures were places in China. How I want to come back to China some day! China is HUGE and so beautiful. You could spend your whole life exploring new beautiful locations in China. A lot of the places even looked extremely western and I kept thinking I was looking at pictures of places in America with some of the scenery. Some of the pictures looked like Hawaii, or California, or South America, or somewhere out west of the US, but it is China. It's amazing.

The two of them are artists in their free time. I don't know how long ago it was that he started painting, but she didn't start until about 20 years ago he said. It makes you realize that you can pick up new talents and hobbies when you get older or after you retire. Really their entire lifestyle displayed enjoying life very fully after retirement and denying getting old. She also learned to sculpt these little action figures at an older age and has become rather famous for them based on the photo albums. She has probably about 100, and she made them all from scratch with clay, mostly based off of this little book of single pictures of the figures. It was very cool.

After we had seen their house and had looked at the photo albums for a while and drank a lot of tea, Zhang Laoshi told us that his mother-in-law wanted to dance for us. We were a little surprised, but were excited to see what was coming. She turned on this radio looking thing and started moving. She was so graceful (especially considering her age) and flexible! Her ability to do the movements that work her entire body at her age so well was so amazing. Kate teared up and started crying, and I felt enough emotion that I felt tears burn in my eyes, though (as is normal for me) they didn't fall over.

Later when we were dropped off we were all talking about how in America, a lot of people their age have trouble standing up and sitting down. Kate said her father (who is much younger than them) already has trouble sitting down and standing up. I felt very fortunate that in my family I have a Great Grandmother who is still alive and well in her 90's, and two sets of grandparents that are also alive and healthy. I have very good examples in my life. But my family is not common anymore in America. In China, they put such an emphasis on staying active. In fact, I'm going to try to get a picture (though I might get glared at) of this elderly couple that every morning does Tai Chi and I pass them either outside of my dorm or in a park on the way to breakfast. It's so common.

At the same time, I have to wonder if in China the reason I think they are all healthy is the ones who are not die off so quickly and so young without the modern medicine we have in America that I just never see them. Maybe there are so many people in China that it just seems like it is most people who value exercise and taking care of their health. I will never really be here long enough to know.

Before we left, Kate had noticed that they have WhiteCastle sugar cookies in a box with English words and pointed and said something in English. She wasn't trying to get their attention, but they noticed and immediately opened the box of cookies and served them to us. Kate felt really bad. After all of that we left the house, and they walked us all the way out to the car, as is Chinese culture.

When we left Zhang Laoshi kept asking us about places in Liaocheng and whether or not we had been there. The two places that we hadn't been we went to. The first was closed for siesta time. It was the Liaocheng Museum. He encouraged us to go back before we leave, it is free admission and they just need to see our passports, but I am the only one really interested and I don't want to go alone. Then we went to "The Iron Tower". He couldn't really explain to us what it was for, all we really got out of him was that it 600 years old, was lucky to have survived so many dynasties and changes in government, and that it has animals and people on it (that I couldn't see). It was really neat that he took us there though!

On the way back after the tower, we passed several coffee shops and I asked him if he drank coffee. He said that he thinks it is not healthy and doesn't taste good. I asked him what the word for caffeine is, and he said 咖啡因 (kafeiyin) which literally translates to "coffee to rely on". We all thought that was great, because they probably didn't even think about caffeine and the effect it had until they were introduced to coffee because tea has such a small amount in comparison.

After we got back, Kate and I went to eat lunch. Since it is the end, I've been trying to get some pictures of things I hadn't taken any of that are part of my everyday life here. I took a picture of 西门(ximen) which is the west gate for the west campus out into the city. The road to get there is so pretty and calm and then you get to the gate and it is always bustling on the other side with street vendors. Kate and I got a great picture together there.

I got lots of pictures of the vendors. I tried my best to capture how busy it is all the time (except for during siesta) with carts of food parked all over the street. Cars can hardly make it through it is such a tight space. I tried to take pictures of the places that I ate at the most. I wanted to take the picture of one of the ladies and she smiled and looked away from the camera when I tried to take her picture. Kate told me later (I feel so awful about this) that working at a street vendor is the most shameful work you can do in China. I can't believe she waited until after I must have embarrassed this lady to tell me that. They always seem so happy and they smile and love to see that we like their food and come back a lot. I wouldn't have guessed it on my own.

We ran into Chang while we were out, which is a Chinese boy Kate has become good friends with. We took his picture because his bike was so awesome. In Chinese culture, boys and girls are not good friends unless they are dating or intending to date, and if you have many male friends, you are not considered a nice girl. Kate didn't tell Chang that she had a boyfriend for a while because it didn't come up and based on the culture we know, he would run away and never speak to her again. She had finally told him the day before this picture was taken, and she was shocked to find out that he loved American culture so much that he still wanted to be friends. In fact, she said that he hasn't even changed the respectful way he has always treated her.

We had this conversation the other day about how it is hard to see the Chinese people as peers in a lot of ways because they speak such broken English and we speak such broken Chinese. The topics we can speak of are not deep topics that you would talk about with good friends and we are always laughing with each other because the language barrier makes us sound like children when we speak. That is something that is really hard to overcome, because we know that they are real people with emotions and deep thought processes just as we do, but we don't have the vocabulary to connect on that level so we just see them as "cute little ZhenZhen" or "cute little Enya" or "cute little Chang" (they are almost all smaller than us, too). We figure they must view us the same way. We know the children we met at the primary school certainly saw us as younger than them.

It is the end of the semester, and the last week the students have had (for lack of a better term) yard sales all through a stretch of the campus on the sidewalks. I took some pictures. No one is managing it, so some people from the city definitely brought their unused products there, but mostly it is just random stuff the students have that they want to get rid of. It was a really neat idea.

The last picture I posted that I want to mention is my plastic bag of noodles and zuchini. That is how people take food to go. That was my lunch yesterday from the West Gate. I think when I was in America if I had seen that picture I would have been extremely grossed out by food in a bag. It is completely irrational, but it would have been how I felt. But here, it is so normal, and that meal is quite delicious. It is fresh noodles (I think they are rice noodles) and lots of sliced zuchini and vinegar and some sort of salty sauce (maybe like soy sauce) and a peanut butter sauce and whatever the crunchy stuff is they throw on top all mixed together served at room temperature. Like I said, it sounds disgusting, but it is one of the most delicious (and I think nutritious) foods I have eaten here.

We canceled the plans to go to see Zhang Laoshi's parents today due to lack of interest. I felt so bad because it seemed so rude of us. It was his idea to cancel, but it was due to the fact that I hadn't found anyone other than myself interested in going. To be honest, I'm sort of glad he canceled, because now I have a full day up until 6 when we go to Karaoke to relax (I got to sleep in this morning for the first time since some point last semester at North Georgia) and write that paper and study for our test tomorrow.

Happy Fathers Day to all the Fathers out there!