STARTING TO LEARN: Day 95, Monday December 02 2013

I was supposed to meet up with Kelly, a girl I’d met a few weeks ago. We’d set a few times to meet in the past, but they hadn’t worked out. I had been talking to her up until about 10 am and as far as I could tell we were good to go. We were supposed to meet at the big blue statue in Quan Qeng Square, but she never showed up. I never actually heard from her after that either, so I don’t know what the deal was.

After we realized she wasn’t going to come we headed to the hutong to finish our christmas shopping. China is obsessed with poop. There’s pens with little turds on the end, squishy toy poops, even hats with poops on the top! I found these poop key chains with faces on them, and thought they’d be perfect gifts for some of my family members, so I picked a couple up. I was quite excited about my find.

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We still had not seen black tiger springs, one of the famous sights in Jinan. I suggested we go check them out. They were located along the cannal. The sun was bright and warm and it’s rays gleamed off the water’s surface, interrupted only by the dappled waving shadows of the green willow trees.

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We watched a yellow boat with a red angled roof float by us, it’s motor only a quiet purr.

Part of the path turned into stepping stones. The edges of the canal were decorated by water worn stones. Nate climbed some of the stones, finding a more adventurous path to follow. I wasn’t far behind him.

We saw some springs on the far side of the river and crossed over to have a closer look. They weren’t Black Tiger Springs but they were still worth checking out. One was located partway out in the river. It was ringed with rocks, and the water just kept pouring over it’s edges creating a natural fountain. The other spring flowed out from under a cave and into a inclosed pool.

We climbed the rocks along the cave and squeezed into a small gap between two tall rocks. A small tree had buried it’s roots in this small space. The tree’s trunk had grown sideways before correcting itself. Nate thought it looked like a meditation nook, and he found a seat on the tree trunk.

Walking farther down the path to Black Tiger Springs we came across large groups of people scooping water from the springs with buckets on strings and using them to fill bottles for drinking water. Because of poor building regulations tap water can contain traces of heavy metals such as lead and mercury. The spring water is thought to be much less tainted, and many locals come to the springs every day to collect their drinking water. The water from Black Tiger Springs in particular is supposed to be sweet and make delicious tea. Here’s a link to an interesting, and terrifying article about lead poisoning in China: PureLiving: Lead Exposure

Black Tiger Springs featured three tiger heads each spewing out a stream of water. People scooped the water straight from the tiger’s mouths. Behind the springs was a giant tiger statue.

We crossed back over the canal and climbed a steep set of steps up a guard tower which was now converted into a war museum. It was all in Chinese so we couldn’t read the walls, but Nate knew a bit about some of the different weapons. We stopped to study a 3D map of old Jinan that sat in a square display case in the centre of the tower. It showed two sets of walls, one surrounding Da Ming Lake and using the canals as a mote. The second surrounded the southern part of the city. The West stretched out beyond the protective barriers, the East barely existed.

Arrows were placed on the map showing possible troupe movements. The mountains surrounding the city also served as a natural barricade. It appeared that the tower may have been one of the outposts on the wall around the river.

We met Sonya at 8:30pm for our first painting lesson. We met our lao she (teacher) just outside the campus. I’d forgotten Nate hadn’t met him yet. We shook hands in greeting and then fallowed him into the school. We entered a classroom who’s walls were covered in sketches and paintings, some in the traditional Chinese style, others a more realistic western style. Our lao she had piles of paintings sitting beside him on his desk. We admired his work with awe. There were entire sheets covered in chinese calligraphy, there was also a beautifully detailed peach blossom tree and a painting of crickets and grass. To our surprise he used some of these paintings as if they were scrap paper! We were horrified! Apparently they were just practice pictures and were nothing to worry about.

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Our lao she pulled out a new sheet of paper and demonstrated to us how to paint a tree. First the trunk, then the branches, and finally the leaves. He made each stroke with confidence finishing with a perfect picture. Then it was our turn, we picked up our paintbrushes and after dipping them in the thin black ink we began our masterpieces to be. Nate’s tree didn’t have branches and mine was thick in the wrong places! We were instructed to paint with our wrists. This made things worse! Chinese painting, like everything else, will take a lot of practice.

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