Mid-Autumn Festival

The Wheel of Time, Dazu

Holiday season is upon us. This week is Mid-Autumn Festival, meaning
that we had Wed, Thurs, and Fri off from school. In China, however, we
don’t practice the idea of making a five-day weekend, or the like—we
have classes or work on the surrounding weekend days to make up for
the days that were missed that were not holiday days themselves.
Therefore, we made up Thurs classes last Sunday and Fri classes this
Saturday, but do not need to make up Wed classes (of which I have zero
in any case) because that’s the day of the actual holiday. This Sunday
we’re also having make-ups for Monday’s classes, due to the day we’ll
be missing for National Day week—again only some of the days of that
week are made up. Result: a lot of confusion, and uneven distribution
of the number of times my classes will all have met, in the end. I
hate lack of symmetry.

Mid-Autumn Festival concerns something about a lover giving up her
mortality for her husband and becoming the moon. Or you know,
something. It is celebrated, like most Chinese holidays, by visiting
with one’s family, and also by eating mooncakes—cookie-like pastry
things filled with a jelly-like fruit or meat or nut filling. On
Monday night the foreign affairs office hosted a party for foreign
students and teachers that featured many platters of cakes and, of
course, myriad performances and speeches. The final invocation:
“Please enjoy the moon!” Well, I might, except that it’s so smoggy I
can’t see the moon and the moon can’t see me.

In any case, to celebrate the holiday, I agreed to go to Dazu with a
student. Dazu is probably the most popular tourist site in this region
other than the Three Gorges, and it’s a UNESCO world heritage site
that features Buddhist rock carvings dating to the 1100s, or
thereabouts. I wasn’t necessarily keen on making this all-day trip
with a student, but PC tells us to accept all invitations and all….
“Let’s meet at 9 a.m.,” the student, H, said in the first of the many
phone calls, texts, and emails we shared about our plans. “My mother
wants to make sure we arrive in time for lunch, so how about we leave
at 8 a.m.?” she asked later. “But isn’t it a two-hour drive?” I
wondered. “My mother thinks we should leave at 7 a.m.” H said, the
night before our departure. No no, let’s leave at 8. Which meant,
actually meeting at 8, walking to the bus station to find our bus
didn’t leave for over an hour, finally getting on the bus to find it
was taking the old country back roads instead of the highway, meaning
we didn’t arrive in town until about 2 p.m. Guess your mother was
right, in a way….

After enjoying an elaborate but brief lunch, we headed to the main one
of the four sites where you can see the carvings. It was actually
lovely, with H providing good guidance. I knew there was no way I
wanted to stay overnight at H’s house with a dozen of her relatives
(as is typical during holiday visiting season), and it was too late to
get a bus back to Beibei, so I hopped a bus to Yongchuan, the site
where my training friend Amy lives, which is theoretically halfway
between Dazu and Beibei. Ah China, the impromptu nature of my life
here.

Yongchuan is about the same size as my town, but to me feels more like
any other big Chinese city, where I think my town feels more like a
university town in contrast. Which makes sense, considering the size
of my university relative to the town in relation to hers. Amy, her
sitemate Wendy, visiting friend Gareth, and I drank Mons/Snow beer,
made spaghetti, and watched Twilight: Eclipse, and it was almost just
like the good old days (meaning training, meaning less than a month
ago). The whole trip was even worth the 8+ hours I spent on Chinese
buses over the two days. Maaaybe.

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