Guiyang, Day 5, June 11 – Christine Dang

To preface my blog post, I want to provide a slight background. Unlike everyone one else on the trip, I have been to China before (last summer), I do speak some Chinese (a year and a half of Mandarin at the College), and I am Asian (Chinese-Vietnamese American, but I can only speak Cantonese which is like being from Mexico and going to Italy). I can’t decipher if this has really been to my benefit or my Achilles’ heel. Although I am able to communicate to locals on a VERY basic level, people look at me, assume that I am Chinese, and speak so fast my head spins. Furthermore, the Chinese also assume that I understand the culture, contrary to popular belief I understand as much as a six-week Chinese culture class can cover. The reason is that I am twice removed from this culture; my parents are of Chinese descent raised in Vietnam and I am American born and raised. Therefore, my experience and perspective of the trip will be wildly different from the group.

Today was different from the normal regiment because all the boys that traveled with us left the grounds to tour local waterfalls that are famous throughout China. Obviously, the girls are more dedicated to the study of mercury. The highlights of today’s presentations were Ashley’s boss in California and the boisterous yukalaylee artist we met yesterday on our tour of the Ancient town.

My educational accomplishment for the day was my interview with one of the speakers. Her name is Wu Dan, from Peking University, and she works on environmental economics and policy. During her interview, I asked her questions concerning her presentation (Economic Analysis of mercury emission control in China) and Chinese environmental policy. Her English was very impressive to me, but she seems to disagree because every time she faltered she crumpled giggling into the chair and by the end of her interview, she spoke in Chinese.

After the presentations, Ashley and I decided to do what girls do best—go shopping. Initially in the stores, people weren’t being very receptive; luckily by the eighth store our luck changed. The sales woman (fu wu yuan) was helpful, nice, and compliments just came spilling from her mouth. Naturally, we suspected her of being a very good sales woman, but she proved genuinely wanting to be our friends because when we asked her for recommendations on shoe stores she proceeded to provide us her boyfriend as our GPS. The hunt for shoes turned out to be two locals showing us the ins and outs of Guiyang. We went to the mall, bought some mangosteens, ate spicy tofu that had to be washed down with jell-o tea, and bought tea and batik (Guiyang’s specialty). Some how our afternoon disappeared and we were unable to go to the local park with monkeys that our new friends were adamant we see. To everyone’s dismay, we walked back to the hotel to prepare for the banquet.

However, the fun did not stop when we returned. People were piling into the hotel, some wearing nice dresses and others jeans. The dinner was elaborate and consisted of what felt like never ending food. It was quite the fiesta; the table beside us loudly finished their bottle of bai jiu, Chinese liquor, demanded more, and began scavenging at other tables. The best part of the banquet was the outdoor concert. Where there was at least eight different performances ranging from Chinese pop/rock to a makeshift Mercury Conference yukalaylee band. Offstage there was a clown running, chaotic balloon distribution (approximately 30 balloons for 300 people), fireworks, and glow sticks. I am not sure if the people at the conference had been exposed to mercury for too long or if this was how you celebrated in China; regardless, it was a blast and China party on.