7/8 – Music and Tea

Day Sixteen – Saturday, July 8

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These kids are beyond talented

Today was our last day in Guangzhou… I wish we could have spent a little more time exploring the city.  But we still did a ton of activities today and I feel like I got to experience a good part of the culture!

First up for the day was a visit to a primary school that teaches all of their students’ traditional Chinese instruments. These kids – who ranged in age from grades 2-6 – performed a mini concert for us. Honestly, they sounded almost professional; if I just heard a recording of them without seeing them I would have guessed they would have been in at least college! Moreover, their conductor was extremely nice and encouraging to all of the students, and it was clear that they all truly enjoyed playing their instruments. After they performed a couple songs, we were allowed to go up and talk to them or ask them to show us how to play their instruments!

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My “mentor,” who is 1000x more talented than I will ever be

I tried a few different instruments – one that is like an upright violin and other that is like a piano but you hit the strings to make a sound. The kids were super passionate about teaching us their instruments and a lot tried to use their English, which was super cute! Afterwards, we took a bunch of pictures with all of them!

After leaving the school we quickly moved onto the Chen ancestral site. This is a series of a couple old buildings all surrounding a courtyard – a very traditional Chinese building arrangement. I thought the architecture and plants were gorgeous and stunning, but there wasn’t all too much to see aside from that. I actually spent most of my time there (which was only 1 hour) inside the numerous different gift shops because they featured local artists and crafts. I splurged and bought a large, traditionally painted scroll from one of the shops. On it is a scene of a river flowing through the mountains (one of the main types of Chinese painting), and the painter kindly calligraphy-ed my Chinese name onto the scroll.

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Chen Ancestral House

Next, we enjoyed a quick lunch at a roundtable restaurant – the food was good but once again there was nothing really exciting. But soon after we were back on the road headed to a traditional teahouse. So far this trip, the teahouse has been my favorite cultural sight. The building radiated a tranquil vibe, and smells of burning incense and tea filled up the air. We were ushered to sit down at a large wooden table, where we were each poured numerous cups of tea while just taking in all the new sights and smells. After a while, the owner of the shop – a very noble man incredibly passionate about tea culture – greeted us to show us around his shop. This is a three-story building with each floor having its own tea, décor, and private rooms. On the first floor is the large table, along with most of the tea for sale. On the second and third floors were teas behind glass that are aging or being preserved, along with smaller rooms for members of his “tea club” to hold meetings in.

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This tea is as old as I am!!

The owner also owns a mountain in China where he has a tea bank to store tea for aging (similar to a wine cellar, as tea gains value with age). After our tour, we were poured cups of 2017 tea and 2001 tea to taste the difference. Even though I don’t have a very refined tea palate, I could clearly tell that the 2001 tea had a much earthier, stronger taste compared to the 2017 light and sweet taste. As we were leaving, the owner gave us each a gift with a traditional teacup and some literature about tea inside. Visiting the teahouse is the single thing that has made me feel a deep connection to traditional Chinese culture, and I really hope that I can find more experiences like this while in China!

On our bus ride home, I talked to a bunch of my nsliy friends about their experiences here, life at home, and other subjects. I really like these excursions where we are all together because I can feel us all growing closer together as a group, which is really cool! I hope I can stay in touch with my friends from all across America when I get back home!

After my mom picked me up, we went straight to her work for a barbecue night with some colleagues. For most of the night, I was hanging out with Linda and my mom’s close work friend who has a young, 10 month old baby. The kid was sooooo adorable! I even got to hold him! A bunch of the guys who work with my mom were out in the parking lot grilling chicken, lamb, fish, pork, and serving restaurant-ordered side dishes. This was definitely a unique experience – a Chinese version of our barbeques – but I actually really enjoyed myself and hanging out with other people!