In other news, I booked my rooms for Japan but may need to shuffle things a bit. I meant to sign up for a cooking class but it seems that the one I really wanted is booked up/unavailable for the dates I wanted. It's OK. It was a fun idea but it's not as big to me as being in Kyoto. Maybe I'll find a spot for tea ceremony instead. I've seen a little in China, but it's quite different since China and Japan have different histories. Japan's tea ceremony supposedly has its roots back in the Song dynasty here when it was popular to drink tea in bowls and grind up powder. But after time in Japan, it changed to fit the context of Japan and the dynasties that followed had their own cultures and came to value different aspects of tea. You also see changes in the cups and pots over time because of the different things each period wanted to highlight (ie enjoying the color of green tea is easier to do with a white cup than a green or black cup).
In other news, I went back to Nanyue with the 9th grade teachers who prayed to various Buddhas for different needs (and especially for luck as the 9th grade students go on to take their high school entrance exams). I hadn't actually seen Nanyue Temple itself, so it was nice to float through the gardens and stop to look in on various Buddhas. I was a bit confused at times since I saw Yin and Yang which I think of Taoist, but I also know that religion here in China isn't exclusive in the same way it is in the West. Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are considered the big three in terms of the philosophy/religion that shaped Chinese culture and it's more coexistence than rivalry.
Speaking of Buddhism, this past week Modi came to China and I was a little surprised to see on the new that he was not in Beijing, but in Xi An. Then again, it is a city with a special significance for Chinese-Indian ties. As the capital of the Tang dynasty, this is where Xuan Zang/Hsuan Tsang/Tripitaka started his trip out to India with Pigsy and the Monkey King to retrieve the sacred scrolls. It's been a while since I last read Journey to the West (or Monkey, as one translation calls the story), I'm probably more familiar with the Stephen Chow film which has grown on me over time even though it's pretty crazy. My weekend took a coincidentally Buddhist turn the same weekend China received a representative of the land where Buddhism comes from. I still think I smell incense on my clothes. Hearing the loud bangs of firecrackers going off as people toss their packets to tell the Buddha that they are coming is still ringing in my ears as is the sight of a huge pile of burning incense and other things. I've seen them before, but I don't think I've stood so close before. It made me a little nervous to see a man with a straw broom pushing things into the pile even though there was water all over the ground around that part of the temple. It was a pretty large temple too, it was impressive. When I'd done a survey of the gardens and the different Buddhas, I hung out in one of the shops and watched a puppy chew on a little boy before they both ran out to walk around the temple. It was fun to see the boy coaxing the puppy over a step at a time "Lai. Lai. Lai." ("Come. Come. Come.")
This week is going to be tough, both to keep kids in line and to get the test information to them in a clear and accessible manner. We'll get there somehow. I'm just tired, and my allergies kick in and everyone thinks I'm sick. It's well-intentioned but also really frustrating and a little patronizing to hear "I'll make hot water. I'ts really just for you." or other things people do to to help when you know it's not a cold and drinking water feels good but solves nothing. This isn't the worst my allergies have been, but it's still a pain to get up and see nice flowers and be both excited and disgusted.