Hangzhou, CHN

Hangzhou, CHN

Wednesday, 04. June 2014

We finally have access to the internet again, so apologies for the delayed blogging service.

With a lot of goodwill from Tinting and the Politec Normal University in Guangdong and despite a somewhat chaotic organisation, we gave a talk about ‘Weiberwalz’ and demonstrated our glass making skills which the University had asked us to do. We came across more obstacles than anticipated even though we were perfectly prepared, something that can’t be said of all of our previous talks.

Firstly the talk, which had been scheduled for the second day, had to be brought forward to the first day due to technical problems which caused some chaos. Franca went to print out our notes, however first had to reformat them from Microsoft Word 2010 to 2007. At the same time with help from Kwan who speaks Chinese, Louise tried to slow down the very helpful student who was too speedy for our poor little computer, which threatened to crash. While we were waiting for our computer to recover a teacher noticed the faulty beamer cable, so we needed to change rooms where everything ran better. The talk itself didn’t run quite as smoothly as the students were not so proficient in English and Tingting suggested that Kwan should translate everything. At this point, let us briefly introduce Tse Lok Kwan from Hong Kong. We met her when we were staying in Hong Kong four months ago and she decided to join us for our 30 day trip to China. As we were running out of time due to changing the room, it was too late to talk things through together, so we had to improvise as we went along. We tried to back up our English with miming hoping that the students would understand, and Kwan did her best to find the correct glass terms in Mandarin.

The technical difficulties which we came across were due to the fact that the equipment and technical knowledge in the studio are not quite up-to-date. The necessary things were there, like the furnace, the heating drum and the cooling chamber, but the tools weren’t great. The pipes weren’t entirely straight and just like the other tools, hadn’t been used in a long time and were quite rusty. We had spent the morning cleaning and waiting for the furnace to reach the right temperature before we could even test the studio. The glass was interesting; still too cold and not entirely melted. Despite all this, things were running ok until the gas canister had to be changed. The ceramics teacher tried his best not to hinder things, but as he unscrewed the old canister outside, in the studio the flames leapt out of the drum. This triggered the automatic sprinkler system and water showered down on the drum until the whole studio was literally underwater and couldn’t be used any more that day. So the talk and demonstration had to be postponed until the following morning.

When we entered the studio the next morning, the automatic security system at the University had kicked in again and turned off the furnace that was supposed to run all night, as apparently the temperature was too high. Again we had to wait until the furnace was hot enough to make glass, which wasn’t until 4pm. With little time left we tried our best to show our skills without being interrupted with technical difficulties, which finally worked. We finished our visit slightly sweaty and the next day got on the train to Kaili.

It was not that easy to enter the station. In the tropical heat, there was pushing and shoving to get through the ticket, passport and security checks until we finally reached the air conditioned area inside the station. As we waited for the train we met Yang Yie Guo in the queue, who was on his way home to Kaili from India. Spontaneously, he invited us to stay with his sister and we gratefully accepted. His sister is a bundle of energy and within just three hours had organised for us showers, breakfast, mobile sim cards and a walking route for the afternoon. The next morning five of us made our way to her home town, which is really only four hours from Kaili. As the street is full of pot holes and other obstacles, this turned into a long day trip for a pimped VW. It was quite interesting what we got to see on this trip, for example, we were overtaken by a small pick-up truck which had pig halves neatly stacked on the back. In the evening we reached Pang Tung, located high up in the mountains and were warmly welcomed by Yangs family who cooked up a big meal. The village is made up mostly of wooden houses, compost toilets are dotted around the village and there is a shower in one house that everyone can use. We spontaneously decided to stay another two days and were taken along to a funeral and also to plant rice. The people of the village were all delighted as we were the first foreigners to come and stay with them. They celebrated this with special meals for us and went out of their way to make us feel welcome over the three days, while Kwan did a brilliant job as our translator. And so we enjoyed our days with delicious water (or even beer and rice wine), rice and all sorts of other delicacies new to us.