It’s been 11 weeks since I’ve started CET’s Harbin language program and my mind feels as if it can no longer hold any more new words or grammar. In Mandarin, 我的脑子进水, which translates to “My brain is filled with water.” So, it was a relief to go to Dandong with the program last weekend.
Dandong is a city in Liaoning province on the banks of the Yalu River which separates China from North Korea. It’s interesting to see the stark contrast between the two cities, China with its skyscrapers on one side and the rundown boats and buildings on North Korea’s side. But both sides have ferris wheels!After our boat ride on Yalujiang, we took a 2 hour bus ride to Dagushan Forest Park which had a playground (sort of) that reminded me of the “natural” park/playground in Sharon Creech’s Bloomability (and yes, my memory may be lying on how that one was described but I don’t care.) Anyway, it came replete with wooden hammocks and dilapidated swings. We hiked up the mountainside to a staircase that led to the sky and a view of deep gulleys. Then off to a farmer’s house in Xianrendong town for dinner, singing, a bonfire, and a lamb roast. And scary stories/jokes at night as the fire died down. Then sleep on a heated kang with 4 other girls.
The next day, we went to Bingyugou which is known as the “小桂林” of Liaoning province due to the pretty scenery of karst mountains and water. There were ziplines and bamboo boats but I hiked up a mountain (many many steep steps) although we definitely didn’t go to the highest peak. On the way down, we explored a new route that took us to the horse encampment (people offered us horse rides up the mountain because they thought we couldn’t do it ourselves!) Afterwards, a 4 hour bus ride back to Dandong where we checked into our hotel. Soft beds and hot water for showers feels ridiculously luxurious after sleeping on a hard kang and not showering for a couple of days! Dinner was Korean bbq because it is delicious although I was sad to note that this time there was no interesting cuminy-peanuty spice mixture nor any peanut sauce because that stuff is AMAZING. A walk along the Yalu river at night with the skyscrapers and bridges all lit up (conflicting feelings but am now aware why), ice-cream at KFC (yes, I go to KFC way more here than I ever did in the U.S. but most of the time, it’s just for soft-serve!) then sleep. The next day we went to Hushan Great Wall, the furthest east point to the Great Wall although it isn’t connected to the Great Wall by Beijing. But I’m actually going to stop here. And try to post the rest tomorrow.