There’s no getting around it: my campus is one of the most beautiful in China. The college is nestled in the foothills of Lin’an, and while we have a dirty, fast moving city to the south of the college, the north is entirely wild with mountains, footpaths, hidden lakes and more. On recent Saturday’s Ben and I have been exploring the campus. Ben is a high school boy I’ve been teaching for a year and a half. At this point he is more like my little brother than a student (and his English is quite good) so we actually have a really good time tramping about.
So, here is a small introduction to some of the scenic wonders of my school with Ben.
About a five-minute walk from my office is this little lake. It isn’t exactly secluded, there is a very wide muddy path leading to it, but most of the students are afraid of nature (and getting their shoes dirty) so it’s pretty peaceful. The lake is shocking blue/green, but there isn’t any sign of life in it, no frogs, no fish, not even water bugs, so I assume it is incredibly polluted. Someday I want to walk the hills behind the lake. I’ve heard there are old family tombs in them.
There’s a makeshift fire pit (in which we found a half-burnt box of underwear) and there was a ton of little tiny paper things right next to the ledge.
“What is it?” I asked Ben. he got closer to examine.
“Little boats,” he said.
They were little origami boats. We also found a box of tea candles and figured out the story pretty quick. To send a little paper boat out with a candle is a romantic gesture. Based on the number of boats there was probably some grand declaration of love here recently. Though why (and how) the boats were fished out of the water beats me.
Our school specializes in forestry and appropriately enough, there are nurseries and farms everywhere. When we stumbled upon this batch of baby trees I was convinced it was a future Christmas tree farm.
There are big trees at our school, and we took a hike to some of them too. And when I saw big, I mean BIG. They tower 20-30 feet taller than any other tree in the area. But when I say trees, I mean “trees.” That’s because these trees were installed a few months ago, and ever since we have had improved cell phone reception.
I’m always on the lookout for fairy door when I walk around nature, and I thought I had found one at last….
Turns out I need to keep looking.
Speaking of trees, it is the time of year when all the trees get their winter “socks.” This phenomenon confused Ryan and I for the first year we were here. It looks like the trunks of trees are coated in white paint, but we couldn’t figure out the benefit. And this isn’t just a thing done in my area, but all of China. And it’s redone every year, so we knew there must have been some importance or significance to this act. But when we asked our students they just said it was to “keep the trees warm.” A thin coat of paint is suppose to do that? I don’t think so.
Ryan finally taught some forestry majors and while they didn’t know the answer, they had a teacher that did. Turns out it isn’t paint at all, but some sort of chemical solution (that is thick, chalky and yellow when first applied, white as it dries) that prevents bugs from attacking trees and might even keep the tree a little warmer in the winter. They paint them incredibly uniform, with the white going to the same height despite the height/style of the tree, and where there is a small forest of trees with “white socks” it can look quite funny.
Our school is known for more than just it’s tree though. We have an entire bamboo forest filled with several styles of bamboo, some of which are endangered or rare or something (I can’t read the signs and I know very little about bamboo). But I can tell the difference visually and in the bamboo forest they change from thin and tall to short and stubby bamboo (and everything in between). There are several bamboo fields or nurseries where they start some off before planting it into the forest. I’ll be honest, there is so much open space at our school I feel like some were started by some class, and then abandoned and forgotten about at the end of the semester.
Here is Ben posing with a lonely bamboo plant.
We found some fields with larger clumps of bamboo growing together. Oddly they were still planted but gathered and tied together in the middle to make a bundle. Again, don’t know the reason why they might do such a thing, but it looks like it was done recently.
So that’s a small tour of some of the scenic wonders of our school. China has a rep of being dirty and polluted but by being here I miss out on a lot of it (When I blow my nose the tissue isn’t black like I’ve heard happens elsewhere) and I feel incredibly lucky to have chosen this school and have this campus to walk about and explore everyday.