It’s hard to believe that nearly half the semester is over. But one positive result is having a brief holiday called the May Holiday. I’m not quite sure about the origins of this holiday, but I definitely wasn’t complaining about a break from teaching for a short while.
One of my students, Near, invited me to join him and the international students union for a BBQ on Silver Beach. Anything that combines soaking in the sun’s rays on the beach and consuming food could not be passed up. So I met him and his friends in the morning, and we headed for the beach. About an hour later, we arrived and some students began to set up the barbeque grills, which were basically metal troughs supported by stilts. As the barbequing began in earnest, a few students diligently cooked the food (chicken, pinkish hot dogs, tofu) while everyone else surrounded them anticipating the final product. The charcoal seemed quite adept at producing smoke, but not so willing to produce a flame. Despite the grilling difficulties, the cooks persevered, and soon everyone was eating barbequed meat. My student gave me one of the hot dogs, which I begrudgingly accepted. Any meat with a predominantly pinkish color generates some suspicion in my mind. Thankfully, the chicken was a much more acceptable color, with the occasional charcoal spot, and I happily ate several of those.
Later on, some of us decided to play soccer on the beach, which was quite fun. Some pointy rocks served as goals, and most of us played barefoot, which was somewhat challenging. There also was this small pool of water that inevitably attracted the soccer ball, and once it got stuck, you could kick it as hard as you could, and it might move an inch. Also, the improvised soccer field was slightly slanted, which added a new dimension to the game. Perhaps it wasn’t the most ideal field to play on, but it was a good workout with a soothing sea breeze, and best of all, your feet received a generous exfoliation, free of charge.
After the soccer game, I joined a group of students who were hitting a volleyball in a circle. Unfortunately, there weren’t any volleyball nets on the beach, so we ended up drawing lines in the sand and creating a crude imitation of volleyball with an invisible net. Playing volleyball without a net is sort of like playing soccer without a goalie. It drastically reduces the challenge and removes an essential part of the game. Regardless, we still had an enjoyable time playing our invented form of volleyball with a non-existent net.
The next day, I went with another teacher, Alex, and two students to visit Lingshan Dao, an island off the coastline of Huangdao. After a pleasantly short taxi ride, we arrived at the harbor and queued behind at least 100 people who were waiting for the next boat ride. Naturally, when we were ready to board the boat, we discovered that we needed tickets for the ferry, and they were all sold out. An hour later, there were still no tickets, and the next boat was almost at the dock. Somehow, Magnolia, my Chinese student, convinced the harbor guard to let us board the ferry. I’m not sure if he felt pity for us or wanted to appease us, but I was just happy to be on the boat.
As we neared the island, I could see a fishing village overshadowed by several looming, craggy peaks. According to a travel website, the island has about 3,000 residents, and its highest peak is slightly over 500m (1500′). Once we reached the dock, we walked up the main road past several hostel owners urging us to stay at their place. Since we were only staying for the afternoon, their entreaties were not terribly effective. After we got on the main road encircling the island, we walked along it until we reached a trail that led to the summit. Unfortunately, there was a military establishment there, and the guard did not let us hike it. Maybe he thought I was an American spy who might discover a highly advanced, secretive base on the peak. Whatever the case, he clearly didn’t want me to continue.
As we continued our hike along the road, we encountered a village with a cluster of one-story, red-tiled buildings and after we had passed through it, I saw a terraced hill that gradually descended onto a pebbly beach, which then merged into the vast, blue sea. Quite the idyllic sight. After we ate some fried, shredded potatoes and a relatively flavorless tomato soup for lunch, we walked along the road a little further and then retraced our steps back to the harbor. A short while later, we were back on the boat, and the island slowly faded into the distance. I may not have climbed the highest peak this time, but I certainly enjoyed the rugged, natural beauty of Lingshan Island.