Wednesday, June 29, 2011


When I was going through my drawers before packing up to move, I kept coming across little envelopes of foreign currency left over from winter travels.  I thought they made a cool photo.  (Recognize any?)


And I also found this in my wallet:

...a reminder that living in a cash-and-carry society is sometimes a bit hard on the cash.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"It's so groommy you will not teach us any more."

One of my classes gave me a memory book about our time together.  Each student wrote a page; the front has a picture and all their personal info (you know -- favorite color, phone number, e-mail, blood type...), and on the back they wrote me notes.

Their notes were so sweet.  Here's a little sample:
"I remember the first time I saw you.  You looked a little serious but still smiled all the time.  Then, we became closer and we often came to your apartment and played lots of games and free talks. 
The first time I came to your apartment was to eat hot pot, from which I knew you didn't like meat.  (Actually, I like meat just fine.)
The second time was to take interesting pictures at your apartment.  At that time, I knew you had been to many different parts of the world and your quite different experiences from us.  
The third time was to have dress-up dinner, from which I knew the food you liked and I were very happy to help in the kitchen because I knew nothing about how to cook.  
The fourth time, maybe, was to dye Easter eggs, from which I knew you were very considerate and creative.  
The next time to your apartment will be tomorrow, to see your empty apartment, where we have lots of unforgettable memories together.  I hope I won't cry and I hope you won't either."
Aww.  How could anyone not be happy teaching students who are just so nice?  As always, there were a few priceless quotes:
"It's so groommy that you will not teach us any more."
"You are very beautiful and have a great figure, but I rarely see you wear skirt.  It's a little pity.  I believe you'll become more charming wearing beautiful skirt."
"A bit excited and nervous so write the wrong number." (From a girl who wrote her birthday wrong.)
"I hope you could find your right person early and I think he is a man who is very handsome and gentleman." (A common theme.  I will find my "Mr. Right" (aka my "ideal person" or my "real boyfriend") soon if these girls have anything to do with it.)
Even though there were a few funny notes, most of them were heartfelt and touching, and I loved them all.
"How soft and beautiful our memories are!  How I don't wanna let u go!  How I will miss u!  May you have a peaceful and wonderful life.  I love you!"
Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Moving Day

I haven't moved yet... but my stuff has.

Yesterday morning, a guy came with a big truck to take a few furniture items, my books and clothes, and our organization's English lending library to the Rizhao campus.  You may recall that I am moving from the town of Qufu to the city of Rizhao next year.  Same province, same university, different campus.

So, my stuff got loaded up into the truck and traveled 3.5 hours east to the coast.  I accompanied it, along with our cigarette-puffing driver and his chatty wife (or sister) who sat behind me and passed a constant stream of breakfast food over my shoulder to the driver.

My stuff got to my future apartment, where my friend Sara arranged for some students to take the stuff up to the third floor.


Me, my future roommate Sara, and our moving helpers in Rizhao

As I type this, my stuff is hanging out with a bunch of other stuff in the room that will be mine next year.   I'm back in my Qufu apartment with the stuff that didn't make the cut for the move.  Weird to think this is my last two weeks in this place.

For the curious:  (Moving Details)
Price:  1700 RMB
Manpower:  Students, foreign teachers, and the driver
How it got arranged:  I talked to the foreign affairs office and they made some calls on both ends
How it got packed:  It's hard to find boxes, so I bought colorful rice bags in the East Market for about 4RMB each.  Not bad except they can't take a lot of weight and they don't protect your stuff.

I've never moved in China before.  No doubt there are ways to do it cheaper or better, but this worked out fairly well and it's nice to have it done.

*Photo Credits: My future teammate Joni

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Food for Thought: Kolkata Volunteering

In this post, I will talk about how some things are not as simple as they seem.

You may recall I spent two weeks volunteering at two of Mother Teresa's homes in Kolkata, India this past winter.  Awesome, right?  I wrote a couple posts about it, and I think I reasonably represented my feelings and views at that time, but I want to re-visit the topic because my feelings and views at the time were incomplete.

In recent reading, I've learned that the Missionaries of Charity (the organization of nuns founded by Mother Teresa) has been criticized for lack of financial transparency (i.e., not keeping close track of all the donations that pour in), negligence or poor treatment of the residents of their homes, and generally unacceptable standards of care.

The weird thing is, I spent time at one of their nursing-home type facilities that really did have unacceptable standards of care.  Water cups were shared among patients.  Dishes were washed with little bits of plastic bags that were never replaced.  Blankets were left to dry on the roof, where birds pooped on them.  Seemingly no effort was made to prevent the spread of communicable diseases or to give residents something to do during the day.  Why did it not seem unacceptable at the time?  I wrote it off as cultural differences, or lack of funds, or I thought that at least these ladies have food and a home, which they probably didn't before. Also, I think it's hard for anyone to criticize something associated with such a praiseworthy figurehead (Mother Teresa) and such a self-affirming value (volunteering). (And I still do, from everything I know, highly respect Mother Teresa.)

In retrospect, I wish I would have spoken up to at least ask why the conditions were not better.  And I wish I would not have been so misled by my sense of "do-good-ism" to realize that short-term volunteers like me, who come to participate in the "poverty petting zoo" (even with the best of intentions) are probably not providing a truly valuable service, and may only be perpetuating the myth that these homes are somehow special, magical, and above reproach just because they are associated with the wonderful Mother Teresa.

There's a larger lesson to be learned from this experience, but I can't quite articulate it.  Maybe something like this:

The people we serve must be first.  Their welfare is the most important.  Not our reputation, not our own epiphanies, and not our own warm fuzzy experiences.  If we go to a place like the Missionaries of Charity house, serve with joy alongside other delightful volunteers, and feel genuinely moved by the residents, we might come away saying what a powerful and wonderful experience it was.  (And many of us do; you can see comments like this on lots of Calcutta travel forums.  I've said similar things.)  But if our presence there (and our complicit acceptance that "this is just how they do things here") perpetuates a problem, our wonderful experience doesn't matter.  Our happy feelings or good intentions do not trump the needs of the people we volunteer for.

We could all think of similar examples.  One that comes to mind now is the group that went to Haiti and rounded up orphans to adopt after the hurricane.  The intentions were good, but the end result didn't serve Haiti well. 

So here's the reminder to myself (and you, if you need it) -- If your target beneficiaries would be better served by you staying home, stay home.  If your contributions are well meaning but don't, over time, serve to alleviate the problem you're targeting, you are doing more harm than good.  You can't know everything, and you'll probably make some mistakes, but at least be thoughtful and don't get carried away by emotion or pride.  In the case of the Missionaries of Charity, I think short term foreign volunteers would best serve the residents by either staying out or speaking up.

See my Post Edit here at Prem Dan: Day One for more thoughts.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Must-See Destinations: The Great Wall

Remember when I started a series on Must-See Destinations vs. Photo-Only Attractions?  And then I only covered mediocre attractions and never got around to the good stuff?

This week, fresh off a recent visit to Beijing, I'm going to cover the Big Daddy of China destinations: the Great Wall of China.  There aren't many places in the world that have given me such a giddy feeling of "I can't believe I'm here.  Oh my gosh.  This is so much cooler than even I could have imagined."

Now I'm a five-time veteran of the Great Wall, having visited five different sites in four different seasons (chilly winter, gorgeous green spring, sunny summer, and rainy fall).  I have adopted a theory that it's almost impossible to have a bad time at the Great Wall of China.  This theory probably doesn't hold up if you're a Mongol invader from the Middle Ages.

The Great Wall stretches east to west across much of northern China.  It ranges from a clay mound in the west to impressive, tourist-filled restored sections within driving distance of Beijing.  More information about the different Beijing sections is here.

Click any picture to enlarge

In order of their distance from Beijing, I have been to Badaling (closest, first-opened), Juyongguan, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, and Simatai (least restored).  Below, I will rank them in order of least favorite to favorite.

June 2011, with a friend's tour


Crowded, smelly, has a large tourist complex and parking lot that appear in many views

Not far from Beijing, has shopping and food at the base, some nice views across the valley

Why I ranked it #5:
I think this site actually has nicer views than Badaling, and about equally as crowded as Badaling.  I ranked it last because people really aren't taking care of it.  There's graffiti everywhere, the guard towers smelled strongly of urine, and my friend's shoes got puked on.

October 2009, with a friend's tour


Crowded, has a large tourist complex and parking lot that appear in many views, has a high ratio of Chinese tourists to foreign tourists, which is fine but only if you like having your picture taken by strangers.

Closest and most convenient from Beijing, has shopping and food at the base (including Starbucks!)

Why I ranked it #4:
Badaling is good if you only have a short time to see the Wall, but it's crowded and touristy.  In my opinion, Juyongguan and Badaling are the most convenient but really don't compare to the next few sites.

January 2006, on a short-term trip with my college church


August 2009, as part of my teaching organization's training



Takes a couple hours to get there.  Possibly over-restored.

Good views, not too crowded, has lots of options.  (For example, you can climb the stairs up to the wall or just take a cable car.  You can climb down, or take the Alpine slide.)  Pretty smooth hiking.

Why I ranked it #3:
I think Mutianyu is the best all-around option for most people.  It's close enough that you can do it in a day and easily be back for supper.  It accommodates almost all skill levels for hiking.  The views are great, the crowds are manageable, and it's fun without being too commercialized.

Jinshanling to Simatai
May 2010 with my family
10K hike from Jinshanling to Simatai


At least 3 hours away from Beijing, expensive (both transportation and having to pay entrance fees at both locations).  The 10K hike would be tough for someone with knee problems or poor conditioning, but you don't have to do the hike; you can visit each location separately and do a normal up-and-down.

Spectacular views, no crowds (we hardly saw anyone), minimal restoration, minimal development, and a fun, long hike.

Why I ranked it #1/2:
This was my most beautiful and most enjoyable Great Wall experience.  For much of the day, it was just us and the wall and the beautiful mountains.  If you have a whole day and don't mind paying a driver about 1000RMB to get there and back, this is definitely the way to go.

I've enjoyed all of my Great Wall experiences, but the most magical were my first time (Mutianyu 2006) and the beautiful hike between less-restored sections (Jinshanling to Simatai 2010).  If you want convenience or shopping, stick close to Beijing.  If you want a more beautiful, less crowded, less developed experience, go to the farther sites.  And now I'll leave it to you to determine where I took the Great Wall photo from my blog banner.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Student E-mail Project: Funny Excerpts

In this last post quoting my students' e-mails to their American friends, I will include selections that made me laugh.  Have fun reading!

(Subject Line:)  Hell from China

Dear Gorey,
            (should be “Corey”)

Dear Korean,
            (should be “Karen”)

I once heard that America is the dessert of soccer.
            (He means “desert.”)

My favorite writer is Edgar Allan Poe whose novel is much more horrible.
            (The students often talk about “horrible” movies and stories when they mean “horror.”)

As to me, I am the tallest girl in my class, and a lot of people have said that I look like an European, because of my fair complexion and blonde hair.
            (Her hair is dark brown.  To them, anything non-black is “blonde.”)

My parents fell in love with each other when they meet the first time. i consider they are the happiest and tastiest couple in my hometown.

I hope someday I can meet some TV actors, and that will be legen-wait for it-dary!

You are a doctoral student and like gardening, right? … Have you got a good harvest of strawberries? … In China, few people do the gardening while they do research. Is it popular in America?

Mr. Bob, the first time I saw you in our department, I thought you might be a teacher because you looked very energetic and confident.

My English name is Robert. I was born into a farmer’s house in June 19, 1989. It was a hot summer day when I was born, but I can’t remember it. Maybe I am a boy.

I smiled a lot, then my friends called me Smile. When I was in university, my foreign teacher thought that Smile didn't look like an English name. She added a "y" to Smile.It became smiley. But, one day, my foreign teacher called me to her office and said that I'd better choose another name because Smiley sounded like smelly and smelly was not a good word.

(To a girl moving to Miami):  Still, I suggest you'd better take the sunblock, though you are a handsome guy. You also said you grew up in Canada. In my imagination, Canada is always covered with the lovely, beautiful maple waves, where gives an expression of Aestheticism.

In my part time, I am used to searching the internet, watching books and making friends. Yes,I love make friends.

I think teacher will be an ideal vacation for me.
            (A common mix-up:  “vocation” and “vacation.”)

I am round-faced and not very tall, so many people regard me as a girl. But I am a lady. Maybe I should dress up myself more mature.

I used to be interested about the rock'n roll and indie of America . I did not get some very new ,but the old ones like NIrvana ,Guns'n Roses and Bob Dylan . I don't think you are interested about them,  maybe your grandchildren be .
            (The recipient’s grandchild is a baby.)

Sometimes i talk with my friends by using poetry, just like, once, one of my friend asked me , how do you like me? I answered, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? That's really interesting.

I'm Betty, beautiful Betty.  I chose "Betty" as my English name, because of the word "better" in a powerful sentence "No best, only better". 

Maybe you can return (reply to) me in Chinese.  Well, I am kidding.  Aha.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Student E-mail Project: Serious Excerpts

In the student e-mail project mentioned in my previous post, some students asked more serious questions to their American recipients.  Quite a few e-mails asked for advice of some sort.  Others shared parts of their lives that were difficult, confusing, or happy.  Here are a few quotes from different student e-mails:

Having been working in the hospital for so long time ,  do you have some special understanding about life ?

Sometimes I feel lonely because when mum and dad go out I will be left alone. So I really cherish every friend and they bring me so much happiness. You have 7 sisters and brothers, right? How I wish I could have at least one brother or sister in my own family except my cousins!

I know you have two daughters. I would like to tell you that my cousin also have two children: one son and one daughter. They are very cute and I love to stay with them but they seem not to like me. Could you tell me how to get along well with them?

I know you are a high school math teacher, I want to know in your opinion, what are the most importent qualities to be a good teacher? 
            (This type of question was asked in many e-mails.)

As a Chinese ,  I obviously think my motherland great .  I wonder what China is like in the people's eyes who have no connection with China .

You said that you were a married woman in your 50s. Actually my mother is also in her 50s. She is a really diligent woman. She loves me and I love her. But sometimes I just feel that it is hard to communicate with her. Do you have the same problem with your daughter? How do you think I should deal with the problem?

The mutual affection between you and your husband impressed me very much.

My family is a little different from others. When I was 21 years old, my mother passed away. This year, my grandmother died. My family came to a plight. But we are still struggling for life. My two brothers are studying hard in High Middle School, my father is working in a Road-Repairing Brigade, and I’m studying English in Qufu Normal University.

Should friends share similar characteristics with you? Or should they have opposite ones? What’s your criteria for friends?

My brother is five years older than me ,which makes my birth illegal at that time according to the policy of birth control . I was born in June of 1989, when the policy is carried out very strictly. To save my life, my mother chooses the Caesarean operation nearly two month ahead of the expected date of my birth without any hesitation .So I survive in 29 babies. Then my mother gives me the name “YING” which means “victory” in Chinese. My Mum uses the name to remember my family’s victory in the special battle against the government.

I always wanting to know how the foreigners think of China. When I ask my foreign teachers, they always tell me like this: “ok! It is known that China has made a great progress and peoples’ life have improved a lot.” What I was told is that China plays a positive character in the national world. Is it true or do you relay think so? I watched a movie produced by BBC. It’s name was “the Chinese are coming”. It tells China’s influences in Africa. Mostly, it tells the bad influences. What do you think of china?

I know your students have special needs.  Are they self-pitied?  How do you encourage them if they are disappointed?

I've learned that American children are more independent than Chinese ones. Being curious about the way Americans bring up their children, I am wondering if you could tell me something about how you raise your children.

China is different from America in many aspects. Eastern culture emphasises modest, tolerant, indirect in talking and low-key. Chinese people are not good at expressing their feelings towards people around. Even to parents words like "I love you" are hardly to be heard. I know this is quite different from America, right? Most children in China do not want to live too far from their parents because they have a special affection to their hometowns and they also want to look after their  parents.

Do you have a boyfriend? I have ,but we don't meet very often,because we are not in the same province . Sometime, i am little pessimistic, i don't know how to be optimistic,and i also find it't difficult to deal with some troubles in love affair.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Student E-mail Project: Random Excerpts

This semester, my junior writing students did an e-mail exchange with my friends in America.  I've been meaning to pull out some quotes from their e-mails that struck me as cute, funny, or insightful.  Here I've collected some sweet quotes from a bunch of different student e-mails.  (More coming in the next two posts.)  Enjoy!

And I know that you will have a baby soon, so I want to say hello to him or her and hope he or she will be peacefully and healthily born.

Every time I play ping pang, I feel more than excited and happy.

I want to guide you to travel around China when you come here next time.

I also like to mention that I have a very nice boyfriend, who is very handsome and treats me very well. I hope we can marry after I graduate from my college as soon as possible, because we love each other very much.

I'm curious about your romantic story with your husband, such as how you met him, how you feel about him and how you are sure he is your Mr. Right.
            (This was a common line of questioning.)

My father and my mother are from two villages separated by a long and wide river. It is marvelous, isn’t it?

I feel amazing when I know you are a lawyer, because I think a lawyer is very cool.  I adore you because you represent poor people who can't afford to hire an attorney.  You are great! 
            (I think “adore” here means “admire.”)

I am a junior student who is always busy with reviewing and preparing lessons. 

I grew up in a village, Jining, Shandong province. The villager’s standard of living has been improved. Most of them live in the roomy house. There is more delicious food on the table. They start to pay attention to their appearance. Most of the young ladies make up, and dress as the way city women do. Recent years, most of them have a digital television and a washing machine in their house. Some villagers even have air-conditions or refrigerators.

About me, I want to tell you my 3 dreams. First, I like travelling very much.I want to travel over the big China, and then travel abroad, such as America, Russia, and Africa. Second, I am a crazy fan of soldiers who serve in the army. So I want to find a soldier boyfriend in the future. Third, I would try my best to learn English well. Then I can use this language to earn money and live a free life.

Life in my university is a little boring--- getting up early in the morning, having class all day and studying till 10 o’clock in the evening. I’m a junior student now and I am preparing for the postgraduate entrance examination now. It really gives me a great deal of pressure. But I can still take notice of what is happening in China and the whole world because of the micro-blog that I am interested recently. It is similar to Twitter in western countries. And this helps me to relax and prevent me from dropping behind in this occlusive city.

I’m Clover, and my Chinese name is Yuan Luqi. I like my English name because it stands for good luck. The meaning of my Chinese name is a little bit complex. It means people may come across many obstacles during his life time. My father chose this name for me without special expectation, he just state the truth. Thus, I hope the good luck that my English name brings me can make up the loss my Chinese name gives me.

Obviously, you love your daughter very much and you are a good mother. I wish to you joy and happiness.

I think languages are mysterious and miraculous, especially when I am in a foreign language world, it can always give me surprises.

Now I have a new dream that I'll own a restaurant(breakfast only) using all I plant and feed on my own farm.

I hope you can keep in touch with me and share your happiness and sorrow if you want.

I am 187CM tall and I like basketball very much.

I promise I will go to America to visit you in the near future. I'm afraid you will wait for four or five years, but maybe not so long.

When I watch American TV series and movies, I’m often confused about FBI, CIA and police, such as their authorities, their numbers, their influences on America’s life and who they responsible for. Could you tell me their differences and your impression about them? I hope this question won’t offend you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thoughts on Forgiveness

One of my former students recently contacted me to help her polish some application materials for grad school.  Let's call her Girl A.  I went through the paper she sent me, making small notes of grammar errors, spelling errors, wrong word choices, and confusing passages.  When I got to the end of the paper, the last line concluded the paper with a rather awkward English phrase that immediately caught my attention. I knew I had seen that strange wording before.

So I pulled up a different student's (Girl B's) personal statement, which I helped her edit in the fall.  The last sentence was exactly the same.  Then I read the papers side by side.  The title was the same.  The introduction had several identical sentences.  The conclusion was almost an exact copy.  In fact, with the exception of about two paragraphs, the papers were basically paraphrases of each other.  Plus, they both made claims that could only possibly be true for one of them (for example, each claiming the top score in a class they took together).

Grrr.  I am so sick of plagiarism, and of the notion that it's OK to cheat to get ahead.

I e-mailed both girls, pointing out the problem and reminding them that their future success in grad school depends on them being able to produce original work.

Within an hour, Girl B, the one I edited last semester, called me in tears.  She had no idea how this could have happened, and guessed that Girl A had sneakily copied the personal statement from her external hard drive, since they are roommates and good friends.  She didn't even know that another student had access to her paper.

Then I felt awful, and wondered if I had somehow inadvertently ruined a friendship.  I talked to Girl B about forgiving her friend, even though it wrong to steal the paper, and we talked about Jesus's teaching of "turning the other cheek."

Last night I got an e-mail from Girl A, the offender.  She briefly apologized, then said some things about how busy she had been and didn't have time to write the paper, and then she surprised me by trying to explain it all away.  She said she had once read her friend's personal statement a few months ago, and must have "unconsciously" remembered some of the beautiful phrases.  I looked at both papers side by side once again.  There is no possible way her story could be true.

Grrr.  I hate being lied to.

What has surprised me about this experience is how much I felt my annoyance mounting with each new offense.  By the end of last night, I hardly had a charitable thought in my heart toward this girl.  First you steal your friend's paper, then copy it, then waste my time editing it, then lie about it?  How dare you!

The truth is that Girl B had a much more gracious response than I did.  She agreed that she would try to forgive this girl, and said she didn't plan to tell other students because she didn't want to hurt her friend's reputation.

The truth is that I offend God more often and in more serious ways, and I come back with equally flimsy excuses.  And He still forgives me.  I am reminded of how great His love and patience is.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." -Colossians 3:13

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

T-Shirt Sightings

Family Shirts
Couple's Shirts
Chinglish Shirts

Monday, June 6, 2011

Department Trip to Ba Li Gou

We have a three-day weekend for Dragon Boat Festival, so our foreign languages department organized a trip to Henan province, to a place called Ba Li Gou ("the eight li long gorge").  Three of us foreign teachers joined about twenty-five of our Chinese colleagues and some of their family and friends.

Ba Li Gou seems to be relatively unknown -- most of my students hadn't heard of it -- but it was still swarming with tour buses, tour groups, hotels, and souvenir stands.  Tourists entered through the main gate, which led to about 5 or 6 kilometers of paved trails along the river bed and through the mountains.  At various intervals, there were snack stands, little stores, and cheesy tourist activities.  In our second day of "hiking" (walking with the crowd along the path), we were able to see a waterfall and climb up some cliff-side stairs to the top of the gorge.  China is suffering a serious drought which has sadly reduced most of the waterways to trickles, but it was still really pretty.

I had never taken a trip with a Chinese tour group before, and I'm guessing you haven't either, so here are a few things you can expect:
  • You will always know what's going on.  So will the other members of the tour, and so will the tour guide.  You will be given a detailed schedule and correct information about the accommodations and activities.
  • You will be mostly left on your own to explore.  Don't expect to be led around like a bunch of children.
  • The focus is on natural beauty, not on superfluous man-made additions.
  • Be prepared to spend some time in solitude, maybe with a good book in on the mountaintop or a nice picnic beside the water.  Take your time to stop and enjoy the surroundings, and relish the feeling of getting away from the crowds.
Haha!  I'm kidding, of course.  The Chinese tour group experience is the opposite of what I described above, but it's cheap and convenient, and it really suits the travel preferences of Chinese people even it feels a little quirky or oppressive to the average Westerner.  At one point I was standing with a Chinese colleague, surrounded by swarms of people both on the path and in the water, with our eardrums being assailed by two separate tour guides shouting into their microphones, and she turned to me and remarked quite genuinely, "Isn't it so nice to get away from the crowds and be in nature, breathing the fresh air."

Well, I hardly feel as if I "got away from the crowds," but I did have a great cultural experience with some pretty mountains and water to boot.  See below for pictures.

Upon arrival, our first activity was lunch at the hotel.  This is most of the group.

Tourist information, including this line: "First, the old, the young, the sick, the pregnant woman, the sot should be together with their keeper."  (Also, "In the evening, there are some hidden trouble, so entering is verboten.")

Everyone feels the need for a picture by the sign.  We're excited about our free matching hats from the tour company.

Cute travel companions

Dry river bed and undeterred tourists

More cute travel companions, with water guns

Bamboo rafts, wobbly stools, wimpy oars -- what's not to love?
We gave it a try and found it hard to maneuver the heavy raft with the little oars.  Plus, it was set up so you paddled upstream.  Perhaps I wouldn't recommend this particular activity.

"While appreciating the flower and trees please do not snap it."

Crystal's roommate, Crystal (fellow teacher), Mallary, Bernie (French teacher), another French teacher, and me.
A faint blue line on the cliffs ahead shows the stairs we'll climb later.
To the waterfall!

Inside the cave they installed behind the falls
The "cave" was a crowded "U" around the whole back of the falls.  The view out was very nice.
Behind the falls

To the top of the gorge!

Mallary and stairs

Tourist village at the top of the falls, with rose gardens

The elevator was broken (really), so we joined the crowds crawling down these narrow stone steps.  An exercise in patience.

Sleepy six hour bus ride home.