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So much to say! But let’s dive right in!

Ok, so first of all, I’m giving up on counting foreigners. There are simply too many of them at the tourist sites for me to keep track of. On the streets, though, there are very few, so I’m still a bit of a novelty for many people. Also, I’ve seen a surprising number of foreign children and pre-teens. I wonder what they think of China…

Second, Chinese people use abbreviations for EVERYTHING. A lot of important or interesting words are English, and the Chinese translation is too much work, so they use the initials. And half the time I have no idea what the people are talking about! For example, my host mom and sisters wanted to know “How much does LV cost in America?” What in the world is LV!? It’s Louis Vuitton, of course! But how am I to know?? So this just creates more vocab to learn.

I’ve figured that between the two of my host parents, there’s very little that can’t be done. My host mom can cook; my host dad swims and does long jump. My host mom can play mahjong; my host dad can play Chinese chess. Both can drive, both can speak the Suzhou dialect, and both are just all-around awesome people. And speaking of my host mom’s cooking, she’s so funny when we go to restaurants. If she sees something on the menu that she can make, she goes, “I make that better; we’re not ordering it here!” and that’s that. Gosh, I’m going to miss my host family so much! πŸ˜₯

Once again, something strange on the bus… A grown man with a yellow child’s bike. Why? No idea. But it was clearly too small for him and definitely had training wheels. In the words of Billy Joel, “Don’t ask me why.” Also, just this morning on my way to school, I was standing near an old man who I suddenly noticed was pointing at me and telling a lady something about how I don’t understand. Um, excuse me sir, but I KNOW you’re talking about me; I’m within earshot, and you’re POINTING. Haha. So I proudly announced that I do in fact understand Standard Mandarin, just not the Suzhou dialect. He and the woman started laughing, and they asked what country I was from and whether I was in Suzhou working or studying. I felt rather good about myself. πŸ™‚

This past Saturday, we visited the Suzhou Museum (θ‹ε·žεšη‰©ι¦†), a silk factory, and two of Suzhou’s famous gardens: the Lingering Garden (η•™ε›­) and the Garden of the Master of the Nets (η½‘εΈˆε›­). I preferred the second garden because it was less crowded, but both were gorgeous, and I have so many pictures! As for the museum, I thought that a lot of the artifacts were beautiful, but I usually prefer to listen to someone tell me about history or watch a movie, so I didn’t actually learn all too much. The silk factory was very intersting, though. We got to touch some silkworms and watch the workers boil and unravel the cocoons. The latter part made me mildly uncomfortable since the live larvae are still INSIDE the cocoons when they boil them, but I have video and pictures nonetheless. It’s a fascinating ancient art (though with the modern touch of machinery, of course).

Finally, to the title of this post. It’s a bit of philosophy our favorite tour guide David explained to us. Being an empty boat basically means that hurt comes from other human beings, but that they can only hurt you if you let them. For example, if you’re in your boat on a lake and an empty boat drifts over and bumps you, you might be a little annoyed, but you won’t be incredibly hurt or angry because it’s no one’s fault. But, if the boat is full of people, you’ll probably yell at them: “Hey! What are you doing!? Are you blind!?” So if everyone is an empty boat, we won’t hurt other people, and if we do, they won’t get so hurt. Of course there are certain situations where hurt is natural and justified, but the world is so full of unnecessarily angry people; the empty boat philosophy would do us all some good now and again, I think.