Beijing was beautiful, hipster, and oh so relaxing. Spent the last day in town hitting up tourist attractions and eating copious amounts of dumplings. Mid-afternoon it was off to the airport to meet up with 23 Drake graduates, all in China to teach English for a year. We boarded a charter bus for a 4 hour drive to Shijiazuang. We stopped twice for the bus driver to smoke, the last of which was 15 minutes away from our destination. The rest stop resembled downtown Las Vegas (less the gambling): smoky, lit up and bumbling with noise, in this case the same Chinese Pop song playing on repeat.
If Beijing is a Lexus, Shijiazhuang is definitely a YuGo. While our hotel is westernized, I’ve stayed in cleaner motels. After a 4 hour bus ride cramped with luggage, beer and meat seemed like the only cure, so after dropping things in our room, C and I headed out with a group to dine al fresca: TsingTao’s all around, lamb on a stick, noodles, sheep intestine, did I mention TsingTao’s?
The next day it was early to rise for a trip to the bank and the “Future” Mall. It took 2 hours to exchange money while The Bank of China did a copious inspection of every American bill. I spent my time on the street people watching and waving to Chinese children, many who were seeing white people for the first time. You could spot good parents, who encouraged their kids to wave and say “hello” and others who stood alongside their tykes staring aimlessly. The mall reminded me of an even classier Frontenac (see also: out of my price range).
Saturday afternoon and this morning was spent in Chinese Language classes. I’ve now got about 3000% more Mandarin in my vocabulary and will be able to interact with the curious little children.
Today after lunch, D + C + myself shipped off to an electronics market. Counterfeit everything (or “legitimate” products at rock bottom prices). Being white came with high prices and lots of stares. Our bargaining skills were warmed up, and some of the Chinese we had learned earlier in the day was shelled out. When the woman said 5 yuan … I exclaimed it back to her, excited to have understood she said. D and C both bought something but I left purchase free. D didn’t think I was quite in the spirit of things – but my mother would have been proud – I just dont’ have the palette for cheap stuff.
Tomorrow is the day everyone has NOT been waiting for: the home-stay. Heading off to the home of a Chinese family. I can’t wait to show off my new Mandarin skills and indulge them with Starburst candy. I’m sure the next update will come with great stories.