Let me first say that I made it to Beijing safe and sound. The soft sleeper was small after I had all my bags with me on my bunk, but I was able to fall asleep within about 30 minutes of our departure. I woke up with only a half hour till Beijing and just chilled out till our arrival. I took a Black Taxi (no meter) over to my hostel and got to negotiate the price. My handbook said it would take 120RMB to get to school (a short distance from here). The cab drive started at 150RMB but I was able to get the fair price of 100RMB after telling him that for 120RMB I would just use the Subway. I am really getting into bargaining. Walking away will almost always get you the price you want.
After I got to my hostel I enjoyed some better internet and a quick video chat with Pui. I also uploaded the rest of my pictures as well, but am still working on getting all the captions in order. Once my feet were a little rested I headed out for a bite to eat. There are a lot of foreign restaurants in this area, but I managed to find a more traditional style Chinese restaurant and ordered 清炒虾仁, a veggie oil cooked shrimp dish that was pretty tasty. After my meal I headed back to take a cruise down the streets of my new stomping grounds. I found a store that had fake crocs in my size and picked a pair up. Once my feet had some much needed relief I continued my adventure, heading back toward a movie theater that I had seen on the way in. My plan was to see 机器侠 (Robot Knight or Hero depending on how you translate) to pass the day away. When I got to the theater I found that the movie wasn't going to be starting until 5:40 P.M. so I headed over to a park and past the time by reading Detective Conan, a manga I picked up at one of the 便利店 (convenience stores in Shanghai). Once 5 rolled around I stumbled over to the movie theater, grabbed a quick snack and drink and headed inside. As in Taiwan, here in China you have to pick your seat before you get inside the theater. So I found my seat and hung out until the movie started. As the start time got closer I realized that it didn't matter where I sat because only about 5 people showed up to the movie. Once the movie stated, I found out why the attendance level was so low... the movie was awful. Bad slap stick humor, terrible special effects, and a laughable love story, but it was a break for my feet so I endured. I found myself being woken up by one of movie attendants, informing me that the movie was over and it was time to go. I felt really embarrassed, but probably not nearly as embarrassed as she was while she was poking me awake.
With the movie over I headed back to my place, stopping along the way for some 小吃 (street food). When I got back to the hostel one of my roommates was around 李雷 (pronounced Li Lei) and we passed the time chatting about anything and everything. Keeping the conversation strictly mandarin of course. We ended up passing the time very well, and next thing I knew it was 1:00 A.M. and time for bed.
Okay, so that brings everyone up the present, but I still need to talk about my last two days in Shanghai. So, let me back track a bit. On Wednesday I hung out for most of the mid morning and afternoon. I hung out in the Hostels restaurant chatting with Fanny and Johnny two of the employees. On Wednesday I was wearing my 我不是护士 (I'm not a nurse) shirt that I got from Sen Lin Hu, and when it was time to head out for the evening I was debating weather or not to change. I said forget it, and trudged out onto the local road. The second I was out of the hostel comfort zone, the starring started. For some reason Chinese people find it very funny to see anyone, especially foreigners wearing anything with Chinese characters on it. Everywhere I went people told me " I am not a nurse." I laughed, agreed and moved on. It was a great idea to wear that shirt because it drew me to interesting a new conversation.
Once I met up with 海马公主 (Seahorse Princess) we headed out on the town. Walk around and just catching up for about an hour. After our stomachs couldn't handle the urges anymore we headed into a nicely packed Chinese restaurant (always a good sign if the locals are eating there) for a bite to eat. Rather than try and guess our way through the menu we just asked the waitress to recommend a few dishes for us, and WOW did she sure pick them. We had a very spicy flat noodle dish, a Bac choi and mushroom dish and a seafood dish that had a variety of items: shrimp, squid, fish balls etc. After the meal we walked around for a bit longer and wound up back on the Famous People's shopping street. That day happened to be Chinese Valentine's Day which made everything that much more fun. People were selling flowers, fake flowers, and all other sorts of goodies to the young lovers that were out on the town. Since both of us were apart from our respective others we decided to pass the time by conducting a small experiment. As I mentioned in earlier blogs this year is my 本命年 (my birth year) which in Chinese tradition is suppose to bring you bad luck. I was told by a few people that you can combat this bad luck by wearing red underwear, sending yourself gifts (via your friends and family) and also wearing strings of red around your neck or wrist. I noticed that a lot of people out and about were wearing this red strings, I didn't check for the red underwear, so I wanted to find out if it was there 本命年 (birth year) as well. The first girl I approached was so freaked out by my interrogative style of questioning that she just shook her head with out muttering a word. My next target, an older women with her child, was a little more receptive, but she too was not born in the year of the ox. My third subject, a lady trying to sell roller shoes, was also not born in the year of the ox, but she wouldn't explain why she was wearing the red because she was too busy trying to sell her wears. My fourth and final subject was much more kind, I should also say that my question got better and better as time went on. I approached her by saying "excuse me, this is my birth year and today I have been having very bad luck. I see that you are wear a red string around your neck, are you also born in the year of the ox?" She explained that although some people wear these things for that reason, in fact everyone can wear the red string, simply because red is an auspicious color in China. I thanked her for the clarification and HMGZ and I headed on our way. We headed into a underground shopping market that sold lots of cheap goods, and it was a total blast. Everyone loved my t-shirt and it got us a lot of attention. I bought a few things (sorry I can't divulge the purchased item as it is a gift) and then headed off to the Bund for a street view of Downtown Shanghai.
Once we got to the Bund we headed over to 蘭 (Lan) an upscale bar in the heart of the Bund where we hungout on the roof top drinking watered down drink special mohitos, and enjoyed an okay view of the city. At about midnight, when the drink specials ended me and some hostel mates headed back home. I wanted to stop and grab another beer and a quick snack as a night cap so I ran into the local 可的 (a quick mart) and ran into a rather drunk, but very nice New Yorker, George, who invited me and my friends over to his place for a drink and a chat. My friends declined, but I decided to go for it and said sure. We hopped into his cab and over to a giant condo complex nearby. George, it turns out, works for DHL as a program director and is living in China for the next two years. He travels all around China working business deals for the American firm. He doesn't speak much Chinese, but as he likes to say 沒關係 (No problem), he does his deals by drinking beer, eating Chinese food, and singing bad english songs in KTV bars. We chatted for about an hour or so before I decided it was time to call it a night. I thanked him for his hospitality and headed back home for some much needed rest. On Thursday I took the morning easy, again giving my feet a much needed break. I chatted some more with Johnny and his friend Mr. Xie. We talked about Chinese past, and its modern development, about old poets and modern art. It was a real treat to hear about China from an older wiser generation, and they were appreciative of my knowledge of Confucius analects and Chinese history. After our chat I headed out for some shopping with my friend 杜金 (Du Jin) the first Chinese person I have met who doesn't have an English name. We passed the day chatting, eating, and doing a lot of window shopping. Near the end of our afternoon we headed to a fake market where I did some hard bargaining for a bag (okay it is a man purse) that I could use to carry the bare essentials while in China. The bidding opened at 480 RMB, and I walked about only pay 120 (about 16 USD). I still didn't get the best deal, but not bad for my first real hard bargaining of the trip. 杜金 taught me a few tricks of the trade, and some decent going rates for the basic items. After buying the bag it was time to get home and hang out before leaving to Beijing. I got home just before a heavy rainstorm and past the rest of the afternoon playing Monopoly in Chinese with some workers from the hostel. We drank a few beers and had a great time just chatting it up until my departure.
Well, that brings you guys up-to-date. I will be sure to keep the blogs coming, but now it is time to re-pack my stuff and begin my adventure as an official student in Beijing.
再見 (Goodbye) for now,
P.S. here is the link again for all my pictures, and there are a few videos as well.