Monday, October 02, 2006

The Scoop

Well, here it is October 2nd. In case you missed it, yesterday was October 1st, China's National Day. Here are a few things that happened to me...

I was originally supposed to be gone on this day so plans had been made for Sunday morning's gathering and those plans did not involve me. Since I wouldn't be missed, I decided to go to the medical school to see some people I hadn't seen in a month and take part in their gathering instead. Well, much to my surprise (even though it shouldn't have been), when I got to the bus stop outside our school gate there were more than the usual 10 people waiting there. Instead, there were about 300. Now, you should know that my school is near the edge of town and near the end of the #5 bus line. So when the bus comes by our school it's usually almost empty. Well on this fine holiday morning, every bus that came by was packed to the gills. I thought I'd been on some crowded buses in China before, but nothing compares to the bus I was on yesterday. I had to let 6 buses pass by before there was one that I was quick enough to get on. Two of those six buses wouldn't even open the door, there wasn't any room and the driver was only letting people off. After I managed to get on, I only got about two millimeters past the door. I was smashed against it when we took off. At the next stop a few people got off, so everyone moved in about 3 feet and about 10 more people got in behind me. At this point I was wedged against the driver's seat and her stick shift was wedged into the back of my leg. After lots of yelling on her part and some manuevering on my part that involved me standing on my tiptoes for 10 minutes, she was able to put the thing in gear and get us moving. Usually it takes about 30 minutes from getting to the bus stop to getting to the medical school. This time, due to traffic and playing human Tetris when getting onto the bus, it took about 50 minutes. I was only 10 minutes late, but that was okay. Nothing ever starts on time in China, anyway. It turns out that all of those people were headed to Lu Yan, the square in the middle of town. I guess there was a big party going on for the holiday. I also spied a bunch of stores with large holiday sales drawing large holiday crowds. All I know is that when we got to Lu Yan about 200 people got off the bus and left 10 really squished people on it, myself included.

The next exciting thing was at lunch. I went back to my school to eat at Happy Guy's for lunch. We hung out and talked and had a good old time. I was carrying a bag of Kenya coffee from Starbucks (mmmmmmmmmm...) that Andrew and Jaime had ground up for me that morning, so he was asking if we could drink some. Well, this stuff isn't that instant coffee he gave me a few days ago. That stuff just dissolves into your water and you stir and drink. So I went to my apartment to get my French press mug so we wouldn't have to pick the coffee grinds out of our teeth. Three things I learned: 1) Happy Guy only likes wimpy instant coffee, not bold Starbucks coffee 2) A French press can actually make 3 manageable batches of coffee before you have to change the grinds 3) Drinking three big mugs of coffee actually makes me sleepier. Anyhoo, after gorging on coffee at Happy Guy's he wanted to take me out on his motorcycle. Sure, why not? Don't worry, mom. I had a helmet (nice and pink), we were going outside of town where the traffic is lighter, and we only crossed into oncoming traffic once or twice. I have to wonder what people were thinking when they saw big ol' me riding behind him on that bike, though. That the world was ending, probably. Anyhoo, we rode about 20 minutes out to his sister's store where she sells liquor. Now, this isn't like your American liquor stores with the cases of Bud and bottles of wine. This place had huge urns that could have held two or three of me in them, filled to the brim with various liquors. Plus there was a nice selection of things that you could drop into your bottle and let soak. Things such as dried lizards and snakes, different mushrooms and leaves, starfish, and some other things that I really couldn't identify. I guess anyone who buys beer out of large urns like that is probably too drunk to notice the lizard in their bottle. After checking out the store, visiting Happy Guy's sister, and being stared at by the neighbors, we headed back to the school and hung out for a bit longer. By then it was 4:30 and customers were beginning to trickle in for dinner. I said my farewells and headed back to my apartment for the evening. The rest of my holiday was spent reading, watching Superman Returns (I give it a B- or C+, almost totally due to the lack of dialogue), and listening to the sounds of fireworks and freshman military training. I guess they didn't get the day off.

Today I went to the medical school to eat lunch with a student named Orange and some of her friends. We ended up having hot pot in their dorm room. If you don't know what hot pot is, you're missing out. It's the Chinese dish with the most potential to either be incredibly great or to make your intestinal tract come out of its own accord and strangle you for eating it. There's a pot (obvious) which is full of a broth of sorts. You set the pot over a fire (the hot part of "hot pot"), set it to boiling, and proceed to add whatever it is you want to add. I've seen hot pot with an entire chicken chopped up and tossed right in, fish, tofu, seaweed, and lots of other things. This one was good ol' vegetables. Potato, lotus root, tomato, noodles, mushrooms... basically everything that's safe in hot pot. The downside of hot pot, not matter how good it tastes, is that it can take days to eat one meal. Not really days, but hours. Today it took from 12 to 3:30. I thought it was never going to end and that I was going to be forced to eat more potatoes and dumplings and whatever else until I popped like a balloon. A balloon full of guts and hot pot. But it did end and we did leave and walk around campus for an hour to let our food settle. Then we parted ways and I came home. I pretty much figured I would never eat again.

At some point after 6:30, my friend Laura called and said I should come visit her and Thomas in Shanghai. Finally someone to travel and spend my holiday with! They couldn't travel because she had an emergency appendectomy a few days ago, but I could go hang out with them and they could ride me around Shanghai a bit to see some sights. Well, I called the train station (actually, I had a Chinese friend call) and there are no more tickets to Shanghai for tomorrow. I would have to stand for the entire 22 1/2 hour train if I wanted to go. Hmmmmmmm, let me think about it... nah. I would have gotten there Wednesday morning and had to leave again Friday afternoon because I have to teach a class Sunday to make up for missing class during the holiday. (That's an entirely other story that I don't want to go into because it's basically about me not understanding why we have to make up a missed class due to holiday.) I'll have other chances to go visit them and see Shanghai. Right now I'll just plan on staying here and enjoying the chance to play ping pong and badminton whenever I want.

Well, that's all for today. Tomorrow is another day and is sure to have its own surprises.


Grams said...

You forgot to mention that it is also Billy's birthday -- an occurance that I'm sure most Chinese will consider almost as important as yours :)) Sounds like everything is normal in China!!

Tony said...

do they make sweet hotpots too?

Tony said...

oh! and do you know a guy named Joel Boone? He lives up here and goes to "meetings" with cooper. He says he knows billy and michael! just wondering, see ya dude!

ladybug said...

wow....very interesting abd busy day. I'm glad you enjoy playing's a fun sport! :-D