It seems a new fashion statement is sweeping the country of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the Hundred Flowers Campaign. This probably will not lead to mass starvation, the closing of schools, the ratting out of your neighbours and so forth, but will nevertheless be remembered for as long as we remember the great Emporer Pu Yi.
Actually this bizarre fellow was found outside the North Exit of the South Beijing Railway Station as we waited for Shujie’s friend to arrive to pick us up. Shujie said that she hadn’t seen anyone wear a watermelon head before and I wondered if they were some mistaken knockoff of the Green Bay Cheeseheads.
Our day (Friday) began with a big surprise. We woke up on our own at 6:30. No music. No noise. What happened? It was raining so there were no exercises. Great idea! I hope every day is a rain day from now on.
Our trip to Baoding was uneventful which I suppose is good. First came the 1 hour and 10 minute bus ride to Nanjing with lots of horn honking and people speaking too loudly on the bus. This is one noisy nation. Then the Nanjing train station is brand new and spotless. You can find a HagenDaaz, a KFC, a McDonalds and other delectable treats from the Western nations.
We boarded our high-speed train and the trip was less than 4 hours. The train travelled at approximately 300KPH. The seats were comfortable and because it’s reasonably expensive you don’t get the lowlifes you’ll find on the buses (okay, I’m a snob). It beats an 11-hour train ride and we’ll do this method again.
Here’s a picture of me on alert during this train ride. Someone has to make sure everything is going smoothly.
We arrived in Beijing at about 3PM. I felt like a coffee. As we entered the concourse there was a green sign for a coffee shop and my first thought was “Starbucks”. However, I looked again and it was SPR coffee. This is quite popular in Asia. You make your coffee shop look like Starbucks and sometimes even give it a close name like “Starbacks” or something like that. I ordered something they didn’t have on the menu so I was out of luck. They didn’t sell just regular coffee. Latte, cappuccino, mocha, Americano, whatever but no regular coffee. I made do with cappuccino.
Shujie’s friend wasn’t at the station yet since they (she was coming with 2 friends) didn’t account for the heavy traffic that is to be expected on a very long weekend. Then they called that they were at the station and we told them where we were. 90 minutes later they arrived. Don’t ask me. Apparently it’s very difficult to find your way around the station when driving. I thought it was kind of absurd but they were doing us a favour.
The ride to Baoding was about 2 hours and I floated in and out of sleep. When we arrived QiJi (Shujie’s son) was downstairs to meet us and carry up the heavy suitcase with many things that Shujie wanted to leave here. It was nice to see them together again.
We came up to the apartment and to say it was disgusting would be a compliment. Shujie always kept this place very clean but I don’t think it had been cleaned since she was here last year. The grime on things was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The dust had dust on it. The place smelled dirty. Shujie was upset by this and rightfully so. She made excuses for QiJi such as he works long hours but I just thought it was wrong. How do people live like that? He’s a good kid so this really doesn’t fit in.
Shujie had a terrible night and barely slept because she was so bothered by the state of things. It was such a disaster you wouldn’t know where to start to clean up. She said she would get cleaners in, in the morning and she did. They were here about 10 and left 3 hours later. There were 3 of them. Housecleaners here are different than the west. They do the floors and the walls and wash the outside of things. They don’t really dust. It’s weird but the result is a wonderful improvement and we don’t feel like we’re in a garbage dump anymore.
We went out to eat last night at a barbeque place so I was glad. I ate a lot like I always do at these places. It’s better than McDonalds, KFC, or Pizza Hut so I’m a happy camper.
Today we did basically nothing. We had to be here while the cleaners were here since in China you can’t live them alone or they’ll rob you blind. This is what Shujie told me. After they left we visited QiJi at work since Shujie had never been there. The streets were packed and noisy as it’s the start of the National Holiday. From there we went to the supermarket to pick up a few things like soap (It comes in handy) and fruit and soda. So we’re set.
We returned to the apartment and went out again tonight for dinner with Shujie’s good friend, her friend, and Qiji. Her friend suggested Pizza Hut but I said no. I keep telling Shujie that I don’t want any allowances made for me when it comes to food. I’ll either eat or if I detest everything I can get McDonald’s later. We ate Chinese and I had beef with black pepper sauce which I love. So if all restaurants have that (and I’m told they do) then I’m okay. I also had lamb ribs which I could eat. It was very nice and the questions I was asked were interesting. What’s always interesting is when you start thinking about why you use one word instead of another. Yesterday in the car ride to Baoding Shujie asked me what I thought of her friends’ looks. I said she was cute. Tonight they wanted to know why I said cute and not beautiful or pretty and I got to thinking about it. All I could come up with was that cute is usually used for someone who is small in stature and this woman is small. It’s quite interesting thinking about the words we use.
I’m not sure what tomorrow holds but I believe we’ll visit with her older brother and his wife. Shujie isn’t as close with her older brother as she is with her younger brother but he seems quite nice and is very kind to me. His English vocabulary is about 5 to 10 words so conversation is a little stilted.
One of the problems I have here as an extraordinarily handsome man is fighting off the woman. Here’s a picture of me with 2 of them that wouldn’t leave me alone until they could have a picture taken with me. Ah, it’s tough being gorgeous.