Off to Baoding

Tomorrow, Friday January 20, we’re off to Baoding for the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year or some sort of New Year.  It’s just another day to me, but it’s a HUGE deal to the Chinese.

The news is plastered with stories of people trying to buy train tickets.  Good luck.  It’s madness.  Many people go “home” once a year to see their kids so I wonder why they ever had kids.  Are you a parent if you’re never there to be a parent?  I understand having to make money, but why have kids if you can’t enjoy them.  Or maybe it’s not in the Chinese psyche to enjoy children.  This is one weird place or perhaps I’ve mentioned that before.

Some will get standing room tickets so they’ll stand in the aisles for hours and hours while the people sitting down can look up at them.  How depressing.  If I could be a fly on the wall, that’s not the wall I’d be a fly on.  I’m so glad we’re flying to Baoding.  It’s the same price as the high-speed train and I can’t handle the 12+ hour low-speed train.  If you but a train ticket you can only do it about 11 days in advance.  With a plane ticket, you can buy it anytime.  That works for us.

We will be staying in the only 5-star hotel in Baoding.  Why not stay with Shujie’s son at the apartment?  Because there is no heat.  He paid for heat last winter and it didn’t work worth a damn.  So he decided to save his money.  He has a heater in his room and all he does is work, watch wrestling, and sleep.  He can stay in his room.  He doesn’t eat at home.  We don’t want to stay at her mother’s (close quarters, shower on top of toilet), so it’s the hotel life for us.  Hooray for me!

There is a new hotel that’s close to her mother.  It’s cheap.  It’s new so it will be clean.  We’re not staying there.  Why?  Because they don’t have their license yet to have foreign customers, so I can’t stay there.  Don’t ask.  It’s a big chain and we can stay at another of their franchises pretty far away so I can’t figure out why a chain’s license doesn’t cover all it’s franchises.  I won’t even try to understand.

Shujie’s friend tried to get us a discount at a 4-star hotel that used to be “the place” in Baoding until the 5-star came along.  The discount was so-so.  You can phone and negotiate but you’ll get farther if you negotiate in person.  She then went to the 5-star and got us a good rate, so that’s where we’re going.  At least I’ll have a nice bathroom for 6 nights.  And it will be warm.  And taxi’s should be easy to get since they’ll come to the hotel or we can get the hotel to get us one.  This works for me.

Shujie’s younger brother and his wife won’t be there.  He had surgery yesterday and all is fine, but he’s been advised to not travel.  He will be missed by all.  Of course, by her family because he’s a pleasant person, and by me because he’s pleasant and speaks English.  His son (about 17) will be there representing the family and he’s a good kid so it will be nice to see him.

We will be dispersing the “lucky money”.  At New Year’s you give money to young relatives who are not yet working.  So Steven will get lucky money as he’s a student and Qi Ji will get it too.  He works but he rates since he’s Shujie’s son.  She asked me for x amount to give them and I asked her if she’d like to give more.  It’s nice that she respects it’s our money, but I respect that it’s her son and a good son at that.  So he got bumped up which is fine with me.

Her mother has been on the prowl for restaurants to take me to.  I told Shujie to tell her mother to not worry about me.  Shujie says it’s easier to say nothing and deal with it then.  I am not going to a Western restaurant because they’re lousy and they’re not really Western.  I’d rather go Chinese.  I can get fried rice at the least, and there is a good chance I can get black pepper steak.  Then I’m happy and everyone can eat what they like.  And they don’t have to worry about me because they’ll see I’m eating.

Other that family hanging out, I don’t know what else is planned.  Perhaps we’ll visit some of Shujie’s friends and that’s fine.  We’re there for her and it doesn’t put me out to tag along.  If she has a good time, then I’m happy.  And I have my nephew to talk to although I’m sure I’ll run out of things to say.

The DVD stores in Jurong are awful so hopefully we can visit some in Baoding.  Baoding is bigger so perhaps they’ll have some new movies.  I’d like that.  I’d love to go to a movie theatre.  They don’t’ get much in Nanjing to go and see.  And buying a DVD is cheaper than renting one.  Are they legal?  Is the Pope Jewish?

We return next Thursday (the 26th) and then we’re off to Shanghai on the 29th to sleep for an early morning departure to Thailand.  I can hear that warm weather calling me.  I still know nothing of Thailand so I don’t know what I should be excited about besides not being cold.  I hope the hotels are not total dumps.  I’m sure the tour food is worse than garbage but I don’t care.  I can have fruit and find a restaurant for dinner.

Five-week vacations are expensive.  When you work, you don’t have time to spend money.  When you’re on vacation you have nothing to do except spend money.  I’ve never had a vacation of this length before.  It’s kind of weird.

Shujie emailed my resume to her friend in Baoding who is going to try and find me a job at the University there.  We shall see.  I’ll start looking for next September after the vacation.  I know the Chinese do things at the last minute, but I’m hoping a good school likes to have a plan in place and is hiring early.

This school would like me to come back and I’m flattered.  I’m not coming back here.  I want more advanced students.  I don’t think I’ll be able to top the kindness and assistance of Wang Jing and I will miss her greatly.  But it will be on to new challenges.

I have started to wonder if I should have become a teacher when I was younger.  The truthful answer is “I don’t know”.  Everything has a time and place and maybe this is my time and place for teaching.

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