11.01.2008 - 11.02.2008 60 °F
Halloween was wonderful--the Irish pub turned out to be a favorite of local expats and everyone (but us) was in costume and dancing the night away. We even managed to convince Jouny, a young Finnish guy from our hostel who was previously spending the night peeling labels off his beer bottles, to come with us as well.
At the pub I watched my first match of International Rules Football with Australia vs. Ireland (Ireland won). It's such an odd mix of games and one of the best sporting events I've ever watched. Unfortunately, it's only played about once a year. Jouny challenged me (and many others) to a game of pool. I am a notoriously and embarrassingly bad pool player. Somehow (was it all the cheating?) I managed to beat him.
The pub was just fantastic with great Irish Pub food (Bangers and Mash!!). We were going to leave early, because red-headed Irish Barry had an early flight, but the fates had other plans. We tried unsuccessfully to leave twice and both times were kicked out of the cabs when the cabbies didn't know where to take us. So we took it as a sign and went back inside. We ended up drinking, dancing and playing pool until 3am. When we DID leave, we caught a cab in less than a minute and the cabbie knew exactly where to go AND spoke some English--coincidence? I think not.
The next day I went to the Summer Palace. It's much more expansive than I expected and kind of like a big maze. I wandered about after discovering it was near to impossible to navigate with a map. There was no way to ever be sure you were heading towards any one thing. I had an earpiece that gave audio tour info in English. Whenever I was close to something it would activate and start talking. The problem was that it would activate and I'd be surrounded by trees and have no idea where the thing it was talking about was. I found myself climbing down hillsides and through bushes more than once in a frantic attempt to find the 'point of interest' before the audio tour stopped talking. How do I always get myself in these situations?
Eventually I left early having seen only about 1/3 or 1/2 of the Palace. I was hungry, tired and annoyed with the tour groups and didn't want that to be my memory of the Palace. But one funny thing did happen when I got there. I was looking kind of a mess, it was windy and my hair was all disheveled, I had on my sunglasses, and a scarf and hoodie sweatshirt with the audio tour earpiece hanging down my neck and my ratty army green messenger bag on my shoulder. Suddenly, two Chinese girls, maybe 15 or so, chased me down, so excited they were giddy and almost crying, asking if they could take a picture with me. I said okay, frankly having NO idea what was going on, and they drug me over to some statue where we all gave the Peace sign and took multiple photos. Then, OTHER people nearby started taking photos of me and the girls, thinking I was someone important. I had to finally say, "Okay no more! Thanks!" and walk away. I have NO idea who they thought I was but I certainly walked around like a movie star for the next 30 minutes or so. Even when the sun went away, I kept those sunglasses on baby.
When I got back to the hostel I ordered some pizza and had dinner with Luis and Dennis. I ate half before I was full and tried to pawn the rest off on the boys but they wouldn't take it. So I went to the computers and got online. The guy next to me tapped my arm and asked, "Hey, I saw you got the pizza here, is it any good? Cuz I was thinking about getting it but, you know, Western food in China can suck sometimes." I walked over to my table, grabbed the half pizza and gave it to him. And that's how I met Brian.
He's from Alabama, been living in Suzhou for a year and half and works as an electrical engineer. I had to leave right after I gave him the food but later I spent the whole night talking to him and Nick, from Switzerland. Oh, wanna know how I met Nick? I sat on the couch across from his to read, he offered me chocolate, then later we got to the whole, "Oh yeah, my name is...". I love hostels.
Last night I went to see Beijing Opera with Luis. It was marvelous if a bit long and boring, at times. We got to watch the actors apply their makeup before the show and it reminded me of Kabuki. On the ride back to the hostel I sat next to this Swiss woman in the van. She travels the world, very posh like, and when she heard a French song come over the radio nothing could stop her from singing and dancing in her seat. And then I got involved and she gave me an impromptu French lesson. I learned all the words to the chorus, we laughed our heads off, and then I turned bright red when the driver pressed repeat and indicated he'd like me to sing it again.
This morning was breakfast with Brian and Nick and a visit to Mr. Mao's dead body. There was a LONG line and they kept announcing you couldn't bring in cameras. I didn't want to check mine so I decided to try the "Oh my God! I can't believe I forgot!" method and get in anyways.
It worked like a charm. They found the camera and I started, "Oh sh*t! Oh my God! I can't believe I forgot!...." The woman took me to the side and was going to make me leave the line, go across the street, pay to check it, and start back at the end of the line.
That is until I started making a scene with how confused and upset I was.
The Chinese hate to "lose face" in public so this woman pulled me to the side, motioned I should remove the battery and memory card then shushed me to calm me down and said, "Jus no picshuz, okay?"
Mao's body looked like wax. That's really all I have to say about that. Oh and there were all these flowers people left for him that they purchased out front. All I could think was, "Bet they sell the same flowers again tomorrow". I'm glad I saw it--all 5 minutes of it--but it was weird.
After, Brian and I wandered around til he had to leave. We'd had this plan to find a Chinese college aged boy or younger girl and ask if WE could take a picture with THEM, just to see what they would do but we forgot about it until we got back to the hostel. I said, "Oh well, we'll have to wait til next time". Brian's response? "No, this can't wait. It's gotta be now. The bricklayer outside. Come on."
So, he pretended his father was a bricklayer and that's why he was so enthralled with this man's bricklaying abilities and now I have a picture with a Chinese bricklayer. We hung around a few minutes longer, 'admiring' his handy work to thank him.
Tonight I go to the Olympic sites and maybe the night market where they sell gross things on sticks to eat and where I'll try to work up the courage to eat something that should never be eaten--fried or not.