01.08.2010 98 °F
What a weekend. Let's start with Friday afternoon. Chloe, Mikaela, and I had quite the adventure with changing money and fixing Chloe's phone. A few days before that, we had gone to the bank to change money for her, and she had tried to use her driver's license, but they wouldn't use it. They said they needed her passport, which was annoying, since Lao Shi still has ours for Shanghai (we need them for the hotels, apparently). The volunteers told us that she could do it with a copy of her passport, which we had, so we tried that on Friday. No dice. We needed the real thing. So we went over to the phone store to add money to her phone and she tried to use a Visa card, which they wouldn't take. So we had to go back to the school, find Lao Shi, get her passport, and start the whole trip over again. This was all during sports time, and after we had finished those errands, we had some time left, and headed across the street to see the Gucci mall that just opened. While we were waiting for a walk signal, a white woman came up and asked where we were from. She was from Canada (Ottawa, I asked). We walked together for a while. She was as excited to meet us as we were to meet her (for once). She's been in China for a year teaching preschoolers. We wandered around the Gucci mall for a while after we parted ways. It was nice and air-conditioned inside, which was spectacular because the weather here is beyond hot and humid. Our Canadian friend told us that there is a foreign foods place downstairs, but the problem is that there is no way to get downstairs, so we didn't get to see what was there. Then we decided to try finding a different bus stop, instead of walking all the way back to school. That didn't work, though. We ended up having to go back, anyways.
On Saturday, we had a free day, theoretically to spend with our families. A lot of people's families were like mine, though, which meant that the parents were at work and the siblings were at lessons, so we all met up at Dinosaur Land. Chloe and I took a cab together successfully, mostly because my sister had written a note for the driver. We spent most of the day there. I left at 5:30 but a lot of people stayed later. It was a fun day, even though the rides weren't very good and the lines were incredibly long. They probably averaged an hour and a half. For those considering going to amusement parks in China: push back. Chinese people, or at least the ones there, are incredibly rude as far as lines go. I've been shoved out of the way at the bus stop when I was lining up to get on, but that was nothing compared to this. First, a group of people lifted four or five children over the fence right in front of us. They got chewed out. We got a translation because some of the younger host siblings didn't have lessons and had come with us. At one point, a group of people wanted to get by us and cut in front of us in line. Joseph positioned himself carefully to block them and shouted "Nuh-uh!" But the woman behind him kept pounding on his back and shoving. She knocked him out of the way and bowled through the rest of us, since we weren't prepared, and a dozen people followed her. We were pretty mad. We laughed at JoJo, though, for his method of stopping her. His explanation was, "Yeah, nuh-uh! I thought that was universal. Apparently not." That was the worst it got. Over the course of the day, we all improved in our ability to block line-jumpers. We also leaned how much the Chinese love drama. A man who had left the line to get drinks started shouting at the guard who wouldn't let him back in. By the end, two guards were working on calming him down. He was making a huge scene. I would have been embarassed to be with him, but his wife was getting into it, too. She had stayed in line holding their place. Their poor son looked miserable, though. Anyways, everyone was watching this go down. I've never heard so many people be so quiet. The only other voice was Luke's host brother explaining what was happening in English. He was disappointed when it ended. It was almost like a real-life TV drama. I must admit, it was pretty interesting. When I went home, I had a bit of an adventure, because I had to take a cab by myself. He got me to my apartment and I checked the red numbers, which said 9 kuai. I know that they charge one additional kuai, which would make it ten. I handed him two fives and waited for my receipt. Instead of giving it to me, however, he said, "si kuai." I couldn't tell if he meant four or ten, because some people around here have an accent that makes the word for ten sound like the word for four. I was confused and couldn't understand the rest of his sentence, so I pointed to the price and said, "shi kuai" and pointed to the money and said "shi kuai." Ten kuai for both. We argued like that for a good couple of minutes before he said something else. I only caught "xia che" which I know means "get out of the car." Based on his tone, the whole sentence was something like, "Forget it, just get the hell out of my car." I explained it to my host sister. We agree that he was probably trying to overcharge me. I think it's funny that I don't speak enough Chinese to get ripped off.
Sunday, we went to Yan Cheng, which is another theme park, but it also includes cool things about Confucianism and an old city (which you can't get into without buying another ticket :/). Mikaela and I spent a while wandering around the park and seeing the old architecture and things (my camara died, but she promises to share pictures). We bought some souveniers and gifts, and had some fun conversations about us being Americans. (A lot of people respond to that with something to the effect of, "Ah, wonderful country." Joseph says thank you when they say that.) Eventually we headed to the rides. They were more fun than the ones at Dinosaur Land and there really weren't any lines. Most people had already ridden a bunch, so Mikaela and I rode with just the two of us. It was a fun day. We had a good lunch, and then went to a museum about ancient Chinese things. It was pretty interesting, but I have no idea what it was called. While we were there, Joseph proved me wrong. I had heard that if you lick someone's elbow while they aren't paying attention, they won't notice. I thought that was a lie. Apparently it works. Mikaela and I got done with some time to kill, so we wandered around the shops next to the museum (there was a little courtyard). They were all too expensive for us to buy at, but we saw some beautiful 7000 yuan paintings and scrolls. When we walked out of one of them, we saw our bus pulling away with everyone waving at us through the windows. We knew they wouldn't leave, but just for the heck of it, we chased them for a few yards. Then we drove twenty minutes to a beautiful lake, where we got out, walked along the edge for ten minutes, got back on the bus, and left. I still don't understand. When we got home, I went out to dinner with my host family and a family friend who I've met once before. She doesn't speak a lick of English (to quote Luke) but she's very smiley and sweet. I tried a bunch of things there that didn't freak me out, but in hindsight, probably would have a few weeks ago. Sea snails and mystery meat (according to my sister, "it is like the frog, but not frog"). They were really good. I also got lamb for the first time since I've been here, and it was delicious. Yum.
Today, we had our characters test. I studied hard all weekend, and I got all of them. Now I need to learn two new sections for tomorrow. I think I have about 25 characters that I don't know. I worked on them during the movie. Today it was the new Karate Kid, with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. We haven't gotten far, but it's pretty good. Very fun. If you want to know about my experience in China, watch the first twenty minutes of that movie. It is so accurate! I have a new appreciation for it. After this, we're going to have a photo scavenger hunt. We'll be split into teams, and the lists are all in characters. I don't know my team yet, but I know I'm not with Mikaela, Paul, or Julie Ann, all of whom I wanted in my group. Oh well. I guess I'll deal. It should be fun either way. And on Thursday we're headed down to Shanghai for the World Expo! I'm so excited. More tomorrow! Zai jian.