Monday, 15 September 2008

Well THAT Was Random

So Sunday afternoon I set out with the intention of looking for a guitar. I hopped on a bus to the Science and Technology Museum and headed down to the subway level to look for the fabled market I had heard so much about. It was there. And it was a labyrinth.

I walked around in what felt like circles for quite a while. I only found ONE shop with musical instruments. I pulled a guitar off the shelf and gave it a strum, checked the tension on the strings, if the neck was straight, all that jazz. Seemed like a decent guitar but the strings certainly needed to be changed. Asked for a price. 1,200 yuan. Yessh. I put the guitar back and left without even trying to bargain. If the guy was starting that high the lowest I probably could have gotten him was around half that with a LOT of effort. I was not in the mood. Besides, Andrew (Charlotte's boyfriend) told me of a music shop he found in Puxi that he said he would give me the address for. I suppose that will be my next plan of action.

I was feeling a little hungry but didn't feel like going back to my apartment yet. I figured I would take the subway to Nanjing Road, get something quick to eat and maybe a bubble tea to drink, wander around a bit and then come home. I got off the subway at People's Square and just started walking in a random direction.

I couldn't have been walking more than 5 minutes before I heard "HELLO!" I thought it was just another person trying to sell me something or one of the people that just likes it when a foreigner says Hello and then they run away laughing. I looked up and it was two Chinese women under an umbrella. I said 'Hello' back and instead of them giggling at me, one of them said 'Where are you from?'. I told them. They asked a bunch of questions like why I was in China and I told them I was teaching and how old I was and where I went to college and why I could speak some Chinese. I found out they were from Harbin (of all places!) and they were visiting. There were two guys with them. One woman was in her mid-twenties I think, the other was still in high school. One guy was still in high school and the older guy was a taxi driver (and I think he was from Shanghai). We were talking and joking and I realized I was just following them since I had no plans to go anywhere in particular.

The whole experience was surreal. Somehow we ended up in a teahouse. We did a tea tasting and the high school guy translated anything I couldn't understand about what the woman was saying. I showed off that I knew the correct way to hold my tea cup and taste the tea (my class went on a tea tasting in the 2004 trip). The whole time all four of them were asking me questions about America and about me and about teaching and what I though of China and where I had been before and my family. After we were done having tea, the tea lady told me and the other two girls to pick out a container and which tea we liked best. I picked out a black container and the ginseng tea we had tried first. I am still unsure if I had to pay extra because of the tea or if I was just buying the container or what the deal was, but hey. It was good tea and a fun experience.

The lady also brought in a pee pee boy. For those who don't know, you soak a pee pee boy in cold water. Then, you can test your water to make sure it is hot enough to make tea by pouring it on his head. If it's hot enough, he will "pee" water everywhere. The other four didn't recognize it when she brought it out, but I knew well enough what it was and hid behind my purse. She said we could have two free pee pee boys. I tried repeatedly to get someone else to take them (I already have three at home and told them as such!) but the taxi driver just picked up the two, put them together as if making them a pair, handed me one and kept the other. He said that whenever he looked at his, he would think of me. The lady also gave us each a good luck charm.
Here is a picture of my fancy black container with ginseng tea, the green container my peepee boy came in, my pee pee boy, and the good luck charm (it has bells on it!). I think for the time being I will hang up the good luck charm in my cubicle since it looks so sad and bare.

After we left the teahouse, they asked me what I wanted to do next. I said I was hungry. I hadn't eaten for a while and the whole reason I went to Nanjing Road in the first place was to have something to eat. They asked if I minded if we all ate dinner together. I said of course not! We ended up going out for hot pot (I can't get enough hot pot). The place we went to was so crowded it was ridiculous. The restaurant was kind of set up like a forest with fake trees and giant mushroom things and fake rocks. We waited for like a half hour before we got a table.

The taxi driver guy bullied me (all in fun of course) to get a bottle of beer. If I don't like beer by the time I get back to America, I don't think I'll ever like it. Dinner was delicious of course. The new weird food for me for the evening was duck heart. Kind of tasted like liver. They taught me new Chinese words for things and asked me how to say somethings in English. Like ladle and kabob. I also corrected them and explained the difference when they thought drunk and hungover meant the same thing. When I told them I had never seen hot pot in America, the guy told me I should start up a hot pot restaurant when I went back home and he would come work for me. He also paid for dinner, which was very generous of him. I think I am beginning to understand. Splitting the cost of dinner isn't a usual occurrence. The person who does the inviting or organizing of the meal usually pays. Since he asked if we could all eat together, chose the restaurant and picked out all the food, he paid for dinner.
Here is a picture of all of us at dinner. The picture isn't the best, but the waitress couldn't seem to get my camera to work so no one (except me, apparently) was expecting the picture. After dinner, the woman said we should all go to the Bund, but I was tired and my poor footsies were hurting and I still had a long way to get home. I also knew I might have a webcam date with my parents (which I did!). We exchanged e-mail addresses and the high school guy gave me his phone number, we all had some hugs and then I went off on the subway.

Like I said, the whole experience was rather surreal. I mean, I decided to go to Nanjing Road cuz I was bored and hungry. No other reason. And if I had turned left out of the subway station instead of right, I never would have met them. Instead I had a fun and completely random adventure and met some new people. Of course I was cautious and careful since they were new people and I don't know anything about them, but I also don't want to let paranoia keep me from having some truly fun experiences I couldn't have anywhere else.
I took this picture while I was waiting for the bus. This is taken of the PuDong skyline looking down Century Avenue. First of all, I thought it just looked cool. Also, it is nearly impossible to see, but almost in the dead center of this picture is the tallest building in China. There was so much clouds/fog/whatever that all it is is a dark shadow. Below is a picture I found online of the building I am talking about. It's the financial capital building or something like that.
On my way home I got a text from mom saying she and dad were free to chat if I was. I set up my webcam when I got back to my apartment and talked to them for a while. They were both cooking stuff and they set up mom's computer on the table so it kind of felt like I was sitting at the kitchen table at home watching my parents cook. It made me very happy. I watched some Star Trek after I got offline and then went to bed.

I just got a phone call from Lloyd (one of the people I met on Monday), who invited me over for beers and swimming with some of the other people from the Monday group. I sadly turned him down as I am very sore and tired and smelly and my apartment is a wreck and I have papers to grade. I told him to please keep me in mind the next time they got together and maybe I would be "less lame". The phone call made me very happy though. I couldn't tell if they liked me or not, so I am going to take a second invitation to hang out as a good sign.

Anyway, I am double posting in one day again and this is very long so I am going to finish up before I get boring (if I haven't already!).

Much love,


Micah said...

Hoho, you went to Daimei 傣妹 for hotpot. It's a chain hotpot restaurant and all of them are decorated like that. Definitely the cheapest hotpot in town, my wife and I used to go there all the time when we were poor and dating. Now we've moved out to Pudong and there are no Daimei out here :(

It's good be on your guard when random people talk with you. Teahouses are notorious for being the scene of tourist scams...

Savannah said...

Wow! It is pretty random to meet people like that. Over one justs randomly talk to foreigners, at least I know I don't! Well im glad to see your meeting new people! I also love that picture of the city its beautiful! It was sad to not see you at grandpas party though :( But you were with us in spirit! Miss you cuz!!

Leila said...

So I have to ask -- what is hot pot?


Stephanie in Shanghai said...

Whoops! I forgot to explain what hot pot is.

Hot pot is where you have a bowl of hot broth and you put different things (like vegetables, meat, seafood, noodles, etc) inside the broth to cook. I have seen everything from individual bowls over a small butane fire to restaurants that have a special table with a giant shared bowl inside of the table that is heated from below. Traditional hotpot has a large fluted metal container in the middle filled with coals to keep the broth hot.
Some will have a bowl that is half spicy broth and half not spicy, or will have an inner bowl with spicy broth while the larger outer bowl is not spicy.

If you want to know more, the Wiki article is pretty good.