So I spent this past weekend in Nanjing. I finally left Shanghai!
At first I was really worried things were going to fall through. Charlotte canceled on me but I decided to go by myself. I was told to get my tickets ahead of time. I asked Charlotte to pick some up since she lives in Puxi. When she tried to go to the office for me, it was apparently closed. I decided I would try anyway.
I finished up work on Friday, cleaned up my apartment so I wouldn't come back to stinky trash or dirty dishes, packed a weekend bag and headed off to the train station. As I was walking off campus I saw a weird, unexpected sight. A Goodyear Blimp. Hmmm. I took a picture of it just cuz I thought it was funny to see in Shanghai.
I found the ticket office without any trouble and then waited in line for my tickets. It was a little scary buying tickets in a foreign language but I got them with no issue at all. Yay me! It was around 4:30pm when I bought the tickets and the earliest train I could get out left at 7:30pm but I was more than happy. I was worried I wasn't going to get a ticket at all.
I decided to get some dinner even though it was a bit early. I found a DongBei restaurant right next to the ticket office. I got a bowl of noodles with beef and some dumplings. I was sitting by the window and as I was eating a guy walking by actually did a double take. He back tracked and stared at me through the window, miming using chopsticks with this look of disbelief on his face. He actually came into the restaurant and walked towards me saying "kuaizi!" (chopsticks) over and over. I just nodded at him and went back to my noodles. I've never gotten such a surprised reaction when I use chopsticks...
I corrected some homework in the waiting room for the train. When I boarded the train the guy sitting next to me turned to me with a picture on his cell phone and told me it was his daughter. I told him she was very cute. Then we had a two hour conversation. Seriously. I talked to the guy next to me for the entire two hour train ride. WOW what a workout for my Chinese. I had to make use of my dictionary a few times and sometimes he had to write a word down before I could understand it but otherwise we talked the whole time. He seemed really nice. He works for a company that makes solar panels and has a young daughter. He was mad at me for having a cell phone without Chinese on it so he couldn't send me text messages. He tried to persuade me to get a different cell phone. Hehe. We talked about food and school and America and working and families and my class rings and knitting and traveling and Nanjing and college and everything. He made fun of me for wearing my irish cap, saying I looked like an old man. He told me I should come over so that he could make me dinner. He took a picture of the two of us together so he could show his wife. It certainly made for an interesting trip.
I arrived in Nanjing around 9:30pm. Kyle met me at the train station and we took the subway back to Nanjing University. He had tried to get me a room at a hostel but the two closest to the college were full. Luckily Alex and Jenny (two other Drewids) each had a double room to themselves. Alex stayed in Jenny's room and let me have his room for Friday and Saturday night. It was actually rather adorable. He had a new bar of soap and roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. He left out a map of Nanjing for me to use and even put a chocolate on my pillow! My poor planning and last minute trip actually meant I got to stay in the same building with my friends and for free! Win!
After I arrived I chatted with people from Drew for a while. Went to bed relatively early since I was exhausted. Travel makes me tired. Saturday morning I woke up and Kyle took me to this fried meat bun/dumpling place for breakfast. OH MY GOD they were so delicious. So cheap. So fresh. It cost 6rmb for 8. It could not have been fresher. They literally finished cooking them right in front of you and served them up so you could go eat them. We took them inside the restaurant and ate. Man...I wish there was a place like that near me. They were so tasty.
After that we walked towards the subway and split up. I headed off by myself to explore Nanjing. I had heard about different places to visit and looked at the tourist map Kyle gave me. I decided to go to this Confucius Temple. I took the subway and then walked. I saw a gate to a museum area and figured why not, paid 15rmb and headed in. The first section was a museum about the Taiping Heavenly Army. There was also a museum about the writing, poems and carved seals of a man named Li Lanqing. I think he used to be a government official? There were some pretty interesting seals. He made one for Mozart and the characters looked like music notes.
My favorite part about the first place I stopped, though, was the garden. *happy sigh* Nature! There were so few people and the air felt clean and fresh (at least compared to Shanghai). It was really relaxing and calming. So quiet. So peaceful. So solitary. So nature! I climbed up this big rock face and took a bunch of pictures. I wandered up and down every path I could find. I even ended up going through this cave that came out right next to a waterfall. I don't even know if I was supposed to go in it, but no one was around to say otherwise and there weren't any signs saying not to.
Here is a picture of the waterfall. The flat stones in the pool of water make a path from the tiny ledge on the right to the cave I was in on the left (you can't really see it).
Also at the garden was a bunch of bonsai trees. I took pictures of all of them. Here is one.
After I walked around the whole garden making sure to explore every inch of it, I decided to head out and see what else was in the area. I found what I THINK was the Confucian temple, though I'm not sure. It was rather small and mostly had this small rooms with fake models of men in traditional Chinese robes posed as if they were taking the official examinations. In each room there was some information about the exams.
What was weird was I swear I thought I heard music or throat singing or people meditating or SOMETHING the entire time I was in the temple. I can't be sure.
Here's just a nice picture I took while wandering in the temple.
There were also tons of shops and stuff. The only thing I bought were some bracelets and some cotton candy. I was super excited to see cotton candy. I really don't know what to buy people for presents. Plus pretty much every shop sells the same thing so after a while it gets repetitive. One weird thing about the area I was in is there were a lot of pet shops. I saw lots of birds and what looked like tanks of mostly dead turtles and even some puppies. It was rather heartbreaking so I tried to keep my eyes forward and keep walking.
After my touristy wandering and shopping I went back to the college. I hung out with Benno for a short while and then went out to dinner. Kyle had organized this dinner with me, him, Alex and Jenny and a Swedish couple he had hung out with. The Swedish couple (whose names I am pretty sure were Bjorn and Marna?) are teaching in Nanjing. I'm teaching in Shanghai. Jenny and Alex WANT to teach in China. It was a very fun evening. The Swedish couple was very interesting and fun to talk to. It was interesting to find the different experience we've had teaching. We went to this Japanese hibachi restaurant where they had an all you can eat AND drink special.
Oh my. Everything was so very tasty. We had sushi and scallops and pork chops and steak and veggies and fish and ice cream and lamb and onions and tons of stuff. To drink we had wine and sake and beer and these drinks that tasted like liquefied watermelon (which is probably exactly what they were...) Everything was so delicious. I think the waitress was getting mad because we just kept ordering more and more. What a delicious dinner. So totally worth the 150rmb.
We also chatted briefly with the other foreign devils at the table across from us. Without knowing it we were both playing the "I wonder what country they are from" game. Marna thought at least one of them was Swedish (using what she called "Swededar"). They thought we were all French. We were all wrong! The entire table across from us was Germans.
After a lot of sake and beer Bjorn taught me a weird Swedish drinking song about a frog. I don't really remember it, but apparently the creepy doctor in the movie "Minority Report" sings it if I want to practice. I also told Bjorn that I liked the chef's hat. So Bjorn asked me to teach him how to say "I like your hat" in Chinese (wo xihuan nide maozi). After he said it to the chef, the chef nodded and left. Everyone was like, "Huh...where did he go?" I jokingly said "Ahh...he went to go get us some hats."
Little did I know he really was. Which led to this picture:
From left to right it's Alex, Jenny, Marna, me, Bjorn and Kyle. We also wore these hats as we wandered out of the restaurant and headed off to a KTV bar on a whim. Which lead to me saying what Kyle believed was the quote of the day: "Follow the tallest chef!" Also, do not worry dear friends and family, I was sure to make many horrible jokes about the "Swedish Chef" to my new friends.
The KTV bar was a bit of an adventure. We were there for about three hours singing pop music, love ballads and TV theme songs. I had barely any voice left at the end of the evening and we got back to the dorm around 2am. Yay!
Sunday we all got up rather late. I went out for brunch with Alex, Jenny and Kyle to this cafe place near them. I got a yummy sandwhich and a coffee. Then we hung out at the college just talking and hanging out. I saw Paul when he finally woke up around 230. It was nice to just be with people from home and hang out doing nothing. It's going to suck when they leave because then the closest person from home I'll have near me will be D'Arcy in Japan...
I stayed probably later than I should since my train was leaving at 4:30. There was a bit of a panicky moment when I was running through the train station thinking I was going to miss my train, but I ended up getting on with about 4 minutes to spare. Phew. No interesting train companion this time. I just meditated and read on the way home. Took the subway and then treated myself to a cab ride cuz I didn't feel like going from train to metro to bus. Then sunday night was spent finishing up correcting homework and planning my classes for today.
All in all it was a great weekend. It was wonderful to see my friends and it was also refreshing to visit some touristy places without seeing crowds. Being in the garden was so relaxing and lovely. I loved climbing to the tallest point on the rock face and then sitting enjoying the view while eating the chocolate that Alex had left for me.
I think one of the best things about this weekend was how independent I felt. I bought train tickets for myself using Chinese. I carried on a two hour conversation in Chinese. I found the places I was looking for in Nanjing by myself without getting lost or confused. I found my way back to the college from the metro station even though I had only walked the way once before in the dark with Kyle. I found my way through both the Nanjing and Shanghai train stations without issue. Every one of these moments felt like a small victory. A tally put in the "plus" side of my self-confidence.
Anyway, this entry is very long and I have been working on it on and off for about 7 hours now. I think it's time to post.