September 14, 2009
I made a list of things I hadn’t explained very well in the last entries, and I’ll include that information as well as the last couple of days’ activities.
I mentioned that I got a pair of prescription reading glasses on campus. I forgot to mention that both Deb and I got non-prescription, but polarized, sunglasses at the nearest supermarket in the “cosmetics and cool stuff” department. Those cost about ¥250 (250 RMB, yuan, 元) each – or about $37 each. My prescription glasses cost ¥170 or about $25. Glamour costs, I guess!
I also have meant to comment on the fact that taxis are very abundant, convenient, and inexpensive here. The service is apparently highly controlled by the government because all taxis we have seen operate the same way. There is a minimum of 6 RMB for one or more passengers, and you go a long way before the meter starts rolling up more costs. Anyway, taxis are lined up outside department stores and supermarkets to provide rides. Buses (gonggongqiche — I love that name for them!) are very abundant as well, and though we haven’t ridden a gonggongqiche yet, I envision that they are truly, truly inexpensive! RT Mart (the gargantuan supermarket/department store I mentioned last week) has a whole fleet of gonggongqiche that operate on certain routes throughout the city and these are free! You may have to show a RT cash register slip to get home. I don’t know yet, but I’m sure we’ll find out!
Another thing that may be surprising is the fact that China has only one time zone, but it is a really big country (previously divided into 5 time zones), so Weihai, being at the extreme east of China is at least an hour earlier for sundown than you would expect. When we first arrived, we couldn’t understand why it was dark by 7:00. Now it is completely dark by 6:45. I guess those folks in far western China have close to a mid-night sun in summer!
Last night (i.e., Sunday night, Deb and I planned to ride down to the beach to eat at a restaurant there, but on the way, across the street from the neighborhood hospital, we saw a restaurant we hadn’t noticed before, called something like Café (presumably a coffee shop). We had heard about this place and were told by western friends that it was great! So, we decided to abandon the beach and eat there. It is less than a 5-minute bike ride from here. Well, it was very western. Little or no Asian cuisine, and it was expensive. They did have real coffee, by the way, and the best (I assume) of the many varieties they offered was ¥150 for a cup. Yep, that’s 22 US $ per! I’m guessing I’ll never know how great it is! Most of their coffee was between ¥22 and ¥48 per cup. But, back to the food. Deb ordered spaghetti with seafood in alfredo sauce, which she said was very good. I had a margherita pizza. It was edible, but nothing to write home about (so, why am I, right?? . We had the usual problem ordering what we thought we were ordering, so I got a small bowl of cream of something soup (certainly some vegetable). It was good, but everything suffered from lack of salt. Then a huge basket of French fries (that were really very good, sans salt, of course) showed up. We had no way of determining whether they were 1) gratis (not a strong possibility), 2) someone else’s order, or 3) something we had accidentally pointed to on the menu, and thereby ordered. We did not send them back. Finally, the soup I had actually intended to order showed up and two huge bowls of it at that! This was pumpkin soup, which I like, especially if cold – which this wasn’t.
Tonight, Deb and I rode to what looked to us to be a Japanese restaurant we had noticed from previous foraging trips. It turned out to be Korean, as are many in this area of town. We had sushi, fried bean curd, and seafood and scallion pancakes with a variety of appetizer dishes such a kimche, spicy picketed turnips, bok choy (love this!), pickled corn, apple, cucumber, and other veggies, and hair noodles (look like hair, but taste good). We both loved this place! It was medium-priced, and cost ¥70 for both of us (i.e., $10). We left a small tip, because the waitress was so helpful and friendly, but as we were unlocking our bikes out near the street – i.e., across the little parking lot — the waitress came flying out waving the ¥8 at us and would not accept it. Who knew?
I had my first class session today. This was a class for beginning graduate students in biology. There twice as many students as I was told would be in the class were there, along with a couple of faculty. It was great fun, but very slow, because they have been learning English from Chinese speakers, and I learned English from southern speakers. They are very timid about asking questions in class, so we have a lot of work to do to have the kind of dialog I want to have in class. However, by the end of the second hour, they were showing signs of being a little more willing to speak up. By the way, not only the students and faculty, but everyone here seems so courteous and helpful. It continues to amaze!
After class, and after I got home, I walked back the block and a half to the corner laundry to pick up our dry cleaning and laundry. When I walked into the parking area, I saw one of the ladies jump up and sure enough, she was getting my stuff by the time I walked into the store. I don’t know how she knew which was our stuff! Both ladies carefully folded the shirts, pants, and jacket and slipped them into easy-to-carry bags. Then one of them motioned what seemed to say, “But you aren’t riding your bike today!” She was right, when we brought the dirty stuff to them, we were riding our bikes. We had also tried to ask that the clean clothes be folded so that I could pick them up with the bike, but we had failed in that communication pretty severely, so I assumed I would be taking a bunch of things home on hangers. They were on hangers, but they were also folded so that I actually could have ridden the bike with them! Next time, I’ll know. By the way, the ladies who keep the yards and gardens neat think I am the funniest person they ever saw, they always cackle when I go by with groceries or in this case laundry, but they obviously are very friendly, as I have mentioned. Now that I think of it – because I was mentioning how strange we must look to many people, on Friday, when we had the big adventure at the immigration office, on the way there, our van was stopped next to a work truck with a bunch of men in it. They stared at us without ceasing, so I waved at them. They laughed heartily and waved back, but they didn’t stop staring either. They were talking among themselves, and I imagine they were observing that, “they we don’t look like they are from around here, do they?”
One of my objectives as we departed for dinner this evening was to acquire a lot of those delicious grapes I described earlier. Well, we were in luck! The folks that have a fresh produce stand at our corner were still there when we came back, and we stopped and bought a bag full. I’m guessing it was about four pounds of grapes. They cost ¥7.5 (7.5) RMB. They reason we know that is even though we couldn’t understand what the saleslady said the charge was, Deb forked over ¥10, and we got back ¥2.5. I have included a photo of a small bunch of these wonderful grapes.
Today, all faculty here at a faculty meeting got a couple of popcorn ears on the cob – from Nebraska! I don’t know how this came about, but maybe those of you in NE can tell us more. I wasn’t aware of this product, but as you can see from the photos (the one with popped corn is my share of one ear of it!), one little ear made a lot of popcorn! And they were from Schuyler, Nebraska! Small world!
I’ll have to stop for now. I have an emergency study session for Chinese to do for tomorrow’s class, so I need to get to it.