Friday, July 06, 2007

Some backlogged posts...

Hello, from Hangzhou, China! 

It's 4:30 in the morning, and I can't sleep anymore.  My roommate is sleeping, and the room is an echo chamber, so I've brought a chair and my laptop out to the balcony, and I'm typing into word.  I will past it into the blogs later. 

So I landed at Hangzhou International Airport around 2:30.  Breezed through immigration, and by the time I got to baggage claim, my bags were halfway down the belt.  I was relieved to see them, since back in Seoul, the lady at the counter who had given me my boarding pass and checked in my bags said, "Please wait five minutes for your bags to be inspected" as my bags rolled down the belt into an inspection room. 

"Wait where? here?"  I had never heard of this before. 

"Over there," she said, vaguely gesturing to the right.  It just looked like more ticketing to me.  

So I went over to the right and waited, and then went over to a seating area and waited, and then looked at the clock and decided five minutes was up, so I waited a little bit longer.... and then I went through security.  Was somebody supposed to tell me my bags were ok? 

Anyway, so I was glad to see my bags once I got to Hangzhou. 

It's funny to me that Hangzhou is a city of six million, which is the population of the entire state of Washington, and that such a big city is considered a medium-sized city here.  The airport is relatively small. 

So anyway, I found myself alone at the airport around 3pm, and the airport rendez-vous wasn't until 5:30.  Here I was stuck at this smallish airport with not much to do.  I pulled my gear over to a window ledge—there is very little seating on the concourse—and waited. 

And then I thought, I'm an adult, I shouldn't sit here and wait dutifully for two and a half hours.  What am I afraid of? 

So I stood up and went to the taxi line. 

Before I left my hotel in Seoul, I went to the internet and scribbled down the hanzi of where our school was.  I was in a hurry, so I just copied the hanzi, not the pinyin pronunciation.  And what I scribbled down was not the actual address; roughly, it said 'Zhejian University of Technology, back entrance on some street street, Building 11.'

So I went up to a Mercedes taxi driver and pointed to my scribbles (since I don't remember how to pronounce them). and he shook his head and pointed me to a green taxis, which were lined up behind him.  Just then a whole flock of people came out of the terminal, walked in front of me to claim the next seven cabs.   This is a good thing; I need to see how it's done before I make an idiot of myself. 

So when I decided it was my "turn" I showed my scribbled note to the cab driver, who looked puzzled, but helped me put my gear in the trunk.  When we were on our way, he asked me an important question, which I responded "I don't understand."  He told me he was going to make a phone call, and asked for my note again, and then yelled angrily at whoever was on the phone.  I didn't understand it, but it sounded like, "SOME FREAK HANDED ME A PIECE OF PAPER AND I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE HELL HE'S GOING, WHERE THE HELL IS THE BACK GATE OF ZUT?  AM I JUST SUPPOSED TO GO THERE AND ASK PEOPLE WHERE THE BACK GATE IS?  SHIT!"

When he got off the phone, I managed to ask if he know where we were going.  He said, yah.  So then I said, "Sorry, I don't speak Chinese well."  And that started our conversation.  He asked if I was meeting a friend there?  (no.)  He asked why I was going there  (to study Mandarin).  He asked where I was from (USA, Seattle).   I was fine doing all the small talk.  I asked him a few other questions; has he been to the US, does he take a lot of foreigners in his cab, etc.  It was pleasant enough. 

Now's the part in the story where I say, "Chinese people don't know how to drive!" and talk about all the crazy stuff that was happening on the road during our pleasant Day One in China conversation. 

I am not going to say that Chinese people don't know how to drive; I'm going to say that they have a different driving culture, with different rules and expectations than Americans do.  Chinese drivers are totally in control of their cars, and know exactly what the car can and can't do. They are also hyper-aware of everything that is going on around them, what other cars are doing and what they want to do, what bikes and pedestrians are doing and how not to hit them. 

So I'm saying that Chinese drivers are a) more aware of their vehicles' capabilities and limitations, and b) more aware of other vehicles are doing.  And I honestly don't notice a lot of dents in the cars all around me. 

So now that I've said all that, it's hard to explain all the stuff my driver was doing.  Darting and out of lanes, making a lane where there is no lane, driving right up to the back corner of a semi and matching its acceleration, turning into a bike lane and going against most of the traffic, turning against the light and crossing a bike lane, where the bikes just keep coming.  Driving up onto sidewalks, backing around a corner on a sidewalk so to avoid the 'do not enter' restriction on a one way road.  All of these situations would have been illegal in the US and in all probability deadly, due to Americans' love affair with their traffic conventions, and how we use conventions as a substitution for creativity and awareness. 

I'm trying to sound tolerant of Chinese drivers, and I really did not worry about all the danger I was perceiving... but I will say that I will never drive in this country, and I hope I don't have to take another cab ride.

Anyway, we got to the back gate, and I gave the driver my 300Y.  He said the price was 550Y and he pointed me to a cash machine.  When that didn't work, he marched in and asked how I could get money; they directed us to a Bank of China.  So back in the cab, I apologized and he got me as close as he could to the cash machine; I crossed the street, took out 1000Y and got back in the cab.  He found my building, stopping every block or so and asking "Friend!  Back entrance, how do I find it!"  So we got to the building, I gave him 300Y more, and I took my bags inside Building 11. 

I helped a lady find my name on a list; it said I was in 404.  However, she couldn't find my key, so she sent me up to meet the RD in 109.  We didn't speak English until I got to his office, at which point he told me that the cab driver totally ripped me off, that it should have been 110Y, and did I ask for a receipt.  Ha.  Whatever, I was just glad to be here, and honestly, I don't know how much 600Y is yet, because I haven't done the math. 

So he helped me walk my bags up to 404, told me I didn't have much luggage (eh?!) and asked me, in Chinese, how my French was.  I find it really hard to understand people in echo-ey staircases, so I'm sure my answer was not intelligent. 

Found my way to my room, unpacked, found a note from my Chinese roommate.  He showed up later with a friend, introduced himself, and asked me if I was hungry.  I thought, aw that's nice!  changed my shoes, and followed him to the cantina.  There were six or seven stations of food; I chose a turo-turo; one meat, two vegetables, help yourself to rice.  I chose chicken katzu, salty cucumber salad, and some chinese greens.  My roommate (I'll introduce him later) gave me a small scoop of rice and I stopped him before he could give me more.  He put his meal card on top of the squat cash register and jiggled it until he could see that 550Y had been deducted from his account.  I went to find a seat, and he went to get me a drink. 

He wasn't eating, because he said he had just eaten, but I finished my plate and told him next time I was buying, which he insisted wasn't necessary.  Asians! 

Then we went back up to the room, I showed him some of my stuff, including the Inconvenient Truth book I had brought for him, and he was writing down new vocab words for me, both in hanzi and in pinyin pronunciation.  I told him George W Bush was 250, which is the strongest insult I could come up with.  Finally, our water was delivered (which we had been waiting for) and then we went to the store.  I bought a universal power strip, a coffee mug, some toothpaste (am I not supposed to use toothpaste from China?) a billiard-ball key chain (I chose the number 12; my lucky number 4 rhymes with 'death' and is considered very buwisit), a big tabu (which I don't know how to say in English), a notebook..... all of it from the on-campus grocery store . 80Y. 

My roommate met his friends outside the store; I said goodbye and found my way back to the dorm.  I went to bed before 9pm. 

Woke up at 4pm, lay there for half an hour until I got bored, then I came to the balcony and blogged.  It's now 5:30 and daylight.  I will introduce my roommate in my next post; hopefully with photos! 

Here's a list of stuff I want to buy: 

  • light bulbs
  • ash tray for coins
  • emergency snack (peanuts)
  • laundry detergent/container
  • dry erase board
  • pocket notebook
  • clothes pins
  • razor

Today I think we do that activity where the program leader gives us a rendez-vous in the city, and we have to get there and back using the bus.  It's an all day activity.  I will meet the other Americans... and not speak English to them.   Not sure if my roommate is coming; he has a big exam today. 


Orientation meeting.  The orientation was held in English, it lasted from 8 to noon.  Slide show, language pledge, pressing questions (eh?), how to use the buses.... After all that English, I feel like I've forgotten my Chinese already.


We met our Chinese roommates back at the ranch, and then it was lunch in the same cantina.  This time I had some fried noodles.  Next time I will get steamed noodles.

I'm thinking about not going on the hike tomorrow.
Three roommates had to go take an exam, so now I'm waiting for two other Americans to go get to know the bus system.  We'll see how that goes. 

Today went in a group of four to Carrefour.  If I'm going to succeed here, I need to learn to read and speak Chinese.  Sheesh.  We had a bus activity, but we got off at the wrong spot, and up walking in the heat to our destination.  Which is not bad, but it's not learning the bus system either.  I told the director I wanted to skip the hike on Friday and do the bus thing again instead.  By myself this time.

It is hot here.  We had a lecture about the AC being bad for you, and needing "fresh" air.  Whatever.  Once we found our original bus stop, we sat in McDonalds as J ate his ice cream cone.  We sat and sat until we had cooled off, despite hearing some Chinese hip hop in the speakers booming directly above me.  We went down to Carrefour, and I bought a bunch of stuff; floor mats, clothespins, hangers, more shampoo, another tabu,  a dry erase board, pens and pencils.. 

Before coming home, we sat in a famous tea shop and did nothing but relax and drink tea for maybe three hours.  On the way out, we looked at Xi Hu, and then I said we should go back.  Xi Hu is nice... it will be there tomorrow. 

medicine:  missed another day.  didn't miss today; fbg was 112.  two days ago when i showed roommate my testing gear and did a demonstration 154.  not bad!  I will definitely lose weight in China.

1 comment:

Micaela said...

wow. Carrefour in China!

Good job navigating Kuyang! It sounds scary but learny! Ditch those Americans if they get in your way! There's nothing worse than being coerced into not learning by a bunch of clueless idiots. Or at least non-brilliant learners like you :)