While we've been here Keinan has put a couple of texting apps on his phone, and on one of them he was added by two girls that go to college in town here. He responded to them a couple of times and asked if they would show the three of us around the city. On Sunday we met up with them, had a home cooked brunch in Keinan's apartment and then went and toured around. We've been trying to find a beach in town so asked if they knew where to take us. It turns out they haven't actually been in town for that long so they don't really know the city. We took two cabs down to a beach area, but it was really small and definitely a family beach (read: tons of kids under 7 years old). Not quite what we were looking for. We ended up right near a place where the water taxi is though, so we took the water taxi which took us about 10 minutes further down stream. We decided, why don't we take the gondola up to the top of the mountain in town. We started walking towards it and came to a massive park area.
One cool thing that happens a lot here is people in the parks, dancing. Huge groups of them, all kinds of different styles and music. We stopped to watch a bit, and apparently Keinan and his wife dance a fair amount, so he took Anne (one of the college girls, the other is Rainbow) out and danced a waltz with her. Well people were pretty amazed by the big white guy out on the dance floor so he drew quite a crowd and after dancing with Anne, he ended up being dragged out by a Chinese man who was about 8 inches shorter than him, but the Chinese man was trying to lead Keinan. It was hysterical to watch, and instead of any of us trying to save him, I started taking video with Keinan's own phone of him dancing with this Chinese man. It was a sight to behold.
We kept on going and there was all kinds of music, dancing, singing and crafts in this park. We walked through, got to the Gondola and went to the top of this mountain. My goodness this city is huge. I am going to climb the mountain next week and take my camera with me because it is amazing. After taking the Gondola up, we decided to walk down. One thing you notice here, is that there are stone steps absolutely everywhere. All these mountains have steps built all the way up them. It boggles my mind how tough some of these projects must have been. The steps are quite small, narrow and steep. It doesn't actually take that long to climb down, because you feel like you are going straight down.
About two thirds of the way down, we come to this cave, and there's a whole bunch of artifacts and stuff inside. Then I realize, they built a Buddhist temple into this cave. It was absolutely incredible. So many cool things inside, and just kind of eerie being in it.
We then decided to go and check out the girls' college. It's a science and tech college quite a way out of town so I see why they haven't seen much of the city. We walk around the college a bit and then saw their basketball area. They had about 20 hoops in this area, and Keinan being a big basketball guy, we decide to go shoot around with one of the guys on the court. He's wearing an Oklahoma City shirt, and says his favorite player is Kevin Durant, and this guy was a pretty good shooter, and a fairly physical player. We ended up playing three on three when a couple other people came over and wanted to play basketball with the three white people. Keinan, Denise and I all found out just how out of shape we all are, because we were huffing and puffing pretty quickly but it was a ton of fun.
We then went to a western restaurant near our place. Decent food, good price. Denise and I are waiting outside when Keinan comes out and says: "Did you guys say hi to the black guy inside?" Denise and I hadn't even seen him. We went back inside and talked to Drew, who is from Mississippi, and is teaching English at the college we had just come from. Talk about luck, meeting another westerner after meeting Anthony and Misty the day before.
Monday, we're at school and Keinan tells us: "Anthony sent me a text and said there's a foreigner night at the Radisson tonight, and invited us." The Radisson is one block away from where we live so pretty damn close. Keinan was getting sick so he wasn't going to go but Denise was, and despite the fact I was pretty close to broke and the price was around 150 Yuan, I wanted to go so decided to, despite the fact it was close to all I had left. So we went, and a couple of great things: It was only 129 Yuan, which included unlimited drinks and food.The staff at the Radisson was amazing, and all the big wigs were there. I met a sales executive, the executive assistant manager, and sat and drank most of the night with the General Manager, and the Director of Sales and Marketing. There were about 30 foreigners there, all worked either for General Motors, a construction company in the area or were part of a restaurant. Mostly Americans, but also a couple people from France, who are opening a French restaurant in town (and we're (Anthony, Misty, Denise and I) invited to the soft opening at the end of October, as well as a Swiss man who is working in their restaurant, and then two people from Greece. It was a pretty amazing night, although the night they picked could have been better. Tomorrow is Radisson Blu(spelling intentional) night where if you wear a blue top, you get 2 meals for the price of one. I also have my blue checkered work pants from Predator with me, so I told Denise (the GM for Radisson, not my teaching partner) I would be wearing those as well, so she intimated I might get a drink or two out of the deal. Should be fun.
I've had a couple of questions from people so I figured I'd answer them here:
1. I haven't overly felt the culture shock...yet. The language barrier is definitely the toughest cultural difference, but you learn strategies to get by. My charades skills will be much improved. We'll see if the culture shock hits me later, but it isn't as different from Canada as I thought it would be.
2. Least favorite things here: You can still smoke virtually anywhere you want in public. It drives me up the damn wall, dealing with people smoking in bars and restaurants right around you. Even in places you're not supposed to, people will. I've had people smoking in the elevator of my building, and Keinan had people smoking in the dressing room at our gym.
Also the air quality. We're in the green province, and it's definitely nothing like Beijing here. Some days are clear, and great and the quality is fine, but others, the smog just sits and it sucks. It's been about 50/50 good days and bad since I've been here.
3. Things I've liked: No tipping. It's kind of nice, not that I mind tipping, but it's neat the way service is here. In restaurants the servers are definitely abrupt, they don't kiss your ass but still provide decent service. I haven't had bad service anywhere, and it's just a different way of doing things. If servers didn't depend on the tip money in Canada, and if it wouldn't cause service to go into the toilet (which I think it would for 70-80% of places, just look at retail stores like sportchek when they switch from commission to hourly...you can't find anyone that works in those stores for help, ever.)
Feel free to ask about anything you're interested in, I'd love to answer your questions.
Until next time,