Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I went with three European students to the nearby city of Chengde this weekend.  It's four hours by a scenic train ride where you can catch glimpses of the great wall and the Chinese countryside.  I think I'm learning just as much about Europe from my friends as I am about China.  Did you know that in Holland, people don't use credit cards because it's considered irresponsible?  Maybe that's why they manage to save more than they spend. . .

A group of people tried to scam us when we got off the train.  They promised to go to the hostel that we had picked out, but instead went to another, expensive hotel, telling us that the hostel was full, and when we called, they said it wasn't.  Well when we got there, they couldn't say if or when they would have a room open, but would we like to go on their tour bus?  Um, no.  We ended up staying at the Bank of China Hotel, which made up in amusement factor what it lacked in frugality.

We wandered around the largest Royal garden complex in the country with many temples and scenic spots.  There were also a lot of temples in town, including one that was a replica of the Potala temple in Lhasa.  Pretty sweet.  

They had this huge clothing and food market in a dry riverbed on Sunday with truckfuls of leeks and all sorts of yummy street foods.  We also wandered around a poor neighborhood with many of the houses abandoned and half-torn down, and sometimes used as a dumpster by remaining neighbors.  When we were buying guotie (jiaozi) at a street restaurant, we were looking at this cute dog eating some egg for his dinner, and the guys tried to sell him to us for 5 yuan (about 80 cents).  We declined.  

And at night, we went to a nearby square where there were tons of young people skating, juggling big shuttlecocks (not sure what they're called yet) with their feet, and dancing.  The dancing was amazing.  There were about 100 Chinese people of all ages doing line dancing.  And when a new song would come on, everyone would know the steps and jump right in.  We tried for a few of the easy ones, but were generally amazed that everyone else seemed to know exactly what to do.  That's China for you, I guess.

And good news:  I may be starting some work in the lab in the next week.

1 comment:

Elsabeth said...

Everything sounds great! I'm totally with the kids from Holland... I don't own a credit card and don't know if I ever will. Although buying a house/car may be difficult in America without a credit history.

What's jiaozi?

I imagine it may have felt like a musical, having everyone join in a dance in a public square when some music starts.