I can’t believe it’s already September. What a way to have spent a summer.
This week has been a good one, and deserves some recapping, I feel.
The unexpected “time off” that I’ve had this week, what with my
classes not starting until Monday, has been a godsend. I’d forgotten
how nice it is to sit around all day doing nothing but Internet, etc.,
and it’s also been really helpful to have this time to clean and get
to know the area a little and prepare for classes.
Thanks to this little nugget of free time, I decided to attempt a solo
mission into Chongqing city to visit Leora, who lives in a northern
neighborhood of the city called Shapingba. David (my sitemate) had
explained where to get the bus, but also that I needed to learn the
characters for my destination, since the signs in the windows of the
bus are only written in such. Genius that I am, I took iphone photos
of the names of the places in characters and was off. To stand at the
bus stop for a half-hour desperately looking at each bus that came by
and perhaps asking the conductor, “Shapingba ma?” But finally, my bus
came (they usually come “every few minutes,” so I was thrown off that
it took so long) and I was off for a pleasant enough 45-minute ride to
the center of Shapingba, a busy shopping area.
After an awkward interaction with a Chinese woman in which I tried to
mime “where is the pointy monument” to get her to give me directions,
I found Leora and together with a student-friend of hers we were off
to negotiate a pool membership for her at a swanky gym in the
neighborhood. The price was a little high—“200 kuai off because you
are pretty,” the attendant told us (in Chinese).” “200 more because
you’re a volunteer.” “And I’ll throw in one month free, and five
passes to the Korean steam room spa.” “And one for your friend!”
Yesss. We spent the rest of the afternoon chillaxing (a word that
Leora’s student was thrilled to learn), initiated Leora’s kitchen by
cooking dinner for the first time since either of us has been here,
and got ready to go out. As one does on a Wednesday.
We couldn’t rally any further troops to join us (Wednesday, and all),
but put on our China finest—meaning, for me, typical going-out hair
and makeup but with a t-shirt, jeans, and my faux-Chaco sandals—my, a
far cry from when I wouldn’t go out in DC without a dress and jewelry.
It took close to a half-hour by cab to get down to the nightlife
district on the southern tip of the peninsula that is the city, and
Leora and I majorly impressed ourselves by making conversation in
Chinese with the cabbie the entire way. Upon arrival, we hit a beer
garden that’s apparently run by this blond kid from Ohio, Leora’s home
state. Mystery to be further investigated later. Next we met some
middle aged American businessmen who work in Hong Kong and were in CQ
for business and wanted to know where to party. Right. No more laowais
(foreigners) to be found, we decided to check out the
dance club, called 88.
Gaga and other American pop classics, check (including a charming
reggae remix of Ne-yo’s “Right Now (Na na na)”. Chinese girls buying
us drinks for no reason, check. Dancing on tables in the middle of the
The next morning featured a dim sum-esque brunch (by which I mean, we
had some steamed dumplings at noontime) and then a trip to said Korean
spa thing, where we put on Chinese pajama outfits and sweated our way
to cleaner pores for a couple hours. Oh, and we also played a game of
war in the steam room, since we didn’t know how to play mahjong with
cards. The afternoon was completed with a trip to the international
chain grocery, where I loaded up with Frosted Flakes and pasta, and
the holiest shopping experience of them all—Sephora!
I made Leora play a game with me of “guess which brands this Sephora
will carry,” and we did fairly well. There were the typical department
store brands that stateside Sephora carries, like Clinique and Estee
Lauder, and a couple of more specialty brands that I’d seen once in
Chengdu, like Make Up Forever and Benefit. There were also drugstore
classics like Maybelline, some French brands that I’d maybe heard of
only in passing, and a couple Chinese brands I didn’t know. I held
back on making any purchases and blowing half my monthly salary. For
I hurried back to Beibei to make it to a last-minute banquet (what
here is not last-minute?), and was thrilled that my entire trip back,
from Sephora to my apartment door, was completed in under an hour.
Banqueting ensued—perhaps 30 dishes for about 15 administrators and
foreign teachers from the English department—pijiu (beer) was drunk,
and I headed home happy.
It was also really good for me mentally to visit CQ since, one, it was
awesome to be successful on competently navigating long(ish) distance
bus travel on my own, and it showed me how easy and doable the trip is
for future. Two, it was a welcome distraction and, dare I say,
“reward” after the last couple months to be able to kick back, and to
see Leora. And three, after talking to other people, and seeing how
they live in the case of Leora and her sitemate, it helps put my own
situation in perspective. Everyone has a bit of an adjustment, and
everyone had a filthy apartment with broken appliances to contend
with. But I like my town, I’m starting to like my cozy, dirty little
apartment, and I think I’ve got a good thing going here. And it’s nice
to know that I’ve got a city’s worth of entertainment and friends
This weekend David is having a big birthday, and some unknown number
of PCVs are descending on Beibei and perhaps staying in my apartment.
Impetus to have spent today in further cleaning. I think things are
starting to look livable.
T-minus about 60 hours until I teach my first college English class. My my.