<A> A Shanxi girl'f first visitors

Written by Sep 11, 2005 02:09
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So after a week of near death by boredom in my village, Yingxian, I was able to escape back to Beijing with 4 days to myself before the sis and her boyfriend were to arrive. I think I would rather walk the 250 miles to Beijing than take the bus from Yingxian again. It's once a week on Saturdays and it was yet another session of "Pick 'em up!". But this time it was a 8.5 hour claustrophibic prison sentence without food or bathroom breaks. Had I insisted on either I would have lost my seat to the aisle dwellers. But I soon forgot that trip as I met some amazing people over those four days and even ran into a guy from Wheaton I met three months ago in Sichuan. I spent one day riding bicycles around Beijing and with him and another midwesterner. A "ma-sa-gee" on the street was the highlight of that day.

Emily and Donnie were the first subjects, or shall I say victims, of my Megan's Guided Tour of China. As one might expect of an inexperienced tour guide, I wasn't exactly sensitive to the needs of two westernized Americans who just spent 15 hours on a plane. On their first evening they were treated to a 6-person dorm room hostel, a tour of the putrid and chaotic hutong, and part of dinner included sucking the meat off of sheep's spine. They hid their shock and nausea well.

Thursday didn't help their impression of China as it was probably the most humid day I've every experienced in my life. And humidity in Beijing (which is a constant in the summer) means the pollution hangs in the air appearing as a thick gray fog. After a day of walking the Forbidden City our eyes burned, our throat hurt, and we looked like we just climbed out of a swimming pool. We saw a Chinese acrobats show that night which was so typically Chinese. Cheesy, bizarre, but somehow entertaining. The night train put us in Datong Friday morning where we had a great Chinese breakfast in the pouring rain as we waited for the school car (Outback was the dinner of choice Thursday evening - and after Wednesday's scare I was just happy they were willing to try Chinese food again). My headmaster's son was in the front seat and couldn't keep his eyes off of us. He even positioned his mirrors so he could stare discretely. Actually, he was staring at Donnie as were most people we caught gawking. A 220 lb. American with piercings, enormous muscles, and a mohawk - what did he expect? And he thinks China is weird?

We spent the greater part Friday relaxing and watching DVD's in my apartment. I strategically planned our visit to my school so the three of us wouldn't have to get up and teach a class. We stepped into a few classes and my colleague, Mr. Hong, literally pushed Emily and Donnie into his classroom so the students could meet them. I think they were a little nervous at first but being greeted by 90 students with applause, smiles, and "welcome!", made them forget their reluctance.

I hosted a dinner in their name that evening which was full of laughter and ganbei. Luckily my colleagues were outgoing and friendly like I know them to be, unlike my introduction to them when we sat in awkward silence for 20 minutes. Ms. Yang invited us over for lunch the next day and we gladly accepted. How many people come to China and get treated to lunch in a local's home? And her mother-in-law receives the award of best meal served to Megan in China on more than one occasion. Another little insight into my life in China was our car ride back to Datong. A simple "please just drop us off at our hotel in Datong" turned into 7 people in the school's
volkswagon for three hours. Don't ask.

Datong is the nearest big city to my village boasting 2.8 million people. There we attempted to visit a Chinese dance club that somehow transformed into a Karaoke bar 5 minutes after walking in the door. Walking through that area the next day we found that it's a dance club by night and clothing store by day. Only in China. We visited the Yungang Caves which is something I will definitely keep on my tour. Thousands of Buddhas and Boddhavistas carved within over 40 caves dating back to 400 A.D. Oh and I almost forgot - the Chinese carnival! We stumbled upon this gem after our visit to the caves. I put it into the same category as the acrobats. Chinese stringent safety laws required us to be buckled in as we were whipped in the face by willow tree branches on a roller coaster we peddled, yes peddled, around it's track.

Beijing is where we spent the last three days of our tour. We had a sweaty hotpot dinner one night and the world renowned Beijing duck for dinner another. Both were a success. I'm a quick learner what can I say? Of course we hiked Chang Cheng which, as Nixon put it, truly is a Great Wall. It's massive, steep, slippery, and exhausting, but the magnificent views are incomparable. I saw my first blue sky in Beijing on their last day here. Murphy's law provided that that was the day we saved for shopping indoors. My tour groupies quickly learned the ways of bargaining Chinese style. They say 400, you laugh in their face and say 40, they say "350 this is A quality", you say 45, they say 300, you say 50, they say "280 last price", you say 50, they say "no", so you walk away. About 5 seconds later you hear "Ok, Ok, lady!" And you get it for 50. At first this can be fun but by 8:30 at night you want to smash their calculators over their heads. It's really tiresome. The funny thing is, stupid people, especially Americans, will pay these prices because it's still cheaper than America. We scored fake Pumas, fake name brand handbags, jeans, and over 150 DVD's between the 3 of us (again for less than a dollar each).

We had some of our funniest moments in taxis. Mai-dan-lao is home to the Chinese Big Mac and all of our cab drivers were big fans. Somewhere out there there's an incredibly offensive cab driver thanks to some American slang we taught him (Emily and Donnie's doing of course). One of our cab drivers hauled off and slapped me after we were lost for a half hour. After I got over my astonishment I of course slapped him back and we all just laughed harder. That was the evening of the Belgian beer bar and another dance club. There we force-fed blended scotch mixed with green tea by our new Chinese friends and Donnie made a new best friend, Bean. All Bean could say in English was, "I love USA!", and then he would wrap his arms around Donnie and bury his head into his chest.


At first I think Emily and Donnie were shocked, disgusted, appalled, revolted...maybe I'm getting carried away. China is so random, getting things done is always a project, but it was a learning experience for all and I think they came away loving China. Their favorite part was the fact that they spent a total of $500 (US) on food, hotels, transportation, entertainment...everything. In fact, I think almost everytime they spent the monopoly money they had to convert it back to USD to make themselves proud.

 More Shanxi Travel Reviews
Comments (1)


Sep 20, 2005 08:57 Reply


Nice report! The transportation, market-bargain, dvds......sounds familiar to me;-)
That why I love this country!

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