when i travel, i love discovering things. places, food, people, anything that's new or unusual or awe-inspiring, that's what i live for. for example, that magnificent red and black guotai theatre in chongqing city, i feel like i discovered that. it wasn't in any guide book, i'd never seen it before, and i just came across it by accident. tonight i made another discovery. i was trying to find sandaoguai, this picturesque ancient street in old changshou city. by the time i arrived in the old city, i had about 20 minutes left of daylight to work with. of course i ended up getting lost despite the aid of my tablet pc gps. i wandered onto wangjiang road, which turned out to be a happy accident because i saw a magnificent view from up high of the river down below and the mountains surrounding the area. i believe this is the mouth of the taohua river, which empties into the yangtze river nearby.
this morning started like any typical morning, except i remembered dreaming about making change alert notification forms. instead of the usual meat buns and soy milk, i just finished off 2 pieces of honey cake i had in the fridge. i left the apartment kind of late, around 7:22, and was afraid i might miss the 7:30 shuttle bus until i saw mr.zhang in the elevator. they couldn't leave without him, i thought. or if they did, at least we'd be late together. i ended up climbing into one of the minibuses, which i normally avoid riding because the drivers are pretty reckless. i looked inside and saw ms.pan and just by luck sat next to her. for the next 20 minutes we chatted face-to-face probably the longest we've ever talked. we were the only 2 talking in the minibus that seated about half a dozen passengers so everyone overheard our conversation. she asked me if i had breakfast, i told her i had two pieces of cake. she groaned. was that a lot or a little? "that's so little," she said. i asked her what she ate: a boiled egg, some thick noodles (homemade?), and a piece of chinese bread (bing). it's incredible that she could eat so much, being so petite.
i stopped taking my cold medicine this morning, i'm pretty much back to normal. i did take one last black pill last night, put me out like a light around 10:30. despite getting a lot of sleep, a chemically-induced slumber isn't natural, and 15 minutes into the work day i already hit my wall.
i went to the beverage room to get some hot water for my black tea. i bumped into roger the heavy rotating machinery expert from pittsburgh. he's such a nice guy, never has anything bad to say. i asked him if he was getting some tea himself, but he told me his poison was coffee, and he already had some back at his hotel. i told him he could probably get the company to spring some money for a small coffee machine. he said if he was staying any longer he would, but he's going back to the US end of next week. that caught me by surprise. roger and i started working at the company on the same day. his tour of duty is only a month, has it almost been that long? how i envy him! i'll miss roger when he's gone, the only other american working here.
with so many men in the company, i'm beginning to wonder who amongst my coworkers are gay? odds are there has to be a few. i think i saw one or two guys who might be gay. i kind of want to make friends with them, because i think gay chinese men would be more fun to be around than straight guy friends. i'm not sure how people here feel about homosexuals. the topic has never come up but i'm curious. definitely in the larger cities like shanghai there's a gay culture, or so says my lonely planet guide book. but i think most gay men are still closeted, or don't even know they're gay.
i've been asking people this question but nobody seems to know the answer: apparently chongqing girls are known for their beauty, but is there a place in china where the guys are known to be more handsome that in other places? i asked a few guys this question and they sort of laughed awkwardly but none had an answer. "who cares?" was one response. i asked the people i was sitting at lunch with the same question, including a girl (ms.feng). maybe she was too embarrassed to answer, but one of the guys just blurted out, "shaanxi men." then he told me the reason but i didn't quite understand what he was saying. "also gansu men," he added. i asked him jokingly that he seemed to know a lot about this. he told me this was an often-debated topic back when he was in college and they'd figured out the answer to this great mystery. so there you have it. shaanxi and gansu.
i had the noodles for dinner. i'd been avoiding noodles (carbs) ever since week 2 when i felt bloated from eating so much. but the rice selection seemed the greater of 2 evils. when it comes to noodles, i eat it pretty fast, and i was done before anyone else. i wanted to catch the 2nd shuttle bus so i left soon afterwards. unfortunately the 2nd shuttle doesn't leave until it fills up completely, so my early departure was for naught, as everyone who i ate dinner with managed to get on this bus as well. we finally left by 6:12.
i got back to my apartment by 6:35. i went upstairs, tore off my shirt, put on a t-shirt, grabbed my camera, then went back outside again. my father sent me bus maps for changshou and i printed them all out while i was at work, studying them every so often. i knew the 108 would take me right to sandaoguai, but the nearest station to me was probably a 8 minute walk. i decided to take a bus from right outside my apartment, and then walk the rest of the way. i grabbed a 105 (RMB$1), which was the bus i took yesterday. this time when it went around the rotary, i didn't freak out but stayed onboard. i got off when i felt it was close enough to sandaoguai. i ended up right in front of an alternate entrance to fengshan park (the park i saw yesterday).
with daylight quickly diminishing, i followed where my gps told me i should go. i ended up at the old city plaza, where all the senior citizens congregate for their nightly synchronized line dancing (got to get a video of that one of these days). from there i went downhill, getting closer to sandaoguai.
i continued looking for sandaoguai afterwards, but by then it was pitch dark. i was too concerned about getting mugged walking alone on dark streets; i was more worried about getting hit my speeding cars and buses and motorcycles. so after a brief search, i gave up and returned to the grand plaza.
i cut through the commercial center of old changshou city, emerging on the other side and going through the street of hot pot restaurants to get to the main drag (sanxia road). i actually came out right near the rotary. i lost my bearing a little bit because i was expecting to come out near the same intersection i waited for the bus last night. instead went a little bit passed the rotary to find the next available bus stop. of course the 101 drove right by me while i was walking there.
there were other people waiting for buses, or so i thought. a few of them seemed to be waiting for cars to pick them up. after a while i realized what was happening. random cars would just slowly drive by the bus stop, and strangers would just hop onboard. these weren't taxis, just random private cars, normal folks hoping to make a few bucks driving people back to the new city, which was about 2-3 miles away. imagine something like this in the US! jumping into a stranger's car! in the middle of the night! don't these people watch horror movies? i thought about doing the same thing but figured it was safer just waiting for the bus.
i ended up taking the 104, which doesn't drop me off by my apartment, but rather on the opposite side of the department store near where i live. from there it was still a 10 minute walk back home.
after a shower, i did a load of laundry.