lihui heard of our plans and wanted to leave with us, debating whether or not to ditch work (he took the responsible route and decided to stay). i've been going to lunch 10 minutes early (11:30) as a way to ditch the cost control crowd, so i was kind of surprised when FY sat down across from me, since she's been trying so hard to avoid me for more than a month. it was a chance for me to play nice and maybe settle this cold war but i said nothing, my face buried in my noodles.
actually, there wasn't that much work to be done, with the bulk of the engineering department missing since they had to work on new year's day so switched their day off to saturday (for a real 2-day weekend experience). that meant our driver didn't have anything to do so he said he'd stick around in chongqing to take us back to changshou. yuwei sat in the front seat (she said she'd get carsick otherwise) and chatted with him, while i was in the back. i didn't realize how tired i was and doze off intermittently. i didn't know this but our driver (from anhui) actually worked with the koreans in shanghai, and was asked to come to changshou with them when they relocated to chongqing. driving koreans around, he knew them very well, and was chatting with yuwei about their company hierarchy and who ranks above who.
when we got to jiefangbei the driver didn't know where to drop us off. i knew the place intimately, having gone there so many sundays i've lost count and having stayed their a few times. i knew exactly how to get to where we wanted to go, but unfortunately only by foot, not by car. fortunately the driver had a gps he turned on, and after locking in our position, we were finally able to find the sun moon light plaza (where the H&M and uniqlo stores were located). we got there at 1:45 so had some time to kill, so yuwei treated me to some mcdonald's soft service ice cream and i quickly ran into uniqlo to check their thermal tops (they had size S in dark colors, i should've came here earlier in the week back when everything was on sale).
we met sarah at 2:00, along with manfred (our 4th german cohost) and his dance partner jessica (a lithe 25 year old from nanjing, works in quality engineering, majored in material science) [since they all work for the owners, they live in chongqing instead of changshou]. we went to a costume job (on the 18th floor of an apartment adjoining the mall) where jessica found a dancing outfit. i saw a captain's costume and was joking with manfred about "being the captain taking people on a voyage to fun town" but he seriously thought that was a great idea until i reminded him this is for chinese new year, not a cruise. our 2 cohostesses weren't happy with the selection so we took the car and went to a different costume shop. manfred and i were thinking about getting suits made but it'd be too expensive and not ready before chinese new year, so we opted to find something off the rack. jessica and manfred left to go rehearse their dance number while i stayed behind with yuwei and sarah as the ladies tried out different gowns and asked me for my opinion as to which ones were the best.
as we were getting into the car, the driver told us that just a few minutes earlier something had shattered one of the left-side rear car windows. that would explain the lack of window and bits of broken glass everywhere (i saved a piece as a souvenir). he called the insurance company, but they told him the vehicle didn't have any glass protection coverage. wanting to get it fixed before we returned to changshou, he went to an autobody shop in jiangbei (north of chongqing on the other side of the river) and worked out a deal (RMB$700 to replace the window, the cost will eventually covered by the company since it's their car). while we waited, yuwei treated us to a hot pot dinner nearby.
my first hot pot of 2014 was with a real chongqing city girl, a driver from anhui, and a woman from jilin (dongbei). little did we know that neither the driver nor yuwei can eat spicy food. sarah and i had no problems, and we were challenging each other near the end to see who could eat the most. she was impressed with my knowledge of hot pot food items and my willingness to eat things like tripe and intestines (hmm, delicious!). she was also impressed with my imitation chongqing accent. our dinner conversation varied, and at one point sarah asked me if i was gay because of my age and single status. sarah asked to get a receipt, so she could try and get it expensed on the company's account. that's why we probably ordered way more than the 4 of us could eat, and ended up returning a few dishes (a plate of noodles and some blood cake).
we dropped off sarah at the closest subway station (near the chongqing north railroad station) before leaving. we got back to changshou by around 8:00, my stomach still burning from the spicy hot pot.