After a few days of battling crappy WiFi, I’m back!
We are officially in Beijing, and Shijiazhuang is in the rear-view mirror. The last few days have been a whirlwind, and although I want to talk about what we’ve been doing these last 24 hours in a new city, I know I need to reflect on our time in Shijiazhuang before I forget the most important tidbits.
The final day of classes went well for everyone, I think. The camp didn’t do a spectacular job about communicating with the students, so despite my warnings, the last day took them by surprise. The kids presented their “how-to” presentations, which went quite well with topics ranging from “how to make dumplings” to “how to draw an opossum” (yes, I have clearly made a good impression). We played trashquetball trivia, and at the end of the day, many of the kids gave me a hug and one even kissed my cheek which is a pretty big deal: showing affection is pretty taboo in China.
I’ll miss them, but the truth is, our time with them was so short that I feel like I was only just getting to know them when we said our last goodbyes. I hate that my WeChat account has been down for days; the Chinese are all about their WeChat, and a handful of the kids expressed a desire to connect with me there, but my account is locked down and by the time I get it fixed, they’ll have probably forgotten my ID.
Our last night in Shijiazuang consisted of a trip to a local mall, a family-style dinner of wine-soaked pears, ribs covered in sticky rice, and various and sundry meats and noodles, and culminated in an epic, 2-hour visit to KTV. This karaoke phenomenon is just about the best thing I’ve ever seen: you buy access to a room, and you and your friends sing to your hearts content, wailing into microphones, sipping beers, and generally making fools of yourselves. I’m proud to report that I opened the evening with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” I sang two Adele songs, and my roommate and I performed a very haphazard but energetic rendition of “Thrift Shop” by MacLemore.
We arrived in Beijing the next evening after a rushed visit to the Silk Market where I managed to buy only two gifts and passed up an opportunity to get a beautiful tea set for only ¥200. But more about that (and loads of pictures) tomorrow!
Things I will remember most about Shijiazhuang in no particular order:
- Shirtless Chinese men: it’s called the Beijing Bikini, and seriously, it’s a thing. To be fair, it’s ridiculously hot in China – we hit 114 Fahrenheit the other day – so it almost makes sense that men walk around either completely shirtless or with their shirts rucked up over their bellies.
- Babies in ass-less chaps: Babies and toddlers are apparently allowed to relieve themselves whenever and wherever they please, and diapers are not a guarantee. It’s not uncommon to see adorable Chinese babies running around with bottomless pants.
- “Please, sit!”: The Chinese apparently doubt Americans’ constitutions, because our Chinese hosts were forever encouraging the American teachers to sit. The first three days of open houses were really awkward.
- A complete lack of road rules: Driving on the streets of any large city in China will have you afraid for your life. If I had a dollar for every time I squeezed my eyes shut in the face of an impending car accident only to make it safely to my destination – well, I’d be able to convert those dollars into quite a few yuan.
- My roommate almost becoming a movie star: a film crew was working on the campus of our school, and my roommate – a lovely, tall, blonde woman from South Carolina – was approached to be an extra in one of the scenes, but alas! As they often do, the Chinese changed their minds at the last minute, and her stage debut never happened.
- Culinary adventures: Among the interesting and often-odd things I’ve eaten since being in Shijiazhuang are duck neck (incredibly delicious), donkey, pig feet (or “pig trotters” as our translator called them), and the eyeballs of a duck and a fish.
We’re climbing the Great Wall tomorrow, and I intend to stand at the top and look out into the wilds for any sign of White Walkers. Be on the lookout for more pictures and a post about our time in Beijing either tomorrow (Sunday, July 16) or the next day. Thank you to everyone who’s reading and for all of the lovely comments. Keep them coming, friends!