I confess, I find it odd that in some ways I don’t really feel like I’m in another country. Sure, I’m clinging to my passport and my letters of invitation, and I can’t really talk to anyone, but as far as the feel of the place? Really not so different from America.
We ask some cab drivers to direct us to the nearest bar, and are told yes, several miles away, we should get a ride.
Eh. We’ll go exploring.
(As it turns out, this is our only chance to see China, so we chose wisely to go wandering out into the night.)
* money cannot be obtained at just any old ATM (so hi, this is me still with $3 US in my pocket)
* there is a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut on the other side of a very busy highway that we don’t dare try to cross because HOLY CRAP TRAFFIC
* There is a little courtyard full of random…are those miniature golf figures? Is that a DINOSAUR? Excuse me boys, I have to go photograph that shit.
….I still have NO DAMN IDEA what any of this was all about. And yes, it means I ditched the boys and ran off into the night to take pictures in someone’s courtyard. And no, Bones doesn’t know that happened. But. But but but…DINOSAURS!!
J walks back and drags me out of WTF Land, and we all circle back to a side street full of open store fronts. I don’t have photos of it, but it felt a little bit like…well, like a ghetto version of Philly’s South Street, or Pittsburgh’s Carson Street. Each tiny store catered to one particular sort of thing…luggage, or phones…one looks like a mini hardware shop, and I walk in thinking of stories I’ve been told about going into similar stores in Cairo, trying to find tools that don’t exist in this part of the world.
We find a bar of sorts – a very open, well lit room with large round tables. Young men are drinking from cases of beer, shouting out chants as they chug tiny glasses of beer. J and C get something to drink and we politely refuse the offers of…what may be bar food, but really, I can’t say that for sure. The room is cooled by 5′ tall air conditioners that are blowing clouds of cold into the open room. It’s pitch black outside but it’s still Philly summer hot.
Outside, there are women sewing with machines dragged out to the sidewalk. A pair of men play pool on a billiard table that’s also been carried to the curb. There’s an active night life here, and we are definitely the oddity, but no one seems to really care that we’re wandering around their tiny bit of the world.
And, in one market…oh, bliss! Enough chicken feet to feed a small family!
….Excuse me while I hork.
But the chicken feet market also has alcohol, so the boys stock up and we wander back to the hotel. We of course take the long way…the next day, we realize that had we dared walk down a terrifying dark alley, we were pretty much right across from the hotel.
I share a drink with the boys, and I go back to my room. There’s a tiny bit of wifi signal – I’ll later realize that I only get signal in my room, and only at night, which makes communication with the US very difficult indeed. I had planned on using my Nook Colour to connect to the internet while I was in China, but that never actually works. All of my contact happens via an iPhone app called “What’s App.” I send a message to Bones, my brother, and my friend Heidi letting them know I’m safe, and I turn my attention to sleep. The bed is wicked hard. I grab the comforter off of the spare bed and try to use that as a bit of extra padding.
I drift off to sleep thinking I should be using my pillows underneath me as well and just using clothing as a pillow.