Yesterday was very laid back. After our quest to Shenyang we weren’t really in the mood to do too much. We lounged around the apartment, watched TV and, of course, ate. After dinner we went for a walk. I’m feeling a lot more comfortable walking around. I can cross the street all by myself now and everything. I even know am starting to know my around a bit. Not enough that I would want to wander around on my own, but it’s still nice to not feel lost all the time.
Our walk led us to a park not far from Sally’s home. I was a nice place with a small lake in the middle of it. There were some blossoms on the trees which added a nice fragrance to the air and bats flying around which added awesomeness. Even though it was getting dark, the place was full of people enjoying the evening. Some were fishing in the lake. Many of them were walking their dogs. There are a lot more dogs in China than I would have imagined, I’ve even seen the running free on their own, but all of them are small. I’m probably only seen two or three bigger than a sheltie. The kids around my age were mostly in small groups playing a game similar to hacky sack but with metal disks tied together and feathers coming out of one side. I think it’s a new fad because no one seems to be very good yet.
Today we went shopping again. This time it wasn’t to a shopping center like we’ve been to before, it was more of a crowded warehouse full of small wall-to-wall shops selling all kinds of clothes and other things. With so many vendors in such a small area there is a feeling of high competition in the air. The people running these stands are literally willing to sell you the shirts off their backs. Most of them wear this merchandise so that you can see it on some one. With everyone competing for your money, smart consumers can really take advantage. Sally’s mom is an expert haggler. She was able to get one vendor all the way down from 190 kaui to 100. I would say it was amazing to watch her in action but I actually wasn’t able to see it. My job was to disappear as soon as she and Sally started asking some one about the price or quality of a piece of clothing. This is because they were afraid that people would try to rip them off if they had a “rich” foreigner with them. But hey, I’m a ninja, I’m used disappearing on commanded.
While they would haggle I’d walk around the expo and explore. It was weird to see the different levels of excitement of the part of the vendors. Some would shout at you, trying to convince you to buy from them. Other just sit back and wait, reading, cross-stitching or even napping to pass the time. There were no dressing rooms like in a real mall, but who needs a dressing room when the merchant can just hold up a sheet for you while you change behind it? Like I said the people running the shop would often wear want the sold, tag still attached, so you could tell what they sold, even if they weren’t at their stand. If they had a nice shirt, they were from a shirt stand. Nice pants were from the pants shop. I can only assume what the underwear vendors were wearing. I figure it didn’t affect me. Actually underwear was probably the most commonly sold item there, which kind of limited what I could do while I waited for Sally and her mom. If I’m looking at pants, feeling the different materials and comparing them, I’m a discerning shopper. Do the same thing at the bra shop and I’m a pervert.
After we bought a bunch of stuff for various people back home, we went to eat at a restaurant called Jiajia (rough translation: Good good). At the entrance they have plates with all the meat and vegetables for each dish with a price tag set out so you can see exactly what you are getting. What you actually eat is still in back unless you order something that requires they pick a fresh fish or lobster from the many tanks on one wall. The whole place was booming. It was one of the loudest, most exciting places I’ve ever eaten. The food was really good too. We had Chinese style ribs, a Sichuan style fish and some egg and vegetable soup. The ribs were actually a cut of meat from the top of the rib, right up against the spine, not as far down as Western ribs. It’s funny, while we were staying at my Grandma’s right before we went to the airport I watched a show on the Food Network about an annual rib cook off in Reno. While I was watching it and drooling at the different ribs, I thought to myself that ribs were a truly great, truly American invention. I had forgotten that once again, the Chinese beat us by 4000 years, give or take. Sichuan cooking is one of the five traditional styles of cooking here and is one of my favorites. Basically it means cooking with a couple handfuls of dried red chili peppers and everything dripping in oil. It was delicious and just what I needed to clean the pipes.
After lunch we went to a world even more foreign to me that the streets of Dalian. A world I’ve never gone before and about which I know nothing about, a beauty salon. Sally has decided that while she’s here she wants to get her hair cut so we shopped around a little. I tried to avoid Chinese barbers in Sydney. My hair is so different from Chinese hair that the few times I strayed from my rule I suffered for it. They should do OK with Sally’s though.
Sally didn’t feel to well so she napped for the rest of the afternoon, giving me a chance to type up the day so far while watching soup operas imported from Korea with Sally’s mom. She’s kind of addicted to them. She was more fun to watch her than the TV.
Once Sally’s dad came home we all went out to eat with a friend of her father’s family. They took us to a buffet at a nice hotel here in town. In exchange me and Sally were supposed to speak a little English with their daughter. This sounded like a fair trade to me. The hotel obvious caters to foreigners and seemed like a really nice place. They decorated the place with Italians flags and boasted Italian cuisine but all I could find form Italy was pizza and a couple pasta dishes. Still that’s better than I normally get. They did have a lot of Western dishes, including roast beef, pork chops and even venison. All this was along side many traditional Chinese dishes. I tried to eat a wide variety of dishes but our hosts kept giving me meat so I had to keep eating it, you know how it is. They also got a bunch of sashimi, raw fish, for everyone to eat, but it turned out I was the only one who would eat it. I was so full I could hardly walk.
In China there is not nonsmoking section in restaurants. While more and more parts of the country are prohibiting smoking, restaurants aren’t any of these parts. Our host and many of the nearby tables’ guests smoked continually throughout the meal. While I’m still not about to take up smoking it doesn’t bother me as much as it used too. If I come home smelling like smoke, don’t go rifling through my stuff looking for the rest of the pack to make me eat it. It just means I’ve been to China. Fortunately for health reasons, neither of Sally’s parents smoke – or drink for that matter – so we haven’t had to had those orders at home. This is doubly good since Sally has been sick lately and smoke has been sending her into coughing fits.
One funny thing that happened during dinner, I was waiting for the server to cut me a slice of roast beef. The meat looked just how I life it, brown all around but a nice shade of pink inside. This two Chinese gets were staring at it wondering what on earth it was. “It’s raw meat,” one said. “No way, that’s not possible,” he friend explained. “Now that’s how the foreigners eat it,” the first boy added. “Yep,” I explained” and it’s delicious.”
After dinner we went for a drive to see Dalian at night. Since we’ve been usually been going to bed by 10:00 p.m., this was my first real experience with Dalian nightlife. Despite being as long fro east to west as the US, China doesn’t use time zones. This means an extremely eastern city like Dalian gets dark early, like around 7:30 these days. We drove along a windy mountain road that from what everyone told me is very pretty during the day. To me, it just looked dark. Then we went to XingHai park to walk around. It was really pretty at night, with good lighting on all the statues and the nearby buildings.
This is when I learned that you have to pay to use the public restrooms here. This is a whole new experience for me. The only other time I’ve paid to do my business was in Australia and that was just once to use the “Toilet of the Future.” This was not the toilet of the future. It was more like the bathroom of 50 years ago. I’ll spare everyone the gory details of the revolution I’m planning on starting if they every start charging to use the restroom in Logon. Let’s just say it’s disgusting.
The whole bathroom experience is very different here than it is in America. Here it’s not as relaxing. All the have are squatters and the walls are lowered to match. Also, with the exception of the Shanghai airport, you have to take your own toilet paper.