Last night after meeting with Miss May for the last time before she goes to Britain (when she informed us that Chinese people don’t like ice cream, as she ate an ice cream cone in a shop that sells ice cream, on a street with four different ice cream shops, and after she gave us homemade moon cakes and expensive green tea), we went to the grocery store and prepared to make our first cooked meal in the apartment! We finally got a working hot plate and are now able to cook food other than ramen – perfect timing since I keep (half-jokingly) saying I’m not leaving the heated warmth of the apartment come Winter. Our meal last night was not elaborate since it was our test run for cooking in the apartment but it was filling and delicious. We bought some thick naan bread and some sausage links and made a variation of what my mother would call “mother-burgers” (sautéed sausage link slices in a sandwich). Add a semi-decent bottle of red wine and some Netflix and we had a lovely evening in. We ended up taking a quick trip out to get some candied hawthorn berries but otherwise enjoyed having nothing to do.
This morning we finished making the travel arrangements for our next weekend trip – this coming weekend we are going to Pingyao in Shanxi Province. I really wanted to go to Cangyanshan and Yujiacun in Hebei Province (where we live) but as we started to look into actually getting there, it looked like making that trip, though closer, would actually be much more stressful than going farther to Pingyao. Cities in Hebei Province, including the provincial capital Shijiazhuang, do not allow foreigners to stay in cheaper hotels and hostels because of the (lame) excuse that they are concerned foreigners will get mixed up in petty crimes (something that could happen anywhere though I have seen none of it).
(Now for a quick tangent:) To be honest, we don’t believe that theft is a problem here. Multiple times Chinese people have told us as we’re standing in line or shopping to make sure we keep our phones and wallets in our front pockets to prevent pick-pocketing. Twice we have accidentally left the keys in our bike while we were inside QLH or our friend’s apartment and no one stole the bike. The past three days we have been trying to get rid of two juice boxes we were given after eating at our regular Sichuan restaurant by leaving them in the basket of our bike and hoping someone would take them. After two days of the juice boxes sitting invitingly in our bike basket, only one was taken while we were parked overnight in the school bike garage (probably some kid of ours took it). The fact that people are so eager to let us know that they see our stuff could be taken if a thief wanted to take it, kind of confirms for us that it is unlikely to happen. (As much as they stare at us and are amazed by our presence here, people really do try to take care of us in ways they think might be helpful).
I share all of this to demonstrate how ridiculous it is to us that we can’t stay in a hostel anywhere in Hebei Province under the “fear” that we, as foreigners, will get mixed up in some kind of petty theft. This law (conveniently) makes it so that foreigners can only stay in four or five star hotels in Hebei Province, thus ensuring that we spend more money than we already would. As we looked into planning a trip to Cangyanshan and Yujiacun we quickly realized that we could not visit both places in one trip without an overnight stay and the cheapest room we could find was 800 Yuan a night! We considered making a day trip to Cangyanshan instead but discovered that, even though relatively near to us, since the location is relatively small and unknown, there is no direct route. We would have to take two trains, several buses, and maybe even a taxi or two all within one day just to get there and back without getting stuck without a place to sleep. As cool as it would be to go to either of those places, it’s probably going to be one of those things that just won’t happen this year.
As for today, it seems to be another normal Sunday here in Baoding. We’ve already seen the dog show on the side of the road I mentioned a couple of weekends ago with some of the biggest dogs I’ve ever seen. Now that we’ve seen it a couple of times we’re pretty sure it’s a dog show of sorts where people come and buy the dogs as pets. Once bought, though, I’m not sure where they go because, outside of the Sunday street show, I have not seen any more gigantic dogs. (This week, we saw the biggest dog I have ever seen just hanging out under a tree. It looked sort of like a wolf from the back but had a different snout. It was so big I think it might have been a horse/dog mix.)
We also saw the usual caravan of old ladies playing drums go down the street outside of QLH. We saw it once before about a month ago but figured it was a fluke until we realized every Saturday and Sunday in the early afternoon, a big truck, like is used to haul dirt to construction sites, filled with maybe twelve older women all playing the drums goes down the street and around the block creating quite a joyful racket. Since they all wear red hats and clothes, I thought it was similar to the Red Hat Society in the US until I learned today that the sign on the side of the truck is advertising a new shopping center and they are hired as a mobile (auditory) advertisement. Some women do it as an extra job once they no longer work their regular jobs but other women, according to Samantha, just do it for fun with their friends. I think I might retire here when I’m older – being an older person here seems like so much more fun that being an older person in the US.
We’ve spent a couple of hours in QLH sitting in the sun in the window attracting the usual stares. Samantha joked today that the boss should pay us to sit in the window here since we attract so much more attention for the shop. I, not so jokingly, suggested we get coffee for free since all of our money goes here anyway. As for the rest of the day, we’re going to prepare for another week of classes and continue on with our normal routine.
To join in with the November tradition of daily gratitude, today (and everyday in China) I am grateful for the Internet. Our time here would not be the same without our easy access to the Internet and I am so glad that we have it for communicative and entertainment purposes. As much as I don’t really want to admit any kind of dependency on the Internet, I cannot imagine our life here without it. It has made communicating with friends and family easy, immediate, and relatively hassle free and has provided us much appreciated entertainment in a city that seems to close at 9pm.
I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your weekend! Thank you, as always, for reading!
Until next time,