Friday, February 29, 2008

Chinese hospitality

Today is 2 for 1 day...I'm going to take full advantage of the blog access to tell you a tale from my travels. As I mentioned previously, on my way back to Siping I stopped in Shanghai to visit one of my Chinese friends. Staying in a friend's home guarantees cultural lessons. My visit to Shanghai was a lesson in the truly wonderful art of Chinese hospitality. One thing I love about China is how much they care for family and close friends.
I arrived early in the morning on a red-eye from Bangkok. After waiting a few minutes, my friend arrived with her boyfriend. They had been riding buses from some unseemly hour in the morning to meet me there. My suitcase was whisked up by her boyfriend and we hopped onto a bus to head out to my friend's apartment. Soon after arriving, the boyfriend cooked up lunch for us (he does all the cooking when he's visiting--I need to find me one of these) and then they let me take a nap. I love the Chinese appreciation of naps. It makes me happy.

After my rest, we headed downtown to one of the main shopping streets where they got a box of Shanghai's specialty tea for me and purchased some "Shanghai" snacks. We had a great hot pot dinner and then walked to the famous Bund to see the skyline of Shanghai. All of these activities were of course their treat, there was no chance I was going to pay a penny.
We got home late and I headed to bed. I was given the soul wall heater remote (Shanghai is in the part of China without central heating during the winter), insuring that I would have a toasty night of sleep.

I woke up in the morning to breakfast cooked by the boyfriend and then we headed out on the town again, to a place known as "Old Shanghai". The buildings here were fashioned in the old China style, although they surely did not date from that period. It was a great photo op for me, especially since it was decorated for the new year. Once again, they treated me to all kinds of special Shanghai snacks. My favorite was a soup filled baozi (bread roll).
Afterwards, we headed out to a late lunch at a Guizhou restaurant. Here, despite protests, I was finally able to treat them. Following lunch we had to head over to the bus station to catch my bus to Rizhao (a ticket which they had purchased for me). Here is where hospitality truly shined. They convinced the bus station attendant to let them walk me to the bus (I am of course a clueless foreigner who needs help and guidance). They talked to the bus driver and all was well until they found out Rizhao was not the last stop of the bus. Both of them began to panic, how would I ever know how to get off the bus? The boyfriend began rapidly assaulting the bus driver with pointed remarks like, "She doesn't speak Chinese, she won't know when to get off, you'll have to tell her, will there be taxis waiting where you stop..." and so on. Of course, I understood a majority of these remarks. The bus driver assured them he would wake me up and suggested they write in Chinese where I wanted to go in Rizhao so I could be ushered into a taxi. I already had this written down, so, concern lessened slightly, my friend ushered me onto the bus to make sure I got into the right bed. She also checked to make sure I set an alarm on my cell phone so I would wake up in time for the stop (the bus arrived in Rizhao at 3 am). Sure enough, upon arriving, I heard the bus driver telling the circle of taxi drivers by the door of the bus, "There's a foreigner here who doesn't speak Chinese, she has a paper saying where she's going"...understanding this I got off the bus, verbally told one of the drivers where I wanted to go, and miraculously safely arrived at my destination.

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