I’ve been in China for a month. I haven’t got enough perspective to really write about it yet, but I’m working on it. I’ve been busy preparing lessons and teaching–on paper it’s only a few hours per week, but it takes a lot of prep time! For now I’m just going to write about what I did this weekend.
My first day here I met a few people from my placement agency. They, and a few others from that group that I hadn’t met, got together last weekend to watch rugby and go out, and we talked about visiting Dazu caves. Kate arranged for us to stay at her home in Yongchuan (which is technically Chongqing, but it’s about 90 minutes from where I am, and I’m at the end of the subway line) and go there together. I was a little anxious because I am kind of a loner and don’t do well if I don’t have my space. But I know these people and like them, so I went.
Friday night we took a shuttle bus from Chongqing University campus to Kate’s school. Yes, CQU is where I work, but this is a different campus than the one where I live and work. It’s not exactly far, but it’s not exactly near. The bus got to Kate’s around 10 pm. That’s also known as “bedtime” around my house, but once I saw everyone and had a few cheap Chinese beers, I was fine.
After a little talking and drinking and eating of peanut butter (!), we went to Yongchuan’s Bar Street. China shuts down early. Hardly anyone was there at 11:30 pm on a Friday. It was a cute little area with a walkway on the water, but where were the people? We ended up at…Hooters. It wasn’t bad–they had pool and some cute Tibetan guys. (Young Tibetan guys; I pinched their cheeks and gave them a Werther’s.) I should note that the waitresses wore sweatsuits, not traditional Hooters gear. Assume nothing in China, I always say.
After that, we headed back toward Kate’s house, but stopped for shao pao (I’m guessing the spelling) on the way. And more beer, I think. There were some Chinese guys who were really into our friend Brennan. Like, Chinese guys are a little more touchy-feely with their male friends than Americans are, and they decided Brennan was one of the boys, to the point where he almost got a lap dance. So they were speaking Chinese to some of us, and one of them asked me if I speak Chinese. I said, “Look, guys, I don’t mean to brag, but I can count to ten.” So I showed them and we all counted to ten together. I’m sure they thought I was ridiculous, and they were probably right.
We had to get up early in the morning because the water was going to be shut off and we needed to take showers. My friend Tahina and I stayed in Kate’s friend’s apartment, since they were out of town, but the other 5 were packed into her place. We made it to the bus station and met The Canadians. The Canadians are teachers at a Canadian school in Yongchuan. That’s a thing, as the kids say. We weren’t able to get a bus to Dazu until 12:30 pm, and the bus took about 90 minutes to get to Dazu, so we shot the shit for a while and hung out at a weird park and got stared at. Once in Dazu we caught a city bus to the caves.
If you get a chance to see the Dazu Rock Carvings, do it. I think I will go one more time before I leave China if I can, despite the expense and long trip. It was really beautiful and tranquil, and the carvings themselves were spectacular. I am a terrible photographer and my pictures don’t do it justice. I also felt a little rushed because I got separated from the main group because I went to the bathroom when they were buying tickets and a bunch of other shenanigans.
After we got back to Yongchuan, we went out for hot pot. Hot pot is a Chongqing specialty. I’ve been asked several times since I’ve gotten here if I’ve had hot pot, and I can now say yes. Apparently, Chongqing hot pot is different than other Asian hot pots, I think due to the spices. A pot of broth is put on the table and cooked to a boil (there was a burner built into the table; a smaller restaurant near my home uses a hot plate, I think). Then you throw whatever you want–vegetables, raw meat–in. When it’s cooked, fish it out and eat it with some dipping oil you have added custom spices to. This place was buffet style, so we could grab whatever and chuck it in and not have to risk random brains or buttholes in the pot. It was good, but the place was about 88 degrees and humid. Fortunately, beer is included in the price (!). The imitation crab, bacon, and shrimp dumplings were really good. But hot pot gets spicier the longer it simmers, so I didn’t eat as much as I might have.
The others went to da klerb after that, but I was way too tired. I instead woke up early and left around 7:30 a.m. to head home. I was pleased that I was able to find the correct bus to get home (with help from friends). I did have a little trouble in Chongqing proper. I was on the city bus on my way to Shapingba station when the bus driver said something and everyone got off. I don’t know why, but I thought it was prudent to just get off, too, even though I didn’t know where I was.
I found a taxi and asked for the subway. I couldn’t understand why the driver had so much trouble with my request. I even used my phone app to translate. What’s the deal, Chinese taxi driver? Well, he drove me 100 feet and pointed: There was the subway entrance. Oh, OK. I tried to pay him but he refused. It took me about an hour to get home and the subway was packed, but I made it.