We had company for the weekend, John Horrigan another teacher who is in Yangzhou. Yangzhou is most probably the smallest of the cities that are involved with the program, some 400,000 people. He had to come to Changzhou by bus; there is no direct train service into Yangzhou. We found out that Changzhou has two main bus terminals in it and we did not know which terminal he was arriving at. You can imagine all the FUN that was to meet him when he arrived in town. Luckily the bus terminals are near each other and near the train station. When we found out what time he was to arrive we went down to it and waited for him. In our instructions to him we said that we would meet him at the Bus Station or at the KFC, which is nearby on the main road.
As the time passed from his arrival time, we became more and more nervous. You see the Chinese cannot give directions to save their lives. When you ask someone for directions, they will always volunteer to take you there instead and now I know why? The directions we got were vague and confusing for us and we live here now, for John, I could only imagine; but we know that he is an experienced traveler. T-plus 30 minutes, after arrival, still no John and I told Martie to wait at the KFC and I would wait by the Bus Station for him. T-plus 60 minutes, I told Martie to go home and may be he will call or send an e-mail. T-plus 90 minutes, I went home to eat and still no John; but I was very proud of myself for not going into KFC for some fries to relieve the aggravation.
When I arrived home, still no John and I had some lunch. I told Martie that I would rest a bit and then go back to the Station to wait. Maybe the bus got delayed on its travels. We have never traveled by bus for a long distance, between cities, and this was the first one of our friends that came here by bus. About half an hour later, John called. He was at the KFC and I told him Id be right there. Dont move. He said that he would be inside on the second floor. In China, all restaurants are located on the second floor. Dont ask me why.
I got on my bike and made it down there in about 10 minutes. Found John and then had some fries, I just couldnt resist. We then walked back to the house across town. After riding in a bus for a few hours, he said he preferred to walk rather than taking a taxi. The walk was only about 25 minutes because I was giving the Grand Tour of the main street on the way. We laughed about the mix up and how we kept on just missing each other. His bus did not arrive until after noon, which was more than 30 minutes late. He was not sure where to go from where the bus left him off. It seems the bus let off the passengers on the street before it gets into the terminal. This was something we were told but did not get a clear explanation as to where it was that it did this. So he went in an opposite route from where I was to get to the KFC and Martie was already home by then. He was waiting upstairs and I kept looking at the front of the building for him. The kicker was if I went into the KFC for some fries, I would have met him.
Saturday was the first nice day in about a week, no rain but a little chilly, so waiting for him was tiring for me because I was on my feet for all that time, over two and half hours. Not to mention the two-mile walk to and from the Station. I had my exercise for the day without any trouble I was not finished.
It was such a nice day that we decided to take a little walk before going out for dinner. So we explored some of the alleyways downtown that they call streets and after dark we went to restaurant row to find a place to eat. All the nice restaurants had banquets for wedding parties and there was no room for us. We decided to go to the restaurant we had The Baby Birthday Party at last weekend, but we never made it there. On the way, we noticed Ali Baba Café, a step-down restaurant off the main street and we investigated. It was like a Horn and Hardart restaurant with table service. You were able to see pictures of the dishes or the dishes that were prepared; but when we seated by our hostess, she asked if we would like an English menu. Well, we never expected this from a restaurant that looked like a dive. Not only that, but our order taker spoke more than passable English. She was a recent graduate from a High School in the western region and came to Changzhou to work. There is a fairly large Muslim population in Changzhou and they even have their own Mosque. The food was surprisingly good and tasty and even more important, not that expensive. Afterwards we left for the Ice Cream Parlor to get some Sundaes and to listen to some jazz CDs. After about an hour of that we walked up to one of the discos in town and went in.
Ive passed the disco everyday on my way to and from school and of course it was always closed at the time. Not now!! It was jumping, both literately and figuratively. It only cost 20 Yuan (about $2.50) per person to get in, and we proceeded into the place. We went upstairs to over look the dance floor and sat by the bar. There were girls behind the bar who I think were hostesses to get patrons to buy more drinks and keep them entertained by playing cards, dice and just talking to them at this point. We ordered a beer and two cokes and that was a little expensive, but not too bad. Then the show started. A group of chorus girl clad dancers came out and did a few dance routines, not bad. Behind the bar on the second floor, thats where we were, a male singer stood on a platform and sang a song, in Chinese, of course. It surprised me that it was not Karaoke.
Then came the MUSIC that never stopped. People just started to go up to the stage that was about 10 by 10 meters and danced or jumped around. There had to be about 300 people on the stage and more standing on the speakers by the sides of the stage and the steps. It was western Techno Music or New Age Music and loud. The dance floor started to bounce up and down. People upstairs where we were also dancing in the aisles. Everybody was having a good time. We were the oldest people there but nobody really cared as long as you were dancing and having a good time. John and Martie opted to go down to the dance floor and that was a sight to see. How they squeezed into the crowd and then became part of it. After about 20 minutes, they came back upstairs first Martie and then after awhile John followed. He said he has been to many other discos in China and this was one of the best ones he had visited.
Sunday the weather returned nasty but that did not stop us from exploring more of Changzhou with John. We showed him The Street from Hell and the Mosque, which was right, near it. He had a digital camera that could also take videos and he was filming away, I hope it wins an Oscar. We walked across town to get his bus ticket back and passed my school this time and went in to show it to him. He was very impressed with the schools that we work at in Changzhou. He said that he did not have it as nice as we do and was really impressed by my classroom, which is the Media Room for my school. He said his school in Yangzhou doesnt even have such a room in it. Got his ticket for a five oclock bus and went back to the house by cab, now. We had lunch at the Moslem Noodle Shop right outside of #1, where we live. He took pictures of them making the noodles and their children (Minorities can have more than one child). With his camera, he was able to show them the pictures immediately and he became a big hit with everybody. Then it started to rain, what luck that we were out over three hours and no rain; but now just as we got home it poured. We spent sometime showing him our pictures and videos and then it was time to get the bus back to Yangzhou for him. I went with him to the Bus Station by bus and we had no trouble getting him on the right bus. As a matter of fact, there were at least two fellow travelers who were able to help him find the platform to get on his bus. The Chinese love to practice their English and they are very helpful to foreign travelers in their country.
Michael and Martie (the disco Queen), Changzhou, China, Tuesday, November 21, 2000
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