An Early Start
Jet lag blows. Although we all went to sleep around 11p-12m, I woke
up at 5am; I guess I woke up Rich, too. It's 6am and it seems nobody
slept past 5:30am. All us congregated in the hallway for a while,
till we eventually meandered down to the lobby to meet up for
They supplied a Western breakfast -- not continental, by any means,
but there was bread (white bread) and jam (passable) and hard-boiled
eggs (pretty straightfoward) and coffee (thin, in a large pot). It
was passable, and they tried; we appreciated it! also, we kept asking
for hard-boiled eggs, to the point of mooching them from the next
table over; one of the girls at my table never'd had 'em, and she
loved it! (I stuck to the bread and jam.) Tomorrow, Sun laoshi has
told me there'll be some typical Chinese breakfast served, which'll
supposedly be about as light as we had. I'm thinking the grocery
store will furnish good supplies for elevensies on the road.
Supporting capitalism in China
Our first task of the day: money-changing and
shopping. Our professors advised us to bring over $200-500 dollars in
cash to exchange. I packed about $250 personal/food plus $100 for
souvenirs for mom. A few people were rolling in it. Pretty soon,
Tiffanny, our TA, was rolling in it like a Fruit Roll-Up: she walked
into that bank holding a wad of over $14,000. That's three zeroes,
While our illustrious program directors managed the
guide, walked us up through a medium-small silk goods store. They had
functional token displays showing the growing stages of the silkworm,
the harvesting of silkworms, the looms collecting silk, the different
stages of weaving the silk, and finally a few tons of product to sell.
It was an adventure, accompanied by lions (two sculptures out front
of the entrance), tigers (embroidered with silk thread onto a white
silk backing), and panda bears (as hats and slippers). Lotta lotta
After our excursion through three floors of silk and our coffers'
filling, we were driven over to a slightly larger shopping center:
four floors above-ground, two below, chock-full of single-wide stores.
Fields of Rolexes, iPods and competitors, Chinese cultural items
(including one store that sold Tibetan stuff), clothes, shoes, ties,
and an awful lot of desperate clerks calling to you, reaching out for
you (and sometimes latching on to wrists and elbows). That was our
first stop on the Road to Financial Rouen. I blew an awful lot of
money getting useful things, like a card reader for my camera (because
I forgot my USB cable), and a wireless router (to employ once they
hook up the ethernet in our room). That wireless router was $5
cheaper than the real-deal D-Link DS-534 router. It was also brand
name TP-LINK and almost all of the documentation is in Chinese. By
the way, my new phone number in Beijing is +001 (China int'l code)
1352-077-0638 (China #).
Free reign was granted us till 1:30, so we honed our bargaining
skills. Mine were sharpened to a shiny dullness, about a 40%. I did
feel a little better about my language skills, since that (and a lot
of English and calculators to write numbers on) got me through plenty
of purchases. The ground floor and above had a lot of English
fluency, while the basement floors (electonics, toys) sure didn't.
Lunch was a few blocks over in a lovely traditional restaurant. We
had a variety of foods on a lazy susan! Quite delish.
After lunch, we migrated to another, larger shopping center.
Craaaazy. The clerks are even more aggressive there, though one of my
friends made out like a bandit when she only had 1/3 of the asking
price in her wallet. Everybody's a businessman. Blah blah, had free
for another two hours till 4:30pm, wandered around, bought some stuff
(like a seal with my name and a Chinese banner, same deal. That was
an excellent bad idea, except for the pants which I had to hit the ATM
for. At least I had some moolah to pick up a pair of Oakleys --
pardon me, Okey's -- glasses, since I broke my pair this morning.
Also, it seems that the track pants where the bottom half unzips off
are coming back, to my delight; I took a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch
Paratroops, list $80, for $20. (ETA: When I washed out those pants,
they bled a lot of color into the drain.) If it's a forgery, it looks
good enough to me.
Back to the hotel to drop off our purchases and rest a moment, then
downstairs to dinner in the banquet hall. $BWL9%5I(B (delicious)! An
assortment of plates kept coming to the table; we coulda used a lazy
susan great. At least the Chinese beers weren't in short supply, but
some were room temperature and they were all light. Ehhh, meh.
Directly following dinner was a karaoke / social session. Whooooaa.
Our tour guide, Eric, was quite vivacious and sang us a coupla boy
band songs. A few of us got up and performed: Anthony juggled, since
he juggles; Rachael and I sang "In the Jungle," quite off-key; one of
the hotel staff sang a cute Chinese karaoke song; and one girl on the
tour company staff danced traditional-style, very nice! Crazy, silly,
good first-night bonding event.