I’ve been in China for 3 weeks now and I’m settling in. I thought I would share some interesting stories. Communicating is still slow going, but I’m able to talk minimally with strangers, waiters, taxi drivers etc. which opens up options for what I can do alone.

Because foreigners are so sparse here, people really go above and beyond normal niceness to befriend you. Last weekend I stopped a young man in the street to ask where the bookstore was. He proceeded to walk me to the bookstore, insisted on buying me books, and afterward took me out for a nice dinner, all completely unprompted. I hope that kind of thing happens in NY sometimes. During dinner, a group of middle aged men behind us butted in and then more friends were made! These guys own a pool hall, and they invited us to play pool and drink for free, which we did.

Free Pool

Though it was a huge pool hall, it would have been impossible to find it without knowing about it. It was in a random building’s basement, absolutely no signage. We had fun, and I have an open invitation to go back.

Non sequitur.  there’s a culture here of people secretly taking photos of others without their permission. They even have a word that means exactly that, pronounced tou-pai. It’s especially popular with foreigners. Not a single person has asked to take a photo with me, but I’ve caught countless people stealing my photo. More and more I confront them to practice my Chinese and make friends, which is a happy surprise for them when I can speak a little.

Dry ice lamb neck
OK cup

This was a delicious lamb neck that came with some dry ice for effect. At the same restaurant there was this fun times “OK” cup.

My roommate and I often watch TV while we eat together. He’s most interested in politics and current events, so we generally watch the news. About half the time, we watch a program called the military defense update, which is footage of Chinese military training and military related international current events. I think this show is on every night, which I find fascinating. As far as I know, there is no equivalent in the US. China has a ton of national pride, from the military to the Olympics. Unsurprisingly, it’s hard to find news about Olympic sports that Chinese people haven’t won. And I’ve seen nothing about the U.S. election, though I did have a conversation with taxi driver about American politics. They call Hillary Clinton Xilali (pronounced she-la-li).

Ladies parking
Ladies parking

And here’s ladies parking, a really special concept here in Shijiazhuang. At some malls, there are special parking areas for women only. The parking area is as close as possible to the mall and parking spaces are twice the size of normal spaces. Everything is painted pink, and each spot gets its very own animal designation in case you couldn’t find your car based on numbers from 1 to 100. And someone will park your car if you can’t manage it in a 10’ wide parking spot.

Fake Venice

In another mall nearby, there is this really long fake Venice.

The painted sky is surprisingly real looking and you can even catch a ride in a strange looking gondola if the mood strikes as you stroll through the streets of venice eating Chinese food.

That’s it for now. Talk soon.