Monday, May 5, 2008

China...the beginning

The lanugage barrier is hard to get through, especially since none of the signs make any sense and there are no real cognates or similar words. A waiter was trying to pour me more tea at dinner for me, which I tried to deny. The word "no" and waving my hands did nothing to stop him, but a simple "boo" worked (which is the equivalent to the word "not"). My friend that lives here is pretty fluent, so he helps us get around by writing his address down so that we can have a cabbie just read it and get us back to his place (written in chinese characters which are entirely unintelligible).

Here is a little twist to our trip...My friend that we are staying with has recently purchased and moved into a brand-spanking new apartment. To the point where very few people even live in his building, and most of the other buildings in the complex are not at a habitable state of construction. So apparently, upon unpacking, moving, and closing his lease on his old place, he finds out the new buildings are not on the city gas grid yet, which means no cooking on the stove or oven (a luxury that he had installed) and no HOT WATER! However, a lucky convenience, there are two bath houses across the street from the complex, where you can bathe, sauna, jacuzzi and get a massage for less than $2 (I think the massage costs a little extra). So the inconvenience of having to walk across the street to shower is easily mitigated by the pampering you get for such a low cost (kind of). Either way, I am no stranger to such travel twists and its just another way to unfold a good story.

The city we are staying in right now is called ZhengZhou (pronounced Jung-Joe), which is the capital of the province. They estimate the population to be around 6-8 million. So it is a massive, bustling thriving city. Taxi's are everywhere, (and they are metered - no negotiating necessary) and they cost around 1-2 dollars to get almost anywhere within the city. We hired a private driver to take us to a temple outside the city today, maybe an hour+ cab ride and it ran us about 50 bucks for a round trip. So getting around has been pretty smooth (knock on wood). The downtown is a little overwhelming, with traffic laws being merely suggestions and all kinds of traffic, from pedestrian, to bicycle, to electric motor bikes, to buses, taxis, vehicles, and the occasional three-wheeled trucks. I can't even count on my fingers the times we were in a cab and we were moving directly into on-coming traffic, but everyone drives pretty slow around town and everyone understands the unspoken rules of the road - basically if you can get your car there then it is fair game - so there is this feeling of organized chaos that is kind of comforting considering the line of work I am in.

We spent all day at the Shaolin Temple today, which is where they invented Kung-Fu, saw a great show there and a temple that is way older than Jesus. I have lots of pics and some cool video of the Kung-fu show. One of the dudes threw a metal pin through a glass plate...
I saw a really great show for the bachelor party, but that might not go into written form....
I have eaten like a king pretty much every meal, there is a lot of family style here with rotating tables and the big bowls of food, so we usually order as many items as we can fit on the table and just spin it around until we are full. Each restaurant is unique, although there are some similar dishes (like the roast duck plate) the menus and the ambience is an entirely new experience. When my friend is not around we are left to our own devices so getting a translated menu is quite a kick, I'll bring some example's back when I get home, but today we ate a dish translated as "Jam burns the roasted eggplant" and "fragrant flowering garlic roasting duck blood" - hilarious and delicious at the same time.

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