Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rounding Out Nanjing

One week later, still telling stories of Nanjing. I guess it was that good. This post will be photo-laden to encourage your continued attention.

After the adventures of the first day, we were cut loose for the evening, and I took to the city with fellow CIEE student and CU Boulder undergraduate Meagan. We explored downtown Nanjing, which was conveniently located immediately outside our hotel. The night included such exploits as paddling a boat up a river that runs through the center of the city (see the river, a tributary of the mighty Yangzi, at right), and sharing a few outsized bottles of Tsingtao while enjoying the scene on the street.

The aforementioned scene was, as I suppose ought be expected, a bit absurd. Grown men chased after a dog in the street, trying to kick it (think that's cruel? ready my last post); plastic cups filled with unidentified fluids rocketed overhead from unknown sources, landing in the street; sparks flew-- seriously, honest to god sparks. The source of said sparks was, in fact, the combination of a skill saw and spot welder, which were in use about 3 meters from our table, as a squad of men worked to put an awning above the entrance to a tiny restaurant. This ridiculous process (pictured, at left)seemed doomed to failure, especially considering the (massive) size of the sign and the (pathetic) metal stays meant to hold it up. If nothing else, it made for grand entertainment.

The next morning was way weirder. I teamed up with a few compatriots, and headed to the "famous Nanjing hot springs." The cab ride, we had been told, would be not more than about 15 minutes. Half an hour later and still in the back seat, I was quietly taking the cash out of my wallet and readying for fisticuffs with the driver and his gang. When we finally arrived (we weren't, after all, driven to a warehouse and held up by our driver), we were not in the pastoral location we had expected, but at a massive spa and resort-- kind of cheesy and wildly overpriced. A little disappointed, we hung around for the morning anyway, soaking in the hot tubs and laughing at ourselves.

The afternoon was spent ruining our newly healthy skin and getting sweaty again. I returned to the giant park/mountain that featured Sun Yat Sen's Tomb and went for a hike up Zijin Shan (Purple Gold Mountain). The day was cloudy, and not conducive to good photos, so hopefully this unrelated photo will suffice: it's the view from my hotel room. On my way out of the park, a clanky minibus screeched to a halt next to me, the driver leaning out demanding to give me a ride. After a bit of haggling, I boarded his illegal taxi and crawled into the back, where I sat by an old woman from Xi'an. Also in the van were a pair of college students, and in the front seat, an 8 year-old clad in pyjamas. Needless to say, I survived the trip, though the likely outcome was not so obvious at the time.

Before I knew it, I was on the train, speeding back towards Beijing (speaking of trains, see below). Another overnight trip, this more restful than the last: fortunate, because we arrived just in time for classes on Monday morning.

3 Comments:

Blogger Matthew Garza said...

That first photo is incredible! Good thing you copyrighted it so I can't steal it for my photo production purposes.

How was haggling with the taxi driver? Are you able to haggle now? Sounds like you're improving plenty well.

23/9/06 8:45 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

in the interest of full disclosure, i didn't do the haggling-- my friend did.

i've managed it successfully once or twice on my own, though. it's mainly a process of looking amused at the price they offer, and then saying a lower number. if nothing else, i do know numbers.

23/9/06 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Paul Duke said...

Hi Sam, this is Paul Duke, your cousin Tim Makepeace's buddy. He pointed me to your blog. Sounds like you are having a great time in Beijing. I am jealous. I was there for two weeks at the end of August and had a lot of great Xinjiang food -- which is hard to find in the US, to my disappointment. Loved your yearning letter to the Chinese language. I hope she/he has written back with equal fervor. In the meantime I came across this much less poetic but nevertheless interesting article on the difficulties of Chinese. Here it is: http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html

Also, I imagine you have more study materials than you know what to do with, but I always found the biggest problem in studying Chinese was the dearth of decent recorded materials -- everything was so formal and stiff and unnatural. But have you heard about the new website Chinesepod.com? They have great recorded material which you can download for free. You have to pay a fee to get to the written materials but I'm sure you haven't got time for that. If you take a look in the "lyrics" section of each individual MP3 file in iTunes you will see that a portion of the recorded material is there as a text to study anyway. You're in the best environment of course having conversations in Chinese all day long, but I always found it useful to have audio stuff I could listen to repeatedly to pick up the rhythms and test my comprehension.

They also have a separate site in Chinese for more advanced materials at zh.chinesepod.com and I have been using that to keep up my Chinese while I am stuck here in very American Fredericksburg, Va.

Have fun in Beijing and don't miss out on splurging once in a while on some of the amazing restaurants there. My favorites are Ding Tai Feng (over in Chaoyang district, far away from you) and South Beauty (which I think has a branch up on the 4th ring road (maybe 3rd, not too far from the university area). Also, all those Xinjiang places are great.

Okay that's enough blather from me. Have fun and I will watch your blog.

yrs

PD

24/9/06 2:09 PM  

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