Maria Holland

Public Transportation FAIL

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2010 at 9:32 pm

This morning I experienced the second bite of last night’s peppers.  :(  Mental note to self: drink yogurt after spicy meals.

We had a leisurely morning, planning out the rest of our week in Sichuan (pandas tomorrow, church on Sunday, Emei Shan and Leshan from Monday to Wednesday), and then moving to a different hotel.  As noted in yesterday’s post, we were not satisfied with our hotel last night, so we moved to Chengdu’s other Super 8 Motel.  The location is a little bit better and the room is nicer with less non-functioning appliances, but it’s inexplicably more expensive and, despite being significantly smaller, has yet to heat up really at all.

We also called my Chinese friend back in the States so he could listen to Mom speak Chinese.  She did pretty well, but there were some funny mistakes.  For instance, she said 听不用 (tīng bú yòng, “I hear but don’t need”) instead of 听不懂 (tīng bú dǒng, “I hear but don’t understand”).  Later, Wang thought she said “which floor” (几楼, or jǐ lóu) instead of “chicken” (鸡肉, or jī ròu).

Dad had a embarrassing language moment too – actually he’s had lots of them.  As we walked by a bakery full of beautiful cakes, so he turned into the store to admire them, saying loudly “bu hao!” in an attempt to compliment the girl behind the counter on the quality of the cakes.  Um . . . fail: “Bu hao” means “no good”; he meant to say “hao chi”, or “delicious”!  We quickly left . . .

It’s funny because I remember that summer on the farm when I was first learning Chinese – when all the tones sounded the same, when I didn’t know the different sounds of “qu” and “chu”, when I would forget a new word within seconds of learning it, when the 了 particle confounded me (oh wait, it still does).  I remember all of it but I’m not there anymore.  I hear tones and can say them and even, (slightly) more often than not, use the correct one.  I still have trouble with the umlauted ‘u’ and the weird Chinese ‘r’ sound, but I get by.  I make up words and sentences with abandon and get pretty good results so I guess I’m kind of getting the hang of it.  Yup, I remember those times and again give thanks for the amazingly patient ‘teachers’ I had on the farm, who put up with a whole summer of my regular butchering of their language, my complete inability to master even their names, and my strange actions that I couldn’t explain properly to them.  Too bad my parents’ teacher isn’t that patient . . .

In total tourist mode, we went for lunch at a Western (kind of – it was Turkish) restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet book.  It was hard to find but after a very filling meal of naan, hummus, kebab, and tikka we agreed that the trek was worth it.  [This is John/Dad:  The Turkish restaurant was a lot different than the Chinese restaurants we have been going to for over a week, in several important ways:  1) It was quiet.  2) We ordered separate, complete meals from the menu – ‘tho we shared with each other anyway.  3) It had salt and pepper on the table.  4) We ate with regular silverware instead of chopsticks.  5) We had wonderful, warm bread!  6) The restaurant had a door.  7) The door was closed, so it was fairly warm.  8) There was another Meiguoren, or American, there, from Detroit, but we didn’t talk to her.]

Mom and I continued on towards TianFu Square in the center of the city, but Dad went back to the hotel to read and relax [meaning sleep].  He didn’t really miss anything, because Mom and I spent the majority of the afternoon trying to get somewhere.  Chengdu’s public transit (or maybe all of their transit) is a nightmare.  We waited at two different bus stops for at least ten minutes each, ready to get on any bus (the good news is that their buses seem to all go in the same direction, so we could take any of them).  Buses were few and very far between, though, and the ones that did come by were so stuffed that they could literally not take a single more passenger (and this is in China, where there is almost always room for one more person, even if they are directly in the path of the door).

When we got tired of waiting for a bus, we decided to catch a taxi.  But again, we were passed over and over again by taxis that already had passengers, and the few times we saw one stop to let someone off, someone else jumped in front of us to claim it.

Anyway, to cut a long, painful story short, we finally got on a bus and made it to the city center.  We got temporarily distracted by a bookstore, where we continued our quest for my mother’s favorite children’s books translated into Chinese.  I felt stupid asking for a book “about a train that wants to go up a mountain and wrongly thinks it can’t, but really it can” and another about “a mouse and if you give it a cookie”, and then they didn’t even know what I was talking about (I know, right?  Hard to believe…).  We did, however, buy Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Chinese, so that I can have a full set of all the languages I kind of speak.  Then we made it over to the main square, which was quite nice.

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There’s a big statue of Mao, some beautiful dragon fountains, a huge yin-yang pattern to the ground, and four underground staircases that lead to the subway system that will (God willing!) be finished sometime very very soon.

The ridiculousness of the trip there was repeated as we attempted to return to the hotel.

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I’ve decided that Wuhan is not pretty and Chengdu’s public transportation sucks, so it really was one of those wonderful unanswered prayers that I got sent to wonderful Xiamen.

On days like this – when it’s cold and well, China outside – I like to order takeout.  The people at the front desk helped us out with phone numbers, and a few minutes later three huge bowls of steaming hot wonton soup were delivered right to our hotel room – for about a total of $2.  Dad was pleased!

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