I packed this morning, got lunch to go, and caught a taxi to the airport. They let me take my food through security so I was able to enjoy my eggplant from Caiqingjie for $2 instead of the crappy spaghetti I bought last time I flew for $10. Sweet!
My flight to Hangzhou was very uneventful except for the time when it felt like the engines cut out and we briefly dropped approximately 20 meters below my stomach. But we landed fine, and I caught a bus to Suzhou.
Actually, for once there were no transportation problems at all along the way. All of the 麻烦 came from the hotel. I had made reservations a few days before, and Matt and I had agreed to meet there. But when I called the hotel from the bus to warn them about the large foreign man who doesn’t speak Chinese and was heading their way shortly, I had some difficulty, as here was no record of Maria Holland or 马利亚, no matter how many times I spelled both. They finally found my reservation under my cell phone number, so I went back to sleep until we reached Suzhou about an hour later.
I didn’t know where I was so I took a taxi to my hotel – which was, of course, directly around the corner. That’ll be 10 kuai, please! I went up to the counter and gave my name – English, then Chinese, and when that failed, the cell phone number again. No record of me anywhere. I showed them the confirmation text messages, recounted the story of my earlier phone call, described the tall dark foreign man I was supposed to be meeting, and repeated my case insistently. Maybe 20 minutes passed, and as I was starting to worry where my friend was (as he was supposed to have arrived a few hours ago), they held up a copy of his passport. Oh, you meant this tall dark foreign man who doesn’t speak Chinese and just checked into the room you reserved, exactly as you told us he would?? Yeah, he’s been here for a few hours.
Goodness. Was that really so hard, now?
I found Matt up in our room; he had made it in from Shanghai with possibly less troubles than I had had. That doesn’t really seem fair when considering the disparity between our language skills, but I guess I can take some pride in his smooth travels.
It was dinnerish time, so we decided to begin adventuring towards dinner. It was probably good that we departed before we were hungry, because we had a rough orientation period and walked for quite a while before finding the restaurant we were looking for. It was a Uighur restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet, and we enjoyed a hearty meal of beef-‘n-onions, a saucy plate of chicken-‘n-veggies, and a basket of bread.
We had a lot to catch up on over dinner. Matt and I were classmates from when I moved to Minnesota in 2nd grade until we graduated from high school. We got the same scholarship our senior year but took it to different universities in different states, so since graduation we had only seen each other twice when we randomly bumped into each other around town. China is his last stop on a 50+ day tour of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; then in a few weeks he starts med school. So yeah, there was no shortage of stuff to talk about.
We meandered back to the hotel, getting lost in the exact same ways, so altogether our sojourn took close to five hours. Dang.