I went to the tailor this morning to pick up my latest order – a qipao top custom made for me out of beautiful red embroidered silk for $16. I was considering ordering a full-length qipao as well, but have pretty much decided not to. It’s not so much what the tailor would charge (certainly not more than $40), but more the associated costs of transporting it home and finding shoes to wear with it. Also, this is a sort of gamble – me betting that I’ll be back in China some day with less luggage and more occasions to wear a qipao :)
While walking back from the bus stop at West Gate, I stopped at the DVD cart and bought 松花江上. It’s a Chinese TV show, a historical series set after the Japanese surrender concerning the Communists vs. the KMT. I don’t know that it’s the pinnacle of Chinese television (a peak that doesn’t seem to be that high, anyway) but I watched a couple episodes with Xiao Zhang and Xiao Li so it has a special place in my heart. I have a hard time telling apart the Japanese/Communist/KMT characters (which meant I was continually asking “Are they a good guy or a bad guy?”), but their accents are good and they’re easy to understand. The entire show cost me $2, but when it turned out to only be on two discs instead of three, I got a refund of 70 cents. Buying Chinese DVDs are possibly the most guilt-free purchase to make here, as they are a) incredibly cheap, b) unavailable in America, c) small and easily transportable, and d) both entertaining and educational.
I bought tickets this afternoon to Hangzhou at the beginning of July for $130. It’s a trip to a part of China I don’t want to go to (Shanghai), and during a week when I don’t want to be traveling (last week of classes before finals and goodbyes). So why am I going? A friend of mine is going to be there. We aren’t best friends, but we went to elementary, middle, and high school together and have kept in touch sporadically since then. I’ve probably only seen him twice since we graduated, one of those times being a chance meeting at Caribou Coffee, but I guess this is a good example of how facebook can actually be used to actually keep in touch with actual people who you actually know. I know, right? I saw he was taking a tour through Europe and Asia and knew that I had to try to meet up with him. I kind of promised myself when I came to China this year that if someone I knew came to Asia (especially China), I would do my best to see them. Hence the spur-of-the-moment trip to Guangzhou to see the family friends who came to adopt a son, the repeated postponing of my trip to Jilin, and now this. I am really excited to see Matt and catch up, and have been moderately successful at mitigating the parts of the trip I’m not excited about. I’ll be flying in and out of Hangzhou, completely avoiding the insanity of Shanghai and the Expo, and scheduled the trip during the week (missing class) so as to be in Xiamen for the all-important Fourth of July and last weekend.
I also resumed searching for tickets home two weeks later – and it turns out that they all suck. The cheapest flight available from Xiamen to Minneapolis is $1,052 but most of the cheap stuff involves 4 legs (and sometimes 4 countries) or ridiculously long times between flights. Yes, I’d like to visit the Philippines but an 11-hour layover wasn’t what I had in mind. The price isn’t of utmost importance as I have a scholarship to cover it, but is it too much to ask for an journey home that starts in the afternoon, lasts under 24 hours, and is preferably through either Delta or Cathay Pacific? Apparently. Nevertheless, it must be done – don’t worry, I firmly intend to return home.
I took a look at my records and calculated that my 10-day trip to Jilin cost just under $500 total. 40% of that was the plane tickets, a third was food, and the remainder was other transportation. I was so lucky to not have to pay for a place to stay! I spent $120 treating people to dinner, but (besides that fact that this is a drop in the bucket compared with what they’ve given me) it’s still less than I would have spent otherwise – on lodging for 10 nights and for food on the occasions that they treated me to dinner! The only disappointment (again) was that final day in Jilin, which cost $50. That’s a tenth of the total cost, and a full third of my transportation costs, in one day!