May 27, 1999
Last Wednesday evening, Lara and I were feeling antsy, so we went out around 6:30pm, and caught the #11 bus into town. We didn't know where we'd go, but we wanted to get out. And we ended up visiting Patty, the American teacher over at the Jinzhou Teacher's college. Up till then, we'd only visited with her one time, when she came over here to our school about a month ago. (Jinzhou isn't all that big. We haven't got much excuse for not seeing more of each other!)
After a few minutes visiting, we went out and walked to the night market in downtown Jinzhou. That's a really fun thing to do, walking up and down the crowded narrow aisles on the street where all sort of useful housewares and other items are sold. I bought Lara a jumprope and some snacks, and Patty and I bought pumice rocks to scrub off porcelain stains, and smooth out the calluses on our heels.
After a very pleasant walk, I pointed Patty back towards her school, and then Lara and I caught a motorized pedicab back to our school. The busses in Jinzhou (1 yuan) stop running around 7 p.m.. Taxis are easy to find, but cost 10 yuan. Motorized pedicabs cost only half that, so usually I only take a taxi when I'm with several people or have a lot of stuff to haul. Besides, the pedicabs are a lot more fun, and you can see more stuff since they travel somewhat more slowly.
We hadn't been in the cab more than a minute when the skies opened up and a torrential downpour began. Our driver stopped under a bridge and began to pull down the plastic sides on the little cart we were riding in and to put on his rain slicker. After his lengthy preparations were completed, he continued on. It was definitely an exciting ride, with lots of lightning and thunder and heavy rain, just a thin plastic sheet away from us.
But we made it home without incident, though we had to make a run for it from the cab to our guesthouse front door, and when we arrived around 9:20 pm, the building was dark and the front door locked. After a few moments of door rattling, Li Da Ye, the night watchman, unlocked the door for us chuckling as he noticed that we were a little rainsoaked and out of breath from the run. (The people here in Jinzhou have a true horror of getting wet, and will often wait for long periods, rather than go out in the rain and risk becoming even a little bit damp.)
Lara and I went out this morning to pay a last visit to Patty. We had planned to go with her to Shan Hai Guan tomorrow, but she got on an earlier flight home to the U.S., and so is leaving tonight for Beijing. But we did have a very nice visit with her, and she gave me a bunch of useful stuff, including lots of kitchenware, toilet paper, and a very nice cassette player.
Then, we headed back home. What a hot day.... or "tai re le!" as I've recently learned to say in Chinese. But the guesthouse is a solid masonry slab, and it holds the coolness in beautifully, so we stayed home and rested through the heat of the day.
Lara and I had planned to go with a friend today to a walled Ming dynasty town about an hour from here, called Xing Cheng. But getting things organized is sometimes difficult, and by the time we got together, it was really too late (and too hot!) to want to go. So, instead, we splurged and took a taxi down to the 'western' restaurant downtown, the Bear restaurant, and drank coffee and read our books in the air conditioned coolness while Lara ate ice cream and played with the restaurant staff.
And then we went just a bit too far.... I decided that my curiosity about their pizza was overpowering, so we ordered one. What a mistake!!! The thing served to us bore only the very slightest resemblance to a pizza, and tasted nothing like one. (imagine a slice of white bread smeared with catsup and some leftover American cheese and canned vegetables, and you'll have a small idea of what we faced.) But now, I can say that I've eaten (barely) at the Bear and know that I won't feel like repeating the experience any time soon.
After dinner, we decided to go see Patty off to her train, so we went back over to the Teacher's college and had another nice visit with her and two other American teachers there, plus several of her Chinese colleagues as well. Around 8pm, we all took taxis to the train station and put Patty and her luggage on her train, then I said a final good bye and we returned home. I know that we'll miss her, but I am very happy that with the miracle of e-mail we'll be able to continue our friendship no matter where either of us may be living.
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