First Full Day in China...meeting the locals, sampling the national brew

Qingdao Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 28 › view all entries

Well, after a seriously dodgy night's sleep, and even more frightening shower (see previous entry re: shower draining onto floor of bathroom near plug socket for washing machine...eek) I managed to make myself look semi decent, met Angus and Mark, the Kiwi and Brit-living-in-NZ who were also staying the night at the apartment before we were decanted to our home stays, and had some breakfast which I was kindly gifted by the boys.

This was the point I realised I should have packed lighter...a 65L rucksack, cabin baggage sized trolley case and a day pack was really too much. Trying to get that lot and me down a very narrow staircase could easily have left me flailing like a tortoise on it's back if I'd taken a tumble. Thankfully I didn't. Admittedly the trolley case mostly had teaching materials in it, and important stuff like mobile phone charger, camera films, photos and travel insurance documents (photocopied in triplicate, just in case), but on reflection it would have been easier to take a few less items of clothes, and squidge it all into the rucksack but we live and learn. But on reflection, I still bought so much stuff, mainly in Beijing and Shanghai that I would had to have bought a small case (as my travel buddy Laura did in Beijing) to get my purchases home. Still it was a catch 22, handy at times (as a seat and a weapon) and a hindrance at others (dragging it through Xi'an train station concourse while running for a train, which we missed...oops).

Anyhoo...we were picked up by the guy and girl who collected me from the station the night before and taken into the Sunbird Summer School's offices in Qingdao, to meet all the other staff and find out what the plan for the day was. It turned out we were staying in Qingdao one more night before going out to Jimo, which generated a collective grumble from Mark, Angus and myself, who'd packed up and trawled our stuff into the office, thinking we were being billeted that day. Could have been worse we told ourselves.

The main activity for the day was getting to know everyone else, and something called English Corner. Four of us were taken down to one of the city's squares-cum-parks where a horde of local parents and their offspring were waiting for us. Apparently they were prospective pupils, and we were the last minute marketing campaign to convince them to shell out their hard earned cash to let their precious emperors and empresses (god bless the one child policy....more on that later) be taught by some odd looking laowai (white people). So we were each paraded one by one, seemingly I was the first blonde any of them had seen and the questions fired at me by a number of people included what is your name (Morven was a real struggle for them to master I'm afraid), how many years old are you, what hobbies do you enjoy participating in and why do you have hair which is yellow??!!! Afraid I had no way to answer the last one, but I blame my parents. The Q&A session also highlighted why so many Chinese are keen to learn English from native speakers...the Chinese born English teachers learn from very outdated textbooks, and are given things like Jane Austen to read to practice, so their conversational skills and sentence structuring sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.

Once we finally got away from there (after having to sing Flower of Scotland...eek, playing catch, having my hair tugged, pulled and generally fiddled with) we went back to the office, picked up our teacher info packs and were taken out for a very yummy dinner at a local eatery. It was very traditional with a huge lazy susan in the middle of the table, so many different dishes, many of which weren't exactly identifiable, the first taste of the local beer (Tsingtao, brewed in the town and it's main claim to fame other than the fact the sailing competition of the 2008 Olympics will take place in the city). I'm not a beer drinker but since it was cheaper than bottled water and wine was extortionate  I thought I'd be better being economic than snobby about drink! Also sampled the infamous rice wine, or wice rine as it came to be called after a couple of shots. This is what the Chinese thing booze is called Grapesbeer because of its relatively low alcohol content. Wice Rine is somewhere near 50% proof, and kinda lethal. It tastes like Sambucca but acts much quicker! It must be drunk with a resounding cry of gambei which means you have to knock the glass on the table, lift the glass up high then knock back the's rude to say no!!!

After that we wandered back through the city, hopped into a cab and made it back to the apartment by pointing to the address on a card Kirsty gave me...there was no way I was going to try communicating in Mandarin...pointing and smiling and nodding, much easier!

And so to bed...

AndiPerullo says:
The Chinese think "golden hair" is good luck! The first 2 times I went to China every day I would have people pull my hair (I had very blonde hair then). It was so annoying at first, but then I got used to it and would find it comical.
Posted on: Oct 19, 2007
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