Somebody please call when you read this so we can see if it works :) Incoming calls are supposed to be free!
Wow, what a day! It was my first exposure to the Chinese public today and likewise for them! So, I got a lot of stares, a group gathered when I tried to barter a 2.5 Yuan bottle of water down to 2, got random waves and so on...from what I had heard from others, I was expecting this.
This morning I traveled to the area where I had breakfast yesterday morning, to find it was closed. So, I followed a woman up the stairs towards something with a picture that said something along the lines of "We Welcome English". Well, it turned out to be an English school for little kids...food not so much...!! So, I met one of the teachers (my age) who not only helped me to figure out many expressions in chinese -Larry- (and write down the characters and pronunciations), but also took me to a nearby shop where I got some delicious noodles with egg, about 8-10 dumplings and a cold green tea, all for 13 Yuan, WHAT A STEAL! That's about $2 US Dollars...oh and plus that 1.5 liter bottle of water for another 2.5 Yuan... Larry (the teacher friend) also said I might be able to work part-time there! I gave the school my email address and they said they would email me! I loved the school and the little boy I played with, but am hesitant to consider working so early on in the trip.... Well, talking with the little boy helped me a lot, and playing with him too because little children only use basic expressions and generally speak slowly! I put on a tiger bowtie and head-brace thing, yes it was cute. yes I have pictures :)
I was advised not to spend more than 1-200 Yuan on a phone, which I needed. I ended up finding a tea store in a shopping mall, talking to a nice young gal in English, who invited me to have tea with her and her sister and friends for free! I filmed the process (for your future school kids Daniel S.) and tried first Wu Long Tea, then Green Tea! Delicious!!! It is a big part of the culture here, although I am advised that it is more for the elderly... so back to the phone - the girl from the Tea's store took me to explore, and we naturally stopped at the first phone stand we saw on the 5th floor of the mall. I ended up bargaining a 50 Yuan Sim Card and 199 Yuan Phone (249 Yuan total) down to 220 Yuan, UNBEATABLE! ...i thought... - well after buying it i explored the rest of the stands and realized I could have gotten it cheaper - I bargained away, was firm with my price offers (typing them on the calculators as the Chinese continued bawking at me with no animate responses from me...as if I could understand...comeone now I've been in your country for 2 days now, not quite a boss just yet :) and when I went to walk away several times, heard "okay okay" and they lowered the price. The thing to understand is that YOU (in this case me) are where the $$ is at, and where that place is, there is not much of business going on so they want to keep you. It is ALL a bargaining game, a very dirty and dishonest one in my eyes...but hey why not charge the foreigners 2-3-4-5-6... times as much if you can right? Morals seem to be thrown out the window...perhaps a lack of cash will do that to you...So needless to say I was frustrated that instead of paying anywhere from $20-25 US for the phone, I ended up paying $36 US (with the sim card too). It is not the extra $10-$15 dollars, that's no big deal- it is more the concept of it to me as I am big on these types of things. The good news is that they activated it there for me, and gave me a Sim Card worth 20 Yuan which quite possibly could last me my whole time here - others were mainly selling sim cards of 5 Yuan....so overall, not a terrible first run at the bargaining game!! As you said Cousing Aaron, spending an extra $100 Yuan is sometimes part of the fun, I can't be too disheartened (especially after a more than decent performance) and instead am wiser for the next transaction I will enter into (beware China).
After that, I saw a delivery man for McDonalds and a Majestic looking Pizza Hut, two new sites for these eyes! I then met up with Zhang Wei (Vivian's Chinese name) and we had dinner- some rice with beef...MMmm- you BET I got Bubble Tea! (my favorite -google it if you don't know, it's delicious!!!)....after that she and i walked around the mall and she went to a bookstore to buy a book while i obnoxiously and grossly incorrectly attempted to sound out chinese pronunciations from a children's book (another fabulous way to learn)...this is quite necessary here as about .45% of the Changping DIstrict of Beijing speaks English! I was trying to find a bathroom, and wouldn't you know a kind woman who happened to be in the restaurant I walked into to ask brought me to a hotel and spa where there was a nice BATH I could swim in...ahhh miscommunications. You really don't even realize the simple words you NEED to be able to communicate to others in public...until you realize you can't! :( I tried asking if I had to pay to use the bathroom and after a few confused and garbled sentences, decided to try my luck...with the Chinese worker awkwardly peeking his head into the room with me and the urinal every 3-5 seconds...I just left after relieving myself!
Lastly, I met Zhang Wei after work at a bar and we had some Tsingtao, the Chinese National Beer- it was excellent, a dark beer which is not always my favorite but it was quite delicious...they had huge Beer shaped mugs holding what had to be at least a gallon of beer! ...also on display were about every strange (to US citizens) thing you could think of on display- I am talking grasshoppers, scorpions, centipedes, larva (I think), and some reptile -looking things which I thought were frogs at first, and then changed my mind to "I don't have a friggin' clue!"...after finishing our beer we walked home to her place in the rain (with my umbrella that i brought- nice) and now we are home! She is drawing me a map to show me how to arrive to the Great Wall (one section of it - it is too huge to see it all) for tomorrow! ...so nice!
More to come pronto! :)