First of all, I want to apologize for the lateness of this post. I’ve been battling the WiFi and that has made uploading this a bit of an ordeal.
My first weekend in Chengdu has officially concluded, and if it’s any indication of the rest of my time here, I am in for a fabulous semester.
Saturday morning, some of us decided to explore the nearby marketplace. At this point, it’s difficult to be in contact as we haven’t purchased pre-paid phones and it’s difficult to connect to WiFi all the time so it was only a small group of us this time around.
The marketplace is completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced. Doors are optional, and even when the small shops do have doors, they’re always propped open. The fruits are small, the vegetables are big, and man, are there a lot of animal feet hanging around. I would have taken pictures, but I didn’t want to offend any of the shop owners – especially since I wasn’t purchasing anything.
Exploring the marketplace also taught me the golden rule of Chengdu traffic: if it has wheels, it has the right of way. Walking on the sidewalk and a motorcycle is (inexplicably) rushing straight for you? You better move. Crossing any intersection is a game of Russian roulette, since only half of the traffic acknowledges the red lights. It’s telling when the green crosswalk figure isn’t frozen in time like in America, but frantically running in place as he tries to escape the traffic demons.
Saturday night, about ten of us decided to go and try out one of the KTV (karaoke) places nearby. Karaoke is huge here, and though it was an interesting experience hailing three taxis and trying to coordinate all of them into arriving at the same location, we all had a marvelous time. The place was much fancier than I expected (everyone was in dresses and dress pants) with ritzy chandeliers and private rooms for each party. I’m still not sure why the place had a teddy bear theme (there was a tower of teddy bears in the center of the foyer and each person working in the place had a large teddy bear on their sleeve) but it was really quite nice. We spent about three or four hours there, belting to all kinds of American songs – from Beyonce to Eminem to Queen – and considering it was the first time I had officially met half of these people and I have little to no confidence in my singing skills, I had a fantastic time.
Sunday, we decided to visit Da Fu’s Thatched Cottage, which is a quick bus ride away from campus. Da Fu, also known as Confucius, did not in fact live in a cottage but rather a multiple-pagoda-garden-bonsai palace. After wandering around the cottage grounds, it’s no wonder the man had philosophical thoughts because it was so serene and peaceful.
Not only did we get to explore and photograph pagodas, a waterfall, bonsai gardens, and lots of statues, we also got to be the subject of several photographs since many Chinese tourists were too afraid to come up and address us but were not above taking pictures from a distance (thank you zoom lenses). One man did stop me on the way down from the bell tower and personally welcome me to China, so the Chinese are nothing but friendly.
To summarize the weekend: I’ve been exploring Chengdu for two days and I took 832 pictures of both friends and scenery. I can only imagine how many more are to come.
A post regarding the first week of class (oh yeah, THAT’S why I came to China) will come shortly!