It's been a while since I updated. Oops. Well, I've fully recovered from being sick, so that's good.
After all illnesses were set aside, Christina, Grace, their mom, and I spent a couple of days being tourists together. We saw the Ethnic Groups park, which has stuff about all 56 ethnic groups in China. There was a really fun presentation by the Dai people that culminated in a water war. Except instead of losing if you got wet, the wetter you were the more blessings you received. I thought it was a nice twist on the way we do it...
The next day was spent at Beihai park, which, quite simply, is beautiful. Lots of trees and rocks to climb on. There was also a little cave that was more a tourist trap than any particularly interesting geological site, but it was still fun to wander through. It was a really fun day. Beihai also has a restaurant where you get served the same foods that the emperor would have eaten. We didn't go because it's crazy expensive, but the cheap option is buying a box of the desserts that the emperor would have eaten. Most of them were pretty good, but I was not a fan of the pea thing. What is that, you ask? Well, it looks kind of like a caramel. It's made of mashed peas. This made for not a happy Miranda. Oh well. The other notable thing about Beihai was that everyone wanted a picture with me. I had only had that problem a couple of times on this trip, until Beihai, where at least half a dozen people asked me for a picture. Most people just wandered off shyly when I said no. Some looked upset, like I was being mean and denying them something that they deserved. Some tried to take it anyway. A number of people just didn't even ask; I caught them trying to covertly take my picture and all I could do was turn my back. I've never been anywhere else where taking pictures with foreigners was a thing. I don't quite understand it. But I will say that should I ever meet anyone famous, I probably won't get a picture with them, because I now know how incredibly annoying it is. Still, at least most people ask.
Friday afternoon, Tyler and I hopped a bullet train to Qingdao, or as beer drinkers will recognize it, Tsingtao. This was a much nicer ride than the one to Chengde, which was not a bullet train. I read most of the way. We got in about 10 and, after spending twenty minutes looking for a cab that wasn't trying to charge us 50 yuan for a five minute ride, made it to the hostel. It was a really nice one, actually. Despite the fact that it was late, we didn't feel like going to bed and decided to walk down to the nearby pier instead. The "beach" was pretty disappointing. Rocky rather than sandy and the tide was out. Still, it was really nice to smell the ocean air and feel the breeze. We wandered around the pier for a while, looking at the trinkets people were selling, making them guess where we were from. We found a guy selling cotton candy as big as my head and got some. Then we went back to the hostel and went to bed.
Saturday morning we headed to "Number 1 Bathing Beach," which we had heard was the best in Qingdao. Unfortunately, everyone else in Qingdao had heard that, too. It was packed with young families, old ladies in swimming caps, and old men in speedos. Actually, all men in speedos. Swim trunks haven't really caught on here. On the bright side, this one was sandy. I didn't swim, but walked around with my feet in the water and collected some rocks (shells that weren't in tiny pieces were in short supply). We didn't spend as long at the beach as we had intended because it was so loud and crowded. Instead, we went to the Tsingtao Beer Museum/Brewery. You had to pay to get in but you got a free beer at the end. It was pretty interesting. It was also fun to see the buildings while we wandered through the city. Qingdao used to be a German colony (hence the beer) and there's a lot of very German architecture all over.
After our tour, we went to another part of town to meet Emma and Sherry, two Qingdao natives who lived on my hall last year. They took us to dinner at a really good Korean barbeque place and then showed us around the pier where the olympic sailing happened in 2008. It was awesome to see them and they were great hostesses.
Sadly, the only trains that had seats going back to Beijing today (Sunday) were morning trains, so they couldn't show us around more. Tyler already left, since he got his tickets later than I did and his train left at 8. Mine doesn't leave for a couple of hours, so I have a good amount of time to kill, but since the train station is out of the way of most of the interesting sights, not enough to wander around a city I'm not familiar with and get back in time for my train. I got breakfast and sat on a bench outside the station to eat it while an entire family stared at me. Now I'm at an internet bar next to the train station, and if I thought the last one was sketchy, this one takes the cake. Although it could just be the guy at the counter. There's something about him that screams seedy nightclub owner. Maybe it's his longish, greasy hair, or the fact that he smokes but doesn't tap the ashes off the cigarette so they just get longer and longer until they finally fall onto the desk and he brushes them off onto the floor. It could be the fact that he didn't say a word to me, but answered my questions about how much an hour on a computer costs by holding up fingers, then handed me a little card with the computer number that I could use. Or I could just have an overactive imagination that has not yet been overpowered by my rational mind, which is as yet uncaffinated. There are a lot of options here.