Last night, we officially made our first Chinese friend. His name is Brody, which I found hilarious, of course. (That's my dog's name).
Emily, Lauren, and I went back to the hot pot restaurant I first had tried with Lauren O, Isaiah, and Rebecca. It was also our first cab ride alone since moving into our apartments. It went surprisingly well, because we had the address to the Fuhua Hotel, and we just walked down the block from there. It only cost us 22 yuan to get across the entire city, so that was a really awesome surprise.
We actually received everything we ordered at the restaurant this time...I'm pretty sure that's the first time that has happened this entire trip. We were trying, and failing, to get the fat off of our beef with chopsticks before putting it into the broth to cook. I guess Brody saw us struggling and decided to help. He came over to our table, announced that he spoke English, took the tray and chopsticks out of Emily's hands, and proceeded to cook our beef and noodles for us. While doing that, he cheered us (gambei!) with our beers and made small talk about why we're in Shijiazhuang. He told us that he emcees for basketball games in Beijing, complete with arm movements and fake beatbox noises to signify that he plays music during breaks as well. Once our meat and noodles were done, he also took them out of the hot pot for us, served us, and then poured the amount of peanut sauce he thought we should have over our meal.
To wrap Brody up, he was basically a wanna-be Chinese thug. He was wearing a white track suit with the name of his basketball team on it, bragging about one of his friend who is a professional basketball player, and wearing a baseball cap indoors. He ended up giving us his QQ number, e-mail, and cell phone, and asking if we were "best friends". Of course, we said yes. After all, it's someone we know when we go to Beijing.
This morning, we also made two new friends. There are two British guys also teaching at our middle school, Matt and Dan. We met them because we were supposed to go to the Botanical Gardens as a group, with all of the foreign students and teachers. Miss Li told us that there was a private bus we were taking, and it would be about a 15 minute ride. We were supposed to meet outside our building at 8:30AM. The three of us got outside our building by that time, and that's when we met Dan and Matt, who moved in yesterday. Then, since it's China, we didn't actually see Miss Li until about 9AM, when she told us we would be taking the public bus. Alright, no big deal. We've already done that a few times. Okay, so we got on the number 78 bus. We were on there for about 10 minutes, and then we got off. Naturally, we thought that we were just a short walking distance away from the gardens. Wrong. We got on another bus, number 1. We were on that for roughly 40 minutes. It took us completely outside the city, to the last point that the number 1 bus stopped at. That was the botanical garden.
Per usual, everything was unorganized. Besides us three girls and Matt and Dan, everyone else there was a Thai exchange student, leaving us very little to talk about...especially since we're probably going to end up being their teachers. It took us at least another 45 minutes just to round up the students to get inside the botanical gardens, because all they wanted to do was take pictures of themselves making the peace sign outside the front gate. Uhh. Sweet. Initially, Miss Li told us we were going to be there until about 1PM. Wrong. They were staying until 3. There was no way. No way. We were not going to wander around this garden for four hours. The five of us took off together to go exploring, leaving the Thai students outside the gates. God knows how much longer they stood there, taking the same damn pictures.
It was actually a really pretty garden, just not kept up very well. (Story of China's life, apparently). We wandered around for about an hour and a half, saw the dock, the amusement park, a wedding, a lotus pond, etc. By the way, the amusement park played Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on a constant loop. They freaking love that song here. Anyway, we'd seen about all the park had to offer, and Lauren wasn't feeling well at all. Unfortunately, we couldn't find Miss Li to tell her that the 3 of us girls were going to take a taxi back. We decided to sit up front for a little while and wait to find them, because it was about 12:30, and we figured they had to feed us if they took an entire group to the gardens and were keeping them there from 8:30AM to 3:00PM. Wrong again. We sat there for at least an hour, including a pretty long conversation with two Chinese girls who were studying tourism. They, of course, wanted to practice their English with us and give us their QQ numbers...and take pictures. Of course. After that hour, Lauren was feeling worse, so we knew we needed to find Miss Li. Emily and I took off to find her, and thankfully did within the first 15 minutes of looking. They were all just standing around this rock. No one was eating. I don't get it. We told her Lauren wasn't feeling well and that we were going to leave, which was fine with her. We just didn't want her to end up searching for us later.
Turns out, that didn't need to be a worry at all. They actually left Matt and Dan there later that afternoon.
Anyway, we're slowly expanding our circle of friends here, and had all of the Drake Shijiazhuangers over to hang out tonight, and Matt and Dan. There's supposed to be an American girl moving in to teach middle school here sometime soon, too, so I'm pretty excited for that.
We found a really, really pretty garden and fountain in downtown Shijiazhuang tonight that I can't wait to go back to. Things are starting to feel like home, and the Shiz is actually a really pretty city, once you get past the dirt, dust, and squatter toilets.
Oh, and I'm a taxi pro. I can hail cabs like nobody's business.