People spit in the street. They smoke in elevators. They don’t wait quietly at the crosswalk for the light to turn green. There are patterns to everything, but when you’re an outsider it seems like barely-controlled chaos, and it’s exhilarating and liberating and wonderful.
Friday afternoon we took a train from HK to Shenzhen (only 45 minutes!) with Cecilie - friend/Cantonese instructor/crazy person. Once we got there, we took a 4-hour bus ride to Si Hui in western Guangdong province.*
The bus through Shenzhen is an experience – grey air, factories stretching to the horizon, open flames, and buildings being built up or torn down. The overpasses look down on the post-apocalyptic scene sprinkled with bright blue metal roofs and fences – that particular blue shade of the tarpaulins distributed by the U.N. in disaster zones - it adds to the sense that you’ve stumbled into the aftermath of some natural disaster.
After four hours on the bus (listening to Canto-pop and playing cards and looking out the window at all sorts of wonders) you get to Si Hui. Si Hui isn’t a big city. It’s not a small town. It’s juusssst right. So we checked into our hotel (only open a month, but already cracks in the façade and stains on the wall – yay China!), then went to find some dinner. We wandered down here:
and ended up here:
We looked at the menu and ordered. No, they’re out of that. Okay, we’ll have this. No, out of that. What about…? Nope, out of it. Apparently they were out of everything listed on the menu. After 20 minutes of questioning, they sent someone out to buy supplies to make us dinner (this is just a hint of the accommodation we experienced on the mainland).
We had fried squid:
noodles (of course):
While we were waiting we played cho dai di – a Chinese card game that on Friday I sucked at, but by Sunday was actually winning occasionally (and against real Chinese people!).
So after dinner and several beers, we wandered down here...
...and ended up at a bar. Here's the thing about China – you can’t just sit down in a bar. People immediately want you to join them, they want to buy you beer, they want to play lie dice (a Chinese dice game that I sucked at on Friday and that by Sunday I still sucked at). So we played for a while, then stumbled out in search of another bar.
Which we found. More lie dice. More guys buying us beer.
And small fried fishes to snack on:
We were trying to practice our Cantonese, because people speak very little English. Typical conversation at this bar:
Chinese guy: Blah blah blah blah blah!
Chinese guy: Blah blah blah blah blah, NBA.
Kelly: …Kobe Bryant…?
(Much laughter and back-slapping and a round of beer for everyone!)
And then, on to the next place! We walked/stumbled to a karaoke bar that Cecilie knew. Now, if you’re not familiar with the way the rest of the world does karaoke, let me tell you – groups rent rooms and have private karaoke parties. So we loitered in the lobby until a guy emerged from one of the rooms and invited us to a party. It went something like this:
There was much beer, much dancing, much…things I don’t quite remember, but it was a good time. Around 2 a.m. we found some scooters and had the drivers take us back to the hotel.
* The bus ride should’ve been 3.5 hours, but our bus parked at “Shenzhen Jun Beauty of an Auto Service Center” (a parking garage) for half an hour. We don’t know why.