As the weather has gotten warmer, sunnier, and friendlier, we find ourselves getting outside to see this place or that, purchase needed items, and collect information for a host of stories. Alas, such activity leaves little time for writing. I offer apologies to my readers for my lack of time management skills–I have wonderful stories to tell, and precious little time to write them.
Just last weekend (April 1 and 2), a high-speed train zipped along through the Chinese country side taking us from Hangzhou to Lin Hai, where, in addition to having a classic Chinese lunch at a restaurant on a 500-year-old street, we walked The Great Wall. That you can interact personally with The Great Wall–that is, that you can actually walk on it, touch it, feel its enormity underneath you, imagine the ancient Chinese engineers planning its construction and working out the logistics of quarrying and transporting huge stones from nearby mountains, see hundreds, if not thousands of Chinese laborers working for a lifetime on a monolith that would take 10 lifetimes to complete and last for another 200 lifetimes and even longer–that you can stand on and touch this wall and feel its life can only be described as awesome. Yet, one of the ironies of the trip is that the woman who helped us make arrangements to visit there and who is, herself, from Lin Hai, has never set foot on The Great Wall.
We have been discovering new restaurants in Hangzhou. Ellen’s is a retro-1970s college-type hangout–graffiti on the walls, plain wood tables and chairs, and a drink menu that let’s you buy a whole bottle of whiskey for the table. Angelo’s is a New York-style Italian restaurant which provided a pizza fix for us and a delightful after-dinner drink on its roof-top terrace. La Pedrera reminds us of our time in Spain in the 70s, offering sangria (which we ordered for nostalgia’s sake) and tapas of Basque-style sausages and a spanish tortilla (which is almost a kind of potato omelette). We had black paella, which is made with squid ink. The Café85 coffee shops provide coffee and snacks in much the same way as Caribou Coffee and Starbucks–only with a Chinese twist. Pancho’s offers (take a wild guess) Mexican cuisine, but the Chinese are still working on perfecting their renditions fresh salsa and fajitas. Myth Café offers American breakfasts, including omelets, but cheese is scarce in China (and Expensive), so there is work to be done there as well. We plan a trip to Mango Thai soon, where the local editor of an expatriate publication I met recently claims the curries are especially tasty.
With the onset of spring weather, winter clothing has disappeared, much to Char’s consternation. According to her, spring weather has revealed that all Chinese women are approximately a size two, and she claims to be getting stares from the locals because–here–she is “ginormous.” Most Chinese women are small, and we continue to marvel at the school girls and young women whose dress most often seems to consist of nylon stockings or tights of some sort covered by a short skirt (ala the 1970s mini-skirts) or a pair of what we used to call hot pants–really short shorts. Revealing the tops of stockings is of little concern, much like traffic markings on the streets. All this is atop a pair of five-inch stiletto heels, and this attire is deemed suitable for a night out or a camping trip or walking The Great Wall.
Rain kept us in our place for our first two months here in Hangzhou, and now that the weather has come around, we suddenly feel an urgency to do what we’d like to do and go where we’d like to go. As always, however, even 7,000 miles away from home in an exotic and ancient land, work keeps us occupied. I work the night shift these days, and Char and I struggle to spend time together during the week. Our weekends are now scheduled several weeks in advance, and we wonder where the time has gone. In many respects, it is much like being at home. The beginning of our summer always began with the end of the school year, and by the time that day arrived, our summer calendar was full.
There is more, of course. I hope to have a couple of articles added to the site by the end of the week. Don’t give up. We are here, doing well, enjoying this great experience in our lives.
Be well, everyone.