“NIHAO!” (hello) I called, Nate repeated the word in his louder deeper voice. There was no response. The door was open, so we cautiously walked into the dojo, peering around the corner into the next room to see if anyone was around. A young man jumped up with a start from the bed he had been sleeping on, throwing a blanket over himself like a woman from the movies. He wasn’t naked so I was a little surprised with his bashfulness. This was the start of a mission to find a place to learn martial arts. We’d walked passed the dojo on our way to work, and had wanted to stop and check it out. Now, however, we left embarrassed calling “duibuchi, duibuchi” (sorry, sorry) back to the man. To our surprise he ran out after us and invited us back inside!
The man couldn’t speak English, but he could write it fluently. I suspect he could understand it fairly well also. He explained to us that the dojo was for children aged 4- 14. A dead end, but still an interesting story. By the time we left we were almost late for work. We had backpacks bulging with teaching materials and books to keep us busy during work ours, and both of us had clear glass mugs in our hands, full of tea leaves that had expanded way past our expectations. It seemed we made for good entertainment as we ran down the road towards work sweating profusely, backpacks bouncing on our backs. Everyone stared at us. It was something we were going to need to get used to.
Down the road from where we lived we found a huge market full of fresh vegetables, fruit, and of course more live chickens and fish. We bypassed the meat section and picked out some fresh bean sprouts an celery for our stir-fry. We weren’t sure how to specify amounts and ended up with way more bean sprouts then we meant to buy! We also picked up some steamed buns that we watched be made fresh in front of us. A woman lifted the lid of the steamer and smacked each bun with a wooden spoon making it rise into a perfect circle. After giving us our requested bag of fresh buns the woman held up four fingers which we figured meant four RMB. We gave her a five and she handed 4.5 back to us! We were very confused but we thanked her and took the money and the buns anyways.
We met another foreigner named Spenser at the convenience store near our place (called Uni-Mart) “Have you figured this place out yet? He asked in his British accent. He’d been in Jinan for about two weeks.
“Yeah,” Nate answered, “What are you looking for?”
“They have no food here.” he complained, “No cereal or milk and bread’s so expensive. I’m thinking of just going native.”
“Yeah,” Nate said, “That’s the best.” We toured him around the Uni-Mart for a bit and then went our separate ways. He seemed a little out of it and we wondered if he might have been smoking something. Found out later that was just his personality and he didn’t smoke, drink, or eat meat. According to Spencer there are clubs where foreigners drink for free! Awesome!