We set out this morning with two missions, first one was to find the other way up Swallow’s Wing Mountain (the one next to the jelly fish springs), the second was to find out how to get to the spring we could see from the top. Well the first mission we accomplished easily. In fact by the time we climbed up and down the mountain trying to accomplish the second mission we knew the place about as well as we were ever going to know it.
The mountain was covered in gorgeous, yet bumbling bugs. These moth-like creatures kept flying into us and falling on the ground stunned, as if dead, only to revive moments later and fly off into something else!
We knew that there must be an entrance to that spring, there must exist at least a gated road with guards to prevent against unwanted company, but no matter what angle we tried searching from the entrance eluded us. We climbed the mountain several times, followed different paths down and around hoping one may lead in the right direction to the spring. As we criss crossed our path we learned the routes up and down the mountain, thus accomplishing our first goal but we did not find a way into the spring. Our most promising attempt was following a small footpath that led across the top of a wall. Our path was cut short however by two stray dogs intent on protecting their territory. We quickly retreated in search of a safer route.
We felt like rats in a maze that could smell, but could not figure out how to reach the food source in the middle. Finally sweaty and exhausted we decided to return home. We needed to shower and rest before the teacher’s day barbecue. We took the final unexplored set of stairs down the mountain. They branched and the first branch we followed led nowhere, ending on an upward climb to someone’s house. We turned around to take the other branch. On our way back I noticed a foot path that led to a wide wall. I followed it, discovering it brought me back around to the other branch. I glanced behind me realizing Nate had not followed me and decided to trick him by running back up and around the path and surprise him by appearing from behind.
I ran back up the stairs, passed a couple that stared as I ran by, down the next set of stairs, and around the corner to find… no one. Nate must have gone after me after all! I hesitated not sure if I should stop where I was and wait for Nate to catch me, or keep running after him. If I stopped and waited and he also stopped and waited we would both be waiting for a long time. On the other hand if both of us both kept on going we could be running around in circles forever! I laughed at the ridiculous image as I made up my mind and raced back up the stairs, passed the couple, and down the other side. Fortunately Nate had stopped to wait for me and we didn’t get stuck in an infinite loop.
The barbecue is tonight, so we’re really excited. We are celebrating teacher’s day, which in China is today. We’ve just gotten home from a morning of exploring and are resting up before we need to get showered and dressed. Nate’s reading his game of thrones book and we can hear the singing of some form of cicada or cricket outside our window accompanying the usual drone of running appliances, construction vehicles engines outside and the constant honking of cars and bikes on the city street. There is also the sound of voices, coughing, and the occasional very loud, very hard to miss throaty hack of someone spitting on the sidewalk (if you can call it a sidewalk. It seems sometimes that more cars and bikes drive on it then the street!) The loud spitting routine is a cultural aspect we are trying to get used to. Today it is funny, but sometimes it’s just disgusting.
Lainey kept calling Nate, worried we would not be able to find our way to the barbecue. We went to Katrina’s place before heading out, where we met her elusive old house mate Kira, a bouncy fun loving red head. Katrina had been trying to get hold of Kira, who was supposed to return to the city for school. She had not heard back until Kira let herself in, and jumped on Katrina in the middle of the night, almost giving the poor girl a heart attack!
After recounting the events of our days adventures to the girls Katrina complained loudly to Kira, “They China better then me, everyone China’s better then me!” She’d been in the City for 6 months and still didn’t speak a word of Chinese, and rarely left her home unless it was to hang out with other westerners. So that became the joke of the night (the whole year really) that Katrina didn’t know how to China very well.
Dinner was buffet style with all you can eat food set up in an elegant display and all you can drink beer, bijou (chinese liquor), and wine! Everything looked delicious, but the flavour was not what it appeared. Disappointing, but with free booze running everyone had a good time regardless. Our boss, Sierra, and Katrina kept chugging beers, and as soon as Sierra realized there was bijou she grabbed a whole bunch of cups and passed it around! Everyone had to have some, though I didn’t see many people actually drink it. Chinese women often don’t drink and our teaching staff was no exception. That didn’t stop Sierra from holding her own though!
All the CTs went home while Nate and I tagged along with Katrina and company to check out the square and some popular bars. The teachers from the centre on the west end of Jinan were there as well. Ray, a character who works at the west centre was immediately drawn in to a gathering of people huddled around some men playing chinese instruments. I watched for a bit before we moved on.
The iconic blue statue of Jinan stood tall in the middle of the square lit up with bright lights. We crossed the canal over a small bridge that led to a bar called Malena’s where we met Kira and Amy.
Drank some beers and met some more laowei (foreigners) in Jinan, including: a half Chinese American named Rob, and Matt the Irish guy. Mike was with us as well, another Canadian who taught at the west centre. From there we went to another bar named Hulu. To get there we walked down the hutong, an old walking street, and Katrina told us how they have torn down many of these old streets across the country to make way for the new. Apparently they do not have the respect for their historical relics, and either re-build or tear down their ruins.
Katrina was done by the time we left Hulu so we sent her home in a cab. Ray was sure he was a martial arts master and kept pulling ninja moves on cats as we walked back through the streets to the springs. We went swimming in a spring fed pool about the size of a small room. Amy and Ray were completely naked. After we got out Amy stood behind a pole to dry. A Chinese man who was walking by actually stopped to stare! Amy kept moving so that her body was covered by the pole and he kept moving with her to get a better view!
As we were about to leave a group of Chinese people emerged from the bushes carrying nets. We joked that they were fishing for white people! When we asked them what they were trying to catch (very handy that Amy speaks Chinese) they told us they were catching fish to look at them and let them go again. I guess catch and release transcends cultures.