I’m sitting at Leo’s Pizza having a couple beers while listening to music. I just finished processing and uploading a handful of pictures I took this afternoon to my Tumblr. I know I haven’t been updating this blog all that much, but not a huge amount has been going on. Most things have become pretty normal, pretty regular, pretty mundane. Teaching is going well, and I’m getting the swing of most things around here, despite still missing home and everyone I knew on the other side of the planet.
I went to Shenyang this weekend for a night and two days. It was a pretty interesting experience — Shenyang is the provincial capital of Liaoning (where Fushun is located). It’s a massive city, and it’s very Western. Of course one is always reminded that one is in the Middle Kingdom, but Shenyang did a pretty good attempt at trying to convince me otherwise. It’s almost (keyword: almost) like any other major city you would find anywhere else in the world, just that everything happens to be in Chinese.
I left Fushun with Ray and Angelo in a taxi around 8:00 at night and arrived around 9:30 (after a stop-over mid-way to change taxis… we thought we might be getting mugged, it was completely at random) at a restaurant where we rendezvoused with the other expats and teachers we were meeting up with. The restaurant was a medium/high-end joint that offered an assortment of Western food — including a 12” hamburger for 100 RMB (about $16 USD). Ray became extremely excited about making that his dish, and hurriedly ordered it. That was too expensive for me, and I knew that there was absolutely no possible way I could consume the entire thing, so I opted for a less expensive and more manageable dish of sweet & sour chicken priced at 30 RMB ($5 USD). We enjoyed our meals and had some great conversation. I sat between Ray and Andrew, facing Neri, Andrew’s girl-friend. The other expats sat down the other length of the table. Plans were made to go to a club that night after dinner (and after we had checked in at the hotel), but we were wanted that alcohol there was expensive. Ray and I talked amongst each other and determined that pre-gaming the club was an intelligent option.
Beers at the restaurant were 35 RMB, and I definitely wasn’t going to be spending that much on a single lager, so towards the end of the meal Ray and I decided to go hunting for a convenience store to get some cheap beer. We left the restaurant with the others still there hanging out and picked a direction to walk. We opted to take a left, and followed it for about 6 minutes before arriving at a T in the road with a corner-store across the street. It was empty, being re-stocked, and looked like it had just been looted in the Baltimore riots — but they had beer, what we were after, and we purchased 6 of them. We walked back outside and cracked the first of them open. Around the time we finished our first beer, a Ford F-350 Super Duty pulled up to the stop-light at the corner being driven by a Chinese couple. They looked at us on the sidewalk and Ray and I looked back, smiling and giving them a “thumbs-up” to compliment their ride. They smiled back and waved, and as the light turned green, pulled up onto the corner we were standing at, turned their car off, and got out. Both of them were clearly fairly intoxicated, and approached us, greeting us in English. The man sent his wife into the corner store Ray and I had just left to purchase some more beer for us, and themselves, and insisted that we drink with them between friends. We carried on a decent conversation with them in English as we drank, both of us constantly being impressed into “cheers” — more than we would have rightly liked to. Clearly, this man had a lot of money, and probably some connections. He told Ray that his good friend was headmaster of the largest English school in Shenyang, and offered him a job as well as asking Ray if he would be willing to coach him in body-building. Ray tried to decline but the man was pretty adamant (also pretty drunk).
Eventually we managed to slip away and make it back towards the restaurant, cracking another beer on the walk, and were met by Andrew and Angelo who had gone out looking for us. We returned to the restaurant briefly before everybody got up and departed to make our way to the club. Ray, Angelo and I had to make a stop at our hotel before going to the club, and hailed a taxi to get that way. We left the taxi at our destination and made our way into the hotel… at which point I realized that I didn’t have my cell-phone. It had slipped out of my pocket in the taxi, and was long-gone at this point.
I bemoaned the situation, but wasn’t about to let it ruin my weekend. We left our things in the room (which was supposed to be a triple, but ended up only being a double) and hailed another taxi to take us to the club. The taxi dropped us off in front of the US embassy, which appeared to be a veritable Fort Knox. We met another American along the way who greeted us and had been departing the same club we were headed towards. We eventually made our way to the club and spent a good 3 hours there, drinking an dancing. Not much to be said about it, other than it was a fairly typical establishment with lots of Western music and other expats — most of whom I was told were probably students. Lots of blacks that were apparently from African countries. Ray got a number from one of them before we left.
By the time we arrived back at our Hotel it was around 3AM, and Angelo decided to head up and go to bed. Ray and I, still awake, decided that we wanted to explore the area a bit and see if we couldn’t find another bar that might be open. We parted ways with Angelo and started walking towards some flashing green lights off in the distance which we decided had a good probability of being a bar or club of some sort, but ended up being absolutely nothing. We made a couple other turns along the walk and before we knew it, we were totally lost… in the middle of a major city. We had a sheet that the hotel provided listing their address, which was incomplete. None of the taxis that we hailed were able to read it, and waved us off, not speaking English. Ray’s phone was almost dead, and mine was lost… we had already called some of the other expats who told us vague directions, which got us nowhere. We spent over 2 hours walking around aimlessly searching for our hotel. By the time the sun came up, Ray was suggesting that we head towards one of the major landmarks — a giant statue of Mao — and sleep there until later in the morning. I decided wholly against this, and started going into buildings asking for the Holiday Inn (which was located right across the street from our hotel — the “Plaza Hotel” in English). Nobody was of any help, and as we started begrudgingly walking towards the giant statue of Mao in the distance along one of the main thoroughfares we had walked up and down at least 12 times that night, I thought I’d try one last time to ask for our hotel through the concierge of one of the luxury hotels on the route… who told me that our hotel was right behind theirs. I ran outside, shouted to Ray who had already been making his way towards Mao, and we finally got into the room around 5:30 or 6. I grabbed a comforter and slept on the floor, letting Ray take one the two beds, one of which already occupied by Angelo.
The next morning I felt like roadkill, but we met up with all the other expats around 10:30 and went to an international bazaar, which really wasn’t much to talk about. We just hung-out, basically. It was an excuse to do something.