A tour in the city

My elder cousin’s family happened to visit Guangzhou and surrounding area (mainly the Changlong zoo in Panyu) these days, so I invited them to come visit us at my mother in law’s home. He insisted that he came by himself, an obvious ploy to avoid receiving money for his son. Instead he brought over a basket of fresh fruit and money for my daughter, and refused to take ours. What a wonderful tradition. The money will keep me alive for a few days.

So we spent some time with his parents over wechat video. It was challenging to know the right names to call and there were about 6 choose 2 such challenges. But that didn’t matter much.

Afterwards my cousin and I went out to take the bus so that he could have dinner with his extended family while I look for a place to cut hairs. He offered a few expensive options but I thought I could find one myself in one of those alleys. Turns out I was quite wrong. The whole city is in semi-hibernation mode right after Chinese new year. I spent the remaining 3 hours scouring a radius of 2 miles from where I got off the bus, in search for a hair salon. It was also silly to never backtrack in a busy city where the roads are intertwined and not always in straight lines and often blocked by pedestrian overpass.

A few noteworthy observations on my aimless meandering. Various wall decorations suggest that democracy is a key pursuit of the society, along with virtues like freedom, equality. There were a few others that I can no longer recall. Pedestrians, while being numerous even during the holiday season, were peaceful, respectful, and optimistic looking. Also citizens here are a lot friendlier than those in Shanghai, despite me coming from the latter. Most people I talked to on the street for directions know mandarin fairly well. In Shanghai, I always have fear asking for directions, especially from security guards. Taxi drivers are also rude as hell.

The first major blow to my expectation during the walk was when I stopped at a muslim noodle restaurant and ordered beef noodle soup. Firstly there was no wifi in the store. When the noodle soup was presented, it had absolutely no green vegetables, unlike the picture. Instead it had a few potato and pumpkin shreds, along with noodle and beef shreds. The noodle was good, spongy and smooth. But the beef had visible embedding of blood vessels and the non-green vegetables were simply useless.

After walking out with 15 bucks, I kept strolling along some freeway sidewalks (another important distinguishing features in Chinese cities, compared to US suburbs) until it turned dark and I saw another Macdonald store. I decided to try my luck there for wifi and food. Half way through ordering of a “jumbo” burger and sprite, I asked about wifi and was told there were none. Extremely surprised, I cancelled the order and walked out until I found a pizza hut place, and decided it must have wifi. A cute impeccably looking waitress greeted  me but rolled her eyes when I inquired about wifi availability. She must have thought I was a free-rider. I assured her that I was here to eat, and was then shown a good table with a smile on her face and two beautiful menus. She then sat with another guy at a table right next to me, and I couldn’t recall if she was the waitress or just another customer, since she appeared to be eating something and the guy playing video games on his cell phone. After being unable to connect to the open access wifi the store provided, I walked over to her explaining that I didn’t have a local cell number in order to register the connection. She tried a few of her own numbers and was surprised that they didn’t work either, and told me to just wait for now, which effectively meant there would be no wifi. After some more time, it occurred to me that I might have to approach her myself for food order, so I did. I was going to quit the store except she already served me a glass of lemon sprinkled water, and I did not want to walk out stores twice in a single day, for some chivalrous reason.

The mini seafood pizza was not entirely disappointing, and somewhat honestly reproduces the picture on the menu, except there was no mention of imitation crab meat on the menu, a move I thought was honest by itself, since they could easily have put crab meat in the description, real or not, but might elicit customer complaints. After finishing, which took about 3 minutes, with the help of silverwares that came only after my request, but with due apology, I paid the 44 bucks and walked away again.

This time, I gave up on the notion of haircut, and sought straight for some grocery shopping venues, as my cousin suggested, to supplement my mother-in-law’s busy cooking schedule. Finally I located one situated many high rise department stores. I picked up some yoghurt, sweet rice balls, and cooked meat dishes, then ordered a cab back. The cab was just unloading some passengers so the driver must be pretty happy to pick up another one right away. The whole trip cost only 12 rmb, which is less than 2 usd. Cost is still fairly reasonable in China, especially for necessities like transportation, non-luxury food resorts, and service sectors. Houses and clothings are on the more expensive end, especially in big cities.

By the time I got back, I had no more energy for toothbrushing and as soon as my head hit the hay, sleep dawned on me for 10 straight hours — I woke up briefly in the middle of the night to brush teeth. My 9+ hour sleep requirement just got worsened during my China stay.


About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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