My weekends so far have been as busy or busier than my school days and this weekend was no exception. Dan Kennedy (see my first few posts on this blog for a brief history of his family, Tianjin, and how instrumental they were in my ending up in China) was traveling "around Shanghai" this weekend and come to learn he was in Suzhou, the same city where I went the International Fellowship last Sunday. After finding out it would be possible to meet for dinner, I set out trying to figure out how I could navigate China's transportation system speaking no Chinese. It is possible and I did it!!
First, I caught a taxi and got to the train station. I was able to find out that the next train left too late, so I tried my luck at the bus station. At the bus station, I was able to secure a ticket for a bus leaving in 20 minutes. It was perfect timing! Upon my arrival, Dan and a national friend were able to meet me almost right away. Having someone who speaks Chinese is amazing; I don't often have it so easy. His friend was able to secure me a hotel room so that I could go to the International Fellowship this morning. From there we had a great Korean BBQ dinner with more meat than I have eaten in probably the last month combined. While it was a short time together, it was great to see a familiar face again! Suzhou is a beautiful city and I was able to spend the rest of the evening walking around by the river.
Navigating transportation this morning was a bit more hairy. I found the right bus line and got on right away and got there ok, no problem. Getting back though...I have never seen a bus more full (see my post from 9/6 with pictures of last week's crowded bus.) I was standing on the steps leading up into the main part of the bus, it was that full. I had to move my backpack out of the way every time the driver wanted to get the door open. It was CRAZY!! The best part was that they kept ADDING people. At one point, the driver did have to refuse a family because it was so crowded. Keep in mind, this is China-crowded; a bus would never, ever be this full in the States. It was so amazing! And, of course, I was the only white face for many miles (well, at least on that very full bus). Thankfully, most everyone got off around the same area where we had dinner last night, so it was at least breathable again for the last few stops. I was able to catch a train within the hour and even finished my book.
Summary: I traveled to another city in China and back again in less than 24 hours ALONE! I must say that I'm quite proud of myself.
The wonderful downtown district where we went for dinner.
Dan's friend, me, and Dan after dinner.
Suzhou is called "The Venice of the East." It's a bit difficult to see and I do apologize, but this is one of the many canals in Suzhou that was all lit up at night.
The view from my hotel room. I spent a while walking down by the river last night; it was so beautiful.
...and now from the back of the hotel. What juxtaposition! Note the traditional pagoda and the city in the background.
Now, I have got to buckle down and do some lesson planning.