Ah yes, the true smells and sights and sounds of China. We were dumped in the absolute most authentic part of the city. Not a single word of English anywhere, no one speaks English (including not one person at the hotel), and people stare. Two (not just one) cell phones were stolen from our party at lunch yesterday. How? They each got up from the table to go to buffet (with others in our party sitting at the table), left their phone on their chair, and did not realize it was missing until they went back to their room. You cannot leave anything, even when you think someone else is watching from your group.
After lunch and the scenes that ensued shortly thereafter with our interpreter and hotel management, at least one of the ladies did get her phone back. I don’t know about the second one.
Several of us did decide to be bold and explore the area on foot. We ended up down a residential area where people definitely stared and knew we were absolutely and completely lost. We took a wrong turn, but managed to make it out okay. We then found a huge “mall” that was mostly similar to a US flea market with indoor and outdoor stalls of vendors with everything from food to shoes to power tools. During our explorations, we did find a lovely fruit shop where some of our party purchased coconuts and drank the liquid.
Several of our party then departed while Ana and I stayed at a coffee shop nearby and had a most delicious coffee, watermelon juice, fruit salad and club sandwich. The total for all of this, including gratuity? 100 yuan. That’s about 16 dollars for dinner for two. Very high end for this part of the city. At this shop, they had a dancing Santa out front that moved and sang Christmas songs in English, and a Snoopy and Woodstock on our table. They also had a Christmas tree with the big lights like in The Christmas Story movie.
After this, I went back to the hotel (which has no heat), froze to the bone while in the room until I figured out how to write “heat” in Chinese and went to the front desk. Moments later, a lady brings up a space heater and I could finally thaw. Unfortunately, this incident has caused me to have a sore throat this morning. Airborne, ColdEaze, and lozenges are my friend today. Concert tonight (Dec. 26) in the Shenzhen Concert Hall, which is about an hour away from the hotel. Why couldn’t the promoters put us up near the venue you may ask? Good question. I think it is likely due to the cost of the hotel. Western hotels cost a lot more than Chinese hotels.
On the bright side, we are getting an actual cultural immersion here. I am learning to read and write in Chinese characters. We see how the people really live. And it’s obvious many of the people who live here have never even visited anywhere more than a few blocks from where they live. It’s interesting all right.