I did not sleep very well last night as I was concerned about the time. I woke up multiple times, and though we’d originally planned to leave around 7:30, we woke up around 7:20 and left around 8:20. We had a quick breakfast of warm bread and milk before leaving. Hanshin dropped us off at the bus station and headed off to work.
We ran quickly to catch the bus with minutes to spare, but it wasn’t such a big deal because one leaves every 10 minutes. The ride to the lake took almost exactly one hour, and Shuyan napped for most of it. There was a guy who kept looking me up and down as if I was super desirable or as if my sneakers were super strange… I couldn’t tell which. A funny thing happened on the bus: I love the moon, and it always makes me happy to see it shining in the night or to see the pale reflection of it during the day. Today was the first time I saw the moon. I was immediately struck by its beauty and brilliance, and marveled at being able to see it on such a cloudy and foggy day. I’m not a very poetical person, but as I looked out the bus window and saw the moon shining brightly, I felt the urge to write a poem of the splendor before my eyes. However, the second I put pen to paper, I realized that the ‘moon’ I was viewing was actually the obscured morning sun… lazily hanging around behind the clouds and dust haze that’s present all over China. Alas, we shall never know what poetical majesty I might have written had the breeze not blown the mists from my eye.
I forgot to mention that there are tolls on the main roads of China from city to city or province to province. I also only see Sinopec gas stations everywhere, which I find hilarious; “sin,” pronounced “seen,’ is the Arabic word for China. Mix that with OPEC, and you have China/OPEC! Genius. We passed several old buildings and houses, and a couple of fields of greens that were being cultivated and or harvested by people. There were also mountains all over. It reminded me of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the quote of the main character Elizabeth:
“what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of anything. We will know where we have gone — we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers.”
I hope to be able to live up to that quote. There were also lots of square plots of land covered in water. Created or natural? Not sure, and also not sure of their purpose. There appeared to be something growing in them… perhaps rice ? I couldn’t really tell, but every area had people tending to it, so I’m sure it was some food item.
We arrived in Hangzhou, which is in the same province as Huzhou, and is the ‘capital city’ of the Zheijiang province. We took a taxi from the bus station towards an Apple store as I needed a new charger for the computer, but they didn’t have any available. We walked to a bike rental and got two bikes before biking our way towards the lake. Suddenly, my camera batteries began to die! I bought four new ones from a vendor and was glad I did it as the batteries died completely less than an hour later.
It was super cold, and we were really uncomfortable with the wind. We went inside a free museum called the West Lake gallery, but everything inside was rocks and rock carvings and not the watercolor paintings we were hoping to see. Shuyan got a call from her university and needed to make several calls again, finally noting that she would have to go back to the school one day soon in order to get things done. I’m totally fine with that; everything extra after the wedding is a treat for me. We headed back from the lake to go get lunch and were pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s style and warmth. We ate a nice hot meal before heading back out, and were even happier to discover that the weather had warmed up considerably.
We went back down towards the lake and essentially made a circle around it on the bikes. It did take a good two hours to go, mostly because we kept stopping for pictures and joking around. Seriously, this lake was gorgeous. It was made by an emperor more than 1000 years ago and is HUGE. It’s also a very famous lovers spot, and we saw many couples along the way. The Chinese are generally very private about relationships and sexuality, so it was a bit surprising to see a few people kissing (albeit sneakily behind trees or on secluded benches). It took a lot more biking, but we dropped the bikes back off with the lady and got back our items before attempting to get a taxi. After several failed attempts, a black car came and the driver stopped, talking with Shuyan. There are many unmarked ‘private’ cars that go around giving people rides, but they do so unofficially and without official permission. He offered to drive us for a slightly higher fee, but it was worth it as the bad traffic had already started. It took him more than double the time to get us back to the bus station due to the incredibly heavy rush-hour traffic, but as we would have never gotten a taxi at that point, we were very grateful. He too told me that I was beautiful after finding out that I’m American, haha. He was very nervous at dropping us off at the bus station; there were several police officers milling around, and his hands were shaking as we paid him when he dropped us a little further down the street. We thanked him and he tipped his hat and winked at me before speeding off to find his next fare. We both slept a good half hour on the way back, interrupted only by the numerous honks of our vindictive bus driver. That was the most honking I’ve been witness to since I’ve been in China, and you hear honking everywhere and all the time!
Hanshin picked us up at the bus stop and we went directly to his grandmother’s apartment for dinner. His whole family was there, and the youngest uncle was doing most of the cooking. I was really impressed; the food was really good. Shuyan and I finished eating quickly, and they kind of scolded us for going too fast (we were really hungry). My little boyfriend Chen Chen was there, and got very teary when his family started teasing him about getting a new sibling. The parents were encouraging his parents to have another kid as they are allowed to, due to the fact that they’re both only children. Once he started crying, everyone rushed to comfort him, and his father gave him a promise of an iPhone to cheer him up. They teased him a bit for being fat, but then said that Hanshin used to be fatter when he was little and so it’s fine for him to eat a bit more. MIL and the wife of oldest uncle really liked my purple hijab (scarf/veil) pin. Wearing colored hijabs and using matching pins has made me a fashion diva, apparently.
When we left, we went to her parents’ apartment to pick up her old Mac so that I could use the charger. While there, she told me that she used to just plug it into the wall and use it, even though she bought it in America. We took the laptop, but I resolved to try the charger one last time before using hers. Her mom gave me two beautiful fans and two boxes of the famous tea of Huzhou (one that only the emperor or the queen used to drink), along with a jade necklace and something else jade. I’m so touched by all the kindness I’ve received here; it’s been amazing.
We came back to the apartment, and Hanshin was worried because some residents had been complaining of how he’s parked his car; we’ve had the Jeep of Shuyan’s dad in their parking place while he parks elsewhere, so he went to do something about his car to make sure nobody did anything bad to it. When we came up, there was a friend of his who came nearly immediately after us, and they did some kind of business together. I don’t remember his name, but I remember that he was a really good singer from karaoke after the wedding. After he left, I did some checking with the computer and was ecstatic to find that my charger works when plugged in! Now I can be independent and use my laptop wherever. My sister will be happy 🙂
P.S. We’re going to do the tourist thing again tomorrow, but this time with Shuyan’s family! I can’t wait.. China is so much fun.