So yesterday afternoon I had an interview and demo lesson at a training centre near Guomao. I don't really want to blog about that, so let's just say that with this training centre and a few other possibilities it looks like we should be able to get through the summer without dipping into our savings. At least, without dipping too much into our savings.
So at just before midday yesterday I cleaned myself up, got my stuff together and wandered down to the Zhixin Beili branch of McDonald's. Alright, I'll admit it, I ate at McDonald's. We all slip up a little every now and then. I'm sorry. Anyway, it was one of those days when something quick and easy, yet filling, was most appropriate. I mean, I had to be at this training centre at two, and Guomao is quite some distance away, and I'd still have a bit of a walk when I got off the subway. And the only other quick and easy options nearby are either even worse than McDonald's (yes, that is possible) or the McDonald's on the corner of Chengfu Lu and Xueyuan Lu. At least by going to the Zhixin Beili branch of McDonald's I was heading in the right direction, and the bus stop I'd need is right outside the door. It should also be noted that the Zhixin Beili branch of McDonald's, like a few too many branches of McDonald's and KFC in China, has not quite fully grasped
the concept of "fast food" yet, and it can take quite some time to be served, even when the queue's are not very long. Doesn't matter, though, I got my "food", ate, and went to the bus stop.
It didn't take long for the bus to show up. That's one of the irritating things about this part of town. The transport situation is very good, but even so you can still often be left standing at the bus stop for half an hour only for three buses to show up all at once, all of them so over-crowded even Chinese people will refuse to get on. But yesterday was fine, I only had to wait two minutes, and the bus wasn't even close to full.
I got off the bus at Xidan, thinking it would be more convenient to just take Line 1 straight across to Guomao rather than get off the bus at Jishuitan and take Line 2 to Jianguomen where I'd have to change trains. As it turns out, I made the right choice, and I arrived at Guomao with a little more than half an hour to spare.
So I went to Exit C, as I'd need to be walking south, and once I got high enough up the escalator to see what was happening in the outside world, I decided I should turn around and kill a bit of this extra time I had in the Guomao mall.
It was pitch dark outside like the deepest depths of the night. Alright, slight exaggeration. It was dark like late evening when the twilight is giving way to night. And the rain was bucketing down so hard that the only point in holding an umbrella up was to make it easier for the lightening to hit you.
Slight tangent: I hate umbrellas anyway. Maybe that has something to do with growing up in Wellington where umbrellas are generally destroyed within five minutes of walking outside, reinforced by the fact that in New Zealand umbrellas are held at a height that has those nasty little spikes at my eye level (when they aren't being destroyed by the wind, that is). But really, what's the sense in holding a metal rod in the air when there's lightening around?
So I turned around and wandered over to Guomao instead, thinking that would be a more pleasant place to wait, and that maybe the storm would abate before I had to head back southwards down the Third Ring Road. Turns out that was a mistake, because fifteen minutes later the storm was still raging and the only change was the sheer number of people waiting it out at the top of the steps of Exit C. Add to them the millions of umbrella hawkers who appear out of nowhere as soon as rain starts to fall, and getting out of the subway onto the road was rather more difficult than it needed to be. But I made it outside and got my rain poncho (makes a million times more sense than carrying around
my own personal lightening rod an umbrella) over me and set off for this training centre.
But of course the rain was falling heavily enough that combined with the wind, my shoes and jeans were soaked through in very short order, and the huge amount of water on my glasses cut visibility down to just beyond my nose. But nevermind, I found the place and interviewed and demo lessoned successfully enough to be promised some part-time work over the summer.
Anyway, all interviewed and demo lessoned I wandered out to find some way of deciding whether to just go straight home or find some way of amusing myself for a couple of hours and then go pick up lzh from her work in Tuanjiehu. After all, it's not far from the CBD to Tuanjiehu, and I don't get out often these days, so it made sense to use the fact that I was out somewhere to find some way to enjoy not hiding at home in front of the computer and then pick her up and head home together.
So I wandered down to Soho, bought some much-needed aftershave from Watsons then settled in to O'Farrell's with a large cup of coffee to watch the world go by. Yes, the same O'Farrell's where some weirdo decided to abuse me for no obvious reason about a month ago. Soho does seem to have an unusually large population of people who think the sun quite literally does shine out their arse, but fortunately yesterday I got through unscathed.
And then, caffeinated and starting to get bored, I thought I could wander up to Hong Miao and catch the bus from there. That would kill some time and get me a bit of exercise and fresh air. And one other thing that that short walk achieved was to reinforce my impression that the Bawangfen area should perhaps be renamed the International Settlement.
And then a strange thing happened on the way past Blue Castle. A group of three young women of the yuppie-looking kind so common in that area were running down the road towards me, one toting a digital camera and sprinting faster than the other two. She took a rather odd-looking photo. It looked like she was taking a photo of a taxi's licence plate, and the general excitement of these three young women reinforced that impression. Thinking, naturally, that they'd had some kind of dispute with the taxi driver, I hurried on, not wanting to get involved. I mean, there obviously had not been an accident and nobody had been hurt, so it was probably a dispute over the fare, and in such a dispute the presence of a laowai, even purely accidental, is only going to make matters worse. And then I heard them running back up the road, one of them yelling to get the laowai, and then that faster one caught up with me and said, "Excuse me sir, could you take a picture with us? Our company has something special." Well, I don't generally appreciate the usual assumption that I must only speak English, but then again, she was polite, and we were in the International Settlement. But more importantly, I don't see why I should become a photo in some comapny's "something special" for free just because I'm some random laowai walking up the road. I mean, judging by what she said, she must've been looking for something for advertising or marketing purposes, and in that case, unless you're a good friend, no, you can bloody well pay like any normal company. Anyway, I muttered "Sorry" and went on my way.
And then, my excellent luck with public transport continuing, an 815 arrived just as I reached the Hong Miao bus stop. I don't know what I was doing that was so right yesterday, or what public transport I'm fated to make up for yesterday's goodness when I go to the bank today, but the public transport yesterday was as perfect as it ever gets.
Another tangent: My tea has taken on a very strange flavour since I refilled from the freshly-boiled water boiler machine. There's a bottle of Snow in the fridge that's probably safer....
And so I arrived at Tuanjiehu just in time to duck in to McDonald's and relieve myself of that large cup of coffee then wander back to the place I usually wait for lzh. And then she asked a question that I was totally not expecting: Shall we go straight home, or go get a pizza?
So we went to the Tree for a pizza. Honestly, I was thinking we'd just get on the bus and go straight home, the thought of going to the Tree hadn't crossed my mind until she brought it up. Well, it had, but only very, very briefly. I was working on the assumption that money's a bit tight right now and we'd be good and disciplined and go home and eat cheaply. But no, she was actually quite happy to go to the Tree and splash out on pizza. And then an even more completely unexpected thing happened: She allowed me a second glass of De Koninck. Normally I'm only allowed one good beer before I'm ordered to switch to the cheap stuff. Not yesterday. I was allowed two. Something must've gone right in her office yesterday.
And then, in even more public transport perfection (really! What is going on here?) we wandered up to catch the 815 and we actually managed to find the Xingfu Sancun stop. It's a really tiny stop outside the Canadian embassy, so small and so close to the Xiushui Li or whatever it's called stop that it's very, very easy to miss. And we still only had to wait a couple of minutes before the 815 showed up. So really: What public transport chaos am I fated for today?
And now lzh tells me her danwei has a trip to Tiananmen this afternoon. For what, I don't know, but she did point out that the anniversary of the party is coming up. I believe July 1, which is Sunday, is the official date, even though the party was founded towards the end of July.