CHINA – Hangzhou
As soon as we arrive in Hangzhou, a resort town about two hours southwest of Shanghai, we walk straight to West Lake where we find high end shops and a choreographed water show like the one at the Bellagio in Vegas. Sarah, Grant, Kaitlin, Daniel, Sam, and I charter a small wooden row boat with an awning. When we’re out in the water, our captain gives me a wink and starts rocking the boat side-to-side. Kaitlin freaks out. But I help him rock the boat some more.
At night, Andrew, Julia, and I check out a KTV place not too far from our hotel. The host rings a button and before we know it, eight girls walk out in perfect synchronization. They’re wearing these tiny, matching, yellow dresses and each of them is clutching a small, coordinating purse. They line up in front of us as if it’s part of protocol. And then the host makes a wide gesture towards them suggesting we pick one. We’d read in China Road that some KTV places have escorts that “sing” with you. And we realize, simultaneously, that this is one of those places. We literally run out of the place. I guess KTV in Hangzhou is different than in Beijing. At least at this place…
DAY 11 May 29
lingyin temple & chinese football
In the Wulin Mountains right outside of the city, we visit Lingyin Temple, where a famous Buddhist monk, who usually charges like five grand for a lecture, speaks with us. Instead of payment, we give him a pen. He seems cool with it. It must be a nice pen. I don’t know. The teachers picked it out. Also, I didn’t know monks charged for their time. That’s one hell of an hourly rate.
Another monk shows us the monastery. He tells me it’s painted yellow to symbolize peace and a free mind. He asks me if I enjoy the architecture. I agree, and tell him the monastery feels serene even with 10,000 tourists.
Andrew found a football yesterday, so we play at the park by West Lake. Some curious Chinese people take photos while others actually join in. Almost all of them try to throw it with two hands or dribble it like a basketball. A few of them are pretty good, though. Except one of them throws a pass that nearly takes off this old woman’s head. We head to a convenient store for a drink and the owner wants to play, too. She steps outside of her shop and throws the best spiral we’ve seen all day.
DAY 12 May 30
hangzhou botanical park
In the a.m., we tour a women’s clothing factory. The facility is new and clean, but it’s still kind of depressing. They do 8am-8pm shifts. Six workers share a single dorm room and almost everyone sends their 5 Yuan a day (that’s not even a 1 US dollar) back home to their families. I feel guilty, like I should be handing out all the money in my pockets.
We have lunch with the workers in the cafeteria where they eat all of their meals. The girl sitting next to me practices the few English words she knows with me, then moves to the contents of the metal tray. “Xigua (see-gwa),” shes says as she points to the fruit. I repeat the Chinese word and then tell her its English equivalent, “Watermelon.”
They let us play badminton in their gym. Sarah and I take on Andrew and Tim. They beat us the first game, but we’re winning 18-8 when we have to leave for Zhejiang University.
In the halls between lectures, I meet a Chinese student named Victor. He spells his name for me, “V-I-C-T-O-R.” When I tell him my name is Joey, he asks, “Where’s Ross? Chandler?”
On the way to Hangzhou Botanical Park, Victor introduces me to his friends while we get bīngqílín (bing-jha-ling), or ice cream (that’s my favorite Chinese word). He refers to the girls as his “beauties.” They’re names are Betty and Martina. Betty and I talk about school and their city as we walk through the misty gardens of the botanical park.
In a field in the middle of the park, we play football again. We pass the ball around and eventually count off into teams. Everyone is pretty excited. Even their laoshi (lau-tzu), or teacher, plays. We rotate QBs so everyone has a chance, and play until Daniel overthrows a pass into the bushes. It’s dinner time anyways.
While we’re eating, Victor asks Sarah her age. She tells him how some women are sensitive about being asked that in America. So Victor starts again, “Sarah, you are very beautiful. Now how old are you?” We all laugh. He goes through everyone at the table, using the same phrase.
A cute little girl emerges from the kitchen, no more than two years old, to help with the cleanup. She takes the empty, plastic tea cups from the table and throws them forcefully into the wash bin with a smile. It’s adorable.
Victor and I shake hands goodbye and he tells me how glad he was to meet us. He scribbles on a torn piece of paper and tells me to email him. I wish him luck finding a girlfriend (he was concerned that neither of us had girlfriends being in our 20s, like we were old men past our primes). And then he hugs me like a brother. It’s crazy when you travel how you make friends so instantly. And yet as soon as you make friends, you’re leaving for the next place…
DAY 13 May 31