Thursday through Saturday were beautiful– sunny and in the 70’s. Unfortunately, John and I spent most of those days running around town for computer equipment. His new ShuttleBug PC, brought back from the USA, had a bunch of problems. After days of troubleshooting, John finally determined that the hard drive was bad. We spent several hours at a smoky, nearby internet cafe (so he could hook the unit up to a monitor). I was suprised to see that it had a diverse set of patrons, ranging from high school kids to adults, hanging out on a Saturday night. Thankfully, John repaired his problem and the ShuttleBug is now up and running.
On Saturday night, John and I watched Lost in Translation. I didn’t like the film. First, no character was particularly likeable. Second, I found Bill Murray’s wisecracks and “humor” insulting. The film also had this American arrogance air to it. I dunno. I was annoyed after watching it.
On Sunday, John and I made our first out-of-town solo trip. Unfortunately, we slept in and got a late start. We took the ching gui (elevated rail) to the Rail station. That place was so packed (and I don’t think it was because of Easter Sunday), John guessed this is where most of SH’s 15 million people are. I was a littel stressed, being in such a hurried environment, unable to read any signs. Fortunately, we had no problems getting the ticket and we were able to figure out our waiting rooms and the boarding doors (by matching up characters on our ticket with those on the lit signs). The train ride was only 60 minutes but I was disappointed. Yes, I guess I was foolish enough to expect the roominess of Amtrak for the paltry sum of 13 yuan. 🙂 The seats were very small and crammed. The people standing in the aisle were often pushed into the seating when vendors came through with their carts of ramen noodles, drinks, etc.
Suzhou was really different. A small city of 5.5 million. Had a quaint feel but the air was notably dustier. Unlike SH, Suzhou doesn’t restrict the use of motorcycles and two-stroke engines. We went to a silk museum but it was really lame (and dead). Then we rented bikes and dropped by the Humble Administrator’s Garden, one of two very famous gardens in Suzhou. It was really beautiful but all the people running around really lessened the effect. I wish we were there early in the morning. The experience would have been much nicer. After that, we walked around some and then headed back to the train station. Public transportation is extensive here, but the waiting game is very inefficient and tiring. And since the Chinese never wait in line like normal orderly people, the experience can really grate your nerves. When I was buying our return tickets, an old grandma (who hadn’t waited in line) kept saying to hurry up when I was asking about the different trains. I got so irritated, I started an exchanged. I mean, go wait in line like you’re supposed to and then you can hurry when it’s your own damn turn. The mentality here is so odd. People push and shove to get through gates but then all the train seats are assigned. I guess people don’t trust that the number of tickets sold match the capacity, because while we were waiting outside, people kept asking the guards if the train would depart without all the people (with tickets waiting in line) aboard.
On the ride back, a sugar daddy and his gal sat in front of us (facing us). Figures. It was a little uncomfortable, because I didn’t want to stare at them (they probably get enough of that) so I had to keep looking up, down, or out the window. And the woman was young– late teens or early 20’s. She was really obnoxious too. The guy was American, probably in his mid 50’s. All white hair. I thought it was kinda gross, but who am I to judge right? The journey back ran into some snags–at one point we were stopped for 15 minutes. No explanations given. We were just glad to get back into SH– for the dogs. I didn’t want to be stuck on a train overnight.
All in all, a decent first trip. We’ll have to look into ways to streamline the process. Maybe buy tickets at satellite offices in advance.