воскресенье, 20 января 2013 г.

Impressions of China (Part VII)

We arrived back from Beijing late on Friday evening; snow delayed the train by about an hour as we left late and travelled slightly slower. We only had a few days left in Jinan, as we were due to fly back to Russia very early on Thursday morning and Wednesday would be spent travelling to Beijing.

This symbol means horse and is pronounced 'ma'
As I have already said I made a concerted effort during my stay to make something of the Chinese characters and by the time we left China I could recognise and pronounce maybe 30 or so. It is estimated that about 2-3 thousand are required for functional literacy, but some are more commonly used than others and with my very limited knowledge every second or third sign made some sense.

My very limited knowledge of Chinese did not help me much when I went for a haircut. In future I will plan these things better and pre-empt particular situations. Basically, I just walked into the local hairdresser with mum and signalled that I would like a haircut. This prompted a mild panic and the obvious question, "Do you speak Chinese?" Having given the less preferable answer and when my brother Lawrence was unable to help over the mobile, I was invited to sit down and was given what I shall call a shampoo massage by an attractive female hairdresser. Somewhat embarassed and also aware of the potential cost I signalled that I wanted my hair cut (scissors gesture) and was whisked away to have my hair rinsed. The rest of the haircut was done by a male hairdresser. He asked the obvious question, namely, "What do you want done?" I hadn't planned this far ahead. A succession of outlandish Chinese hairstyles were flashed in front of me until we came across the nearest thing to front, back and sides (I exaggerate) - which I opted for. In the end it was rather short, but looked fine. There was also an 'ET' moment when one of the hairdressers pulled out Google Earth on his IPad and asked me where I was from. The simple explanation was to say 'Edinburgh'. Introducing Novosibirsk into the equation would have made things too complicated. There is only so much you can explain without words.

The next day Kiera and I went out exploring the town on the bus. We travelled into town and then walked around, finding a less up-market shopping street cum market and then finding ourselves near a shopping centre we had visited earlier. From here we jumped on a trolleybus, guessing that the overhead cables were more likely to take us straight ahead; our aim was to find the Chinese church we had attended on Christmas eve (photo right taken at night). We had not managed to make the morning service, and I was hopeful that maybe we could meet someone later on Sunday. We did find the church (I told Kiera to shout out when she saw a big cross), but it was all locked up and despite us hanging about for a wee while, no one came out and we went on our way. Once Kiera had exacted a present from me (princess set including battery-operated wand) we caught a taxi back to Lawrence's.

That evening we went out with Lawrence and Mum to another shopping centre, paying for the children to be in the play area and then went for a meal at the 'steak' house. The inverted commas around the word steak are largely due to the food poisoning Oxana got from her dodgy bit of beef.

The next day we travelled to the Zoo. It was rather cold again, although the day did turn out quite nice and we saw lots of animals and the children enjoyed it. Lawrence donned by Russian ushanka winter hat and did a very good impression of me. By this time it was rush hour and we spent ages getting back home in a very full bus, Kiera falling asleep on a step.


It was New Year's eve, which, much like 25 December, is not such a big deal in China. We decided to order KFC which combined with various snacks and fruit accumulated over the last few days was our Hogmanay meal (= 31 December). Oxana and I went off to see in the New Year together which Lawrence and Mum looked after Sophia, Kiera and Tanya. We didn't do anything wild - just saw in the New Year watching Chinese TV, trying to catch familiar words and characters on the screen. All very show-bizzy: boy bands and choreographed dancing troops performing to rousing tunes - patriotic but not political. Pictures of New Year then came in from various locations around China, including Taipei (capital of Taiwan, which is not officially recognised by the People's Republic of China).  

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