Having been given Friday off and this time, not had it taken away from us, Kat and I made a trip to Ningbo again as it was our friend Annah's birthday. We arrived, and after a brief 'country girls make it to the big city' moment of being in awe of all the clothes in H&M, we successfully avoided not buying anything and went and met Annah and Lindsay for lunch.
After lunch the girls had to go off to teach and so Kat and I decided to go in search of a pretty lake called Moon Lake. Despite being in the middle of the city, as soon as we entered the park area that surrounds it, all the noise of traffic and people seemed to disappear and we were overwhelmed by how peaceful and tranquil it was. It seemed to be a very masculine area with groups of old men gathered around stone tables undertreees playing cards, fishermen throwing their rods into the water and one man even swimming across the lake, crying out "Hello!" with a toothy grin as he came close to the rock we were sitting eating ice cream on, before he swam back to the other side. The only disappointing part about Moon Lake was the locked up pedlo boats that we had so desperately wanted to go on. However, I have my eye on a little evil swan boat and so hopefully we will be able to go in it before leaving China.
After the lake, we wandered around some small shops before walking back to Annah and Lindsay's flat to wait for them. A quick power nap achieved and we decided to go for dinner at the little eating place just across from their building. Having built up the confidence to now walk into places like this and order select dishes with our basic Chinese, we were perhaps feeling a little too cocky. We usually end up with delicious food and are rarely disappointed; even the duck soup from Shanghai had a nice flavour if you ate around the insides! However, today clearly was not our day. After some pointing and "Hao hao hao" (ok, ok, ok) with the chef, we sat down to wait for what we expected to be two bowls of beef noodles. Nothing could prepare me more for what I received but it can only be described as chopped up sparrow in a bowl. To be honest, it could have been any bird but the spindley bones, tiny features and black skin led me to believe it was one of the smaller varieties.
Somehow, Kat ended up with the requested beef noodles (how saying one thing and holding two fingers up could mean we wanted different things, I am unsure) however, with grey meat and a broth that tasted like whatever creature was floating around in my bowl, she wasn't too kean on her dinner either. To make it worse, we had both been given a warm beer to accompany it. We deliberated for an unnatural amount of time about ways to escape, such as pretending we had received a phone call that meant we had to leave or asking for the noodles to be taken away before, in the end, I made the executive decision that we should both man up and pay and leave the shop. We then hurriedly went to buy some dry cereal to take the taste away, naturally the food anyone would turn to, and of course, some cold beers and then went back to the flat.
When Annah and Lindsay returned we lit some candles on a big cake that Annah had been given from her school and sang to her. After this we headed out to the bar street for some serious celebrating. We went to a bar that we usually go to called Office, which at the weekend is packed full of Westerners, most of whom are either teachers or studying at Nottingham University which actually has a faculty here. It was someone else's birthday too and so there was a big party involving lots of beer drinking and dancing on tables and the bar. After a good few hours here we decided to move on to take a taxi to a nightclub. However, not before we had ridden some KFC takeaway bikes, had our photo taken with a dead rat and I had had to act out 'going to the toilet' to a man in a restaurant before he understood what I meant and allowed me to use his facilities.
The club was pretty busy and very lively but after an hour or so, Kat and I decided to go in search of some food (clearly unfulfilled with sparrow bowl and cereal of the dried kind). The food outside the clubs in China involves lots of different things on sticks which you pick and put in a basket and then wait for it to be pasted with herbs and spices and then barbequed. It tastes delicious. This particular vendor had a marquee tent which we sat underneath whilst we waited; Kat for her meat sticks, me for my barbequed cucumber and green beans - don't knock it till you've tried it!
At around 4am, we returned to Annah and Lindsay's flat where Kat and I assumed our usual passing out positions on the sofa. The next morning, we continued with tradition and went to Starbucks for breakfast, slowly waking up whilst clutching hot milky coffee and watching people out the window from our regular armchair spot.
After this, Annah left for work and Kat and I went to visit a temple. The weather was lovely; hot and sunny and perfect for strolling around outside. Although the temple was in the middle of the city, it is actually one of the nicer ones I have visited, purely because there was not the usual throng of tourists and it was more or less empty. We bought some incense from outside and burned it in the way we had been shown on our trip to Putoshan Island which provided a nice spiritual moment. The best moment came however, when a monk took an apple off the alter in front of a giant Buddha and gave it to Kat, causing much confusion and pondering over whether or not she was supposed to eat it. She did in the end and is not spiritually enlightened.
After the temple, we went and sat in another park by a river, sprawled out in the sunshine and took an afternoon nap, much to the amusement of some passers by. As the afternoon began to disappear, it was time to take an overcrowded bus back to Beilun where we stood for the whole one and half hour journey, which again was made much more bearable with the use of an ipod.
On Sunday, we were supposed to be working, however on my way to the office, I bumped into my assistant teacher Sarah who informed me that we actually had the day off. Obviously, I was very pleased as it was another beautiful day, yet I couldn't help but wonder how I would have found out about this vital piece of information if I hadn't been walking past the school gate at the same time as her, and I was yet again baffled by the school's notion of just changing their mind at very short notice.
Dwelling on it for no more than two minutes however, I went and sat on a rock in the sunshine next to the pond outside my room and read my book for a couple of hours before the peace and quiet was interupted by the students returning from home and I had to respond to the many waves and calls of "Hannah!" and "Hello teacher!".
Kat and I went for a walk and then went to the supermarket to buy a picnic to take to the park, although it wasn't quite the ginger beer and triangular sandwiches feat we had in mind...After a few hours we returned to school to do some lesson planning and private tutoring.
It was soon Monday morning again and I woke up with impaired vision due to a swollen eye which I can only put down to either a) being bitten in this area by the mosquito I shared my bed with last night, or b) smacking myself in the face to avoid contact with said mosquito. Apart from this, the day went quite soundly and I had fun with both my classes. Sadly, my computer is well and truly broken and so my evenings at the moment are involving lots of Chinese tv, yoga on my floor and reading, reading, reading. I also had a run in with little baby cockroach who was allowed to live in the door frame but who suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, turned into big daddy paparoach scuttling behind the toilet. He is now a gooey mess in my bin...