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August 19, 2006 - Nanjing, China

Accomplishments of the Day

Today we planned to accomplish two major goals. The entire group was behind them - they were common goals - and the day was a beautiful one, cooler, clear and sunny. Off to a good start.

The first and primary goal was to get our train tickets to our respective posts. The second was to make a market run, learn local foods and cook a big dinner.

End tally: 0 for 2.

Friday class was made a bit more interesting as one of our classmates only made it halfway - no names need be named - thankfully it wasn’t me. Casualty of aforementioned KTV.

Went for a Q & A session with Matt & Molly at Skyways - the local laowei hangout and pseudo-Euro bakery. Decent bread and cheese. Make that excellent bread and cheese, relativity is a beautiful thing. I forgot how much I loved cheese which might be a very helpful thing in the coming months. One of Matt & Mollys repeated bits of advice was the distance (in hours) and location to the closest cheese selling shops to Guyuan. The shortest route was 5 hours.

Learned a bit more about Guyuan including some of the local distinctions - dice games, the need of the school to parade me around like a dancing monkey and how cool the kids are. I’m getting more excited about the post by the day.

Afterwards we grabbed a bus to one of the train ticket resellers in town.

A quick disclaimer. Many of the loudest complaints from 2nd year vols involve tickets, specifically train tickets. Difficulty to get. Impossibility sometimes. Crowded train stations. Foreign ticket windows. Local quotas on seats. Quirkiness abounds.

A hole in the wall - reminiscent of an OTB in fact - greeted us. Great. Good vibes not present. We gathered a head of steam outside, tossed around some relevant vocab and chose the first sacrificial victim, Shannon.

Shannon gathered herself and, using our new vocab, requested a ticket.

“Mei yo.”

Not good words to hear in China. Especially when dealing with tickets.

“We don’t have.”

A bit of a fight later Shannon was on the ropes, by no fault of her own, and sans ticket. No luck. My turn was next and the ticket lady was looking even more cantankerous.

I much less adeptly asked for my ticket to Guyuan. A blank stare confronted me. I wasn’t saying the name right.

“Gooo-yooo-en. Gyuu-yen. GUYUAN!”

I must have an inability to pronounce the name of the town I will be calling home.

Nothing. “Mei yo. Mei yo.” Erin, Scott, Molly & Matt tried to say Guyuan. Nothing. That made me feel slightly better but no closer to a ticket. Finally Matt pulled out an old train ticket he had with the Hanzi for Guyuan.

A slight nod of recognition from the teller. Hope?

“Mei yo!” No seats.

The same happened for everybody else. Leaving next Wednesday - and no tickets. Could be an issue.

Licking our wounds we decided to grab a snack - Matt chimed in with his favorite suggestion - jiaozi, and we all agreed.

The “jiaozi man” is a bit of a celeb here, at least in the VIA circle. Always on the sidewalk outside of the restaurant wearing a huge, stretched wife-beater, peering around with his wonky eye and hawking food. He always waves and smiles when we walk by and seems to get some real enjoyment out of a bunch of foreigners greedily devouring his jiaozi.

11 steamer baskets, 5 orders of potstickers, 2 chow meins, 2 orders of fried dumplings and a partridge in the pear tree later the market run and cooking dinner was called off as a loss.

Recap: 0 for 2.

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