Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dad, we had our last hurrah. Hangzhou was so great! I've been wanting to go ever since I got here because that's where my good friend, Lisa, taught dance last year. We left on Thursday night on a sleeper bus. Oh man, one of the more stressful moments here in China. Della, a girl that works with us at the school, told us that the bus was waiting for us so she had the school van take us to the bus station. I was super frantic, trying to figure what bus, out of the several that were pulled over, was ours. Yeah, the bus wasn't even there, Dad. I was just nervous we were going to miss the ride we had paid 180 yuan for. We got on the bus just fine, once it had arrived. It left around seven and took about 8 hours. We got off the bus at 4:30 a.m. in the very chilly morning air of Hangzhou and took a van to the hostel. It dropped us off in front of the zoo (good thing I had printed off some directions in chinese characters, because there was no way we were going to be able to figure out the public transportation directions we were given at that time of day and with that amount of sleep). And because we were there so early, once we located our hostel there was no one there to receive us. Pretty sure they were all still snoozing, which resulted in us sitting on the couches out on the patio for two hours. The first sign of human inhabitants of the location was of a man in a chef's coat. We followed him into the indoor sitting area only to wait some more. Entertainment then came in the form of a 25-year-old male from California. He was on holiday because China was "the jam" and he was "hella" cool and he was not about to be bogged down by his family- "f that noise" (that is the lingo he used- we got a kick out of it for the next few days by using his Jr. high vernacular). Finally, we crossed the threshold into our ten bed dorm room and slept for a couple hours to recoup and get warm.

West Lake was calling our names, so we pried ourselves from our beds to see the famous scenery in which we were so nicely located. Dad, it looked like the east coast of the U.S. and it even smelled like it! What a glorious thing. We walked around the lake for a while. Lauren and I had a hey day with all of our picture taking. We pretty much ran amock. But Yu Ling was waiting to meet up with us, so we left so we could attempt to make our rendezvous. Yu Ling is one of Lisa's friends she made while she was living here. She's pretty much the sweetest Chinese woman. Before I actually got to know how sweet she was, we first had to travel to meet her. Taxis ignored us left and right. We had no clue how we were going to get there, as all we had was the address in Chinese and no directions by bus. Luckily, the traffic conductor looked at our little post it and was able to communicate with us what bus we needed to take and that we would have to point at the paper once we got off the bus to get further directions. Turned out to be just fine. We got there with no problem- other than the fact that we were an hour late. Yu Ling was so sweet even though she had waited so long for us. She had chosen a really nice restaurant, too. It was a hot pot place. Chinese hot pot is simply a wok in the middle of the table that is on a hot plate and it has two sides (spicy and not spicy) and you get it boiling and add the things you want to eat. Kinda like the melting pot I guess. So much fun and such good food! I tried lotus root (a cold dish) and it tasted like a sweet potato but looked really funky. It was such a good time. I got to sit next to Yu Ling and we talked about all sorts of things. I wish we could've spent more time with her over the time that we were in Hangzhou.

After a few hours of chatting and eating, we took the bus back to the hostel and crashed. We were going to be getting up early to go the the materials market with one of Yu Ling's English students. Her name was Iris and she was just as cute as Yu Ling. Again, we were late, but only a half hour this time and it was because we had to walk quite a ways from where the bus dropped us off. But we found our way and met Iris and her friend Amanda. They helped us through the maze of booths with fabric. Wow! Talk about overwhelming. It was huge! An entire wing of the second floor was dedicated to buttons and such. We only lasted a few hours when our bellies started to growl. But priorities are priorities, so we went to the train station first to purchase our tickets home. And what was there? A Burger King. Where do you think we ate for lunch? Burger King. I knew we were going to be eating Chinese for dinner because Yu Ling was taking us out again, so I thought Burger King wouldn't be too bad. I was right, it wasn't too bad, but I would never eat there back home. I'm ready to be able to turn down Burger King and McDonald's. More shopping was calling our names, so we made a run for it. I got my last couple things before we met up with Yu Ling.

Dad, she is one of the most generous people I've met while here, and she's so loving. She paid for dinner for all six of us for a second night in a row! It was just as good as the night before, and then we got to go over to her house for tea. It was a really good night.

The next and final day was all on our own. We went out to lunch for some pizza and then headed to the other end of town to check out one final shopping area. That's where I got this really pretty coat! I feel like such a grown up in it, Dad. I'm all grown up! What're you going to do? Dad, I'm almost 21! Weird.

I'm almost home now. Can't wait to see you. I've missed you so much. Love you and hope you're doing well, Daddy.

Your little adventurer,

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