the grinch was here.
This morning we arrived in Qingdao. We arrived a lot earlier than we thought, about 5:00am. It was a quick cab ride from the bus stop to the hostel where we had a reservation. Upon arrival we communicated with the night staff via his phrase sheet and our phrase book and found that our room was currently occupied; we’d have to return later, around noon. After stashing our bags in behind the desk, we went out to find something to do for the next six or seven hours. Happily, waiting for our room wasn’t so bad, and we got a glimpse at early morning Qingdao, something we probably wouldn’t have risen early enough to do any other day.
From our hostel, we walked towards the beach. I enjoyed seeing our first real blue sky in several days. Between rain clouds and smoggy haze, it had been a while, and I thought it was just the most beautiful thing, looking all bright and fresh. Matt and I marveled how some people born and raised in China’s big cities may have hardly ever seen a blue sky. Even though it was completely light out, all the shops were still closed up and the streets were pretty empty as it was still early in the day. Those who were up and going that early all seemed to be at the beach exercising. Well, not exactly at the beach, seeing as the shores were covered in mounds of green seaweed, but right next to it on the paved walkway and parks.
Feeling very health conscious ourselves, we popped into a 24-hour McDonalds for a leisurely breakfast sandwich.
The exercisers were doing a variety of activities: slow-motion aerobics group (the presumed leader was the guy with weight that looked like rolls of duct tape on his wrists), tai chi, a pair of ladies playing with a hackysack-like birdie, jogging, walking, and other forms of slow, controlled martial arts using long swords and another with big sticks.
As we walked further down the path following the curvature of the sea, music filled the air. Looking to our right we saw a section of road filled not with cars but with ballroom dancers.
To our left was a metal handrail being used for stretching. We came to a small park. Here was a doubles tennis match going on, as well as a few solo players hitting a ball attached to the racket with a long string of elastic. Grown-up paddleball. With very few exceptions, none of the exercisers appeared to be under the age of 65. Some of my favorite exercisers, though, were individuals who had each come up with his or her own morning routine. This ranged from yoga-like (but not quite) poses, arm swinging, a variety of stretching techniques, jumping up and down the curb, and one guy who was doing a sort of standing push-up if you will, using the railing bar to push-up from.
Sleepy from watching all that exercise and a bad night bus experience (some guy sat on me, and the bus man kept shouting all night, not to mention kept picking up passengers even though the only place they could sit/sleep was the floor), Matt and I sat down on a bench/curb and proceeded to fall asleep. In the meantime, the sun got higher and started to heat things up. I groggily awoke to the feeling of my knees burning from the hot sun beating down on my black pants. Slowly I sat up, fixed my greasy ponytail (thinking, “must shower soon”), and scooted over a little so that the shade from my umbrella covered me and Matt’s face. As I waited for Matt to wake up I watched three men fishing across the way.
They caught a couple, but nothing to write home about. Two ladies dressed in flowered blouses and slacks passed by, then turned around and passed again, chatting during their morning walk. They passed by in that manner two more times, and then Matt woke up.
By this time, almost all the exercisers where gone, replaced by those fishing and a handful of old men flying kites. I thought, what a great thing to do if you are retired. Go fly a kite on a Wednesday morning with all your kite enthusiast buddies. Some were really large, there was a medium one doing dives, and a small kite in the shape of a raven whose flyer was so skilled that he could swoop it gracefully through the air making it seem as though it were real. The highlight was when he swooped the bird dead-on into his friend who was kneeling on the pavement preparing his own kite for takeoff. The two shared a chuckled and the friend gave the raven a push up into the air again.
Matt and I walked on, mission: food. We saw a small shop with pictures of green beans everywhere and a long line of customers waiting to buy something. We saw that it was some sort of biscuit or bun. And so, since there were so many other people waiting, we got in line and waited too. “Ba ge,” I said. Eight. Eight flaky pastries were swiftly placed in a plastic bag. I handed over some kuai and walked away, prize in hand. They were delicious. Still hot from the oven, this little shop’s one delicacy seemed to have been cooked to perfection. The lightly browned crust flaked away as I bit into it, giving way to a sweet green bean filling. It was a nice way to start our mid-morning.
We continued down the street, passing by several shops selling all kinds of crazy dried seafood (so far we’ve seen scallops, oysters, squid, sea cucumbers, even whole barracuda fish). I was happy to be eating my bean-filled bun instead of the things we saw. Shortly we made it to our next destination, an internet café. It was a pretty classy place. Instead of sitting in the regular desk chair, we saw in wicker seats, hung from the ceiling in front of the monitor. Computer swings. It was great.
Finally, it was time to return to our hostel and at last have a place to call home. For tonight anyways.