My first couple days of the Chinese National Holiday have been wonderful. After teaching my last class of the day Yixin and her parents came and picked me up and brought me straight to Daqiao, a small town about an hour out of Yangzhou where Yixin’s extended family lives. Mind you, this “small town” has a population of 200,000 people. To put that into perspective, there are 118,000 people living in the city of Kent, WA. Yangzhou has a population of almost 5 million people and it is considered a small city. Daqiao, however, was full of countryside. There was much farmland. After eating a delicious home-cooked meal with Yixin and her family we headed out to KTV (karaoke) and sang the night away until about 1AM. This morning, we headed out to visit Yixin’s uncle’s workplace – a hospital. It came as a complete shock to me that this facility was what we call a hospital in the US. Out of all the malls, restaurants, and even low-class facilities I think this hospital was perhaps the dirtiest place I’ve seen in China, which is saddening. The “restroom” was an outdoor trough in the ground with no privacy whatsoever and there were no sinks in sight, and when I finally came upon one it was impossible to find any soap within two blocks of the property. Doctors threw their trash out their office windows and smoked cigarettes wherever they pleased. When I questioned this treatment of such a place I was told, “The government has a lot of money but the people who run hospitals might embezzle most of it for themselves and then use the rest for medicine and not supplies.” However much of a shock this came to me, I realize that this is still a developing country (although it’s sometimes hard to believe, especially when Audis and BMWs are the most popular cars here.)
Anyway, on to some fun news! After the workplace visit Yixin and her cousin and I walked around and went shopping in the brand-new shopping center nearby. It was very nice and VERY cheap! I bought a jade and silver ring for 44¥ – which is the equivalent of… (can you guess?) $6.90! And yes, it’s real. I also bought a hair straightener for less than $3.00 and a hair dryer for less than $4.00. To get a haircut in China, it costs about $1.18 on average if not less and a bottle of water is about 17 cents (but a cup of Starbucks coffee is between $10 and $20!) Enough about that, though. I also got to visit a couple of Buddhist temples, which were absolutely awesome. I partook in the bowing and drum-banging rituals and enjoyed walking around the beautiful gardens and buildings around the temples. At one temple there was a giant square pond with a fountain and Vietnamese rock in the middle. Many fish and turtles were swimming about, and I was told that this was the Pond of Life – people would see turtles or fish and catch them and not want to kill them so they would place them here within the walls of the temple where they would be protected by the gods. I thought it was sweet. I also visited the river that separates Daqiao from Zhenjiang, which was interesting. It’s a river used only for transport and is quite dirty. However, people were still fishing in it. I had a great time afterwards collecting hollow reeds with Yixin and her cousin and then we headed back and they took me to Yangzhou where I am now currently staying with Tony and his parents. After another delicious home-cooked meal (I am loving this!) we went to Wal-Mart. And now, when I say “Wal-Mart” I mean the Chinese version of such a place, which is nothing at all like the kind you would see in the US. Dried pig heads and live seafood were the main attractions of the food section, and I did not see one American product within those walls (although I didn’t look too hard. Pig heads are distracting, okay?!) Tomorrow I am off to Zhenjiang with Tony and his family to celebrate the National Holiday and visit some famous sites.