Friday, May 30, 2014

our moving castle, part 2

A study of families. Of people and how they fit together. Samuel, stony, stayed at home while the rest of us drove 1 hour to the still blue sea of Qingdao. There really was no wind! The sky, the water, the buildings -- all were a dusty shade of blue. Conversation was sometimes still, too, and sometimes lively. Timmy was rejected 4 times by a lovely 17-month-old in a button-up bunny vest. We sang "The Wheels on the Bus (ba-shi)" to placate him. On the playground, Timmy very insistently told another toddler to stop crying.
4/2/14 Last night, we went to an extended family banquet in a an especially smoky banquet hall.
inside a banquet box
The banquet "boxes," I'll call them, hold over twenty people at a time. There's a gap in the chairs for the server to deposit dishes. We ogled the fish (were frighted by splashy eel) and settled into the box. Samuel and I stole away to a corner room to play Cut the Rope. The dinner: casually weighty inquiries, furrowed brows, the corners of mouths. I told Samuel that I disliked him and he left for a stretch. I tittered and grinned as usual, took toasts, emptied my golden glass. A distant aunt saved us teenagers from evening long "torment" by taking us to the night market.
First, a stop to a glossy McDonald's. Soft serve in hand, we strutted (with celerity) down the bookended road, stopping to smell tasty wares (BBQ duck tongues). Samuel bought a jacket with a checkered lining; Ariel and I bought accessories. Our guide haggled with expertise, and was generous with her gifts of companionship and pocket change. Afterward, she drove us around the posh New Town 五四 area of Qingdao, past Chiang Jieshi's old hideaway, down a tree-lined street. We sang along to T-swizzle, hen hao wan.
beautiful 嶗山
Good morning! We went to 嶗山, land of wise mountains, tea bushes, and blossoms. Of villages tucked in the crevices of room-sized wooden communal beds. There was a reservoir, quite evaporated, and a bridge that ran through it. Sam and I climbed down solo and shouted poetry (and soliloquy on S's part) (Frozen songs, too) into the echoey space and eerie quiet. 'Twas the best half-hour with Samuel, filling in his pauses. Green waters to match the mountain.
Ate at another classy banquet place (same walking menus) (great bao zi with shrimp and chives and eggs and crispy frills on the bottom). On the way there, had piping hot, pure white, a-dollar-a-bag 饅頭 (steamed bread), which we ripped apart with burning, eager fingers. Dinner "info session" for friend, a girl called May. Held at unbelievably luxuriant hotel buffet that boasted every edible that the mind can conceive (Anselm!). Between sips of Oolong tea, black walnut potion, and coconut milk, we younguns offered insight into American education as pertaining to immigrant/exchange students. We spoke thoughtfully and truthfully, I hope. Sam ever truthful.
happy in the countryside :)
Ariel put towelettes on head. I babbled to poor May in my eager, chirpy way--probably deterred her... Launched conversation on our experiences thus far, especially the differences between the rebel's and my own--truly varied by teacher. I am continually amazed by Chinese generosity--such a meal, in search of advice! I hope they received it. We drew pictures in the steamed-up window of the car that took us home. Than you God for a beautiful day.
4/3/14 Thursday. I played piano in the morning--tried to finish Fugue. Samuel came to visit (that welcome doorbell!) and off we went to find him a proper brunch. 'Twas cold, so we buttoned to the brim. Bought an XL 韭菜盒子 and settled down in kitchen to reat for a moment (2 visitors!) before the kind auntie from the night before whisked Ariel and me to Koreatown, 40 mins to the north, still in Qingdao!
First stopped for a snacklet of duck tongues, squid, and fu zhu (much love for fu zhu) and then settled into smoky Korean shop. We had our own tatami-esque room! Every two minutes, the waiter
quintessential night market
slid open the door and deposited a new dish. Quite heaven (great grammar Glo)! Spicy, countered by matcha tea milk in trapezoidal bottle, carried by ever-present smoke. We ate no less than ten pounds of bibimbap, beef stew, seafood pancake, cold noodles, and BBQ meat, us three little ladies. Walked it off at the [Trinket Center] for 3 hours. Ariel had pandas painted on her nails by a lovely, soft-spoken artist with a four-year-old at home. Smoke, clothing streamers, curtained outlets of flourescent clothes. The Ayi has incredible bartering abilities indeed: reduced prices by 90 percent. Shopped 'til dropped!
Returned home, read Atlantic in nook because Samuel was out finishing his interview of great uncle. Nai nai walked in and gave me a turquoise bracelet. More piano, the last one :(. Gave Easter eggs to the kind neighbor and wished her a happy 復活節, danced with Samuel, and had last supper in Qingdao. Much dumpling (fish, hurrah! lovingly assembled by Samuel's two aunts), beer, and picture-taking. Happy cheers and blessings all around, including one from S to grandmother (謝謝妳的愛) and rhyming ones from Ariel. Portraits extracted, as were last words. Harried packing.
goodbye, beautiful Qingdao
Friday morning: breakfast of clam flour-drop soup, photo album on way out door. Little family of 5 + me escorted by fun auntie's husband (they both work at the airport) after farewells. Some half hugs for me :,) and an attentive last car ride through Qingdao, past Commie slogan sculptures (by the way, Qingdao is one hour away form North Korea). I tried to press colors into my mind--light bluish grays; a pastel, dusty, sea-salt sheen covering everything, the iron-barred window guards. So long, love, 大妹兒. This place felt like a home, with its grout and Buicks and toddlers and trash and genuine grins.


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