I don’t quite have a routine yet. Maybe once I do, I won’t feel the need to blog every two days or so, but right now, everything I do is so new and interesting that I immediately want to blog about it.
This weekend was filled with sightseeing, meeting new people, and starting to gain a level of comfort in my new home. Liz and Michael, who graduated with me from Grove City College this past year, arrived on Friday night from Zhucheng where they are also teaching preschool. Michael has been here since February and speaks some Chinese, which was helpful, while Liz has only been here since September and speaks no Chinese, so we bonded a lot over that. It was wonderful chatting with them and trading China stories as only foreigners who have lived in China can. He and Liz are the only foreigners in their tiny town of one million people, so Liz especially has been feeling isolated. While I frequently get stares in Qingdao–because I am white–the frequency is nothing compared to what they experience. Michael even joked that he caused an accident because drivers were staring at him . . . a story which is truer than you would expect. I think they were as happy and I was to be able to get together in Qingdao.
On Saturday morning, Liz and I took the buses all by ourselves to downtown Qingdao for some coffee and shopping. This was my first time to really explore the downtown area, and it was a beautiful day, even though the pollution levels were still a little high.
Qingdao hosted the Olympic sailing competitions during the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Consequently, the marina is beautiful. I spent a good hour wandering along the quay, taking pictures and enjoying the almost refreshing sea breeze.
On Sunday we attended a house church for foreigners. My friend Nicole told me that the police once barged in during a service to make sure there were no Chinese citizens in attendance. Its a very different way of thinking than we, as Americans, are used to.
Its incredible the number of ex-pats I’ve met in the past week and a half. I already feel like I have a strong community surrounding me, and I hope to continue to grow these relationships.
Sunday night, I got a call at 6:30PM from my boss, Kirk. He told me there was a play starting at a coffee shop in a half hour and if I wanted to join him and Sheena, I could jump in a taxi and he could talk to the driver for me. I stared at my phone for a while, trying to decide whether or not I wanted to go out again that evening into a scary city all by myself for the first time. I have known for years that when I am tired and don’t feel like going out for a stupid reason, I just need to grit my teeth and go out, and I never regret it. If I choose not to go out, being an extrovert, I always regret it.
So I grit my teeth, hailed a taxi, and handed the phone to the driver. I officially took my first taxi by myself with no problems, which made me feel so much more confident in myself. This decision to jump in the taxi led to some awesome events that would affect my life for the next 24 hours.
When I arrived, Kirk was waiting on the street for me, so I was finally able to meet him and Sheena in person after talking on the phone with them since August. The play was hosted in the back of a coffee shop. It was a one woman play, chronicling the life of Miho Kahn and her struggle with drugs, an abusive relationship, and other life events. It was a very powerful tale of a broken woman finding redemption in Jesus. At the end of the play, I realized that Miho herself was the actress, and the audience was able to pose questions to her about her experiences. This made for a very powerful format, as she was there to share her experiences and encourage people toward healing.
After the play, Kirk and Sheena introduced me to a number of other ex-pats, and I got to talk with Miho, her husband Dave, and her daughter Kaya, who are all from the Philly area. Due to an error with flight scheduling, they had to spend an extra day in Qingdao. Kirk told me he would drive me home so I didn’t have to take a taxi, but first he was going to drop off Miho and Kaya. On the drive, Miho and Kaya told us about their trip to Laoshan, a famous mountain near Qingdao that I had already been told I needed to climb by a number of people. Miho and Kaya decided that since they had to spend an extra day in Qingdao, they undoubtedly wanted to go back to Laoshan. Kirk offered to have Driver Wang–who picked me up at the airport–take them in the morning after visiting the preschool. I offered to join them since I didn’t have to work on Monday and I really wanted to go to Laoshan.
By taking the leap into that taxi, I was able to meet some amazing people and experience China’s beauty at Laoshan.
The Laoshan trail is a loop, but the trail is hard–and keep in mind that I, a seasoned backpacker, am saying this. While the path is generally man made, the climb is brutal, as the trail does not seem to utilize switchbacks. Since Miho and Kaya had been already, they decided to take the loop to the right, since they had walked to the left, then turned around and come back. They told Dave and I that we had to take the loop to the left as it was gorgeous. It turned out that Dave and I hiked very well together as we had a similar pace. In total, we hiked 6 miles, making it around the entirety of the loop!
Following are a few pictures in an attempt to capture the beauty of the mountain. The pollution levels had dropped considerably since Saturday, so the air actually smelled clean!
Climbing Laoshan was a wonderful close to the crazy nine days since I arrived in China. While I’ve had many ups and downs, this weekend really helped me start to feel more positive and settled in Qingdao. I am so thankful for the people who have gone out of their way to help me and make me feel welcome. This week, I start teaching, and life will begin to settle down. Well, as much as it can in China.