8-Day Week, Changsha, not-Shaoshan

The week after the National Holiday week off lasted 8 days, working Friday to Friday. By the last day of the week my 1st graders were coming up to me and saying ‘Miss Lamb, is it time to go home yet? Is my mom coming today?’. I was happy I could tell them yes! The beginning of the week was pretty uneventful, except of course for Tuesday when I have all my beastly 2nd graders. They were just as crazy this week, and when I gave my ‘list of names’ to the head teacher, she just patted them on the cheek and sent them to sit down. Now the kids really won’t care about the name-list or anything! I’ve got to think of something else.
Katie, another Buckland teacher, contacted me earlier in the week and wanted to know if Craig and I wanted to go to Changsha and Shaoshan the coming weekend. Shaoshan is where Mao Zedong was born and grew up, and it is very close to Liuyang/Changsha. Katie had half the week off because of a ‘sports meeting’ they were having at her school, so she decided to come spend a few days in Liuyang with me and Craig, then we would all go to Changsha together.
On Wednesday I took a bus to Changsha to pick her up. When I got the Changsha bus station, I called Katie and we agreed to meet up outside the Carrefour in downtown. I asked some people which bus would bring me to the Carrefour (Jia le fu). In China if you want the correct directions somewhere, you need to ask at least a few people, because often times instead of just telling you they aren’t sure, they will tell you any old number or any which way. Three different people told me to get on bus 501, so I caught it, paid the fare, and sat down….for a very long time. Things weren’t looking familiar at all, but I just thought maybe the bus was one of those ‘indirect’ buses. After seeing a lot of my confused looks at the station list in the bus, a girl asked me where I was going. I said ‘Carrefour’ and she said, ‘Oh! It’s the next stop!’. I jumped off and realised I was almost outside of the city in the south end, when I wanted to be right in the middle of downtown. There happens to be three Carrefours in the city of Changsha, I just hadn’t specified which one.
There was a guy sitting on a falling-apart moped, looking like he might be a moto-taxi, so I asked him to bring me to the other one. He told me it would take 25 yuan and a half an hour to get there. I learned my lesson….make sure I really really specify where I’m trying to go, or just give in and take a moto-taxi straight away instead of trying to save 20 yuan and hop on a city bus in an unfamiliar place!! At least now I know where bus 501 goes!
I finally met up with Katie and we ate some tasty food at the Mao-tofu place in Changsha, for good luck in our later trip to Mao’s birthplace on the weekend. We went off to the bus station, got back to Liuyang and went to sleep.
I had classes the next day, so Katie just hung around my apartment, and later that night we decided to go out into Liuyang to walk around, and so I could show her the city! We went looking for a night market that Craig had mentioned had popped up on one of the streets the week before, but it was gone when we got there. Then we just walked on the walking street, the downtown park where local opera music is being played and sung in little clusters of old people, and then we decided to go to Party-Bar to have a beer and say hi to my friend Li Dong. We didn’t spend long there because I had to work the next morning, but we did see an imitation Michael Jackson do a dance to bad ‘techno-music’, and people do a coordinated hand-jive dance to that song ‘Sehnsucht’ by Rammstein. It was rather surreal…
The next day I just had my first graders, and we colored pictures of books and counted and learned color names. After my last class, I went back to my apartment to get ready to go to Changsha. We decided to take the day slow and went downtown to handle some banks stuff, and then after dinner me and Katie left for Shaoshan. Craig had decided not to go because he was feeling really tired and sick, so me and Katie trekked it alone. When we got to Changsha we did the public-bus thing to the hostel, and actually made it alright this time, except for a little mix-up with a bus transfer. One bus driver said get on bus 636, when that bus doesn’t exist, and a crowd of old men said oh you want another bus. Finally we called the hostel and asked them. We got there safe and sound, checked in and put our stuff away. We went to walk downtown a little then went back to the hostel to rest before the next morning when we were going to get up early to catch the bus to Shaoshan.
The next morning we had a ‘western-style breakfast’ (hmm…) and then went to catch a public bus to the south bus station. By this time I would have thought that I would have taken a taxi, but I was still gung-ho about taking public transit. We got on the first bus fine, and got off at the determined transfer stop. The next bus came right away and we got on and figured it wouldn’t take much longer. Well, when we counted the stops, there were more than thirty ahead of us and at that time the stops were about half a kilometer apart each, and traffic was heavy. The bus was jam packed too, it was so squished I think we were all balancing on each other to stand up in it, grabbing on to whatever was handy.
By the time we got to the bus station it was already 10h30am. It is about a 2 hour bus ride to Shaoshan and the last bus back to Changsha is at 5h30pm. We figured that four or five hours in Shaoshan might be enough to see all the sites, so we ran to get a ticket. We quickly bought them and then went to catch the bus. When we got there the bus driver wouldn’t let us on because our tickets said ‘for the 11h40 bus’. I tried to get us on this bus, and even volunteered to sit on the floor or stand up the whole way. The guy said he can’t do that because there are cops that check buses for overcrowding along the way. We waited around until the bus was about to leave, just in case he changed his mind or might accept something in return, but it was to no avail. We decided that 2 hours in Shaoshan wouldn’t be worth a 4 hour round trip, not including any other potential bus-mishaps on the way, so we went and returned our tickets. Using that money we caught a bus halfway then a motorcycle taxi the rest of the way back downtown. The road the whole way there was called ‘Shaoshan Rd’, as if to taunt us of our failed journey! For some reason I was kind of glad we never made it to Shaoshan. It was an adventure that resulted from a failed adventure, and it was almost more fun. Maybe I felt that way because it was really sunny, kind of chilly and there was a blue sky (a rarity in China…the sky is usually a cloudless white). We also went to try to get into the Hunan provincial museum so we wouldn’t feel like the day was a total waste, but when we got there they said all the tickets for the day were sold out and we should come back the next day at 8am.
Anyway, after that we just went downtown to a giant rip-off DVD store, walked around for a while, then went to a dog restaurant for lunch, though we didn’t eat any dog. Craig called and said he was feeling much better so he’s coming into Changsha and would meet us later on at our hostel. He got there and we all went out downtown to get some dinner and maybe have a drink at a local foreign-ish pub. There was a girl named Gloria in our dormitory who was from Texas, and she came out with us too. We went to get Chinese-Muslim food at this place we went to a while back, and it was so so so tasty. After that we went out and had a pretty good night. We met up with some of the World-Teach teachers we all met a while back too. They invited us to come back on Halloween for a party they will be having. I’m glad I live in Liuyang for the time being, but its good to have some buddies sort-of close by in Changsha!
The next day we tried to get in the museum since it was going to be free, but the line went around the block (a very huge block). We decided to go walk around Martyrs Park nearby.
Martyrs park is a big downhill park with an amusement park and a lake at the bottom of it. We walked around that for a while, and Craig and Gloria found some bumper cars and did that, then we all went back to check out of the hostel. We said goodbye to Gloria and headed home.
It’s the end of Wednesday now and not much has happened this week either. My 2nd Graders were a little better this week, I’m not sure why though. I had a bunch of Sesame Street videos I found on the internet, and we learned those songs together. I think having some other source of noise in the room makes them a little quieter. They might just have learned something this week…!
Also, Katie gave me a program that allows me to get on blocked sites, so I can now get on wordpress and facebook. I’m not sure how long this will last, so I’m not hoping for anything, but for now it’s alright!
I feel like I’m kind of forgetting my previous life back home, and I’m not sure if that means I am getting more comfortable here, or if time is just getting the better of me. It’s only been about three months and that doesn’t seem like long at all, but I feel like I’ve been here forever. Everything else is hazy.
It’s great hearing from anyone who reads this blog, though!! Feel free to e-mail me: aimeelamb (at) gmail (dot) com !!!

One comment

  1. seems like theres always confusion when trying to get to a place…lol. im gald you have patience for it cuz i dont think i can do it lol. maybe itll be a good idea if i come may june so this way u have time to know exactly where u are going and how to get there lol. also as soon as your comfortable with your surroundings it just feels like home..right now itll seem youll living two lives…


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