Two days in we went for our first walk on our own, down Nanbinhe Middle Street.
We crossed over a footbridge quite a way from the school. We did not dare to cross the very busy dual carriageway road. The bridge took us to the Yellow River. There is a park along the banks, but we could not get to it as there was a wall that we could not find our way around. We will find an entrance next time. The river was grey and the trees along its bank bare and stark. Some snow still lay along the path.
Everywhere there were cleaners, dressed in bright orange overalls – cleaning roads, sidewalks, rubbing down railings, sweeping snow up with wide brushes, some made of branches and twigs, whilst others used mops that were purple in colour, or bright green.
I braved the use of a public toilet along the road. The man in attendance waved me towards a stainless steel door and I went through into a small stainless steel room. A comforting voice greeted me once the door shut behind me – Ni haw – she said, followed by some other reassuring words. The place was spotless, the bowl in the floor frothy with white foam. The voice spoke again when I opened the door to leave – perhaps she was commending me on my first visit to a Chinese loo…
We did approach a taxi on our walk
– we suddenly thought of visiting Starbucks, but we were unable to make ourselves clear – next time we will get that Chinese app to work!
We felt very hot as we were walking – seemingly much hotter than the Chinese whom we passed, who were togged out in furry hoodies, long coats and boots.Due to my suitcase still being lost I was dressed in Lex’s clothing, from head to foot, and I felt like I could have shed at least two layers of clothing and still been warm enough. Strange.
We returned to our cosy, no, hot, flat and were thrilled to find that we had read the instructions on the washing machine correctly and my few bits of clothing had been washed!
We cooled off, with our bare feet against our warm tiled floor, and drank a sweet date flavoured yoghurt drink, before settling down for the afternoon.
The next day we braved the No 32 bus for a journey to the shops on our own. We climbed aboard, but there was only a card machine and although we waved some yen at the driver he, in turn, waved us to a seat. We never paid for our bus ride, but cheerily chorused – She she – when we disembarked.
We had been told to count five stops and then get off (in order to find Wu-Mart) but the Wu-Mart side street was nowhere to be seen, and so we began walking.
I felt invigorated by the bracing air and we crossed the road ( how brave we were) and walked along, passing many little shops.
Each shop intrigued me and the desire for Wu-Mart Supermarket began to wane.
There were pastry shops next to convenience stores filled with an assortment of things. There were upmarket restaurants sitting cheek by jowl with eateries in which Chinese families could be glimpsed seated at the back of dim interiors. There were clothing shops – I noticed them…will my suitcase ever arrive?
There were noodle shops and butcheries, with pigs hung out in the open. There were colourful fruit and vegetable stalls, and a hairdresser snipping a neat glossy bob for a young lady seated in the window.
Shop fronts were strung with large red New Year lanterns.
In the end, we did find Wu-Mart – after the 6th stop, not the 5th. We wandered around the supermarket for hours this time, examining everything. Every now and then I entertained myself by trying to mime a question or two with the shop assistants. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not.
We caught a taxi home as we had parcels and no bus card. It was expensive. Maybe we were ripped off, maybe not, but she got us and our parcels safely home.