[The whole series of blogs can be read here]
Saturday June 28th was scheduled as an Open House and Instant Decision Day in Zhengzhou. How one has an open house when, in fact, the house is 7200 miles away as the crow flies was never explained to my satisfaction. This also assumes the crow could refrain from freezing to death as it flew over the Arctic Circle. But I digress.
We were staying in the Crowne Plaza, which is every bit as awesome as the name sounds.
Wilkes was hosting the open house next door in the Holiday Inn Express. This was also the nicest Holiday Inn Express I’ve ever seen. We should have stayed there. Maybe I’d have woken up able to speak Chinese.
Xiaoqiao did an AMAZING job…
…this was a big deal. Having over 50 attendees for an American college that almost no one in China has heard of is pretty significant. In fact, CCTV – China Central Television, the state-run national network, was there and did interviews with each of us.
Sooo…. Zhenze. Zhenze (pronounced like Jensen, without the last ‘n’, with the slight ‘z’ at the beginning – zhen-seh) drove us from the airport to the hotel in Zhengzhou (say “Zhenze from Zhengzhou” 5 times fast). He’s coming to Wilkes this year and enrolling in the Intensive English Program that Wilkes has for foreign students with limited English skills. It’s a great program and he’s a great kid. What was awkward – on the 90m drive from the airport, at the open house, and later at lunch – is 1) the fact that he doesn’t speak much English and 2) he gets nervous and giggles a lot around Americans. And he somehow thinks I’m important.
So we communicate through the exploding fist bump.
At the end of the day, Wilkes admitted two students, with several more in the process.
That evening, we were hosting (our fourth) formal dinner, this one for the principals (the Chinese equivalent of superintendents) from Zhengzhou. Lots of glad-handing. Lots of food that I couldn’t recognize.
One of the dishes was a whole chicken. Not a roaster… a WHOLE chicken. Including the head, staring back at you. It was carved, but still on the corpse, so you got to pick the meat off and know exactly which part it was.
Darn good chicken too, if you could get past the indignity of it’s owner watching you eat it. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon your perspective), I did not get a picture of the bird.
This was a REALLY nice room that was more my taste. Sedate, not over-the-top, as a lot of expensive Chinese places seemed to be.
There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by without something weird happening.
Today’s adventure was going to a pool on a floor that doesn’t exist.
Before dinner, the four of us decided to go swimming in the hotel’s indoor pool. Guided by a bellhop, we were told to go to the 2-and-a-half floor.
His instructions proved to be spot on, though they required going to a part of the hotel that looked like it was on the Bowery in New York City. The spa was behind a Soviet-era double metal door with a firelock wheel on it. Kinda concerning? Further on (follow the smell of the chlorine) was the Olympic-sized pool.
Oh was it.
Point #1: there was a sign warning us that if we had diarrhea, hair lice, scabes, skin conditions and several diseases we had never heard of, that we were not allowed to use the pool. This was apparently on the honor system as no one checked us.
Point #2: it cost us $8 for bathing caps. Yes, bathing caps. Apparently it’s de rigueur in China. It’s the miracle cure-all for the diseases listed.
Bathing caps attached, we headed for the weirdest pool ever. One woman doing tai chi at the edge. Her husband prancing – yes, prancing is the only way to describe it – around the pool in a Houston Rockets knockoff uniform. Two guys playing the single most cut-throat game of table tennis I’ve ever seen. They each were carrying 25-30 balls in their pockets – the game went at breakneck pace.
The capper – and the end of the swim – was the spitting, Yup, the spitting.
I’ve neglected to mention this, and I’m sure I’m stereotyping a bit, but the Chinese seem to spit. A lot. Horking lung clams, firing off loogies, call it what you want, it happens everywhere.
Including the pool.
I was holding on to the edge talking to Kerry as this guy was about 8 feet away from me, loosening up for his laps. He gives a deep “ggrrooonnnkkkkkzzzzgggg” as he mines a lung rocket and “ptooey”, RIGHT IN THE POOL.
Swim time over kids.
This is China.
[The whole series of blogs can be read here]