Today, we left Taiyuan and took the train to Zhengzhou, where we will be performing our second concert tomorrow night. Me and the girls had a fun adventure in the train station this morning when we discovered a wine shop. There was some time before we had to board, so the girl at the shop had us try a number of different drinks while they marvelled at us American girls’ drinking prowess. (Natalie had misunderstood the girl and taken her drink as a shot, thereby creating a little bit of a stir. We are now joking that she has made history as the hardcore American girl, which, if you were to meet Natalie, is a fitting description.) One of the drinks she had us try was báijiǔ which I had read about on the internet and had been curious to try. The drink was 61% alcohol! But I believe we made our country proud in that moment… one [tiny] sip at a time. Whew.
After arriving in Zhengzhou, Ma Lin–our guide–took us into the city in search of food, shopping, and general adventure. Mostly food, though. With no hesitation, he took us through a row of stands and introduced us to the gritty wonder that is Chinese street food. As we sat and ate at a nearby table, Ma Lin would rush from stand to stand, dumping more food on the table just as we were finishing the last dish that he brought. It was a pretty funny sight, actually. We also explored a few dumpling shops and a good portion of the Muslim district, and the time we got back to the hotel, he had managed to feed both Matt and Mike (a bottomless pit and the most picky eater I have ever met, respectively).
A small side note: in China, we are consistently the rowdiest group of people around. Anywhere we go, we are talking loudly and laughing and making fun of each other, and it makes us quite the spectacle. You know, in addition to us being the only white people we’ve encountered since we left the airport. As such, we get a LOT of staring. I like to think that we are adding spice and vitality to the lives of those who encounter us in the middle of their daily grind.
China so far has been full of surprises, and it is fun seeing us transition from wanting to understand everything that is happening to just accepting some of the stranger elements of surviving in this country. A few stops into our train ride, we changed directions and everyone had to get up and turn EVERY row of chairs around, mostly without the assistance of the train staff. It was very…communal. Haha. You can imagine the chaos that ensued, but I suppose it is normal for the Chinese as it seems that there is a certain amount of “roughing it” that occurs when you live here. We aren’t always charmed by the differences. However, so far we are doing well. We’ll see how badly we want to push each other into Chinese traffic as the tour goes on, but I personally feel closer to the quintet than I ever have before.
(I am just setting myself up with that statement, aren’t I?)