The date is December 22nd Sam has been in China now for just 2 full days so far. We are going to Weifang today; I have never been to Weifang. LaDawna and the other wives went to Weifang back in October or November. Its draw for us is the Kite Factory. We want to see this and share another location with Sam. It is a little over 2 hours drive from Haiyang to Weifang. I am able to convince LaDawna that she really needs to get an early start on this one, so we leave at 9:00am. Hyrum is able to program his GPS to get us there from the address that we have on one of the boxes from LaDawna’s earlier trip. Weifang is actually north of Qingdao and so the trip is almost like going to Qingdao. We arrive in Weifang or more appropriately the outskirts of Weifang about 11:15am. As we approach the location I realize that it doesn’t really look like a factory, it is an entertainment complex. We are required to purchase tickets to enter the place. It looks like this a really exciting location to be during the summer or on warmer days. We are here on a cold December day and pretty much have the place to ourselves. We wander through the buildings and see some interesting sites.
One that was quite interesting is the Museum of Shoes, it contains many shoes and of course the most interesting to me are the fancy beaded shoes for bound feet. I am really struck by the dainty sizes that are shown there. I can’t imagine the pain that the owners of those shoes must have experienced in order to have their feet fit inside a shoe that really isn’t much bigger than new born baby’s foot.
We visit a number of vendor’s shops looking for the unique items that we find so often in these little stores. We are rewarded for our efforts again today. We find a shop that carries a number of cute little crafts. This shop has a wide variety of gourd art. There are some that have been painted and are extremely intricate, one small gourd the size of a standard baseball, is exquisite and it price is an unbelievable, $10,000 RMB (over $1550 USD – pre-negotiation price but can’t imagine getting it for less than half of original price which would be over $750 USD). There are other more reasonable priced objects; we get a number of items that we think will make great tree ornaments. LaDawna notices that there are number of little gourds that have been cut in half and are made to look like lady bugs. They have several that she loves; I like the one that has hearts painted on it. We buy several laser engraved wooden bells and silk book marks that are going to be Christmas ornaments; the cost to get out of that shop with two bags full of stuff – about $250 RMB (around $40 USD). We continue to browse the little shops and realize that there are a lot of items here that we haven’t seen in other places that we have shopped; some are really neat others just odd. We can’t negotiate any decent prices on any of the items that I am interested in and so we don’t make any purchases.
As we wander the compound I notice that there is a stage and a billboard/advertisement for an act similar to the “face changer” we saw last night. I would swear that it is the very same guy that we saw last night. It is unfortunate that he is not performing today. I really did enjoy the performance and would like to see it again.
We finally have wandered around the complex until we arrive at the kite factory. It really just looks like any other little building in this compound. We enter and we see six ladies sitting behind a table and they are hand painting kites and putting them together. It really is the “factory” if you wanted to call it that. We have bought a lot of kites from this location already; LaDawna got a bunch last time. We still end up with several bags of kite boxes before we leave. I do splurge a little and get the largest dragon kite that they make it costs me $340 RMB (about $50 USD) it fits in a large shoe box; it is a full 5 meters in length. Not sure it will ever fly more than once; it is destined for a spot on a wall in my office in WY.
We start working our way back to the main entrance, there is a large temple like structure in the middle of the complex it is 5 stories tall. It has in it, a dragon kite, not sure if it is the original or replica of the World Record kite. The placard describes a dragon kite record that is 300 meters long, and the one that is in this building is definitely long. It criss-crosses the room and winds its way around the room and still has a big bunch of it compressed against the wall. I can only image the effort it took to get a kite that size into the air and then to keep it there. I remember flying a regular kite in WY as a kid and we got one up and out, we were standing in the yard of the old house at 390 Roberts and the kite was above Clark Price’s house across the town’s property. Easily a half mile of string, we actually got it to stay up the whole time, almost crashed once on the retrieval about half way back. Took a lot of patience to get it up there and keep it up there and it had way more lift and control than I think a dragon kite would have.
We make one final stop before we leave the compound; a little shop has some of the replica wooden baking dishes. We have been admiring the originals while we were shopping for the furniture at Leo’s Antiques. Leo’s wants over $300 RMB for each one, imagine a small dish or pan that would make a little cake about twice the size of a Twinkie. This place is asking for $15 RMB each for replicas, we offer $50 RMB for 4. It is really a take it or leave it offer. The shopkeeper tries to get us to go $60; we just turn and walk away. She quickly changes her mind and gets us to come back. I don’t think people realize that we have begun to get the hang of this whole purchasing negotiation that happens here. Not that we are good at it, but I think that we are at least trying to play their game. I know that they are making more money off of us than they do from the locals when they negotiate, but we aren’t paying tourist prices any more either.
We were hungry before we even started this adventure, but we never passed a single reputable food location from the time we got off the toll way until we got to the parking lot. It is now almost 3:00pm and we are famished. I noted from the top of the tower that the majority of Weifang is to the east of where we are. I tell Hyrum we are ready to eat and get him pointed towards town. We realize that we are indeed on the outskirts of town. We don’t see anything that looks like food.
Since LaDawna came here with some of the other wives she makes a phone call to see if we can get the driver that took them last time to call Hyrum and give him directions to some where we can eat. We are able to get some info into the GPS after a timely phone call and we are back on our way to get some food. We end up in downtown Weifang. LaDawna recognizes the mall and the food plaza that she ate at last time. We park the car and go to a joint called Western Food, its claim to fame – pizza.
One of the problems I have is that when I am hungry I order too much food. It is obvious that we have that problem today also. We order two Large Pizzas and a Medium Pizza. It takes about 25 minutes to bring us the first pizza, the second one shows up just as we are finishing the first. Our rate of pizza consumption is slowing down considerably. It doesn’t help that the pizza is not that good. I have often wondered how you could mess up some simple American foods, but I am very amazed that you could mess up a pizza. All of our pizzas are served with – dramatic pause – sweet canned corn spread on it like you would pizza sauce. Somebody really missed the boat on that one.
We make another trip to Qingdao on December 23rd, we leave about 10:00am, LaDawna is with us today. We have to take the dog for shots. This is the last of his first year shots. We have finally got him healthy. We will have to come back to another veterinary clinic in 10 days to get his rabies shot. What a relief to finally have the dog healthy. Once we are done at the Vet’s we head back over to the tailor shops. I am going to have LaDawna fitted for a jacket; it makes sense that we would have similar outfits for the parties we will attend.
She selects her silk pattern and decides on a jacket. It will be done the same time that mine will be. They try to sell Sam a jacket also; he is not interested in getting an authentic outfit. Too bad for him is all I can say.
We go down to the McDonald’s again. We can’t find a place to sit and end up sitting outside on the steps. Lots of stares, Sam has now decided to make a game out of staring. When he sees someone staring at us he tries to lock eyes with them. He enjoys the game immensely. We are not really any better than the people that are staring at us as we are quite amused by the outfits that we see and are staring and making comments. In our defense, it does seem quite unusual to be wearing miniskirts and thigh-high high heel boots when the temperature is well below freezing. The outfits make us laugh, we also see the snow boots with black tights and short-shorts that have fur lining to go along with the miniskirts and the painted on pants with super-high high heels. This would be one of those locations that could be a whole day’s entertainment just watching the people pass by.
We do some Wal-Mart shopping and then head to a book store. I have read all of the books I brought with me and all that I bought in Hong Kong. I have been reading about 800 pages or more a month and need to get some new books. I have been reading a lot ever since we moved to WY and I was working on the road. The books have been how I relax and go to bed; I have always been close to a Barnes and Nobles until now. I need to find somewhere to get books. We find a couple of recommendations on the internet and the biggest in Qingdao is our destination today. It is called Book City, 5 levels of books and videos. We enter and make our way to the videos; we wonder what they might have that we don’t have in our library. We find that they have many recent releases that we don’t have. We pick up about 10 titles, average cost per DVD $20 RMB (a little more than $3 USD), these cost us about twice what we have seen at the bootleg shops so these are legitimate disks. I finally make it to the English book section, roughly about 100 linear feet of book shelves front and back that are 6 rows high. I can tell which books the government doesn’t like too much, their prices are several hundred RMB while the classics are about twice as thick and cost about $30 RMB. I find several classics that I haven’t read and toss them in my basket. I am ready for another couple of months.
We head back home but ask Hyrum to stop at Leo’s. We want to get Hyrum a Christmas present, he has negotiated with the people there each time we have come in over a little bench but has never purchased one. Today we are going to get him one. It looks a like a fancy milking stool to me but since he tried to buy it more than once we will get it for him. The challenge is to get it without him knowing that we got it. We arrive and ask him to walk the dog while we hurry into the store and get them to help us keep it a secret. We make the purchase and then wander around the store while they get it packaged and ready to go. It gives Sam an opportunity to walk around the store where we purchased the furniture that he sees in our home. He finds a bed that he likes. It is a very authentic Chinese bed. It is a four post bed with some very ornate carvings on it. It is a very nice bed but I have no idea where I could put something like that. We have been able to make the purchase and I think that Hyrum has no idea. We load back into the car and return home.
I can hardly wait to see some of our new movies. When we arrive home we find that we have a problem when we get ready to play them. They are Region 6 DVDs and we have a Region 1 DVD Player. I am now certain that they are legitimate disks; we haven’t had this problem until now. I need to see if I can unlock my DVD player and make it a “free agent” player (typically a 9 instead of the 1-6 that they come from the manufacturer). This is going to take some time to figure out how to do this if it is even possible with the model that we have. We are able to play them on our computer because it is programmed to allow an easy change between regions. Not sure why the home models make it so hard to make this change. Some will play on the XBOX360 and others won’t so we may end up just getting another DVD player, we are going to be here for 4 years so it will probably be a good investment.
We have to eat so we go over to Freddie’s, an American restaurant here in Haiyang. We realize that it is quite a party already going over there. We place our order for steaks, Sam orders a burger, he claims that he hasn’t had a good burger since leaving Wyoming. He is pretty sure he is getting a good one as he sees some of the other Expats’ burgers. We go upstairs and hang out around the pool table. Watching some of the guys play and we are graciously given the next game. I call boys against girls, Sam and I on one team, LaDawna and Cindy Li on the other. We have a good time, the girls win on an 8-ball scratch; tough luck for us. We leave Sam upstairs playing with the other folks we know. We get our steaks and finish them about the time that Sam’s burger arrives. We visit with folks and enjoy ourselves. We wonder over and visit with Cindy Li and Chris Chen, they got to the restaurant about 30 minutes before we did and placed their order and still haven’t been served. We laugh about how the Chinese owners know that they can just push them around, it is irritating enough to these two pint-sized gals that they go and ask where their food is. It shows up about 5 minutes later. It has been an enjoyable evening and we are ready to call it a night. We catch the first bus home to the Expert Village.
It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow. We have a party planned with some of my Chinese colleagues. I also want to take Sam out into Haiyang and just do a little shopping. He has yet to experience our little class 4 city. A town by Chinese standards, not really even a city; it only has 680,000 people. We still laugh when we think about that the magnitude compared to our little town in Wyoming, all 320 of us. Oh, the difference in perspective; there are more people in this little town in China than there are in the entire State of Wyoming.