Well, another day in Qingdao. This trip really isn’t what I was hoping for. Today we found the “Strassen im deutschen Stil,” which, despite the name, weren’t very German-looking. We walked and walked and walked. Then we had no idea where we were anymore, but we knew it wasn’t where we should have been. We were near the shipyards so there were lots of workers, truck drivers, etc. They were all staring at us. Then, we passed by this kind of random restaurant on the side of the street. The one customer sitting outside stood up and started yelling at us.
“Hello! Welcome!” he said. He started gesturing to the open seats at his little table.
Joh and I looked at each other and decided this would be an excellent idea. We started walking over and the guy starts laughing. The waiter immediately comes out with a couple of beers and some peanuts for us.
“Tsingtao beer. Ok,” our table buddy said. Then he pointed down at the peanuts. “Goshi goshi. Ha ha ha. Ma farendsa.”
It took us a minute to realize “ma farendsa” was “my friends.” We still have no idea what “goshi goshi” is.
We sat there for a while, smiling at the guy and sipping our beers. After I had finished about 10 percent of mine, the waiter brought me another one.
“Tomorrow… you… ok,” the guy said to Joh. “Tomorrow… you… shippa shippa. Looka looka. Ok. Ha ha ha ha ha.”
I said to her that I was pretty sure this guy had been drinking for a while before we showed up at around 5:00. He heard me and just said, “Ha ha ha. Yes. Ha ha ha. Tsingtao beer. Ok.”
Well, after about two hours of talking about Tsingtao beer being ok and looking at ships, I saw a cat go by and tried to pet it. Then, the restaurant owner pulled up behind me and offered us a ride to see the port. So, we went. We did a few laps, looked at the incredibly communist billboards – “Hard work is good for the state and good for the soul” or something like that… – and then they took us to the beach. They pointed out to the water, which we had seen the day before and kinda motioned that this was the end of the trip. All I heard as I left, in broken English, was “Two hundred kuai.”
I looked at Joh to see if they were saying what I thought they were saying, and they were. They had only done this nice trip for us to try to extort money from us. By then we were out of the car and Joh told them we didn’t have any money. They started opening the doors back up, saying they would take us to an ATM, which just made me more angry, so we just walked away.
The sun was behind us so I told Joh to keep an eye on our shadows, because I expected them to chase us. They didn’t, maybe because it was a very crowded area. Maybe because they realized there was no way we were going to pay them.
It was sad how quickly one of my favorite experiences in China turned into one of my least favorite. But it got worse.
We went out for another beer and then, for the second time in two nights in Qingdao, I got the craving for McDonald’s French fries. Random, I know. Well, we went and got some and on the way out we ran into some Americans who are studying at Qingdao University. We talked a bit and decided to join them for another beer. While we’re talking, it comes out that I was in the Army, which opens up a tirade of interesting comments and questions. One guy, who appeared to have been drinking since mid-February, kept asking me why we invaded Iraq with so few troops. I informed him that in my role as a military photographer I was rarely asked for my opinion on military strategy. I then listened politely as he talked about his job interview with “The Agency,” assuming that anyone who actually discusses a job interview with an intelligence agency with random strangers in China probably never went through such an experience. Then, I breathed a sigh of relief when he started walking home while we weren’t looking.
Qingdao – what a town.