This past Saturday I went to Hangzhou (杭州) and it was definitely an interesting trip. First of all, Hangzhou is around a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Shanghai and our bus was departing at 7:20 am, which is kind of early considering that it was 8 subway stops away for me to get there. I thought by leaving at 6:30 am it would be early enough but I did not account for my transfer wait to be 15+ minutes. As much of China still remains a complete enigma to me, I guess I should not have been surprised when the train to transfer to line 4 did not stop but rather continued on past our station at Century Avenue, which is one of the largest stops for the Shanghai Metro. Maybe the driver was sleeping or just not paying attention. Hopefully, there was some more important reason such as avoiding a crash similar to the one that happened on line 10 last fall when the signaling company messed up…again. The reason I say "again" is because the company that screwed up with line 10 last fall is also the same company that screwed up with the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway last summer. At least I'm pretty sure I remember both of these events happening. I went to search for some facts but nothing shows up. China's censorship is really amazing.
Anyway, I ended up arriving at the bus station around 7:15 and Yu Huan, the same woman I went to Suzhou with, had called me several times telling me to hurry up. Unfortunately, I have no control whatsoever over public transportation. I am relatively sure her urgent phone calls were more for show than anything else though. By displaying to the waiting bus driver and passengers that she was doing everything possible to hurry me up by calling me 3 times in 5 minutes, I am sure the others felt at ease and truly believed I would arrive soon. When I finally did get there and we were on our way, I quickly learned how rude the tour guide was. Despite the fact that I am a "waiguoren," which means foreigner, I still understand a fair amount of Chinese. The tour guide was either unaware of this or didn't care since he openly mentioned Yu Huan and I before continuing on his introduction to our trip. He said something like, "Because two children arrived late, we are running behind on schedule." Yes. He called us children. I can understand being called a child since most people here usually think I am 16 which is only 5 years off but Yu Huan is 26 and I'm pretty sure that is not considered a child in any country. Apparently, before I got there the bus driver had said something to Yu Huan that would translate to "Do those foreigners understand time?"
After the interesting beginning though, things got better. For the first hour or so Yu Huan and I were just talking. It was nice that I had already met her since things were not so awkward. Also, her English seemed to be coming back since she was a lot easier to understand. She had been in the US for 3 summers but since that was a few years ago and she rarely uses spoken English, much of her language abilities had been lost so I think she enjoyed being able to use some English again. Because of this though, all the other people on the tour knew I was a foreigner for sure and they also assumed I didn't know any Chinese. It's kind of fun having people not know you understand what they are saying.