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Normally, I wouldn’t post two days in a row, but too many interesting things happened today for me to not make a mention of them before getting off the computer.

I saw 5 more random foreigners to add to my count today, all while taking the subway (地铁) with my host sister. The subway itself, though, was not much of an adventure. It was very clean and rather efficient, and it is a much more pleasant ride than the bus, at least for off-balance people like me. Our destination makes for a better story.

My sister asked what I wanted to do, so I asked if there was a bookstore nearby. She said it was 很远 (very far), but that we had lots of time and could go. We hailed a taxi, the driver of which exclaimed that we were going too far and asked why we weren’t taking the subway. My sister told him she didn’t know the way on the subway, but the driver took us to the station anyway, and we got some help from a very enthusiastic man who knew the subway better than we did. As far as the actual bookstore, well, Chinese bookstores are different from American bookstores. Like every place else in China, they’re crowded. People go there and sit in the aisles and read without much regard for the fact the the aisles are rather narrow, and others can’t get through if they sit there. The selection of books is good: study books, non-fiction, Western classics, Chinese classics, ancient literature, and both Chinese and Western modern literature (all foreign books translated, of course). I recognized a lot of the English literature like the Agatha Christie novels and 1984, but there were several originally French and German works that I couldn’t identify. I plan on returning to this bookstore because there’s stuff I missed (like the Sherlock Holmes and the entire second level haha), but today I came away with 3 books. Two I bought because I truly wanted them, and the third I bought solely due to the irony of its existence: a book about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. (Facebook is blocked in China.) I flipped through it, and the English word “Facebook” occurs at least once on every page (usually more) and is often accompanied by the names of other banned sites such as MySpace and YouTube. I just had to have it.

And dinner today, oh my goodness. Apparently, “We’re going out to dinner,” means “We’re going to a restaurant and all our aunts, uncles, and cousins are coming, too.” And of course, you get 20 (well, 19, plus me) Chinese people together, and they’re going to speak Chinese, whether they know English or not. So, I sat there rather confused throughout the meal, uncertain of what all the food was (or certain of what it was and hesitant to eat it) and unable to follow the conversation at all because there were frequent switches between the Suzhou dialect (which I don’t speak) and (heavily accented) Standard Mandarin (which is what I’m learning). I HAVE concluded that a room full of Chinese people would be fierce competition for a room full of New Yorkers in a contest to see who can make the most noise. The family members are all good people, though, all very nice and all very interested in me. I can’t always understand them, but they’re awesome, and I love them.