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I have found more foreigners. They appear in large numbers not only on the subway (where I found the last 5) but also in the gigantic department store, called Jiu Guang (久光), in Suzhou’s Times Square. I saw four all in the grocery/supermarket section of the store while I was there with my host mom and sisters. By the time the third one came around, I was dying laughing, and my mom thought it was funny that I thought it was funny. She and my sisters kept asking me, “You saw him?” (the first 13 have all been men…). It’s one thing to just walk past another foreigner somewhere, but to find several in rapid succession makes it funny, especially when they’re just randomly appearing behind you and you have to do a double-take. I’ve started reacting to other foreigners as if I was Chinese myself, freaking out and staring.

Most foreigners, however, appear at tourist locations. My host mom and sister took me to Tiger Hill and Shantang Jie (more on both in a minute) today, and I found a total of 28 foreigners between the two locations. This brings the foreigner count to a whopping 42!

Anyway, Tiger Hill (虎丘). It’s this really gorgeous park like area (on a hill, of course) with lots of small pagoda-y things and little Chinese-y buildings and courtyards. On top of the hill is a very, very large pagoda. The big pagoda leans to the northeast. Also, a tour guide told us that there is an ancient tomb underneath the site, but it has never been excavated because the pagoda is built directly over the burial chamber and would collapse if anyone went down there and opened it.

And Shantang Jie (山塘街, Shantang Street) is an old street with restaurants, many shops, and stinky tofu (which is what it’s actually called in Chinese, as well… . I don’t eat tofu, so I haven’t tried it, but I can tell you, it DOES smell!). My host mom and sister and I had lunch there, and then we did did some shopping. I didn’t even know how to react when my sister and I met up with our mom afterward and my mom handed me a little pink box containing a pearl necklace! I’m not much of a jewelry person, but it’s really pretty, and I know I’ll be wearing it for band concerts instead of the fake pearls they give us!

This past week, I had the opportunity to learn a little more about Chinese public buses. First, during the day, the bus fare is 2 kuai (about 32 cents), but before 7:30am (I think that’s what it is), at least in Suzhou, it’s 3 kuai (about 48 cents). That got me “yelled at” by one of the few female bus drivers I have encountered here. Second, buses break down in China. When they do, the driver makes everyone get off, goes to investigate the problem to the best of his ability, and then starts explaining in really fast Chinese what happened and about when the next bus will come. This gave me the opportunity to use some Chinese in a real-life situation, even though all I really did was choose a random lady, tell her that I couldn’t understand the driver, and ask her if she spoke English. She did, and I got a good though basic explanation of what was going on. And third, that step by the bus’s back door that’s painted yellow and says “No Standing” in both Chinese and English… Yeah, you shouldn’t stand there. And that’s all I have to say about that. Lol.

Anyway, we have a group trip to Shanghai tomorrow, so I’m sure I’ll have more to post soon. I also think I may ACTUALLY be able to get my own computer online soon, and if I do, I can upload some pictures, as well. 🙂

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