Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Return to Aloha’s

Today, I was bound and determined to find Aloha Diner again, that lovely abode where I hula’ed and ate good food on Christmas Eve. Not only was the weather today conducive to getting out for the first time in a week, but I have company coming in this weekend and I would like to treat them to a nice meal there.

Again I consulted with my online bus directory, which assured me that bus 561 will take me practically to the doorstep of my desired destination. After talking with my Sweet Gabriel via Skype, I packed my bag for the day’s adventure.

Again it is no problem finding bus 561, I simply take bus 34 from campus and make a connection 9 stops later. But here is where it gets hairy: I cannot, for the life of me, find Aloha’s Diner! To be sure, I was there only one time, at night, and it was sleeting to boot, but the Internet source wouldn’t deliberately mislead me, would it?

Why sure it would! Bus 561 did take me to Hanyang, that section of town where Aloha’s is, but then it promptly left Hanyang and took me to Hankou, the shopping district that I am very familiar with and did not want to be at.

I had resolved, before leaving the house, that if I am again misled and cannot find Aloha’s, I would simply jump in a taxi and have them take me there. That is why it is handy to collect business cards. If I do have to taxi around town, I simply hand the driver the business card of my desired destination and he or she just takes me right where I want to go. It is kind of expensive to do things that way, but I figure I only have to do it one time per destination; once I am there, I can figure out which bus to take home.

And so it goes. After riding bus 561 for nearly one hour and not finding Aloha’s, I end up in the shopping district. Frustrated, I get off the bus, cross the street and snag a taxi that was just discharging some shoppers. I hand the driver the business card, he consults it for a minute and then drops the flag and off we go.

During the ride through the shopping district he tells me I can buy many clothes there, and I reply that I cannot buy clothes in China because I am too big. Thus made confident of my language skills, the driver engages me in conversation, and we find out we are nearly the same age: both born in 1962, but he in July and I in September. Nice laugh over him being 2 months older than I. We went on to banter about other things.

Riding a taxi in China is a fairly inexpensive proposition. The meter starts at 6Yuan, and if the car doesn’t move, neither does amount on the meter. That means if you are stuck in traffic, you will not be held liable for a some monstrous sum of money… because there is traffic all over the place! However, once you start zipping along, the meter acts like every other taxi meter you’ve ever seen in your life: increasing the fare incrementally, according to distance. And, if you cross a bridge a toll 5Yuan is added to your fare. I’m not sure how the car or the meter knows you’ve crossed a bridge, but in fact the meter did jump by 5Yuan as we crossed first one bridge and then another.

Still in the belief that Aloha’s lay somewhere along the path of bus 561, and reasoning that there weren’t that many stops between where I got on the bus and where I got off, I was starting to wonder if this driver decided to take the long way around.

Many taxi drivers in China like to gouge foreigners in that manner, especially if they are coming into town from the airport. My suspicion deepened when he asked me if I had ever been to that place – Aloha’s, and I realized after giving an answer to the negative, that I had misunderstood him. Maybe he did decide to take the liberty of just driving to pad his fare, figuring I didn’t know where I was supposed to be, but he did finally get me there… to the tune of 35Yuan.

So, this adventure is a little more costly than I thought it would be.

Nevertheless, I am in the neighborhood of Aloha’s, and they will open for the dinner crowd at 5:00PM. I have just over forty-five minutes to kill, so I stroll through the aisles of the IGA next door. When we went to Aloha’s last time, Carrie-Ann had told me that the IGA had a fine selection of ‘foreigner’ goods and I wanted to see for myself if that was the case. She also pointed out that there was a good French bakery further down the boardwalk, behind the diner. I decided to check that out as well.

There were foreigner goods at the IGA, but rather expensive. Besides, I didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without. Now there’s a telling statement. I don’t need foreigner goods? What is happening to me? I was equally unimpressed with the bakery but, because I am a foreigner, I was expected to buy something. I bought two little cakes and a loaf of bread; grand total for that expenditure: 52Yuan.

So now I am into this adventure for 3 hours and 90Yuan including bus fare, and I haven’t even had dinner yet. It is all in the spirit of discovery, so I don’t mind too terribly.

Still fifteen minutes to go before the diner opens, so I figure that is a good time to see how I’m going to get home. I walk to the street and find the closest bus stop… and stop dead in my tracks.

Bus 561 does not stop there at all. However, bus 202, which stops right in front of my campus also stops right in front of Aloha’s! Imagine that: I spent over three hours on a bus and 35Yuan on a taxi, when I could have just hopped on bus 202 and ridden 5 stops, to the tune of 1.8Yuan. It would only have taken twenty minutes to get here. That darn, lying Internet site!

Once I got over my shock at how easy it will be to get to Aloha’s in the future and how quickly I will get home today, I returned to the diner, which by now was open. All of the waitresses remembered me as the one that did the Hula with Sophia during Christmas, and they greeted me warmly. We chatted like old friends for a while and I got to learn all of their names and a bit about them. The meal was spectacular but expensive – 90Yuan. Well worth it, in my opinion. It is not like I go out all the time, after all…

Going home, I boarded Bus 202, where there were already about 50 people on board and I had to stand all the way home, squished among other passengers, but the day out was totally worth it.

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