Saturday, September 22, 2012

Not the Best Day

In spite of – or maybe because of my abortive attempt at finding German food and, by extension a satisfying meal that didn’t involve seafood, I greeted this new day determined to find Snack Street. Here we go, to City Center.

Oh, wait! Rain is in the forecast today. I’d better go back to my room and get my umbrella. OK, now I’m ready to go.

The tourist map I bought was very detailed in what attractions to see and what there was to do in Qing Dao. Among them was listed Snack Street. Though admittedly most of the restaurants listed on the map were seafood restaurants there were two barbecue houses advertised. I thought barbecue would be an adequate substitute to a Wienerschnitzel, or some other German dish.

Finding Snack Street was a challenge. It lay along the 501bus route. That bus originates at the train station, so I had no problems… once I got there. By now, my third day of exploration, I had the bus system pegged. All I had to do was take any bus that goes to the train station and I have a vast network of transportation options.

Ah, here comes bus 8. Its marquee advertised the train station as a final destination. With no qualms at all I board. There are no seats available but that’s OK. The train station is just 5 stops away.

Wait a minute! We’re supposed to take a right turn here! Instead we went through a tunnel several kilometers long that I later learned conveyed passengers under the bay and into the new development area. The train station is nowhere near.

KK (AKA Kathy Krejados - me), I don’t think we’re in Old Town anymore.

What went wrong? Bus 8 proclaimed the train station as its destination. Undaunted and still believing this was an opportune day, I crossed the street and boarded the next Bus 8, headed the way I had come. I had to return to the stop in front of my hotel. Bus 8 took me nowhere near the train station.

Not a great start but the day is still young. I am getting pretty hungry, though. There being no place to eat around my lodgings I reasoned I would hit up a vendor stall for something light in anticipation of a substantial meal on Snack Street. Having spent the first 2 hours on a bus, you can imagine how my stomach was growling.  

OK: lets forget that false start and get on the bus we know will take us to the train station. Once there I’ll get a little something to snack on to hold me over till I get a decent meal. Everything will look so much better then. Except…

Except I had gotten cocky. You see, my allergies were finally under control. So much so that I thought I did not need any Benadryl. Being ever afraid of addiction to what is considered a narcotic – the active ingredient in Benadryl is the same as in most sleeping pills, I reasoned that if I did not exhibit any symptoms of allergy I should not take any medicine. I had not taken any medicine the day before and had even taken the bottle out of my purse. Boy, was that a mistake!

My allergies were not under control. I had enough antihistamines built up in my system to make it appear as though I were not suffering from allergies. On this not so good day, right around the time I should have arrived at my destination my histamine blocking capabilities had run out and my allergies started manifesting themselves again. Not slowly, either. From the time I felt that first tickle in the back of my throat to my lungs being constricted was only about an hour and a half. I had already been out for over an hour.

According to the map I should be close to my destination. Unfortunately no one said where along that bus route one should get off to get to the tucked away, elusive Street. I asked some passengers which stop to get off at. The first people I asked were also tourists. No help there. Come to find out I had overshot Snack Street and had to double back. By this time I’m ravenous and very conscious of my increasing breathing difficulties. Another course reversal, another fare.  

Ah! Now we’re finally at Snack Street, and not a moment too soon. At that point I didn’t know what was worse: hunger or allergy symptoms.

I thought, by the way this tourist attraction was detailed on the map that it would be crawling with people. It wasn’t. It was closed. That is, most of the establishments were closed and hardly anyone was out and about. After walking up and down this so called Snack Street I asked a few locals if they could tell me where the barbecue houses listed on my map are. They didn’t know. Nobody knew. The way my luck was going those restaurants probably didn’t exist.

Oh, good! Here comes the rain!

Luckily I had gone back to get my umbrella. At least that went right. Except for, since the last time I used it, it got rusty in the humid Wuhan air and wouldn’t deploy. And then, it did deploy but wouldn’t stay open. I managed to force it to stay open by repeatedly slamming its locking mechanism in place.

Now I’m hungry, allergic and wet. But I do have an umbrella.

Lets keep walking. There is bound to be somewhere to eat that doesn’t serve seafood exclusively.  

I never did find either of the barbecue restaurants. I settled for the first restaurant that advertised non-seafood dishes.

There were few diners, and all of them were eating seafood dishes. Still clinging to the belief that I could order something other than anything from the sea because of the pictures on the wall depicting stir fry and meat dishes, I decided to check out the menu. The waitress was surly, absorbed in the television program playing on the unit mounted over the bar. Repeated calls finally brought her to my table, albeit reluctantly.  

The menu was written all in Chinese, rather unusual for such a tourist destination. Nearly every other restaurant I have ever been to in China had menus in both Chinese and English, complete with pictures. There were no pictures in this menu. Scouring it brought more confusion. It was all written in traditional characters. I can only read modern (simplified) characters. I broke down and asked the waitress for her recommendation. She tore her eyes away from the TV long enough to suggest a particular dish, boasting that many foreigners order it. I capitulated without any idea of what was about to be set in front of me. She shouted the order, demanded payment up front, snatched money and menu and took off, resuming her post in front of the bar. While waiting I thought: “With my luck she’s going to bring me deep fried squid or something equally grotesque.”

The cook brought my food. It turned out to be sweet’n’sour pork. No veggies and rice was extra. It looked good, it tasted good. I ate half of it. The serving was too large to eat in one sitting. The rest I took with me.

Back on the rain spattered streets. No need for an umbrella now, the deluge has stopped. My allergy attack hasn’t. All explorations were done for the day. Time to head home.

But not before I load my cellphone. I believe I’ve told you before that cellphone service is prepaid in China. There are 2 major providers: China Telecom and China Mobile. Come time to recharge minutes it is a simple matter of going to your provider’s outlet, wave a bit of cash around and Presto! you have phone minutes.

Except this time I was told that, because my number did not originate in Qing Dao I could not load my phone. Never ran into that problem before. That’s not good. I’m almost out of minutes. What if I have an emergency and need to call Sam?

Matter of fact I was having an emergency right then. My lungs were so constricted I was panting for breath while standing still. SERIOUSLY time to get back to the hotel. Nearly there, I fished my room key out of my pocket, dreading the idea of having to climb to the 3rd floor – no elevator.

No room key, either. Frantically I went through my pockets. I KNOW I put it in that side pocket of my capris, just like I’ve done every time I’ve left my room. It simply wasn’t there, or anywhere on my person, nor in my purse. I had to get the front desk to open my room for me. I reasoned that I had the key card when I returned for my umbrella. I must have laid it on the table in my room and forgot to grab it on the way out.           

The poor desk clerk thought I was going to die on those steps. After climbing one flight I was wheezing audibly. By the time we got to the 3rd floor I was gasping. I did make it all the way to my room at the end of the hall, but only just. I spent the rest of the day there, popping Benadryl every 2 hours and answering the door. The desk clerk insisted on making sure I was all right. Cost of the missing room key: 60Yuan. I never did find the stupid thing.

I ask you: does that constitute a bad day or what?

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