After a culturally enlightening day in Shaxi, we headed on the bus back to Kunming. It was Sam’s birthday, so a few of us stayed up till midnight the night before to sing to her (consequently waking up everyone else in the guesthouse because the walls and floors were like paper except worse because paper doesn’t go BANG BANG BANG when you walk on it). Today was a FULL DAY bus ride back to Kunming- and when I say full day I mean FULL DAY. We stopped in Dali for lunch on the way home, which was a welcome rest break. I spent the bus ride sleeping, listening to my ipod and talking with the few people who were awake. We had a really great conversation towards the back of the bus, and I learned a lot of things about people that I didn’t know. We also played the middle school-esqe game MASH to predict peoples futures. The way I played in middle school was a little more intense than most, not only do we predict a person’s job, spouse, number of children etc etc, we also predict most important life event and cause of death- and each category has roughly 15-20 options. Some people had good lives, like Sam who was an immortal witch princess, and other people had not so great lives- like me. Apparently I’m marrying Kim Jong Un, living in North Korea. I have zero children and divorce him to live with my Liger in a shack and I’m killed by Satan. Good life. At least I’m not a rice farmer living in a box that dies by drowning in the rain like a Turkey (Hannah).
Eventually that night we arrived in Kunming. It was Sam’s birthday so we tricked her into thinking we were having a meeting and surprised her with the cake! Afterwards we tried to take Sam out to a bar because it was her 21st birthday, but it didn’t exactly go as planned. We eventually found a bar, that turned out to be a comedy club?! So we watched Chinese comedians, dancers and singers while eating our free fruit platter (first and ONLY free birthday thing ever given). We were about to leave and try and find a real bar until some Chinese people invited us to drink with them (again). The man who invited us was extremely lively and very drunk. There was a younger woman who was apparently “dating” a man in his 60’s. We were convinced she was some sort of escort- she looked very un-enthused. We had fun for a little while, practicing our Chinese, but eventually we decided to leave in search of a real bar. Our search, however, was unsuccessful because apparently Kunming doesn’t have bars. We eventually decided to end the night with noodles and chuar (cooked meat on a stick) and headed back early.
The next day we boarded the bus to a giant park in Kunming. We rented 3-5 person bicycles and pedaled around the lake, which was really fun. The weather was amazing– in the high seventies with a slight breeze. I definitely regretted wearing jeans. There were two very interesting things that I saw at the lake that day: #1- Everyone feeds the seagulls! Granted, in Seattle seagulls are huge, about the size of my cat, and have hooked beaks (aka they’re scary). While the Chinese seagulls are more like east coast non-scary seagulls, people feed the seagulls like Americans feed ducks. But instead of throwing bread into the water people throw it into the air. A few people on my program are afraid of birds so they were not happy about the seagull situation at the lake. The seagulls flock around the air in giant swarms waiting for people to throw bread to them. At one point a bird pooped on Windsor, which we all found really funny- well, everyone except Windsor. The second interesting observation is the massive amounts of wedding photos that were being taken at the lake. It was insane! Every 30 feet was another couple- some complete with the whole wedding party, getting their photos taken in white, puffy, ill-fitting wedding dresses. Chinese people do not get their wedding dresses fitted like American women. They must’ve been so hot under all that poof! At one point we saw a couple getting their wedding photos taken and literally 5 feet away were the two little flower girls holding up their dresses, squat-peeing next to them.
After we returned our bikes, we ran into a group of young ballet dancers on a field trip. If you have ever seen Mao’s last dancer, these girls (and one boy) were all taken from their families as young children and live together, training to be the next generation of world class ballerinas. If you haven’t seen Mao’s last dancer you need to abandon your computer immediately, get in the car and drive to your nearest redbox or blockbuster. Anyway, we spent the next hour going back and forth, dancing and singing with them. They sang us a few Chinese songs and we sang a few American songs (NOT our national anthem). They showed us a few dances and we taught them the Macarena which they LOVED. When they discovered I could ballroom dance, they all asked me to dance a little for them. Apparently the young boy could ALSO ballroom dance, and was better than me- go figure. He could also do the splits which was very impressive. All of the girls had a crush on Seijin, starting around the time he did a backflip for them. We overheard a few of the girls talking about whether he was Chinese or Japanese (he’s half-Japanese, half white) and one girl said “he’s too good looking to be Japanese!!” -very interesting comment. As we were dancing and singing with the ballerinas a giant crowd gathered around us with people taking pictures and videos (of course, because when does that ever NOT happen in China).
After our fun with the ballerinas we left to go have Over the Bridge Noodles. Over the Bridge noodles are AMAZING. They give you an extremely hot broth that you put noodles, different meats, vegetables and an egg inside. The meat is all partially cooked and the broth warms and fully cooks the meat. You can also put in various spices and flower petals! I definitely want to find Over the Bridge Noodles in Beijing because they’re amazing.
After our noodles we headed off to the airport to go home! (I can’t believe I’m calling Beijing home now). We were all exhausted from our trip and slept like babies on the plane. When we finally arrived in Beijing (around midnight) it was a weird feeling being back in the big city. When we walked outside the air pollution was immediately obvious. I’ll miss the fresh air of Yunnan! We arrived home exhausted and dirty but also happy with our bags full of souvenirs, our cameras full of pictures and our brains full of memories.
Speaking of cameras full of pictures, here are some pictures from Kunming!