Saturday, February 23, 2008

Riding the Bus to Anywhere

After class yesterday I started to take the bus home, but got too impatient and took the wrong route. I thought about just getting off at the next stop and walking back onto the right path, but I had a huge package of candy with me that I had just picked up from the post office (mailed all the way from America for my upcoming birthday). I decided to just stay on the bus and see where it would take me.

Some of the stops have maps on them, so I knew that I was going south. The stops kept coming and gradually the people thinned until it was just me and an old lady who had missed her stop. Eventually the bus driver ordered us off, so I guessed we were at the station. It was right by a residential area, so I walked over to a nearby park (wearing my backpack and carrying my package) where lots of mothers had their toddlers out to enjoy the sun. I watched a couple of guys play Beat the Landlord, this really cool card game. I'm working on my strategy so eventually I'll be able to play it and gamble with people.

There were old people playing cards there, too, and they might have been homeless, but I couldn't tell because they looked like typical Chinese to me. They were playing a game I didn't already know how to play, and there was no hope of picking it up from just watching them, so I gave up and ate some candy out of my box.

Finally I decided to move on, so I walked back to the bus stop I had come from, took the next bus, and then, when I saw we were at a stop that other buses came to, got off and got on a different route. I rode for a while until it looked like a busy part of town, and then got off. I started wandering around some, looking at all the people who were selling stuff and whatever. Eventually I came upon more old guys playing Beat the Landlord, and was still intrigued.

The game only takes three people, so everybody else who's interested stands (or squats, Chinese are good at squatting) behind them and watches their play. When the round is over, everybody starts debating how they should have played as they deal out the next hand. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what happens. Old people here don't often know Mandarin and only speak the local language. Plus, they're just talking about cards, so I can't expect to hear any enlightened discussion on politics standing around. It's more conversation like, "Why didn't you play all those cards?" "I couldn't, I thought he still had the joker." "Still, if you had done that, then I could've played my JQKA and we would've had him." "Psh." "I don't like it when you're on my team. I always lose money." By that time a new hand has started and everyone considers the cards.

I must've spent about an hour there before I decided to go back. Everyone who knows me knows that this is the most amazing part of my whole adventure: I got back to my apartment without getting turned around. That's right, I saw a map, knew where I was and where I needed to go, recognized a bus route and figured out which way was which, took the bus until I got to a specific stop, changed routes, and ended up just as planned two minutes from my apartment.

I was feeling a little stressed out during the day and really enjoyed all the time I spent by myself just absorbing China and not having to worry about my pronunciation, or my impending final, or conflict with friends. And now I know where bus route 19 ends up if you take it south.

1 comment:

mom said...

There's something about the name of this game that makes me want to laugh. And then you describe how the guys squatting there talk to each other, I just get a chuckle inside. Your description of studying it and making a strategy before you try to play cracks me up- look out world!