It seemed we had lost two whole days of our lives…we left Cleveland on Monday morning and now it was Wednesday morning. Where had those two days gone? But, it was our first day of business and our plans were to go to the jeans factory and pick out our fabrics and accessories. I wanted to see for myself where our clothes were being manufactured. Choosing the fabric is so important and we must be here in person to do that.
We showered and prepared for the day. I had brought an outlet adaptor for our electronic devices to plug in to. But when I plugged in our hair dryer smoke instantly starts pouring out of it. I quickly shut it off. I had no idea what just happened. Luckily, the hotel room had a hair dryer so we were able to use that one. The next problem was my flat iron. I was afraid to plug it in now because I realized that it might catch on fire if I did. What was I to do now? My hair was a disaster. I did my best with the hair dryer, but I knew I was in for a “bad hair day”! I needed to buy a flat iron somewhere here in China that would work in their outlets.
Our plans were to meet Yuan in the lobby at 9:00 am. He was coming with the owner of the company to pick us up as he does not drive. We had a great breakfast in the hotel restaurant and proceeded to the lobby to wait for our ride. We waited for almost two hours. Apparently, the traffic was so jammed up due to construction in the city that it took them almost three hours to get here from their factory that was only one hour away. I felt terrible that it took them so long.
By now its lunch time and we were taken to a restaurant not far away. Jillian and I were about to experience real Chinese food. They seated us in a private room for lunch and we were given menus we couldn’t read. So we looked at the pictures and Yuan helped us to choose our foods.
The food was delicious and very spicy. Jillian actually had a pizza that was the best I’ve ever tasted but it was also very spicy. I stuck with a more traditional meal of fried rice. It was simple but full of such a different flavor. The meal was quite a feast and was eaten very slowly. Our observation so far was that people are very laid back, they work at their own pace and their meals are very important, almost ritualistic. They don’t seem in any hurry at all and it appeared that time didn’t matter. Yuan explained that his everyday habit was to eat his lunch very quickly and run home for a 2 hour nap.
By this time, dinner was the next order of business. Another ritual we were to experience. We took a cab to a different restaurant which was very crowded and no private room was available. Yuan was uncomfortable eating in a large crowd. He said he preferred to eat at 8:00 or 9:00 pm after the crowds thinned out. All workers stop working and everything closes down during their lunch and dinner hours. This restaurant served another type of food, Cantonese, which is not as spicy. I stuck to the fried rice but I did taste some of the other foods that were served. Eating in this restaurant was different from the last one, it didn’t look as appetizing as I would have liked, but strangely enough was quite delicious. How do they make so many flavors?
From there it got a little hairy. Apparently the taxi driver was invited to eat dinner with us but he refused. When we finished our dinner, he was still waiting. When we got in the taxi, the conversation between Yuan, the owner and the taxi driver became a little heated. I knew they were disagreeing about the fees. Yuan explained to us that in China the taxis wait for the rides to finish their dinner and cannot charge for that time. This taxi driver had left his meter running and they were not going to pay him for that time. Finally we headed back to the factory dropped of the owner and said goodbye to Yuan. He gave the taxi driver enough money for our trip back to Guangzhou, an hour away….
Okay, we were a little uncomfortable with this driver but Yuan assured us we would be fine. It was a long ride back to our hotel. Again, insanity was everywhere…how could anyone survive these crazy drivers or the drivers survive these crazy people.
Because the city was preparing for the Asian Games, construction was everywhere. The roads were being rebuilt and new skyscrapers were being added everywhere the eye could see. This made travel in the city even more difficult. Getting to our hotel became very confusing for our driver. We saw the hotel, but he couldn’t find a way to get to it. We finally tried to tell him we would get out and walk but he had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. He pulled over as we tried to explain we wanted to walk to our hotel, but he didn’t understand us. I had no Chinese money to give him and I felt bad for the time it took him to drive us back to our hotel. I tried to give him a $20.00 bill in American money but he had no idea what it was. So finally I handed him the money Yuan had given us and the $20.00 US dollars from me and we hopped out of the cab. We made our way through the mayhem of traffic and finally arrived back at our hotel…happy to have survived the ride back.
The day had actually been a very good one. We had gotten so much accomplished. The main purpose of our trip was nearly completed. A little celebration seemed to be in order, so we headed for the lounge for a cocktail. We sat for a while listening to a woman sing, had a drink that was actually not very good, then headed back to our room for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we were meeting with the people from the shirt factory...Karen