Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Hiking" in Half Moon Lake Park

Yesterday morning, I took a taxi to the German beer hall, called Drei Kronen Brauhaus 1308 or Three Crowns. There, I met three very fun German women, one of whom I met on CouchSurfing. Their names were Désirée Krips, Lesly, and Bettina. All three of these women are teachers and the first two work at a German kindergarten. We all laughed together all day.

The restaurant was quite amusing. Everything from the food to the frescoes was just a little off and entirely out-of-place. Among the clientele for breakfast on a Saturday were large, Aryan men in long, leather pants who work for VW, Audi, or any of the other German car and parts manufacturers. They come to China with their spouses and children for a year or three. Their children are the kindergarten students of Désirée and Lesly. There were also Chinese women with adopted German names, like our waitress, Ericka. She was dressed like Heidi. It was quite a spectacle, akin, perhaps, to seeing me in a Korean king's garb.

We sat upstairs at Drei Kronen 1308 at a solid oak table.
Breakfast consisted of meat, cheese, English tea, rolls, fruit salad (which included dragon fruit), and scrambled eggs. We lingered for an hour or so and convinced Bettina to join us for the "hike," which she told us would entail returning to her apartment to retrieve a shawl. Desiree and Lesly found that quite amusing, correcting her that in winter such a thing is usually referred to as a "scarf." We took a quick cab into the carefully guarded high-rise apartment complex where Bettina's employer has provided her an apartment about one and half times as large as my own. It was very clean, well-equipped, sunny and beautiful. She had a study, two bedrooms with large beds, a living room with a large Barcalounger and a big brown Barcalounger couch to match. She had a utility room, a lovely bathroom replete with tub, and a porch. It was the sort of place no teacher in Europe or America could ever contemplate renting, but was provided to her as a perk for teaching here. Like my space, it still lacked a certain coziness, we both agreed later, but was very comfortable.
Lesly, Bettina, and Desiree at the Light Rail station nor far from the brauhaus.
The return trip on the Light Rail after we had been "hiking."
We left Bettina's apartment and headed for two or more hours of walking around the dammed reservoir at Half Moon Lake Park. We took the Light Rail to get there, which requires the purchase of a plastic card that you use to get in and out of the gate. It swallows the card as you leave. The cards have been used so much that they are worn white and the text, even if I could read it, and design have been obliterated by the thousands of hands through whose fingers they have passed.

It was cold yesterday and I was glad of my long underwear tops and bottoms, my ugly neck warmer, parka, and Sorrels. It was thirty quai to get inside the gate. We walked along a path and up some steep stairs, arriving at the top of the dam.

The Modern Explorer.
Three Frauleins and a Reservoir with several feet of ice.
There were men along the side of the reservoir digging a trench so that the ice would have room to expand without cracking the walls and levies. The women in the red jackets proved to be brisk walkers and scoffed at my calling this a hike. Lesly and I flagged down the bus at the end and we all piled in, taking it back to the gate.  We caught the Light Rail back to town and then a cab to my apartment.

I had to be back at school by 4 PM to sign my contract. We taxied to my place and played a game of Quiddler before I showed them to Xikang Lu, where Desiree (a complete Korea-phile) knew of a Korean coffeehouse. I high-tailed it to Ella's office and then re-grouped with them in a half hour. Jason came and joined us. We lingered for a bit as the snow started to come down and then went to see Ravi at New Dehli Indian Food. It was delicious and we lingered some more in a raised floor seat with cushions and pillows for three or four hours. Ravi is one of the most inspirational men I have ever encountered--a philosopher king who opens and closes restaurants all over the world. More on Ravi and his great new restaurant in a subsequent post. More than one of us was tempted to follow his path.
The walk way along the top of the dam.

Desiree and I in a camera duel; she with the high tower in the background