Thursday, March 22, 2012

Evergreen Park and Adventures in TaxiLand

This afternoon I was invited out for a run in another part of town in the biggest park in the city called Haikou EverGreen Park (海口万绿园). I was excited because I keep hearing about this park but it's about a 20-30 minute cab ride away depending on traffic, and not really walking distance unless you want to make it an hours-long event.

I threw on my running clothes and headed down to the street to hail a taxi. Luckily my friend texted me the name of the park in Chinese characters so that I could simply show the message to the taxi driver. Otherwise it is very difficult to communicate to the driver where to take me. I was lucky and got a cab pretty quickly. I hopped in the front seat and whipped out my cell phone to show him the message, he nodded his understanding, and away we went. I fastened my seatbelt -- I was in the front seat after all (which is totally normal here, even if you're the only passenger) -- and the driver looked at me and waved his hand and shook his head and said bu something something bu something something ("bu" meaning no) and I took it to mean that he was saying I don't need to wear my seatbelt. I've read on blogs and have heard from others that taxi drivers will usually do this. I think maybe they see it as an insult to their driving? I pretended I didn't understand him and I kept the seatbelt fastened. Sorry taxi man, you may be a great driver and all, but it still doesn't stop someone from ramming into the passenger side of the car. My safety is more important than your driving dignity, or whatever you like to call it.

Traffic was smooth sailing so I arrived at the park within 15 minutes. Awesome. My friend arrived and we ran an easy 3-4K and then stopped to use the exercise equipment. This park is amazing. It's huge, has great running paths, is full of beautiful palm trees and other flowery gardens, the lawns are nicely kept, families are playing and flying kites in the big grassy areas, and it's right on the ocean. The breeze feels wonderful. And there are lots of outdoor exercise equipment for about any muscle you can think to work out. And it's all free. This is my new favorite place.

As the run came to an end and we were doing a cool-down walk and chatting, a group of older men walked by, and a few of them shouted "Hello!" in English, smiling and waving. So I said hello and smiled and waved back, then continued speaking with my friend. As we were walking away, I could hear the men laughing and speaking, and I heard a couple of them shout "I love you!" in Mandarin. People get a real kick out of seeing foreigners here. Yes, I love you too, complete strangers.

I hailed another taxi for the ride home. My friend texted me the name of my cross streets in Chinese characters so I could show the taxi driver. I'm building up quite the collection of directions for cab drivers on my cell phone. Very useful stuff. The first thing I say to taxi drivers (and everyone else) as soon as they start speaking to me in Mandarin is "I can't speak." They usually smile and say "Ahhhh" and then lots of silence follows. My taxi driver started yawning a lot toward the end of the ride, so I said to him in Mandarin "You're very tired." I learned how to say "I'm very tired" the other week so I was so excited to try this one on him when I saw him yawning. He looked at me with a very surprised look, so I repeated it in case I had the intonations wrong and was confusing him. He smiled and nodded. SUCCESS!!! I am so happy when I learn new words and phrases and can practice on people, and they can actually understand me. Or maybe he was just smiling and nodding as if to say, "Good job lady, thanks for stating the obvious. You're a real genius."

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