This week is National Day Holiday which is actually National Week.  It was started to promote travel and $pending.  Everyone that gets off for the week usually either heads home or to some vacation spot. Most all the students have gone home, however a few of them have gone off to see their boyfriends.  When I asked two of my student friends who have gone to visit their boyfriends if their parents knew where they were heading, they giggled and said "oh no, my parents think I'm staying here and studying." Hmmmm I guess college students are the same everywhere!

The girls and I were invited to spend the holiday in Shenyang at the home of another one of my students, Gloria.  We traveled by train (hard seats....aka the cheap seats....I'm really starting to get into this Chinese thing of getting the most for your money) with Adam and Katie to Shenyang.  I did however, purchase two half price tickets for the girls so they would be assured of having a seat (I couldn't see holding them both for 2.5 hours.)  The train was packed and many people had purchased "standing room only" seats.  These cost the same as the tickets which had seats, but these were the unlucky people who didn't buy their tickets early enough to have a seat. 

We arrived in Shenyang on Saturday at 10:00 am and were met at the train station by Gloria and her Uncle who is fortunate enough to own his own car.  The car, a Lida brand is a Russian made car.  We exchanged phone numbers with the students who Katie and Adam were staying with (in case of problems) and were off to Gloria's apartment.  Gloria's parents both had to work on Saturday and again on Sunday in order to have the rest of the week off.  We were given Gloria's parent's room as we were considered guests of honor.  I later found out we were the first foreigners to stay with them.

After a rest we headed out to do some shopping.  Gloria lives within walking distance of the new Wal Mart Supercenter.  I was so thrilled to see something of home, even if it was a Wal Mart.  Wal Marts in China are a little different than those at home, but are very different from the department stores here in China.  It had several levels and really didn't have all the same stock as in the States, but they had BUTTER and CHEESE.   You should have seen Gloria's face when I bought 7 pounds of butter, a package of cheese, a package of baby wipes and a package of duracel batteries and spent 245 yuan.  This is roughly $30.00 and is similar to the price you'd pay back home, but over here it is a small fortune.  All the teachers here at LIT are really missing butter so I didn't care! (and boy was the baked potato I had for lunch today good with my butter and cheese!)

Across the street from Wally World is another American icon....McDonalds.  We stopped in for a coke, a Happy Meal, and to let the girls play.  They were in hog heaven.  They can recognize Ronald and those Golden Arches anywhere.  We got home around 6:30 and Gloria's parents still were not home from work.  They arrived around 7:00.  Gloria's father, Mr. Li cooked dinner for us all.  It was a wonderful meal of chicken, vegetables, steamed bread, and fried fish.  After dinner we all turned in for the evening.

The next morning Mr. Li again got up and cooked us breakfast.  We all ate and Mr. and Mrs. Li had to hurry off to work.  Mr. Li is a physics teacher, but Gloria said he now just works at the school and no longer teaches.  Mrs. Li is an accountant at the train station. 

After breakfast, Gloria, the girls and I headed out to a local market where we looked for "Chipar"  This is a traditional Chinese wedding dress.......ok it's finally happening......I'm shopping for the girls' wedding (or they could wear them to the prom) dresses.  They are very inexpensive (by American standards) and it was something I wish I'd bought when I was still at home, before I decided to come back to China.  The chipar's are the traditional Chinese dresses that you see all the time, you wear red one's when you get married.  I thought Julie and Charlie could use them for their "going away" dresses if they wanted to wear the traditional American wedding dresses, or again, they could wear them to a prom or for some other "formal" event if they wanted to.  I found several that I though were really nice and next time I head up to Shenyang I'll probably buy a couple.

After looking for the Chipar's we ventured off to another market, but on our way Julie spotted a church and wanted to go in.  I'd forgotten it was Sunday and when we went in we discovered it was packed.  It was a Catholic Church and they were having services in Chinese.  We were spotted by the ushers and were immediately taken to a pew.  I didn't understand what was being said, but Gloria said the preacher was talking about some story from the bible.  She didn't understand what it was all about, but from what I gathered from what she told me, I think the sermon was about the "good Samaritan."  Since none of us knew what was being said we left after a few minutes.  There were several dozen policemen outside the church and I didn't want to get anyone in trouble for us being there.  Gloria said she didn't know why they were there either.

We then hit the outdoor market were I was able to buy a pair of men's long johns to help keep me warm this winter when "Siberia heads south."  It was kind of a rainy drizzly morning and the outdoor market was not the place to be.  I'd spotted a Pizza Hut close to the Forbidden City (our afternoon destination) so we took a taxi there.  Gloria told me she'd never eaten pizza.....was she ever in for a treat.  She chose the pineapple and ham pizza (no mom they didn't have any jalapeno peppers to put on it)  It was soooooooooooo good and when I asked them if they had Parmesan cheese they told me yes and brought me a container!  I didn't think Gloria would like the Parmesan because of it's strong flavor, but she fooled me.  Pizza in China costs about the same as it does in America, but because of the difference in the cost of living, pizza is very expensive here....I didn't was so good.  Gloria asked me if we eat this everyday at home, I just chuckled and told her no, it was way too fattening to eat everyday.  In my family we typically ate it about once a month or so.  It's interesting, I've been asked that same question about the western foods that are available here (in certain places).  "Do you eat hamburgers every day"...."no"  "do you eat Kentucky Chicken everyday"....."no"  I told Gloria probably the only foods that most westerners eat everyday is bread or potatoes.

After lunch the weather cleared up and we walked over to the Forbidden City.  Shenyang used to be the capital of China and was home of the Emperor's.  The palace was quite fascinating, but the girls were really getting tired and we didn't tour all of it.  We did see the "throne room" where business used to be conducted and it was quite magnificent, as were all of the buildings we did tour.

We walked back to the apartment and Gloria's aunt had come.  She was busy cooking and cleaning.  Since we were all (including Gloria) exhaused, we "had a rest" aka a nap.  Gloria's parent's again didn't get home until quite late.  We had supper then I taught Gloria's mother how to play Gin.  Talk about a fast learner, she caught on quickly and the match was on.  Gloria's dad left to go purchase our train tickets for the next morning.  I though he was going that night, but Gloria told me he went to spend the night with friends who lived close to the train station and that way he could be there really early the next about hospitality.  It was just us girls for the evening.  My girls started getting really cranky about 9:00 and so we all headed off to bed.

The next morning, Gloria's father returned about 8:30 with three train tickets in hand.  We all ate breakfast, then Mr. Li headed back off to work.  I guess he didn't get the whole week off like most people.  Gloria's uncle came to pick us up at 9:15 to take us back to the train station.  Both Gloria and her uncle were able to come on the train with us (and help with my suitcase.)  Before getting off the train, Gloria spoke to the gentleman and girl who were sitting with us and asked them to please make sure we get off the train in Jinzhou. 

The man turned out to be quite a hit with my daughters, first he gave them each a bag of chips and when these were gone, he taught them how to eat sunflower seeds.  I think eating sunflower seeds is a national pastime while riding the rails.  Everyone eats them and the train floors are proof of this.  The train attendants come by periodically with brooms sweeping up the shells.  Sunflower seeds over here are not the same as in the US, they are much better.  Here in China, they are flavored ever so slightly with a salty sweet flavoring and they are really good.  Julie and Charlie really got into eating them.  They entertained half the train with their eating antics.  In fact they had several people shelling the seeds for them, feeding them the meat inside.

When we arrived in Jinzhou, another man carried my suitcase off the train for me (the sunflower seed man had several packages of his own to attend to.)  Then the sunflower seed man got a cab for us and he and his daughter got in it with us.  He told the cab driver to take us to LIT (I had written directions for the cab, but sunflower seed man was really taking his job seriously.)  Upon arriving here I tried to pay the cab driver, but sunflower seed man would hear nothing of this and insisted on paying himself after the taxi took him home.  I tell you the people here in Jinzhou are absolutely wonderful.  Can you see this happening in the States....NOT.  I can see why Lisa McClure always said "the people" when asked what she liked best about China.  Everyone I've come in contact with is really nice and goes out of their way to be helpful.

We are spending the rest of the National Day Holiday here at the guest house just taking it easy and having a nice leisurely week.  I've done some really exciting things like laundry and clean and the girls are catching up on their DVD watching.