About a week ago, the entire company (minus a few) went on the annual company trip.  This year it was to Qingdao with a stop in RiZhao.  This is the first time I’ve been to anywhere in China (excluding Shanghai) which did not involve work.  This was just for fun.

Rizhao is a sea-side city which is “first to see the sun”.  We stayed at a small hotel on the beach for one night.   Quite a few of the young ladies in our company (most of the company is women) had never been to the ocean before, so this was a new experience for them.  It took some convincing, but we finally got them out into the water–even if it was only hip-deep.

After a day of swimming, it was off to Chinese barbeque.  In China, barbeque is “things on a stick”. Beef, fish, mutton, squid, beans, mushrooms, shrimp… other things as yet unidentified.  It’s a reason to sit around drinking beer and eating “things on a stick”.   After dinner, it was off to the beach with a case of beer.

I had taken some time earlier in the day to scout the beach for good photo ideas.  Sunrise was at 05:48 (I check the internet), so I got up at 04:30 to catch sunrise over the ocean.  One of the other teachers asked if she could join me, since she’d never seen a sunrise over the ocean.  So we (and about 50 other people) got up early and found a good place to watch the sunrise.

And…   it was cloudy.

“Sunrise” was the sky slowly changing from dark grey to light grey.  {sigh}  Oh well, I still got some great photos of the “deserted” amusement part rides and the people standing in the hazy morning light.

After breakfast, we loaded onto the bus and headed up to Qingdao.  For those of you who are familiar with Chinese beer, you probably know TsingTao beer.  That’s just the old spelling for Qingdao.  Oh… and it’s pronounced “Ching Dow”.  It’s like the Chinese version of Busch Light.  Or maybe Milwaukee’s Best.  Cheap-ass near-beer.  But then… Budweiser (百威 – baiwei = “white power”)[1] is sold as a high-end import.

We did the touristy things in the morning–company picture in front of the giant sculpture (I’m not in it because I was taking the photo), shopping at the flea market, visiting the aquarium and “sea world”, and a short trip to the beach (which was a no swimming area)–and then back to the hotel to freshen up.

After another barbeque (this time with starfish and egg-filled sea urchins), 5 of us went out to an American-themed bar in the city.  It was expensive (by Chinese standards), but a great time.  They had a live Filipino band that was rather good.  And they had scotch… which was rather good, too.   Four of us in the group were old-hands at bar night.  One (the teacher who got up to see the sunrise with me) had never been out to see a bar band before.   She discovered that she likes scotch (Johnny Walker, black) but really likes Southern Comfort (“It’s sweet!”).  So… her first “night out on the town” was, of course, followed by her first hangover.   What can I say.. ?  We’re a full-service experience.

The next morning, I got up early to go take pictures of the neighborhood we were in.  We were on “Wine Street”, and just down the block was “Beer Street”.   Great old German architecture mixed with Chinese influences.  So… Up at 06:00, down to the front door, and…   it’s raining.  {sigh}

The rain stopped during breakfast, and most of us headed out to “climb the mountain”.  There’s a national park for Lao Shan (Lao Mountain) in Qingdao.  It was not what I was expecting.  The mountain was pretty, but you don’t “climb” anything except a big set of stairs.  And you’re not allowed to leave the stairs.   And the stairs are filled with vendor carts selling all the standard touristy junk.   Basically, it was a flea market on a staircase.

All in all, however, it was a good trip.  It was great to get out of this area and see new things.   It was fun to swim in the ocean again, and to see hills taller than 3 feet.

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[1] Wow… I just realized that the Chinese version of Bud sounds rather racist.

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