A special greeting, videos, and pictures of today at:
This morning I woke up at 6 AM, talked to Peter and friends for a couple of hours, and then Josh came at around 9:15.. it was a late day for getting out! When we went out the door, it was pouring, so we decided to veto the Summer Palace, which is over 200 acres but mostly outdoors, and go shopping for some essentials. We grabbed breakfast at the UIBE cafeteria and headed to the subway.
We took the 10 line to the 4 line and ended up in Electronics City, which is pretty much geek mecca. Every major PC manufacturer has a billboard and 15 different stores in Electronics city. First we went to a small market, where people pretty much left us alone unless we looked at something, and sought out rechargable batteries for Tom, as his died yesterday. However, his camera is a tight fight for American batteries as it is, and no one would let us remove theirs from the packaging and try them to be sure they fit, so we left and went to one of the high-rise electronics boutiques, which was at LEAST 20 floors of nothing but cameras, laptops, video games systems, MP3 players, and every imaginable accessory.
We were accosted just by the entrance by about 10 salesman, all for different brands, all trying to lead us off to show us products. We declined until a girl from Sony said something to Josh, and he asked her about the batteries. She showed him some but wouldn't take them out of the package for Tom to try them, so we started to walk away.. but she yelled something to Josh and he walked back over, so we followed. She told him that she would take him up to the 13th floor to a place where they had spare batteries, and led us to the elevator.
We got up there and she escorted and left us into a room with Sony, Canon, and Casio products, along with tables and chairs. There were even ashtrays for people to smoke. We were told to sit at one of the tables, and a salesgirl came over and started talking to Josh. She left briefly and returned in about 5 minutes, 4 batteries for Tom's camera in hand. He tried them, and they fit both the charger and the camera, and were of a suitable capacity. Now started the real interesting part.
I believe initially she wanted 220 Yuan for 8 batteries. There was 10 minutes of back and forth between her and Josh; she said 220, he said 130, she said 180, he said 140, and finally, they settled on 150. She joked to Josh that Tom looked like Colonel Sanders from KFC, and Tom joked back that he had to go fry some chicken. We really liked her; she was young, savvy, funny, but VERY aggressive. I then thought to pull out my DS and the dead charger, which I'd brought along, and asked Josh to ask her if they had anything for it, even though I really doubted that they would.
I could not have been more wrong. The girl brought it back to the office, came back out, and said "Give me 5 minutes". Josh explained that they had to bring up the charger from another floor. 5 minutes later, she was back, Class 1 (Asia) wall adapter for the DS in hand. I asked her to test it to show me that it worked, and it did. Josh shot off a price of 30, she said 60 yuan. I took a calculator (Over here, everyone has calculators where foreigners can simply type in a desired price) and typed in 40. She shot back with 55. Tom typed in 45, and she said 55 again. Josh said 50, and she said sold. I handed over the money, and left with the DS charger. Tom pointed out that the process was VERY similar to buying a car in the US, and I couldn't agree more.
We then decided it was lunch time, and headed to McDonald's across the way. It was down a floor in the basement, and the second we walked in, a young woman came over with a picture menu to us to take our order- apparently they keep a separate staff for the purpose of serving foreigners. While the locals crowded at the counter, she took our order right there on the floor, and brought it over to us. Another employee came over and offered to help us find a table for 3 , but Josh had already found one, so we sat there.
On the food: The beef was mostly filler. My burger reminded me of cafeteria meat. The fries were okay, the usual, but it reminded me of what I HAVEN'T been missing out on since I met Peter and started eating better. The decor was hands down gorgeous for a McDonald's, and it was very clean. There were even some very beautiful McCafe drawings on a marker board an employee had done, and I got a picture of one. World Cup fever was also evident; there were national flags and soccer balls hanging from the ceiling. Overall, a pleasant experience, other than the "beef".
We then went to the bank so Tom could exchange more currency. It was also in a high-rise; in fact, it looked more like a corporate building than a bank, and it was very beautiful, all wood accents on the walls, and very modern. We went to the third floor, exchanged our currency, and rode the subway back to the hotel, which was pleasant. Tom and Josh went off gallivanting again, and I'm sticking around so I can go get our laundry at 6:00 PM, so I'm writing this blog now, at 5:15 in the afternoon. At 11:30 we depart for Inner Mongolia; I am not sure when I will post again, although I said this before, but check back tomorrow and the day after for more from Hohhat and Xian, Inner Mongolia, China!