Coming out of the terminal, we met Lilly's father, Lilly's cousin, her cousin's husband, and their little girl - a cute little 5-year-old named Yoyo who was smarter than any kid I've ever met.
Lilly is Mom's friend from back home who is originally from Qingdao. Her father insisted on greeting us and taking us to dinner. What we didn't know until today was that he lived two hours away... ! Was this really necessary?! Apparently Mom and Dad gave her a hand when she needed help, so he was insistent.
They all waited for me as I went to buy a SIM card for my phone. That took forever because the vendor asked for my ID and then ran away with it! What the... ? She eventually returned, but I was reminded of how sensitive I am to the randomness that is China, sometimes.
It was a little odd that these people whom I've never met went out of their way to pick us up. On the other hand, it was a great opportunity to speak with locals and get their perspective on things.
The little girl drew sketches of Mom and me. Boy was she astute! She studied our facial features, hairstyles, and earrings, and she even drew my Crocs sandals into the picture. She is only five! Her mom said all of her classmates were like that too - smart, articulate, and talented.
It's kind of scary.
Now Qingdao - that is a truly amazing city.
The main roads into town are wide and really easy on the eyes.
No matter which way you look, you either see Lao Shan Mountain or the Yellow Sea. It's breathtaking, and I can totally envision myself living here! The sidewalks are well paved, and the overall infrastructure is well designed. Most notably, drivers actually obey traffic lights and road signs! I can't be the only person from Taipei to notice that... ;)
Before we came, I spent a crazy amount of time researching where to stay that would be most convenient to everything we wanted to check out. But ultimately it came down to this:
"Is it within walking distance to Starbucks... ?"
Lilly highly recommended the Holiday Inn, City Centre which fit my criteria, so there we stayed.
Traffic had come to a complete stop as we neared the hotel, so Lilly's cousin got out of the car with Yoyo to walk forward and make sure we turned down the right alley. The little girl promptly ran to a nearby tree, dropped her pants, squatted, and relieved herself while smiling and waving at me so innocently. I waved back.
After finally getting to the hotel, checking in, and dropping off our things, they took us to a nearby restaurant that they said was especially good. We had clam soup, meat rolls (肉包), their version of Chinese spaghetti, and Tsingtao Beer of course.
It was good.
It was also good to finally get back to the hotel and settle in for the night. A long day it was! Tomorrow is a day full of anticipation, as we will be going to Pingdu to see Mom's birthplace.