Lessons learned?

July 30

Today we did a stupid thing: We got off our train to Shanghai too early.  In our defense, it was 7:30 in the morning (which is when the train was scheduled to get into Shanghai), lots of other people were getting off too, and the train station sure looked big and impressive.

“What have we learned today,” Ryan asked later, after we’d wandered around the station and its environs for an hour, sweaty, bleary, hungry and burdened by our bags as a) it slowly dawned on us that we were not, in fact, in Shanghai, and b) we tried to figure out where in the g.d. hell we actually were (answer: Wuxi, about 140 km off the mark).

“I have learned that there are other big cities besides Shanghai on this train line,” I said.  “And I have also learned that it’s important to ask people where we are before we get off the train.”

“I have learned these things as well,” Ryan said grimly.

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But here we are safe and sound in Shanghai, only a couple hours late and about $7 short.  Our guesthouse is in a quiet, unfashionable part of the city with not many things to do or see, which will probably suit us just fine as we continue our busy schedule of sitting around all day.

Our rejection of sightseeing is starting to be influenced by our budget, and how we went w-a-a-a-a-a-y over it in Beijing.  This was partly due to  touristy things and travel (the Great Wall day trip wasn’t super cheap, especially after I insisted on taking the $6 per person cable car, up AND down the mountain, like a fatass)(also, by the time we got around to booking our train to Shanghai the only beds left were the super nice expensive ones, with soft mattresses and private TVs and blind masseurs and chocolate fountains and free drugs), but it’s also due to me and the crap I buy.  I haven’t yet looked at the budget spreadsheet that Ryan has put together but I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t a category called exactly that: “The Crap Katie Buys.”

So, we could use a couple days of nothingness to bring us back into the realm of financial responsibility.

Right after I go to the fabric market and get some dresses made for myself, I mean.

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August 7

Well that sure was the last thing I wrote in my notebook and so here we are, all caught up in the present day.  Hello!

Although I risk making this travel blog even more boring than it already is, I feel like I have to explain my ridiculous gripe up there about how a $6 ride on a cable car can send our budget into a tailspin.

See, our daily budget for China is $100 a day (“…but we’ll definitely be able to keep it closer to $80 a day,” is what I used to say to Ryan before this trip started.  Ha).  Once you factor in the guesthouses (around $40/night in both Beijing and Shanghai) and how much our danged Chinese visas cost ($340, so, about $11 per day for the month we’re here), we’re down to a cool $49 of walk-around money per day.   And so now you see how Ryan and I can come to be standing at the top of a mountain, wondering if we deserve — really deserve — the $12 ride back down to the parking lot.
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One other thing I feel the need to follow up on (read: publicly shame myself about) is my misadventure with tailor-made clothes.

I didn’t bring a lot of things to wear on this trip.  Like most Peace Corps volunteers at the end of service, I could not get rid of the contents of my sad, run-down wardrobe fast enough.  I’ve spent the last two months either throwing away the grody things or giving away the things that were still presentable but that I never, ever wanted to see again. “No matter!” is what I thought every time I got rid of another bag of pilled shirts and holey jeans.  “I’ll get new clothes in Shanghai!  They’ll be TAILOR-MADE just for ME and they’ll be PERFECT!”

This is the third time I’ve had stuff made for myself — once in Korea, once in Vietnam, and now once in China — and the third time said stuff has come out wrong in some way.  At the market last week I had a skirt copied, and that, at least, came out fine.  But the pants I had made were about two sizes too small; the dresses, two sizes too big.  I took the pants and the dresses to another tailor to get them fixed, and now everything is about one size too big.  So.  Fool me once, shame on me.  Fool me twice, you won’t be fooled again.  Fool me three times and Ryan smothers me in my sleep with tailored clothes I don’t want to wear.  I think that’s how that saying goes?

Anyway, if i wanted to spend money on ill-fitting clothes I would just go to H&M and buy myself some off-the-rack harem pants (which is exactly what I did this afternoon).

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