I feel like I should comment on where I’ve been staying this whole time, as I’m sure it will influence everything else I mention. I had originally wanted an apartment as soon as I arrived so I booked this hostel as a last resort. The reviews were mediocre, with most saying it was a decent place but they would probably look elsewhere if they ever came back to Qingdao. They said the staff was friendly some of the time but the man who was the owner was a real asshole. For me, the price was right and I only planned on staying for a few days anyway until I secured an apartment, so I booked five nights and hoped for the best. The girls at the front desk were kind enough when I arrived, and their english, combined with my Chinese, was enough to figure out where I needed to stay that night.
The architecture of the hostel is pretty impressive, with a large courtyard in the center and at least 30 rooms, some of which have eight beds. When I arrived it was a Chinese holiday so the hostel was packed, mostly with Chinese.
Soon after arriving I noticed a man who I could only assume was the owner. I still don’t know his name so for the purpose of this blog lets just call him Huge. Huge is, well, huge. He clearly has Mongolian blood, standing well over six feet and towering over all other Chinese in the hostel. He only ever wears grey sweatpants and pairs that with either a blue or grey sweatshirt, every single day. When he walks he slouches over, swaying left and right as much as he goes forward, and his lower jaw seems terrified of ever coming in contact with his upper. Most of the day he sits near the entrance and reads a book.
When I first arrived I tried to say hi to him a few times and when he asked me a question, I tried to answer only to see him wave his huge arm in front of his face, as if to say he doesn’t have time to listen to my crappy excuse for Chinese.
The front gate closes at midnight, sharp, and anyone left outside will have to call his phone and he’ll be PISSED about it. It’s probably a better option to just party all night and show up at 6am. Despite being advertised as 24 hours, the showers are only turned on from 6am-10am and then again from 7pm-midnight. One morning I was running late and walked to the showers (across the courtyard) at 9:50, he grabbed my arm, brought me over to the rules sign and looked me dead in the eye as he pointed to the shower times. I nodded, ran into the showers, turned on the water just to show him I wasn’t scared of him, and then ran back out in probably 2 minutes.
After dealing with those horrible German guys the other night I brought my friends back to the hostel around 10pm and we had some beers (in a bag of course!) just shooting the shit. At 11:15 one of the girls at the front desk came over and said, “We think it’s probably time to say goodnight to your friends”. My first instinct was to get mad and say, “No, no, no, I paid for this hostel so I’m going to hang out”, but then all my friends said they were happy to move the party elsewhere and commented on how cool the hostel was.
I had heard there was a bar and a pool table and had a suspicion of where it might be, but that room was always locked and anytime anyone went near it, Huge or one of the front desk girls would come over and tell us we can’t go in.
After a few days of this, the main girl at the front desk and I had a conversation and I found out that she was Huge’s wife, and the little Chinese girl running around all the time punching everyone was their daughter. She told Huge that I was an actor in New York, and when he asked if I was on Broadway, I honestly didn’t have the courage to give THAT whole spiel, so I just nodded yes. We spoke via his wife for a little while and then I moved along to walk around the city.
The next day I was heading towards the front gate to get some food when he called over to me, threw his big arm over his head pointing to something, and then started walking away. I could only assume that he wanted me to follow him to yell at me but when I got to the office, the guy at the front desk said, “No, he wants you to go to the room upstairs”.
“Um, ok. Are you sure?”
“Yes, don’t touch anything.”
I made my way up and looked downstairs before I opened the door. The front desk guy just nodded and motioned for me to go in. What can I say other than this room was immaculate, beautiful, PERFECT. Beautiful work desks, dining table, well-stocked bar, calligraphy everywhere, and some of the best photographs I’ve ever seen lining the walls. All the photographs had a piece of paper next to them with a location and date, and I noticed that there were some artifacts that were also labeled, including two pairs of hiking shoes. I spent 20 minutes looking at everything until I realized that all the pictures were taken by Huge, and that he had walked across the entire country of China, twice. Once in 1995 and then again ten years later. There were some stairs in the corner so I ventured up and found that room was even better. A massive tv in the corner with one of the best dvd collections I’ve ever seen, a pool table, an epic book shelf, and one corner desk. Overwhelmed, I just sat on one of the couches for a little while, having no idea why I was up there, nor what I was waiting for. And I never found out. I guess it was his way of saying he thought I was ok, or maybe just to show off what he had done.
Anyway, I’m slowly developing a friendship with all of them and they let me go upstairs to the corner desk to study Chinese sometimes, which might be my favorite place to write calligraphy in the whole world. His wife cut me a deal to stay in a 4-bed dorm for 50% of the price for the rest of October and then for November, 50% of a single room for 69 yuan a night if I stay the whole month. That’s $11. So, yes, I want that. Huge saw me leaving yesterday and he waved his massive arm at me to come over and sit at his tea table. I feel the special room is too holy to take a picture, but I took a picture of the tea table.
It’s just a massive hung of wood designed for the tea ceremony, and I felt I needed to stay until he let me go. Then later that night his wife (let’s just call her wife) invited me to sit and eat dinner with them. Wife prepared crabs, raw salmon, shrimp, wasabi soy sauce, spiced meat, clams, braised yak and lots of beer.
So I’ll be staying here for a little while, and I’ve set the goal of having an hour long conversation with Huge as a milestone for my Mandarin skills.