Note: To any mildly interested reader, this post was intended to be uploaded the beginning of October. Due to some technological issues, I wasn’t able to post it until now. My apologies.
The Mid-Autumn Festival may have just finished, but I’m sure my mooncakes will be residing in their decorative cardboard box for a much longer time. Maybe someday my palate will adjust to their highly unpredictable flavors. This past week was a celebration of two holidays, the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day. Hence a free week for all students, teachers, and the general working populace. Unfortunately that also translates into massive gridlocks in most cities, transportation stations overflowing with people, and all the major tourist sites visited by hordes of people. Such is life in China.
Toward the end of the holiday, I decided to climb Fushan with some friends and then watch a soccer game later that day. After the 90-minute bus ride into Qingdao, we hopped off the bus and waited for a transfer bus to Qingdao University, which was at the base of the mountain. After about another hour of bus transit, we arrived at the university and met two other Chinese friends, John and Linda. Since Fushan was slightly over 1,000 feet, it was not a very grueling climb. Nevertheless, with seven distinct peaks, it offered its own set of challenges. At the first peak, we found a flat section on the rock and shared our bountiful goods for lunch – oranges, apples, grapes, chocolate bars, and some wafers. After the nourishing lunch, we were ready to tackle the remaining peaks. At one peak, we left the dirt trail and scrambled over rocks until we reached the top. The vista was breathtaking – most of Qingdao could be seen hugging all sides of the mountain, further out were strips of beachfront, and then the limitless expanse of the ocean. Beyond the peaks of Fushan, you could see parts of Laoshan shrouded in fog. As we absorbed the raw beauty, a light, refreshing breeze cooled our skin from the sun’s intensity. Needless to say, it was a wonderful moment.
Looking ahead to the rest of the peaks, the fifth one seemed to be the tallest and most challenging climb. Once we reached it, it seemed unscaleable until we walked around the back and discovered a fissure that went almost halfway to the top. John, the mountain man, led the way, and I tentatively followed. After we past the halfway point, we had to climb up the rock face and avoid several hundred-foot drops along the way. I think next time I’ll consider wearing hiking boots, but this time, my worn tennis shoes past the test. Once we had conquered the peak, John and I celebrated with some mandarin oranges and chocolate bars. We may have only scaled a thousand-foot mountain, but it felt like we had just climbed Mt. Everest. After once again absorbing the majestic beauty around us, we descended the fifth peak. Eventually, after following a winding, rocky forest trail, we reached civilization. Our rumbling stomachs confirmed to us that dinner was next.
We stopped at a small restaurant near the sports stadium where the game would start in less than an hour. After scarfing down some jiaozi (dumplings), wonton soup, fried chicken, and fried rice, we rushed to the stadium where the cheers of the fans greeted us. Once the security guards guaranteed we were not planning to blow up the stadium or do any other mischievous things, we went into the stadium. Inside there were several thousand fans with a strong Qingdao contingent. Many of them were dressed in orange jerseys and chanting something in sync with several drums. A few of the fans were waving flags. One bare-chested man with a rotund beer-belly seemed especially eager to wave his Qingdao flag. Although the teams weren’t that impressive, the fan’s reaction to a Qingdao goal was quite enthusiastic. Most of the stadium erupted into a roar, and several people lit these massive sparklers that emitted fiery, red sparks and engulfed sections of the stadium in smoke. Frankly, I was glad that I wasn’t sitting next to the sparkler guys, or else I would have been afraid of my hair catching on fire or third-degree burns to my body. Thankfully, no one was injured, and after the red glare lessened, I could watch the game again.
Unfortunately, some of us had to leave early for Huangdao. But at least we were able to see an exciting soccer match at the Qingdao Stadium. After having climbed a mountain and watched a soccer game, I was thankful to make it back home without any broken bones or singed hair. What would life be in China without some element of danger?