This is an amalgamation of different journal entries and e-mails, etc. This is one post that may be a little out of order for that reason.
The trip definitely started off with a bang. I was in a taxi going to the bus station to come here when these guys ran up and started banging on the windows and saying the name of the city where I'm headed. I bargained with them, but by the time we settled things and I got out of the car, the bus was pulling away. One of the guys was putting my bag under the bus as it was moving, and I jumped on, but I was hanging out the door trying to make sure the guy wasn't going to steal my bag or something. Everyone was yelling.
Then we drove around the city for literally an hour and a half trying to fill up the bus. What was funny was, a lot of the time it seemed like the drivers were actually convincing people to take a three-hour bus ride to a different city. The people would shake their heads, say they didn't want to go, but after a 5-minute conversation they were on the bus and on their way. And in some places, bees absolutely swarmed the bus, and I couldn't understand how people were going about their business with all these bees around.
Here, things have been good. Me and Lee have been getting along really well. It's amazing, really, how awesome things have been.
Two girls came through the city a couple of days after I got here, friends of his. They've been here almost two years, and are headed back to the States soon. They were in town a couple of days, and the second day I made dinner (spaghetti with homemade sauce), and the four of us had a candlelight dinner. Then we all sat and took turns asking questions, and then each person answering in turn. Almost all of the answers were long (the questions were things like, "What was your worst dating experience?"), and we spent about six hours just telling about our lives through stories. It was one of those surreal experiences that leaves you feeling as if you'd known all the others for years.
I may actually go whitewater rafting in Thailand in August with the girls and a bunch of other folks. I know, I know--I am officially everyone's hero.
My Chinese tutor is a girl around my age, which has been a lot of fun. She's pretty funny, and it helps me learn Chinese to try and figure out how to joke with her in her own language. She says I act like I'm 19. Well, I said she looks like she's 12.
Things with my future boss have gone really well. We had a two-and-a-half-hour lunch the other day, just the two of us, which went really well.
The other day, Lee and I and a visitor we had from Australia were invited to a Muslim man's home to have dinner. It was another surreal experience. We ate in an enclosed garden full of beautiful plants, under a kind of lattice completely filled with ivy so that before it got dark we were in the shade. Two birds hung in cages from the lattice, one a canary, one that he called a "pearl bird," which he said only lived on a nearby 14,000 foot mountain. A kitten kept meowing around our feet, then crawling around the ivy on the lattice trying to get to the birds. The man couldn't speak English, but a friend of ours, the one who he invited us through, was there to translate maybe one sentence every half hour. The rest of the time, he expressed himself only through smiles and hospitality as we spoke English.
The food was all prepared by the wife whom we never saw. The dishes were brought out by his son, who didn't talk to us at all. I suppose it's the man's place to be the social center of the home in such a situation. But yes--he didn't eat, he just watched us eat, and if he felt like we weren't getting enough he would put more on our plates. I was stuffed to an absurd degree.
And! More will come soon, I'm sure.