Mondays have turned into Date Days for Joel and me. We leave Simon with Ayi Tan and head out for eight full toddler-free hours. This past Monday was a bit dreary and threatening to rain, so we didn’t want to commit to doing anything outdoors. Instead, I took Joel to the giant underground bookstore in Gongbei. I think it might be called Phoenix, but I really don’t know. I know it as “the giant underground bookstore beneath the pink arch in front of the Vanguard Supermarket.” This is a pretty typical description in the expat community.
The bookstore has most everything, but it doesn’t have many books in English. Oh, sure, there IS an English section with a delightfully haphazard selection. A few classics: A Tale of Two Cities, Moby Dick. Some modern classics Angela’s Ashes, a couple of Harry Potters. And utter randomness: Italian for Beginners. Lonely Planet Amsterdam (but not China). Life Without Limbs. Needlecraft Workbook.
Fortunately, there’s still lots to look at and enjoy outside of the English section!
And it’s not just books! We spent a long time wandering through the sections devoted to maps, art supplies, school supplies, posters, sports equipment, etc.
There is also a large area filled with rooms for lessons. There is a music room as well as drawing and painting studios. All the kids were quite talented.
We also managed to squeeze in not one but TWO! meals on our date. For breakfast, we hopped off the bus and tried out a busy little place that had both sit-down and take-out. There were no English signs and no pictures on the menu, but through a combination of my translation app, my few Chinese characters, and a lot of luck, we managed to order things that were tasty.
For lunch, I decided to seek out a Thai restaurant in the Gongbei area. I knew the address but we were struggling with the map when a really helpful young woman came along. She didn’t speak English but was able to help in a brilliant way: We showed her the address. She looked it up on Google Maps on HER phone, got the route, and then used MY phone to take a picture of her phone’s map with the route showing. I thought that was clever, and may use that trick in the future.
The Thai restaurant turned out to be just OK. My dish was not quite what I was looking for, but Joel’s chicken-in-a-pineapple was good and so much food, they had to give him two pineapples!