St Sofia church in downtown Harbin.
Feb 7, 2018
|A bit of a lay day today. It is so warm and cosy in the hostel, that it is tempting to just hang out. So we spent a long time, me sitting in the bar, and trying to get some catching up on here! I got good instructions to get to St Sofia church, which is a real landmark apparently.
I had been talking to a young guy from Israel this morning. He is on a break, between doing his military service and going back to university for study. Yesterday he went to the Siberian Tiger park, and he liked some aspects of it, but did not cope with the feeding time for the tigers. I have seen it before, and it is a little confronting I suppose. They throw live chickens into the tiger cages, and they are gobbled up in no time!!
We had no water at the hostel from 10am until 3pm, due to them doing repairs on the water pipes. So there went my plan for a shower. It will have to wait until tonight it seems.
While I was still sitting downstairs, three girls came in, and one of them was desperate for a coffee, but no water. I overheard her, so offered her one of my coffee sachets, and told her where she could get hot water from a hot pot near the front door. She was very grateful, and we got chatting, as you do!
She is from Russia and has been here for nine years. She came on an exchange scholarship, then did her Masters here, and has not left. She's now working teaching English. She and the two other girls she came in with, one from Australia and one from Ireland are doing some interesting work. They rescue dogs from trucks that are on the way to the dog meat market, and find homes for them out of China.
Not quite sure how they manage that, as we are after all in China. And it is just the three of them, with a project they see value in. They apparently physically stop the trucks, and take the dogs! Then they arrange for the dogs to be shipped to new homes in Canada, the US, Australia, Germany and Ireland!!
I was planning to talk to them more when we got back from the trip into the city centre. Before we left I got them to confirm that my instructions were correct to get to the church.
We headed out, and I wanted to go into the KFC for a ham egg and tomato panini. But we had great trouble finding the KFC. We had seen the sign as we past by last night. After a lot of hunting, and then giving in and asking questions, we found that it was downstairs, where all the restaurants are! Anyway, three high school students helped us to find it. On leaving, we needed a toilet break, and I was intrigued by the sign indicating men and women! As I was waiting for Carol, I took a photo, and some older man was really trying to figure out what was photo worthy. He kept on giving me the strangest looks!
We headed out after that to get the bus to the city centre. We had been told to watch out for the church on our right side. I actually thought I saw it, and we got off the bus, but it was not the right building at all, so we had to wait for another bus. A lady on the bus, who really spoke no English, took us under her wing and and showed us when to get off the bus, and how to find the church. People are really so kind here. And everywhere in China, if you just show incredible patience!!
Over the road from the church was a guy sitting on the ground, playing erhu. He must have been frozen to the bone. We did not even stand around long enough to put money in his cup, just long enough for a photo and then moved on. We walked around the church for a bit, then into a lovely little souvenir shop, before deciding to give up on the cold, and head for a bus back to the hostel. This time was relatively easy, as we kind of knew what to look out for when we arrived. Only problem is the crowded state of the bus, and the difficulty in looking for landmarks!
But sure enough, we found the little Eiffel Tower again, and there we got off the bus!
I decided to go into the Starbucks that was there, and see if I could get a salad to take with me. But they had nothing like salad. So we went in to the mall, and down to the basement level, where there are dozens and dozens of restaurants.
We had a meal where we could get some willing help from the girls working there, helping us to understand what we were ordering. We had thin noodles, in a broth, with bok choy and dumplings with pork meat and shrimp. It was very tasty.
As we went to sit down, after placing our order, the girl behind the counter told me she was very nervous speaking to us. I tried to reassure her, and told her that we really appreciate her help. When we were leaving, she had a little speech prepared. She thanked me for my encouragement, and told me that she would try not to be so nervous in the future. She and her offsider are college students, and roommates. They are studying foreign trade.
We got back to the warmth of the hostel, and I went downstairs to listen to music for a little while. They have music every night from 9pm until 11pm, and it has been very nice easy listening.
Then it was upstairs again for a lovely hot shower, and into bed. I set my alarm for 7.30, as we need to be out of the hostel by 9am, we have been advised, to get to the station in time for our 10.53am train.