Upon saying "sayonara, Zhangye" (never mind...), we embarked on our 30 hour train ride back to Yangzhou, where Stefanie and Nissa live and teach, and we spent almost, but not quite, 1 day. We had planned a further full day, but that was on the silly assumption that you can count on buying cross-country train tickets whenever you want, and we decided to cut a day from Yangzhou rather than Shanghai. I had the chance to meet two of their favorite students, Frida and Brack, for a noodle dinner, during which Frida excitedly toasted us with soda and Brack wrote a poem by Li Bai about Yangzhou onto the learning-Chinese notepad I always carry. Anyone who fears the rapid rise of China needs to meet more of its English students. We also met up with Megan, who teaches in Yangzhou at a different school and also came to China through Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State.
Stefanie was at this time on an amazing streak of losing valuable possessions, and went off with Megan for a while to buy a new cell phone. With what time we had, Nissa then took me on a tour of Yangzhou, which turned out to be a pleasant, mid-sized city. The famous dish of the place is the Yangzhou Fried Rice, and Nissa was annoyed to find their favorite fried rice place had closed and been totally gutted and demolished in the space of the last week, a common discovery in China. A lady emerged from this wreckage and promised to lead us to another place, and after a weird 10 minute walk through questionable back alleys, we arrived at the place, which had no less than three greeters, none of who seemed to be actually serving food. The highlights of the evening tour were the canals of the city, including duck boats that obviously have captured Nissa's fancy. The rest of the night was low-key, involving a trip to a bar, a mockery of a pool game, and very inexpensive wine. Luckily we got back to their hotel rooms just before 11, and didn't have to climb over the fence, as there is apparently a curfew ("wear narrow shoes for the fence," I was warned). I didn't have the chance to see a whole lot of Yangzhou or meet the young, artsy French couple I've heard about (mostly through great Stefanie imitations of their accents), and the next day we were off to Shanghai, "Whore of the Orient."