Anywhere people congregate, you will find itinerant merchants selling drinks, ice cream, snacks, produce and more. Their stalls lined the entrance to the park but they are not at all aggressive in their approach, at least not that I've experienced. At the beach itself there were a wide variety of children's entertainments, including mini excavators so kids could dig sand. How cool is that?
In my experience, public beaches in Vancouver and Canada do not allow private enterprise except for a very few contracted services like a snack bar. An entrepreneur can't set up a bouncy castle on the sands at Stanley Park, can he? Yet I've seen multiple examples of free-lance kids operations in the two public parks I've visited in Shandong Province. I assume the merchants pay a fee for the privilege, or perhaps a bribe and a fee, but I think if merchants tried to move into Stanley Park on the same scale there'd be stiff resistance. So Canada's park are less friendly to free enterprise than China's. TINYFCC, indeed.
The congregation assembled and lustily sang a hymn on the beach until the even lustier breezes drove them to decide to take an early lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. They preceded their meal by standing around their low tables in full view of the other diners and praying aloud. Knowing what we know about the discrimination and worse faced by Christians in China, I was proud to stand with them. I loved being in that very uh, shall we say rustic, restaurant, despite my embarrassment at preferring to sit in a regular wooden chair instead of one of the tiny folding stools. I was afraid the stool would collapse under me. Anyway, we had a delicious lunch of Chinese BBQ and very fresh fish. The fish were held in a small concrete tank until selected by a diner. Then a waitress scoops them out with a net and flips them onto the concrete floor to stun them into submission. They were scooped into a burlap sack and next re-appeared as lunch.
One tip I read before going to China is to leave some food on your plate because if you don't your hosts will assume you are still hungry and press more food on you. The Chinese people of my acquaintance, even the slenderest young ladies, are impressive trenchermen. I don't know how they do it. We had skewer after skewer of barbequed pork and chicken, cabbage and tofu, bowls of sauteed chicken and fresh fish in broth, and my hosts also pulled out soda-pop sized cans filled with a sweetish thin gruel which is a sort of portable breakfast, with multigrains and peanuts, just in case anyone was still feeling peckish.
We returned to Zibo along a different and very scenic route, stopping along the way at a small creek where everyone searched under rocks along the creek bed for fresh water shellfish of some kind.
The final leg of the ride back to Zibo featured a number of things individually interesting in themselves, all happening at once. So imagine all of these different things happening or appearing at the same time:
- Quiet rural villages tucked into the folds of a long valley with houses, even garden sheds, made of brick or stone, with clay tile roofs,
- terraced hillsides, representing the labor of generations, tended by elderly farmers with hoes -- the young people having all moved to the city,
- rising slowly out of the valley via a winding, two lane road through groves of blossoming honey locust trees and looking back upon more terraced hillsides as we climbed,
- bee-keepers tending their hives along the side of the road, no doubt placed there to take advantage of the blossoming honey locust trees. I was not at all alarmed about driving past dozens of bee-keeping operations because that paled in comparison to the driving habits of the Chinese day-tripper (next aspect),
- drivers making no concessions re speed as they moved through the above-described landscape, including the driver of the car I was in, who liked to pass on blind curves and while approaching the crests of hills, while adroitly dodging
- small groups of people gathered at the (shoulderless) roadside to harvest the blossoms from the honey locust trees because they are edible,
- all to the strains of an FM radio station which featured pop songs of the Olivia Newton-John "I Honestly Love You" variety, but sung in Chinese with some random English phrases thrown in.
Last but not least, the sky was blue and the wind was fresh in Boshan District. I look forward to returning there.