We planned to go to church today so I asked my nurses to hurry the meds so I can be ready to leave by 2pm. The meds finished a little after 1pm so I was able to get ready in time.
We were to meet our nurses who were going to church with a group of other patients. But outside the hall, even before 2pm, other patients were already gathering and planning to go to church as well. They were holding hand-outs from the hospital that had the names and addresses (in English and Chinese) of points of interest around the hospital so patients can point to the place they want to go to a taxi driver. (We didn't get one of these. That is supposed to come with the welcome fruit basket. I asked for one and they said they'll send me a copy as soon as they make more.)
I saw my friend from yesterday and we joined the group. We opted to take the bus with the nurses and their group. There were at least 10 of us. Bus fare was 2 RMB per person. We rode the 190 bus from the station near the hospital. It was at least a 30 minute bus ride.
During the ride, an elderly lady got on and stood next to my seat. I tried to get up and offer her my seat. She shoved (surprisingly forceful at her age) me back into my seat and started chatting in Chinese. I smiled at her and said 'I don't speak Chinese.' But still she carried on. She could have been telling me about her family or shopping list, I could only guess.
They said there was just a 10 minute walk from the bus stop. That was a long walk. It's a 10 minute walk through the most congested city ever. The dust and smog! That cannot be healthy for anyone. If you've ever walked EDSA-Kamuning (Manila) or Chinatown in LA during rush hour, that's how bad it was. Considering that was Sunday afternoon, I don't want to see that area when they consider it rush hour.
I hear that if you are late to church, the doors close. We were late. Good thing the doors remained open. There was a LOT of people. The 3.30pm mass is the only English mass. Everyone who doesn't speak Chinese goes then. The place was filled to overflowing. Even the entrances were crowded. Since I was tired from my walk, I stood at the entrance only for part of the service and sat outside for most of it.
The church itself (Sacred Heart of Jesus) is a big, gorgeous, Gothic church. What surprised me the most was that there were a lot of Africans in attendance. What brings Africans to China? Singing hymns made me think I was in a Baptist church. It was awesome for they sang whole-heartedly.
On the way back, 4 of us agreed to split taxi fare so we don't have to do the long walk through the dust and smog. Getting a taxi was another adventure in itself. This is where the language barrier is really apparent. The streets were super busy. There were no taxi stops. There were no stopping taxis either. Maybe it was because the mass had just finished and church goers were all snapping up the taxis.
We noticed super compact mini-vans on the side of the road. These are taxis that do not have meters. You bargain the fare up front. The first guy we bargained with looked too shifty so we tried a different corner. Another compact mini-van with a driver and a lady assistant stopped. She knew enough English to strike the deal (60 RMB). So we all crammed in. There was no 3rd row so we really were crammed.
The drive was another adventure. Talk about close calls not just with other vehicles but with motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians! The road was a 4 lane freeway, too!
Needless to say, I'm not ever doing that (Church) again. The distance, pollution and aggravation is just not worth it. Channel 2 (The Filipino Channel) airs a Catholic mass every Sunday at 6am.