07-Jul-2010 -- Story continues from 35°N 119°E.
We returned to the main road, and did not have to wait long to catch a passing bus back to Gànyú, although it dropped us off at a different bus station on the north side of the city, and we had to take a taxi back to our hotel. We were back by 10:30 a.m.
I went across the street and bought tickets on the 1:10 p.m. bus to Shùyáng (沭阳县), then arranged for a late check-out at the hotel. I then ventured out into the fierce sun to buy an assortment of things for our lunch, which I brought back to a grateful Ah Feng waiting in our air-conditioned room.
The bus to Shùyáng was nice and clean, and most importantly, the air-conditioner worked. However, the driver was crazy! The first half of the journey was on a two-lane undivided highway, and I feared for our lives as the driver undertook ridiculously risky overtaking manoeuvres. The second half of the journey was on a four-lane divided highway, which I thought might be safer, but no, the driver managed to only narrowly avoid several accidents of his own making.
We were dropped off in downtown Shùyáng, and had to take a commuter bus to the main bus station, where we found out what we could about buses we'd need the next day, then checked into the fairly average New Era Hotel (新纪元大酒店) next door.
Our room in the New Era Hotel had a "Pasnsaio" brand television set. This sort of mangling of well-known brand names is a common tactic employed by factories in China. It doesn't matter if it's totally unpronounceable, as long as it looks like the real thing at first glance.
On the outside wall of the hotel, we noticed something novel. In China, it's very common to see telephone numbers scrawled on just about every bit of available wall space, promoting dodgy services like forging whatever kind of certificate you might need: graduation, marriage, divorce, you name it. However, this was the first time we'd seen numbers that had been stencilled onto the wall rather than just scrawled. Using stencils, these clever people were able to quickly publicise their contact telephone numbers en masse.
It was only mid afternoon, so we took a commuter bus to Qīngshàonián Square (青少年广场), where we completed our intelligence gathering for the bus we'd need the following morning. We then walked into town, and found a KFC-like fast-food restaurant called UES, where we had dinner. This was followed by another commuter bus ride back to the hotel, and an early night.
We ate our complimentary breakfast at 7 a.m., checked out at 7:45 a.m., took a commuter bus to Qīngshàonián Square, and were on a bus bound for Zhōují (周集乡) not long after 8 a.m.
We got off the bus at a turn-off just over a kilometre south of the confluence, and then followed the road, which was called Húzhuāng Road (胡庄路), north to a village. We walked through the village towards the confluence. Several people asked us where we were going, and we confidently replied, "To the school."
Ah Feng confirmed what the previous visitors had reported, that the confluence was indeed located inside a classroom at the back of the Lúběi Primary School (卢北小学). So we walked around to the front of the school, where we met 58-year-old Yáng Xiùhuá (杨秀华).
Mrs Yáng remembered the previous visitors, so she knew why we were there. She led us through the school's two courtyards to the classroom in the northeast corner that contained the confluence. She explained that the school, which she and her husband Hú Yàowǔ (胡耀武) had run as a private school for grades one to six, had been closed in 2007. She is now retired. The school used to employ six teachers, including Mrs Yáng and Mr Hú, but eventually there was not enough money to keep it going, and all the children now attend school in the nearby town. Mrs Yáng and her husband were themselves living in the town a year ago, and had only recently moved back to the village.
While Ah Feng continued chatting with Mrs Yáng, I went into the old classroom, where I did the confluence dance. I had to be careful to avoid a variety of junk that had accumulated over the years, but I eventually managed to get all the zeroes to come up on the GPS.
I took a few photos inside the room, including a view of the northeast corner (including the window through which Ah Feng had earlier looked from the outside), a view of the western wall, dominated by a large blackboard, and close-ups of two posters affixed to the southern wall.
Above the blackboard were two posters bearing the Chinese characters 热爱祖国 and 勤学奋进, which mean "love the motherland" and "study diligently and forge ahead" respectively. The posters on the southern wall featured, on the left, Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist credited with creating the first version of the periodic table, and on the right, Táo Xíngzhī (陶行知), a prominent Chinese educator who studied at Columbia School of Education, then returned to China to champion progressive education.
Before we left, Mrs Yáng gave us two cucumbers from the vines growing in the school's rear courtyard. We ate them raw, and they were deliciously refreshing, it being another stinking hot day. Mrs Yáng also gave us her phone number, +86 527 8387 6295, in case any future visitors want to call ahead to make sure someone will be home when they arrive.
We found a slightly more direct route out, along a dirt track that emerged onto the main road pretty much due south of the confluence, at 33°59'25.5"N 118°59'55.5"E.
Story continues at 34°N 118°E.