A week in and we’ve had some time for adjustments. We got moved into our apartment. Yesterday the ladlady came with 3 guys to remove the extra bed and install another closet. Our luggage arrived, delivered to our door as promised. The only casualty of the mix up was Corinne’s portable hdd, which was probably dropped out of my bag. She lost about 30 gigs of new music, but nothing more. Facebook and twitter and all these things they think we don’t want but that we know that we do need are now available. We’ve located several local grocers, made use of large western style malls to purchase kitchen things and creature comforts. There are several completed checklists which have been thrown away. There are other checklists to be checked. All in all, things are not bad. Everything is going to be just pretty okay.
Near to Corinne’s workplace (25 minutes walk up the street) there is another row of shops and the local women sit out on the curb with blankets selling used things. We bought a plant for 8 kwai (~$1.50) and the landlady Mrs. Shue told me yesterday that the plant is a famous local variety, only found in Jilin. It will bloom with orange flowers in the fall. She has promised to give us some of her plants as she’s a bit of a green thumb. It’s quite nice that Mrs. Shue’s daughter Cici speaks English so well and we can communicate comfortably. Her English is improving and my Chinese is becoming existent. Yesterday I went out to do the marketing and said at least five or six complete sentences. I also found another local girl at a fruit stand who speaks English. She couldn’t stop laughing at me when I went into the shop and her father kept talking to me and asking me questions. I told him in Chinese, ‘I don’t know anything’ and ‘I really don’t speak Chinese’.
The Chinese drink beer probably more than any other alcohol. This is a good thing. A tall 500 ml bottle of decent Ginsbeer brand beer is roughly 40 cents. When you take the bottle back they give you the equivalent of about 5 cents. They know me well at the local store. There are several places in the area to buy western friendly food and yesterday I found a wine store. This is really a great find. The other day we bought a bottle of $6 wine at the indoor market, which is quite a lot for Chinese prices, and it was corked. Complete vinegar. Hopefully this will not happen again. We will not be buying any more wine from that seller.
The malls are pretty hilarious. I’ve seen some of the most garish designs and gawdy color choices. The Chinese sentiment on products seems to be the more gold plated plastic the better. They’ve skimped on simple patterns and splurged on glitz and glam. It is impossible to find products without screen printing of some sort and all of the designs are from the 1970s. Not bad enough to be good, and not good at all. You also have to be careful with quality as some of the products look like manufacturing rejects, with a stray ding or spot on the pots and porcelain. Still, everything is really cheap. When you do find it, the all white and simple stuff is either much cheaper or incredibly expensive. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to this yet, but I’m looking for consistencies. They may not exist.
Corinne is in Chengdo for the weekend and I am tasked with cleaning the house. Mopping. Sweeping. Arranging. This has happened, but will probably go unnoticed by the time the weekend is finished and the dust accumulates again. Our house is comfortable, especially the bed and we are close to the train, which is a joy to get around on. I’ve also started to use the busses, which is difficult because the signs and announcements are all in Chinese. To get anywhere I take the large folding map which has the names of streets in letters on one side and Chinese characters on the other. At the bus stop I cross reference the characters of the place I want to go with the streets the busses take. The problem is I have no idea what the place I’m going to sounds like, so even with the driver yelling out street names, I have to keep an eye on the road signs. This is very difficult on a crowded bus where I usually end up getting jostled to the middle. I do know how to ask, ‘How do you say this?’ and ‘How far away is this?’ so I can ask the people around me. This has worked decently well so far and the bus costs about 25 cents, the train fifty cents. Cabs are also cheap and we can get downtown from where we are for around $8. This is at least a 25 minute cab ride. The cab drivers are friendly and don’t mind my horrible and limited Chinese. I point, they say things, I repeat them. They smile and refuse to be tipped, which I am not used to. Also, when you get in a cab alone, the driver will pull over for other people and ask them where they’re going. If this happens to be in the same direction, they’ll come along for the ride and knock a dollar or two off your fare. It’s a good system.