December 2014

Lots of mini adventures have happened since David’s debut. I got the stomach flu, the following week I got hit by a car and broke my finger and banged up my arm. It wasn’t actually a big deal but it has made writing extremely difficult. It was neither my fault, nor the driver of the car’s fault that we smacked into each other. We were going pretty slow due to traffic and got blocked in. Luckily I didn’t need to see a doctor. I told you about hospitals already! I think I won’t ride my scooter if it is raining though, that made a huge difference in visibility and traffic congestion.

The day after my little bump with the car was David’s birthday. I went to his campus and we had a terrific dinner and saw “Interstellar” the movie. What impressed me that day was that the Yi restaurant where we ate had real bacon and sausage. First time in China I’ve had real smoked bacon that was cut correctly. The sausage was also the best I’ve had in China and rivals European pork sausages. The movie was interesting and I found I liked it despite it not being my normal type of movie. It was also rather nice to watch a movie in English. The biggest problem I had was that the subtitles in Chinese were really bad. I understand why the Chinese people liked the movie less since the translation was so terrible. Yes, my Chinese is improving!

So after some ups and downs here’s how the last week played out, my light in the kitchen burned out Thursday. That leads to a really bad set of jokes that go something like this: How many people does it take to change a light bulb in China? Answer-Where do you buy a light bulb? Not Wal-Mart, there are no Home Depots and since you are without a car you can’t just drive around trying to find a store. My answer presented itself Friday night when I was taking the bus home and saw a small store near a bus stop by Small North Gate that sells only light bulbs.

My monstrosity of a floor lamp:

It gets worse… It wasn’t the bulb that burnt out, my electricity no longer flows to that part of my kitchen. So we repeat the joke with a different answer: How many people does it take to change a light bulb in China? Answer: 6 people. Apartment renter (1), friend who speaks Chinese (2), another friend who speaks better Chinese (3) and can write a text message to the apartment management company liaison (4), landlady (5), and an electrician (6)! So until I get a text back that an electrician is coming I have resorted to using the monstrosity of a floor lamp that came with the apartment. It’s a hideous lamp, and it has to sit on top of my washer since it is the only outlet I can use.

So during this episode about the light in the kitchen where it is too dark most of the time I am home to see without a good light… I came home and watched a news show about the water shortage in Beijing. That night the construction guys outside my apartment were using their nice heavy drilling equipment literally all night from 9pm until 9am when they broke the water main. Irony strikes. Here water is spilling into the streets causing cars to show extreme caution and walking that stretch is not possible. Yet Beijing has a water shortage. I took some pictures. I think everyone else did too! It was rather impressive and I noticed more than 5 smoke breaks were required before the right materials and individuals were here to resolve the issue and fix the massive leak. They were really good though and only had to turn off the water for about 2.5 hours during the day. Then I had the pleasure of listening to them continue to work through the second night in a row. There are no laws here about when you can run heavy machinery I assume.

Despite some really odd moments I had a very productive week. I bought almost all my Christmas gifts for my friends here in Chengdu. I will finish that shopping Monday with my friend when we go to Decathlon. I think the best advice I can give someone coming to Chengdu is to find Ikea and Decathlon which are literally across the street from each other between 2nd Ring Road and 3rd Ring Road. Those two shops save my bacon quite often.

Ikea is the only place I trust purchasing salmon which is sold downstairs in the food area freezers and very near to the chocolate. Decathlon is similar to a Big5 store and carries European sizes so if your feet or body are larger than your average Chinese person you will definitely need to find clothes and shoes there. Most of the folks that I meet in school and in my life from Europe and other foreign countries have found that shoe shopping on the streets is disappointing since their largest size is a 38 or 39 which is a women’s 7.5 US. For the men, the biggest size I see is a 43 which is about a size 9.5 US. Decathlon has a good selection of larger sizes and as a nice bonus they sell warm jackets and swimsuits all year!

Finals are coming quickly. I will post a picture of my apartment. I’ve written down every character in our books since the beginning of the semester and now have some very useful wallpaper in my apartment. Joe doesn’t appreciate it, but all my friends and student friends love it and come to practice their vocab.

We will not be having Christmas off from school, but since it is Li Laoshi (our teacher Ms. Li) I don’t think most of us mind too much. If we had another teacher who we were less loyal to we would probably all skip the 24th and 25th. Our finals are the week after, so the 29th through the 31st and then we have a couple months off of school.

I will continue to work at the Kindergarten until the middle of February when I plan on joining David’s family in SiHe Township which is very close to XiChang and about 6 hours away from Chengdu. I hope to spend some time studying during the break with my classmates and to travel around to the local places I’m interested in. Most of the UW students have extensive plans for the break, but as far as I know no one is planning on returning home for the break which I think is good. Pulling away from this intense situation where we are constantly using the language and learning about little quirks could set someone back very quickly.

I hope to have Christmas pictures from our parties for you all to see next time. The spirit of Christmas is not strong in China. However, those of us that celebrate will spend time with our loved ones who are close and we will think fondly of those we love in our home countries.