Wee hours of the morning...
Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
84Trip End Jul 05, 2011
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I slept a few hours, have written (Ruth) a few hours. An edited version of my e-mail is here:
After lunch, Tuesday, 8/31/10 and some piddling around, I was dressed and ready (compass, GPS, Yuan..., maps, a few basic Chinese phrases written down, hat, sunglasses. I had my water bottle and the water bead necklace ready, but forgot them. I left home at 2:55 and walked over to the school store. John and Chris had left a pile of these little sub-yuan bills, so along with ones I've accumulated, I pulled out a sum of 100 jiao. Go figure: they have 1 jiao coins and paper bills, but a jiao is a dime not a penny. So expecting 1 yuan, I got 10. And these kids are so friendly and thankful that I do business with them and like to practice their English: there's always more than one that will glom on to assist me and tell me about their products. I left the store very happy and grateful.
Then I headed down to the NW "native" gate and area, crossed the street and saw a guy at the the little, open store front with the sewing machine. I greeted him "Nin Hao," and then as I took my new courier bag off my shoulder (with the broken [poorly sewn on] strap) I did my best to say 'please": qing, which my 101 languages pronounces softly as cheeeng. I showed him the problem. He took the bag, took a minute to figure out the problem/solution and proceeded to sew the strap back on, going the extra mile: he went all the way down and sewed the part that was still attached, turned it around, sewed it all again, and turned and sewed it again a 3rd time. When done, I asked "How much" (in English) and he held up 2 fingers. I said my best 2 (arrrgh) and he nodded his head. Just like here in the house I'm slowly figuring some things out, I had put a 20, a 10 a 5 and 4 x 1 yuan bills folded in half in my shirt pocket, to avoid (hopefully) pulling out my wallet... I put the smaller denominations on the outside. So I gave him 2 yuan and he accepted them matter of factly. I tried to give him a 3rd yuan as it was worth so much more to me than 5 minutes and 30 cents. He wouldn't take it. So here I was, 25 minutes from when I left "home," very happy.
I crossed back over the street (Feng [fong] Lin [lee]) and down to the bus stop, just as a #63 pulled up. Had a yuan bill out and bus driver didn't even look twice as I put the money in the "box." It was much less crowded than last Saturday and traffic was better too. I was stepping off the bus at 3:35, only 40 minutes after leaving home. I crossed the street and went into the big 6 floor Tonwanzhen (not Ron... or Ying... as some maps call the district) shopping center. Best is the basement floor. Watsons has so much American type stuff, like Revlon hair color stuff, vitamins and you name it. And labor is cheap, every aisle in almost every store has someone waiting to assist, but they are very polite and not in your face. The rest of the shopping center was indescribable: very upscale and not so much broken down by different stores, but different clothing lines. If he want Van Heusen (not that I saw Van Heusen) you went to their little shop, with its cashier. Did I say upscale? I could afford some stuff I saw, if I really wanted it: like $130 dress shoes... and the new bed spread they put on our bed. I was sure I'd find some handkerchiefs, but didn't. So then I went down to Best, and wow again!!!
So many indescribable fresh foods, cartoned milk ( non refrigerated kind) and just about everything a person like me could want: bicycles, cleaning supplies, shelves, book cases, what look like coffee pot, scores and scores, but they're all for tea... washing machines, microwaves, vacuum cleaners.... Picture my little, old shop vac, but heavier, sleeker and made by Phillips (the more expensive, about $80 or the Medea (?) for about $50. I can't believe I read the prices correctly... but it was somewhat moot as I was carrying less than 100 yuan (about $15). Still, I picked up a few to check them out, which immediately brought customer assistance. Maybe we aren't supposed to handle the merchandise, but then I'm an ignorant foreigner. It's not like back home where they have boxes and boxes out; no, they only have the display model out (where do they keep the boxed merchandise?) So I couldn't see the pictures of attachments and there weren't any on display. There was an obvious place to put a hose, but no hose, so I kept pointing and used my hands to describe a hose. The lady showed me what a nice retractable cord it had.... Since I didn't have the money anyway, I cut it short and left as politely as possible.
I tried getting money from 2 different bank ATMs. The first was nice enough to let me know I had about sufficient yuan, but wouldn't give me any. Second bank would let me get to the place of saying how much money I wanted, then declined. Maybe it's because I started out asking for 2,000 yuan, then 1,000, then 500. Maybe if I tried for 100, or 300 like at the airport. I hope Lee does get me money (he said I’d get 1st paycheck this week) and a bank account today! So I walked around the shopping center exterior, resisting McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut.... Went to where I thought 5th Tone was, but it wasn't. I don't think the business card map is to scale, but it showed a school where there was one.... I came full circle and tried a bank again, even getting personal help by 1 lady at one bank with very poor English, who sent me back to Bank of China where that lady spoke better English, but couldn't help me, though she seemed amazed and more than cooperative after she saw me try the ATM and saw my bank balance... and the fact it wouldn't let me have any. "Maybe tomorrow." By then I was hot and tired and went to Pizza Hut. I was allowed to sit (it's more an upscale restaurant than a down home pizza place) and they brought a menu. I decided on a blueberry milkshake and a personal sized seafood pizza. Then I waited and waited and waited. The door attendant and clean-up lady, who I think maybe served someone, wore blue aprons. The few I know served food wore orange aprons, but no one came to my table so I got up and left, politely, telling the door lady, questioningly "No food." It would have been easy to order there, just point at the pictures on my personal menu. KFC and McDonald's (I went in both) would have been harder: it's hard enough for us sometimes in English to tell them what we do and don't want.
So I went down and caught a 63 home. If I had 2 yuan in my pocket (1 had a 1,5, 10 & 20) I would have taken the air conditioned 902 which came sooner... but Lee had told me to always look at the box to see the fare and sure enough the 902 box had a 2. I went back the longer way, to the NW gate and up. I went in the cafeteria and what a selection! But I couldn't figure it out: a long, long buffet (they serve) line of choices, but it appeared you get a plate (or box to go) and pay first. I had understood they charge according to what you got, but maybe it's a flat rate. I need someone to walk me through it... .
So back to the student store, as I told you I'd return, I succumbed to a 6 pack box of chocolate moon cakes thingies. Then some students caught me looking at shower/wash items with the push top dispenser. [[Side note: Our bathroom has a hole in the wall that came stocked with a Watson shampoo and a matching conditioner and a nearly empty squeeze tube of body scrub and a few other such items. I wanted a good push dispenser body wash (which this store had a nice little assortment of, and shampoos and so many other things we'll need while we're here) to go in that hole in the wall. There is a outside type faucet in the plumbing, about waist high, below the shower. It's usually quite convenient (except when I got home and showered, bent over to wash legs and feet and hit it with my right cheek) and I figured I could use it like a bathroom sink faucet.]] So these two girls in very broken English told me this was their department and they had chosen these items to be in the store. They wanted, so desperately, for me to buy something, happily of course. They decided since these main two, same brand had English, to let me read it for myself. It really is a nice peach body wash. So then I needed a healthy, cold drink. By now I had a few more students eager to help me. So when I said juice, a cooler was opened and I chose a fruity (no tomato) juice, and asked them if it was good. A few said it was, so I got it. Unfortunately, their register didn't show me the total and the cashier was saying 13, which seemed too little, but I dutifully got out a five and a ten... and she wasn't taking it and the crowd of amused onlooking students were whispering and giggling. So to be safe, I pulled out a 50 (for simplicity sake, I'm using 7 yuan to a dollar), about a $7 bill. Sure enough she meant 33 and was appreciative and not overly embarrassed as I said I had heard 13. She seemed glad for my assistance with her English. So having paid, and with an audience as I walked out the totally wide and open door (teachers watching from the park across the street), I said "So this is a good drink?" and proceeded to take a swallow then acted like I was choking and spitting it out. We all laughed as I said it was good and proceeded to drink 1/2 the bottle with my next few steps.
Now to pass the physical, consuming nothing but water till it’s taken care of.