Finally threw a little water on that Firewall. Hello again, world! The Carlins have made it to China.
Perhaps India was a good first step in our itinerary, because it really recalibrated our standards on a lot of things. Zhuhai, from what I’ve seen so far, seems quite clean. The streets are wide; the traffic is orderly. Nighttime is quiet, except for the fireworks (associated with Spring Festival, and they’re tapering off as we get further from January 31.) I have not yet seen a single cow walking down the sidewalk.
Then again, not everything is so simple. English is a rarity here in Zhuhai, our home for the next several months. Outside of the major department stores, you’re expected to negotiate on prices. So imagine trying to buy a fitted bedsheet—it has to be a particular size—and negotiate on a price for it. Without using, you know, words. And multiply that by one hundred items. We each have our preferred methods: Joel draws pictures, I do charades. The food packaging on the grocery store shelves is strictly in Chinese. In a way, it streamlines the shopping process. In shelves upon shelves of brown bottles of liquid, one lone bottle actually has a little English writing: “soy sauce.” We’ll buy that brand. Mission accomplished! Some packages have pictures, which might or might not be helpful. Like the package of dried meat with a Jack Russell Terrier on the front. Is that dog food or, you know, dog food?
In our first week, Joel and I would head to the market each day with a long shopping list. When we’d return in the evening with our small pile of goods, we felt like such successful hunter-gatherers! Yet the shopping list was still so long and we felt both mentally and physically exhausted by the process. Some of our biggest challenges so far:
1. Our “furnished apartment” is only barely so. The landlord’s definition of furnished just means two beds, a sofa, a dining room table, and a TV. So we’re spending more than we budgeted for all those other necessities—towels, bedsheets, pillows, dishes, pots and pans, utensils, etc. And we won’t have space to take them home with us, so it’s really such a waste.
2. Chinese “mattresses” are what we Americans would call a boxspring. Sleeping on plywood builds character, I guess.
3. By law, no structures in southern China can be built with central heating and there’s no insulation worth mentioning. Sure, 45 degrees is a lot warmer than Minnesota’s winter. But if it’s 45 outside, it’s only about 50 inside. Better add some space heaters to our shopping list…