Friday, November 19, 2010

The Simple Things

Yesterday, Dan and I were walking near Window of the World (you can look it up if you want; but that's actually irrelevant to the story) looking for dinner. Two girls darted over to us while they were walking in the other direction and one said, "Blah blah blah ma?" The "ma" means it's a question, which also means I don't have the answer. I just looked at her and said, "I don't know."

She tried again, and her friend tried to help, but we were of no use. She shrugged and hugged me. Then she hugged Dan. And the other girl hugged whichever one of us wasn't being hugged by the first girl. And then they walked away.

That was probably the weirdest thing that's happened to us so far. We were both speechless.

Today, the bell rang on the security panel (which I don't know how to use, but I have managed to accidentally set the alarm on it and made buzzers go off everywhere, but luckily our Chinese teacher was here and was able to get someone to come up and make it stop). I pushed the button to let the person talk, and of course it was all in Chinese. I hung up on him.

Then I remembered the package my mother sent, and checked the tracking number. They'd already tried to deliver it twice, so maybe this was the China Post trying again! I decided to go down the 18 floors to check, but there was a clicking at my door (which is the broken door bell). I opened it, and there was a young man with a big box.

After a whole lot of confusion, and him writing in Chinese to help me understand what he was saying in Chinese (sorry, not helpful), and me saying "I don't know" over and over again, I got the box. Then he kept asking about the "W S." He even wrote down "W S" in his Gambol notebook (the brand of choice around here, it seems) and pointed into my apartment. He may have even gestured toward his man-parts like he had to pee or something, but no way, thanks, you can leave now.

I got him out of there, took the box to my desk (where I now type), made sure the cat hadn't eaten my new turtle (rescued yesterday from the dismal pet section of Wal-Mart), and opened the box.

After a layer of crumpled L.L.Bean catalog pages, I found the measuring spoons and measuring cups. And I can't tell you the unimaginable relief that washed over me. My life suddenly became so much simpler! I could look forward to the joy of baking again! (There was also a "cat teaser wand," which is super amazingly awesome, but I haven't told Keillor about it yet.)

Next, I reached in for a brown box (the rest was mail, and not nearly as important as everything else), which I didn't recognize but assumed was the "cookies" listed in my mom's handwriting on the customs form.

When I pulled out the Candy Cane Joe-Joe's (a gift from my brother and his wife) my jaw literally dropped, and I was so overwhelmed with the craziness of everything that had just happened and the unbelievable thoughtfulness contained within the one stupid box of Trader Joe's holiday cookies that I lost it. I mean completely lost it like I've never lost it in my whole life. There was enough sobbing to make the cat concerned. I think the turtle even tucked his head in tighter.

So there you have it: one glimpse into my Chinese life, where measuring cups and spoons (made in but not distributed in China), a cat toy, and a box of cookies just in time for Thanksgiving are the greatest gifts I've ever received.

And I haven't forgotten about the wax paper! There were two rolls of Reynolds Cut-Rite Wax Paper (which is at least a whole roll more than I've gone through in the entirety of my previous life as an American baker)!

On top of all that, I'm running again, our friend got his shipment of stuff today (and even though ours is probably months from getting here, I can rejoice for him after his many months of waiting), and it's the Friday before we spend a weekend in Hong Kong (and I've already scoped out a couple Whole-Foods-style markets for stocking my cupboards with smuggled goods).

Life in China is not at all what anyone could have told me to expect. Sometimes it's downright awful. But we're doing the very best with it that we can, and the American love we feel from afar is making it so much easier.

(My apologies for the long post without even a single picture to break up the prose. I'll do better next time. I needed the catharsis right now, though.)


Danielle A. said...

Oh man... talk about culture shock. Hopefully soon you'll start to destroy the language barrier with that Chinese teacher of yours, and you'll find the love and adventure you had hoped for. In the meantime - don't hesitate to email me to vent. I love you, my friend, and will be praying that soon you'll be able to feel comfortable in your temporary home. (((hugs)))

Mags said...

As I read this post, I wanted to hug you so badly! It makes me sad that sometimes it can be downright awful...but you know what? It'll change. One day you'll wake up and you'll be in love with living in China. You'll always miss home but when it's time for you to come back, you'll be a little sad. It'll happen-it's happened to me with every move I've made and while I've never been nearly as brave or adventurous as you are, it still sometimes felt like another world.

I greatly, greatly admire you for jumping in to this adventure. Most people would not even CONSIDER taking this opportunity...hang in there!