Monday, February 13, 2012

On to the other side of the world

Feb 7th-Feb
8th
Got
my visa yesterday and spent the rest of my afternoon booking flights,
(rearranging flights too). Packing.
Errands. There was a required wings and beer break worked in there in the
evening (while waiting on confirmation of flights….)
Got
about 45 minutes of sleep before grabbing my two carry on bags and heading to
the airport. Flying standby is stressful. But once again, I guess God was
really a-okay with me going, because everything worked out smoothly. With even
less of a layover in Newark!! (this was appreciated). And I didn’t even crawl
off the plane! Yes walked off with hardly a wobble. Was assigned a window seat,
and got comfortable for the 12hr and 55 min plane ride. Sandra Brown was chewed
through. Got to catch a few movies on the mini screen in front of me. and
studied that mega strength and conditioning book. Plus I put my incredible
skill at sleeping anywhere to good use. Only waking when I lost feeling in my
leg, arm etc. Nice seat mates, the nicest yet. A Chinese lady and a businessman
from America. Both were very pleasant when I stumbled my way out to the isle.
Arrived
in Beijing at 2:30 (14:30).
Customs were a breeze. The shortest line and least amount
of questions yet! Got to stare down a camera. Then, minor heart attack as I had
to locate where my carry-on luggage had been sent. (there wasn’t room above the
seats, so they put it under the plane). But then…I HAD TO FIND IT! It wasn’t
waiting when we got off. I was told something barely understood that I needed
to go to such a gate. Right. No problem. And everyone else I asked in the
airport looked at me like I was speaking jibberish. A nice man from Germany
told me where to check first…to keep the panic at bay. Praise Him!! Found it at
designated gate (with checked luggage) duh. See, this sounds mundane to
type..now. but imagine. EVERYTHING …all clothes etc for the next MONTH of my
life were in that bag! Tackled that thing! Then, with a sigh, set off to find
bus to Terminal 2 where I would wait 5 hours for the next flight to
Guiyang. Again, sounds easy, sounds
mundane, sounds simple. I followed
pictures, pointed and held up two fingers until I was pointed in the right
direction.
Short
flight. Just 3 hours. I was so tired I fell asleep on my hand, leaning to one side. The stewardess knew a
few English words to communicate with me.
My plan: to be met with the Shocks at the exit.
Back up plan: taxi??? Though I realized I was stupid
beyond all possible belief and had only printed the English address, not the
address in Chinese. *sighs* and I quickly caught on…outside of the airport the
only English signs is the occasional advertisement.

Luckily, tall, red haired Sam Shock met me at the
airport. The only white person there. And me, with my innate pale-ness was easy
to see I’m sure.
We made it to their apartment. It is distinctly possible
I sleep-walked up all 7 flights. Met Ruth.
Information intake of the evening:
1.
I have my own room! In a single bed with a lotus
on the headboard. I was so excited I almost didn’t realize or care that
2.
The Chinese really really like a firm mattress.
Firm as in, I knocked on it to check if it was actually plywood. Nope. Mattress/stone
slab.
3.
The heat here cannot be turned on. Something
about electricity and volts.
Moral of the story. I arrived safely and slept like a
rock…on a rock. With almost half my suitcase (carry on size) already donned and
hat pulled over my ears buried under what I deemed too few blankets. Didn’t
matter, I slept until 8am the next day..and I may not have rolled over.
Beds, no matter what the form, are wonderful.


Thursday, Feb 9th
Zombie Jet-Lagged Anna stumbled into the main room where
six kids, all ages 3 and under were already awake, getting changed and starting
breakfast.
There is a system they have going here…and it rocks!
There are two (one day a week, three) Chinese ladies who come and help. I can
tell they are pretty fantastic. They only speak Chinese, but laugh at me when I
mess up, so I figure we will get along.
After coaxing breakfast into one little girl who was
suspicious of Unknown Anna I nearly kissed the teeny coffee pot I found in the
kitchen.

The kids call the helpers “ah-ee” (pronunciation) which
means “aunt!” I call them by their name then put “ah-ee” after it. Since they
are older then me. Otherwise I would
use a term (like the Shocks) that means sister.

They go out to the market for lunch, and I asked to go
along (asked Ruth who translated). I just couldn’t wait to get outside. So,
like a silent bumbling shadow I followed them. Down the short side road.
Concrete was under-foot. Along with some dirt. Smoke with all kinds of smells
was in the air, mostly coal. Possibly some other burned garbage. It was cold
for the area. I was fine…but then again, I was well layered.

Market has numerous stands (tables with someone behind
the stacked table) placed together along walls and in the center. Not very
crowded, but more people came just in the short time we were there. Vegetables
stacked up. Roots like ginger, and all other unrecognizable kinds. Peanuts,
tofu, cabbage. Fish swimming in tanks ready to be snatched up and eaten.
(goldfish and carp were the only kinds I recognized). A man sat behind a table,
which was stacked with pasta, and he cut long thin slices making more from the
sheets of dough. Next to him, a similar approach but with rice! Copious amounts
of rice, in all kinds of forms.
Still closely following the ah-ee we got meat from a
woman behind a plastic (or glass)
barrier who pulled a large bone and chopped off chunks of meat. There
was blissfully few flies/smells/dirt in general. Different from India.
They have this nifty technique. When you ask for
something, they put a plastic bag in a little bowl then dish, cut,
spoon..whatever requested substance into bag that is neatly waiting in the
empty bowl. When desired amount is distributed, they simply remove the bag, tie
it up and hand it over. Nifty!

For lunch, something called “hot pot” we each have our
own bowl of rice, and in the center, the items retrieved from the market (I recognized about 2 from the mix)
cabbage and tofu, and meat/animal fat. They ladle out, or pull out with
chopsticks, from the bubbling pot whatever is wanted into your bowl.
They did not add spicy to the main bowl. That was in a
separate little dish of red-hotness that you can dunk pieces of food into.
There is no escape of spicy over here. I did dip a very little on the corner.
And yes, my face turned a little pink and my eyes watered when one piece of
tofu fell in and was covered.
Table Rules:
1.
Food is never touched with fingers. (until it is
on your plate).
2.
Chopsticks were encouraged by the ah-ees. Who
had a good laugh as I struggled and ate slowly.
3.
The bowl is not fused to the table. It is
encouraged to pick it up to decrease bowl to mouth distance when using (and
abusing) chopsticks
4.
If asked a question with your mouth full…answer!
If you don’t, this means you think food is more important than the person
5.
Empty bowl means you get more.
6.
Empty bowl is also very rude. It means your host
did not provide enough
7.
Chewing and smacking lips together is completely
fine. Practically a compliment.

The kids woke up from their nap. Warmed up to me a little
bit. I was at least liked for my ability to read the English books to them. One
after another was lined up to be read, while my lap was constantly filled.
Sometimes with three at once. The oldest was the most attentive to the books.
Pointing out the colors she knew for one, and never stopping the book line-up.
Yes they are adorable with those big brown eyes.

Once they were in bed, I was fighting to stay awake…made
it until 8:30 in the evening and zonked out. My head tucked under the blankets
since it is 4 degrees C in my bedroom. 45 degrees F. (the main room is a toasty
9 C!...like…almost 50!)


Saturday, February
11th
With Ruth went to the Bird and Flower Market. It has
apparently just moved there. The taxi driver (black taxi…meaning unregistered)
dropped us off and pointed in a direction of people and haze. Ruth let me
wander where I wanted, as we strolled down isles packed with booths selling all
kinds of things. The beginning and main areas were crammed with both people as
well as merchandise. Side isles were narrow with wares coming from the “shop”
into the walking area. Smoke hung in the air from the cooking fires. Cheap toys
were on display. Flowers of all kinds, fake blooms, and many kinds of potted
plants. A favorite seller here seems to be cacti. Especially one with
florescent highlights and sparkles tossed on.
Animals
were for sale here on several isles.
Small turtles crawled around in boxes. Goldfish filled containers. Small
round ones. And longer kinds too. For decoration, and a distinctly probable
chance of eating. Birds were sold in cages. Here, the bird cages are actually
pretty, as are the food bowls! Painted and pretty as you can imagine! Cats,
Dogs (of all shapes and sizes. But the majority were small breeds. The kind I
fondly refer to as “rat-dogs”) to their credit, there was at least one german
shepherd I saw for sale. And I understand
in a city of this size how a smaller dog is more practical.
Spices
of every kinds imaginable were for sale, on display in bags, either small or
large. Some roots, or large dried plants, sometimes in chunks, sometimes ground
up powder. I had no idea what I was looking at, but it was interesting. There
was tea for sale as well! Leaves of tea as well as flower teas dried up and on
display for purchase of your own tea melody.
People
sold medicinal, or other merchandise, their sales pitch into a small microphone
and amplified over the crowd. We also passed a couple dentist offices. A few
displayed teeth, dentures, false teeth, perhaps whitening too? and a
professional (complete with white lab coat) sat behind a table…offering their
services. ( I still remember a picture my mom has of a dentist when she went
through China, nothing but a bag of pulled teeth next to his table!) Rut told
me there are dental clinics as well as these available street side.
One notable
difference, no one tried to push anything under my nose due to my radiating
white skin. That was pretty nice. But
probably only due to location. Touristy cities would probably be more prone to
this sales technique.

Noticed:
baskets are carried on the back. Rather frequently. Straw baskets that can hold
whatever is desired, or a bundled up baby. They are very large in size
sometimes. And when empty, can be sat upon (flat side down, open part towards
the back) around a fire with a circle of others.



Mall:
Western food downstairs in the food court.
Ordered a Chinese (green) tea. It was in a tall clear
glass, the leaves were loose at the bottom as they steeped into the hot water.
I do not think tea has a high redeeming quality as far as caffeine goes, but it
has some good flavor and the warmth is very welcome J it is also very prevalent. In
houses, in shops, I can see tea being served while I walk past the open
storefronts
After eating I wandered around the mall. It had to have
been 6-plus floors. Each plateau offering several stores. Escalators in the
center, as well as some elevators. I wandered into a place or two, but when
sales ladies approached I could nothing but smile and shake my head. Realized a
few things…primarily that I need to learn some basic Chinese phrases. Cuz I got
nothing.
I liked watching the people. Chinese ladies are very
stylish, even in the winter. I look like a mini blimp all bundled…they manage
to look cute as well as warm! Perhaps that fa├žade is similar to in the States,
the cost of beauty and all. I should probably step up to this mindset…but
somehow I don’t see that happening in my own life.
Chinese men seem to (more frequently) be fashion
conscientious. Not only in styles of clothes, but hair as well.

Later:
Went on an errand with Sam for lightswitch..and
electricity …something was frying. Something that would fix the light…not the
continued heating issue.
We brought alone one of the kids along. It took three
different stores to find what was wanted, specifically. There is no standard
here…
By store I mean, those crowded, but organized, square
stores, that the whole front is open to the street. Sometimes level with the road, sometimes up
or down a few steps. Most had those thick plastic strips covering the front
(keeping in the warmth!). others did not.
One thing I noticed, there are certainly more “pretty”
versions of lights here. Or perhaps I just have not looked at many back home.
But there are long light settings, circular ones. Color tinted ones. A
translucent flower or butterfly decorated many.
Also, pretty nifty, LED lights…but not in a covered bulb
in a rope or strand of lights. But rather, you can buy the LED lights on a tape so all one needs to do is buy the
desired yards and one side is tape. No need for anchors and hooks! (and for all
who knew about this previously, just humor me okay? I think it’s pretty great,
who cares which country! :P )

Back home:
Heat still broken. 40 F in my bedroom. And nearly 50 in
the main room. I just rotate layers to sleep in. once curled up under the
blankets its fine. But it takes a few minutes, with nothing by my nose poking
out.
I created a new game with the kids! I get down on the
ground and tell the kids it’s time to play horse-y! one will sit or lay on my
back while I do a few push ups. By the time everyone has a turn they are
giggling and I am nice and warm too! Functional and fun as well!

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