Rice noodles, toilets, and Wal-mart
When we were dropped off at the hotel on Tuesday night, we were told to be ready by 8:30am to go to a Chinese style breakfast with Diana. Now, at first thought, this sounded horrible. Whoever wants to be up that early??? (I am soooooo not a morning person if given a choice.) However given the fact that we crashed by 8pm the night before and the 12 hour time difference, we woke up happy at 6:30am and had no problem being completely packed and ready to go to breakfast by 8:3oam. Never fear, this highly annoyed me, since I would still rather sleep in even if I went to bed at 8pm.
After meeting Diana, our babysitter for the day…ummm….I mean translator for the day, she took us to a restaurant to enjoy a rice noodle and soy milk breakfast. Let me tell you, rice noodles are an amazing breakfast! I loved it! The warm, supposedly sweet soymilk – that I could do without. But rice noodles are a delight to be enjoyed and looked forward to! John and I plan to attempt going out for breakfast Sunday morning to order some.
Once breakfast was finished, we returned to the hotel to check out and drive to our new apartment. The owner is a rich young man who owns some business in Changsha and wanted to become affiliated with our host university, so he let them give us his bachelor party pad in Yueyang. It is huge and amazing and also hard to clean. The Chinese prefer open windows to air conditioning – something I have no complaints about because so far the weather has actually been nicer here than in the States. However, this means that tons of dust floats all around and covers white marble floors. And if any water from the rain Yueyang has been experiencing gets on the dusty white floors, the beautiful floor gets all muddy. Such a tragedy, especially because I have to clean it now. Once everyone left, we instigated a no shoes in the house rule because I certainly don’t want to mop these floors every day.
On a side note, everything in China is made and/or built for people of smaller stature. The broom and mop handles are not long enough. The counters are 6 inches lower than the already too low for my 5’10” frame counters in the US. I am constantly bending over. My lower back is going to be drastically altered by the time I leave – either from bending over to cook and clean or from the ridiculously hard bed.
Since our apartment wasn’t completely ready for us when we got their, they took us to Wal-mart to buy some essentials, like food and dishes. Yes, they do have Wal-mart in China. And it does vaguely resemble a Wal-mart in the US. I have never been more grateful to see a “Great Value” or “Mainstays” label in my life. While it smells like fish and offers mostly Chinese food and culture, it still had a slightly Western feel, enough to make me feel a little bit more comfortable with my surroundings. Sometimes, its the little things that help me feel at home, like bread, and not the major things, like knowing the common language.
Following our trip to Wal-mart, we were taken to another traditional Chinese meal of dumplings. While they were good, I preferred the stuffed buns we had had the previous evening. I was also longing for some American food and some down time to ourselves, which probably factored into my feelings about the dumplings. Thankfully, after lunch, we were taken back the apartment where everyone cleaned while we had our first business meeting in the study/office. Apparently, we are going to be more of a publicity stunt, at least at first, than actual teachers. We are to give lectures to four different groups of students to convince them that they want to learn English and enroll in the programs offered by our host university.
Once everyone left and the dust both literally and figuratively settled, John and I had a look around the apartment. Our contract, which unsettlingly has yet to be talked about or signed, promises us a Western-style toilet. When we first read that, we kinda laughed. Why would that have to be written into a contract? Well, we found out the answer. Chinese toilets are holes in the ground. We have one. It’s in the bathroom off the kitchen. It is disgusting, especially since it is in the middle of the shower floor – have I mentioned that Chinese don’t believe in shower curtains either? The whole entire bathroom is the shower. Back to the toilet… even women are supposed to squat over this hole to relieve themselves. So gross. This is what camping outdoors in the middle of a forest is for. Not everyday life. Thankfully, we do have another bathroom off our bedroom, and it has a Western style toilet. Granted, it along with everything else in the bathroom is in the middle of the shower, but it is still a normal toilet. Something I am extremely grateful for. So far, I have avoided having to squat over a hole, and I intend to do so for as long as humanly possible.
Our day ended with an evening out, much to our dismay since we were exhausted and drained. The owner of our apartment, Mr. Chen, invited us and some university officials out to the countryside for some local cuisine. After two straight days of having strange food shoved in my face and trying to be polite and eat it all, I finally just said no to the eel and the frog and the fish. I couldn’t do it anymore. I did eat the beans and the chicken and everything else that was offered though. After our dinner, we were taken to the best bar in Yueyang. While at the bar, we were finally given cell phones, which was a relief until we realized that it is a tad depressing to have a cell phone and no one to call since our plans are not international. After several toasts (it is impolite to even sip alcohol without toasting someone), we begged tiredness and left the bar. The only good thing about rising and setting with the sun is that Chinese nightlife begins at 8:30pm since the sun sets around 7ish. We crashed immediately upon returning home.
The following morning, Thursday, we were finally given internet access much to our relief! We could contact our friends and family again! After a walking tour of the area around our apartment, lunch at the Western-style restaurant Jono, and instructions on how to ride the bus, we rode the bus home and enjoyed a quiet afternoon and evening of finally unpacking and settling into our new home. It is slowly beginning to feel like home here. At least for now.