Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Saturday Shopping

This weekend was a weekend of errands. I only needed to find three things and it took 6 hours to finally make it home. Errands in China can take some time. It is like a challenging scavenger hunt where you don't even know where to start, but I met my Chinese tutor at the front gate on Saturday morning. She would at least be able to ask where is an item and teach me new vocabulary. It was a language field trip.

List of Errands
  1. plastic screws for my toilet seat so that future guests don't go sliding off or have to sit on the cold porcelain bowel
  2. elastic to keep my knitted pippi longstocking knee highs up
  3. balloons for making Halloween pinatas
  4. lunch
  5. Sitemate needed a large toilet doo hickey. Her toilet has not flushed with a press of a button in over a year. She uses the bucket method.
The most important item were the toilet things. We headed to the Longdong Open Market and found no western toilets. We asked around, and they replied, "Go to the construction supply market."

Then we wandered around looking for balloons and then elastic. Those items were easy to find. The balloons were in the wedding stores full of flowers and red decorations and the elastic was found in an alleyway on tables run by three older women selling buttons, zippers, and embroidery items to decorate insoles. We had to walk in huge circles and did a lot of doubling back. Longdong Market fills a city block.

Shopping took an hour and finally we were able to sit down to a lovely Chinese meal full of tofu soup, a green salad, beef and baby potatoes, and spinach filled crepes.

Then we took a $0.50 taxi to the construction market that was all the way across town and actually really wasn't that far. It would have probably taken 30 minutes to walk there, but the sky was gray, ready to start dumping water. We found stores stocked full of toilet items. I found plastic screws. Sitemate found doo hickies.

With no umbrellas in sight, it started to rain and we were about 15 minutes from the university but only 5 minutes from UBC coffee an expensive western place where you can get a pot of tea for $4 or a latte for $5. Waiting out the rain we shared a pot of Russian black tea filled with sweet dry strawberries and finally made it back home at 5 pm.

It was a long day. I used a lot of Chinese, marked off all of the items on the list, and finally fixed my toilet with the new plastic screws. I had to use a knife to modify the screws so that they would fit my toilet seat. Plastic screws are not going to last long and they are probably going to snap like the other ones did. At least I know where to find them again.

Buying the balloons was pointless since all large gatherings except for class have been canceled due to an outbreak of flu. No more studying in self-study rooms. No more movie nights. No more English corner, and no Halloween parties.

And last but not least, as the weather turns colder and colder and as the water pipes sit silently cold, my socks no longer gather at my ankles but keep my calves and shins warm.

Twas an atypical shopping day in China. Usually I come home empty handed unable to find that which I am looking for, but I have learned if I really want to get something done ask someone to help. It is hard. I like my independent ways, like not having to bother anyone, like trying to do it myself. Sometimes though I have to do it the Chinese way and do errands as a group instead of as one person.

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