Nothing specific to talk about today so I’ll just go through some of my normal routine. Well, as normal as it can be considering I’ve spent the last 40 odd years in England and we’re now fully immersed in modern day Chinese culture.
My family’s school is a little unfinished so for the next couple of weeks my daughter won’t be boarding. Instead we have a 6am start to get my wife and daughter out the door by 6:50. The morning commute now includes the elevator rush. Time it wrong and you’ll be stood for 15+ minutes. The alternative is to traverse 10 floors of a dark concrete staircase or be late for the school bus.
And then I’m left with a silent apartment. It’s easy enough to find some noise though. If I open the patio door there is the usual 24 hour traffic sounds with horns constantly honking. The sound of construction as another skyscraper and mall is built. Or the barking and howling from the ever growing pack of wild dogs that live in the fenced of construction site over the road. Sometimes I’ll watch them as they scavenge for food in the long grass or play in the pools of water surrounded by discarded junk. For the last couple of days we’ve had the sound of a monsoon trickling down the windows and guttering. How this place doesn’t flood is beyond my reasoning. We’ve had more rain here in the last week then the UK gets in a year. Even so, the cities drainage systems appear to be fit for purpose unlike Yorkshire’s ageing flood defences.
For the next hour or so I’ll earn my keep by doing some cleaning. This starts by doing the pots. We don’t have a dish washer as this technical marvel appears to have skipped our Chinese hosts. Instead we have a pot disinfecting device which is cruelly disguised as a oven. Our kitchenette is a strange affair. There is the normal cooking and preparation area in which you could not swing a proverbial cat. We then have a glass door leading to a semi outside area dominated by a laundry dryer stacked on top of a washing machine. Next to this is a small sink with a draining board. This is where I wash the pots one by one as I pass them back to the main kitchen. Entertaining anything other then a small family of mice is going to be a challenge. It’s lucky we have a never ending supply of restaurants within a 5 minute walk, plus the Chinese equivalent of Just Eat which we’ve not dared to use just yet.
With a sparkling apartment, I’m ready to take on the next challenge of the day. Let’s start with learning Chinese. Prior to moving here, I had downloaded a whole plethora of language apps looking for the holy grail which would teach me mandarin much like Neo plugging into the matrix to learn Kung Fu. I’m now left with a bunch of daily reminders which keep telling me I’ll be fluent within weeks if I just pay $40 for 1 year.
On the local facebook groups I’d seen people talking about language exchanges. So, I asked around to see if any locals would like to teach a dinosaur how to speak a new language. Apparently there is an appetite for this as lots of Chinese people, especially the younger crowd, want to learn English and what better way of doing it then by learning with a native speaker. After badgering a few locals, I’ve found a teacher who actually speaks very good English already. We meet twice a week for a 3 hour session and I’m gradually coming to terms with the fact I’m not going to learn mandarin like Neo learns Kung Fu. The exchange works both ways, so if one day you come across a young Chinese lady with a Northern England accent say hi from me.
My one attempt at running out here made me appreciate the UK’s mild climate. Myself and a couple of teachers went for an early morning run with the intention of doing a quick 5k. Turned out to be slow and just under 5k. For this reason I decided to join the gym located on floor 3 of our complex. It’s only a year old and to celebrate their birthday they offered me a 18 month membership of the full complex for ¥2118 (£242). Included is a huge gym full of many machines, free weight area, spinning classes, cardio classes, yoga classes, outdoor swimming pools, boxing ring and air conditioning. I’ll keep my fitness levels high enough so that when the weather cools down I can do some more outdoor running and trails.
Other duties include shopping for groceries and essentials. Our local supermarket Vanguard is situated in the 9square mall next to our apartment. This particular Vanguard is quite small, a bit like one of those Tesco express places found in England. In fact I think they are linked because I’ve seen Tesco branded products like milk and cereal. The nearest big supermarket is Wal-Mart which is located a couple of blocks away, roughly a 10 minute stroll. This place is huge and has everything you’d expect from a Wal-Mart with some extra Chinese bits on top, like the live food section or the 3 aisles of noodle snacks. The next supermarket is another Vanguard which is once again huge. It feels around the same size as Wal-Mart however there is an upstairs which I’ve still not had chance to look at yet. Next to this is a very large Decathlon mega store for all our sporty and outdoor goodies. For household goods, we have two big brand options. The first being Ikea which is located in the Nanshan district, 20 minutes west of us. We spent a few hours there last week to get some essential Swedish furniture and bedding. Whilst I was there, I almost forgot we weren’t at Ikea in Birstall retail park! Then reality kicked in when I saw the vast swathes of Chinese families sleeping on the Scandinavian furniture (they like their midday nap time). The other option is Sam’s Club, located 10 minutes east of here. I’ve not attempted this yet but maybe one day if I’m desperate.
Today is the final day of the monsoon warnings so in-between the rain showers I’m going out for some supplies for the weekend. We have our first family guests coming to visit us all the way from Hong Kong this weekend. Tonights dinner is jacket potatoes with cheese and beans followed by donuts for pudding. After this we’ll sit down to watch UK day time TV like homes under the hammer. Ah bless the 7 hour time zone difference.
Till next time, zài jiàn