China Hates Me

This week, China really didn’t like me. I was putting dishes away and a cabinet door nearly fell on my head. Then our washing machine hose exploded andpart of the tank developed a leak simultaneously, causing massive amounts of water to flood the hall and my bedroom. Then I came home from work on Friday and the electricity was out in the apartment.

Wednesday after work, I finally got part of my bank problem fixed (only part, there’s still a few hurdles I have to jump before I can access the money I’ve earned since I’ve been here), and decided to make dinner. As I was doing a couple dishes to clear the sink up, the kitchen tried to assassinate me with the cabinet door. I soldiered on. Wok fried green beans with minced pork and mustard root. Mince leek ginger and garlic of course, also the Sichuan pickled root vegetable, or mustard root, which is quite salty and looks kind of like a pale pickle-colored solid pepper. First, deep fry the green beans until the skin blisters-the Chinese have a thing about cooking the crap out of beans that they eat. Remove them from the oil. Leave a little bit of oil in the wok, add the minced pork with pepper salt and chicken bouillon, and then the ginger leek garlic. Make sure the meat is crumbled into little pieces, and the vegetables are minced very finely, so they all stick to the beans. Add in the mustard root, then the green beans. A dash of soy sauce, a quick toss in the pan, then plate.

I had two chicken legs that I de-boned with some difficulty with my cleaver, following Dice’s instructions, cut it into small pieces, velveted it with water, salt, and cornstarch, and stir fried it with carrot and pepper. Stir fry sauce: dark and light soy, dash of Maggi and fish sauce, vinegar, cooking wine and chicken broth and more cornstarch. The boys really liked it but it was a little too salty for me. After I finished cooking, I went to check on my laundry, and to my dismay, there was just water flooding into my room. Dinner was postponed as we mopped and squeegeed furiously.

Thursday after normal classes one of the desk girls took me out to a student’s house, which was past Jingsong. It took an hour to get back by bus in rush hour. The student was another 4 year old girl who was very cute, but a little less studious than my other little kiddles, and she had a boisterous younger brother. He immediately took a liking to me, and wanted to give me a massage, so while I was trying to teach the alphabet, this tiny little human came running over and started karate chopping my back. He also would shout out the answers before his sister and didn’t like not being center of attention.

I seem to be a bit of a godsend to this school-most of their teachers don’t like teaching the younger students and are weaseling their way out of the classes, but I have pretty infinite patience with young kids, even if I vent about it later. It also seems that my patience is to be rewarded by getting all the problem kids.

Friday was one class after another, although I did go back to my coffee shop for a study session at lunch. Ended the work day with dinner with my student’s family at their house again. I do like this custom of feeding your teachers. When I was a poor starving 17 year old in Taiwan, my student’s mom made me sandwiches like bricks or red bean pastries, and best of all, gave me a sack of zongzi, bamboo packets of sticky rice, that lasted me a week of meals. When we get our act together and hire a Chinese tutor, I think I will try to do the same. Anyway, I biked home slowly (yes, finally back on my bike after my little scare) with a whole list of things I was going to get done-lessons plans and studying and job applications. I opened the door and flipped the switch…and nothing happened. No lights. No electricity for anything. I tried the fuse box. Nothing happened. Bambi had never gotten around to paying the electricity. I gathered up all the candles I could find, found my flashlight, and wondered what I would do as the apartment quickly got dark. No internet, my iPad was nearly out of juice from using it all day, and at only 7 I wasn’t nearly sleepy enough to go to bed. I ended up reading Shogun by flashlight. I’m so glad I live in this time where we have electricity and don’t use candles to read and have the internet. Bambi came home eventually and we tried to put money on the electricity. But China doesn’t work like that: you can only add money to the card if there’s already money on it, if the money runs out completely you have to go to State Grid and make them fix it. At 9 on a Friday this wasn’t likely to happen. So instead of getting the work done that I had planned, I had what could almost be considered a romantic evening, a candlelit dinner. Except it was Bambi and me sitting on the couch eating messy takeout, trying not to set my hair on fire while reading, and listening to Bambi tell stories about crazy girls, and then going to bed early.

At least thing do seem to be looking up. We fixed our electricity, our landlord came and brought a worker to fix the washer, and also a few other small problems. Hopefully the week will keep getting better.

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