There are no words to describe how happy I was to see all the vegetables on the buffet in the faculty dining room. After eating nothing but protein bars and craisins my entire journey, I was terrified that I’d be greeted with “western food” and see things like canned sphagetti, frozen pizza, and dried up hamburger patties. I did not. Nor did I see all meat dishes with one or two vegetables as is common at Chinese buffets in the states. There were one or two meat dishes, and the rest was vegetables. Beans and sprouts and bok choy, oh my! I think I wiggled the happy dance in my seat all the way through lunch.
During the course of the morning, I met two more World Academy students and they’d offered to take me shopping for some household goods. We agreed to go after lunch. The lunch hour was spent with introductions to many of the academy members Kristine had made during her brief stint in March. The students are amazing. I remember during the facilitator training, everyone kept talking about how incredible the students were. It got to the point where I became a little suspicious~ was it hype? Who were they trying to convince, anyway? Its not hype. The students are amazing. They’re warm, engaging, curious, open, and eager to get to know you and help you.
It feels fantastic to say that I’m here with the World Academy for the Future of Women and to see student & faculty faces alike light up. Students have stories of their time in the academy, faculty speak of the high caliber of WAFW students. “You can always tell Academy members in the classroom. They’re very focused and seem to take their education much more seriously than their classmates.”
Generally speaking, folks are very friendly on campus. There are lots of introductions in hallways and elevators as well as enthusiastic waves on campus once you’ve met. Apparently I still smell like an English teacher. I’ve been asked several times if I’m the Oral English teacher they’re waiting on.
As I walked out of the dining hall, Slyvia and Olivia were waiting there. We made our way through the administration office to get a taxi to the department store, Waka.
Hailing a cab is easy. Not crapping your pants while in one is not. Its freaking terrifying. I’ve heard stories- we’ve all heard stories, but there is something quite different from shaking your head in disbelief saying “man, that is craaaa-zeeeee” at someone else’s cab stories and being in car that is going into oncoming traffic to swerve around someone (vehicle or pedestrian) they don’t think is going fast enough. There is no turn lane. There are 6 lanes of traffic- 4 for cars, and the outer lanes for bicycles and mopeds- though the lines are merely suggestions. Not rules to be strictly followed. I made noises a few times. On the ride home, I decided it was best that I didn’t look out the front window, but to focus out the side windows and take in the scenery, not the traffic. Or high-speed games of chicken. Whatever you want to call it.
The ride downtown was 5¥. Not even a dollar. I was greeted with rows of mopeds that reminded me of the rows and rows of bicycles you’ll see everywhere in Holland.
Once in the store, we had to put our purses in lockers. No bags are allowed inside. Suddenly, the teeny little purses I see so many girls with are more practical than I’d thought. I also now understand why my wallet has a wrist loop on it. I didn’t think to use it since I always just keep it tucked inside, but I will the next time I go out. The supermarkets here seem to work very similar to ones I’d been to in Europe. True to market form, you pay for the goods from each section in that section. China is a cash-based society. There were no credit/debit machines at any of the registers, and every ATM I’ve seen always has a long line behind it.
Downstairs, we were looking for a flat sheet and a light blanket. All I had on my bed was a heavy comforter in a duvet. After 24 hours of no sleep, I’d woken up after just 6 ½ hours in a pool of sweat. I didn’t want to repeat that. Many people don’t have air conditioning, despite the incredibly hot and humid weather, so I was really surprised to find no light blankets. We finally found some textiles that were more thick sheets rather than blankets, but if I had a flat sheet with it, I’d be fine. I didn’t see the sense in paying a lot of money for something that wasn’t really what I was looking for and that I’d only be using for a month. “You’re a good wife.” I was told. And here I was thinking I just didn’t want to waste money on things that aren’t that important.
Not able to find a flat sheet I liked that wasn’t (comparatively) stupid expensive, I was directed to the corner of the bedding section where pieces of fabric hung from the ceiling. It would be cheaper to just have the sheet made, I was told. So I picked out some fabric, and we were told to finish our shopping while the sheet was made. There was much discussion around the whole thing. It didn’t seem that complicated to me, but perhaps attempts to bargain were made. The Chinese are master negotiators. Never accept the initial price, I’m told.
We paid for the sheet, blanket, and towels I’d picked out, then headed upstairs. There is a conveyor belt that looks like the moving sidewalks in airports that goes up an incline. It has rubber to keep the cart from rolling backwards.
The cosmetics and skin-care section in China is just as annoying to get through as it is in the states. As if being pelted with hundreds of images and messages every day about how we’re all inferior and need hundreds of dollars of products to beat back our innate disgustingness isn’t enough, we have to be assaulted by spray girls and blush hawkers on our way somewhere else. It feels like walking down the strip in Vegas- whatever you do, don’t look! Don’t acknowledge any noise they make or they’ll shove something in your hand or dowse you with something!
We found most of what we came for, then took a stroll through the food section. Sylvia got good use out of her translator app.
On the way home, Sylvia told me that she wanted to tell me her Chinese name. I was honored. I didn’t even butcher it. It means “Good”. I want to find out what “Sylvia” means, but any search I do comes up with Chinese characters instead of English….