I’ve been here 24 hours.
I made it to the American consulate (after getting lost for an hour and a half). Thanks to all the Chinese who gave me help along the way, once I asked for it. Turns out the consulate is only 1/2 mile from my apartment. The extra few miles I walked while I was lost will help me learn the streets in my neighborhood (and put blisters on my heels). So far, about 1 in 3 Chinese males under the age of 35 are willing to speak English with me. Because I don’t want to startle or disturb anyone, I don’t ask women or elderly.
The librarian at the consulate (a Chinese woman) was kind enough to find and call the local police station for me. We found out they were closed for the Mid-Autumn Festival, an important 3-day holiday also known as the Full Moon Festival. This year it is September 15-17. I was told by the librarian at the American consulate, that it is one of the most important family celebrations in China. Perhaps it is why I saw several ceremonies today as I walked around? I thought the ceremonies looked more serious, more like remembrance ceremonies of people who had passed away. In any case, I will have to wait to register with the police.
I got lost, again, on the way back to the apartment! But this time I was carrying the address, in Chinese, with me. A big thank you to all the helpful Chinese and hand signals! I happened by an outdoor market tucked away up a tiny street. I bought makings for dinners, including smoked and pressed tofu, fungus, bean sprouts, carrot, and little red peppers.
Sweaty and tired, I dropped off the produce at the apartment and asked the apartment manager where I could find bottled water, laundry detergent, rice, and a rice-cooker. I find it strange that the kitchen doesn’t have one, but when I asked, none was offered. Instead, she pointed out the window half a block away and said, “There’s a big supermarket on the corner.” I went down to the corner and found… a Wal-Mart! And what a strange and exciting Wal-Mart it was! I tried to buy what I wanted, but there were no English labels, so I picked things that looked promising, including dried tiger lily blossoms, carbonated pineapple juice (I think), and white dry noodles. I wanted to get some rice, but there were so many kinds of rice it filled more than one complete isle. I watched as women touched the rice, smelled it, even bit into a dry kernel from open bins of the stuff, before deciding what to buy. So I’m starting off with the cheapest to see why the others are more expensive.
I didn’t find any appliances in the store (maybe there was another floor?), so the rice cooker will have to wait. It didn’t matter because I did something wrong with the rice I picked. It was confiscated at the checkout stand. Perhaps I should have put the price on the bag? Just outside the exit there was a woman selling grapes, so I got some to try to freeze in the little freezer section of the tiny refrigerator.
I got home, played a little guitar, and took a nap. Then made myself a stir-fry. The wok burner was great! It has three settings: off, jet-fuel, rocket-fuel! On the rocket-fuel setting I have to leave the pan on the flame or it blows so hard it blows itself out!
Dinner became a soup as I cooked the noodles in the same pan. I stirred in an egg and voila! Dinner! Those little red peppers turned out to be a lot hotter than I thought!