Red Letter Day

Today was a red-letter day! I studied Chinese for three hours (until my eyes wouldn’t focus). I’m enjoying learning how to look up Chinese words, based on their root and the number of strokes needed to write the character. I don’t always guess the right number of strokes, but I get close enough. I translated the air conditioner controls!


I cheated just a little bit because I went on the internet, found a picture of the same make and model on E-Bay, with all the button labels in English.


I listened to my Chinese language CD’s and worked on lessons 1-3 in my text. My pronunciation was perfect, especially since I am the only judge. When I just couldn’t use my eyes any more I made a shopping list: rice, rice cooker, soy sauce, tea, laundry detergent. I headed off to Wal-Mart. This time I noticed stairs that went up to the second floor.

The store is huge, almost a block long but narrow. They literally have you enter at the far end of the store and you have to find your way to the other end. It worked. As I wandered the aisles looking for kitchen appliances, I remembered I needed dishtowels, which I only knew were dishtowels because of the pots and pans on the package. I found lots of detergents, but ended up buying Tide. As I reached for what I thought was the cheapest package, an employee came up to me, signed to me that I should put it back, then showed me a squirt-bottle version of Tide they had just put on promotion, from 28 yuan down to 10 yuan! So I got my Tide detergent for about $1.40.


Rice cookers were a different story. There were about 40 models to choose from, ranging from 700 yuan ($100) on down. I scoured the shelves for a small rice cooker. Who needs to cook 20 cups of rice? Apparently, most Chinese families. I finally found a tiny rice cooker, green, cheap-looking, and clearly flimsier. When I reached for the box, another employee rushed over. She pointed out a similarly-priced rice cooker but too large for me. She demonstrated how much better the bigger one was constructed by removing the metal pan inserts and clanging on them. I nodded my agreement: the bigger one was certainly better made. “You’re right,” I said in English. “But it’s too big.” She seemed to understand as I made the appropriate hand movements. She reached up and got me a box containing the smaller cooker.

I searched for the exit, which was well marked, but it and all the other exits were labeled “Emergency Exit”. Finally I followed somebody who seemed to be leaving. He led me to a set of stairs that got me down into the grocery store I had been in yesterday. I took some pictures, then pulled out my Kindle Fire.




Before leaving home I had downloaded an English/Chinese dictionary. I had searched all the names in Chinese for the items I wanted. This was especially important for soy sauce, since the day before I had found lots and lots of sauces, many of them certainly fish sauces! Armed with the Chinese name for soy sauce, I searched for and found a bottle. I also found an inexpensive Jasmine tea. And this time I put the rice in a bag and waited to see what other people did. Soon enough, a woman was filling a bag and walking it over to a weigh-station for pricing and labeling. I went over, handed my bag to the attendant, who priced, sealed, and labeled my bag of rice.

Feeling very successful, I decided to try using my debit card to pay. Well, not everything can work out. The clerk said something, handed me back the card, and I paid in cash.

Tonight I cooked a tofu, fungus, onion, bean sprout stir-fry with rice and jasmine tea for dinner. It tasted much better than last night’s, especially with the soy sauce. For a special treat, I had some of Heather’s lemon fudge for dessert.



While I was cooking, I did my first wash.


As it got dark, I felt more like a native, sipping my tea, with my wash hanging on the balcony to dry.




About jamescmarch

A child of the '50's in rural Pennsylvania, an adolescent of the '60's in southern California, and a political activist of the 1970's in northern California, I have been a husband, a college graduate, an expert witness, a banker, a father, a software entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. Today, I follow my heart by writing.
This entry was posted in Chengdu, China, Sep-Nov 2016. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Red Letter Day

  1. Nong says:

    The most cutest rice cooker ever!

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