Happy National Day!

Saturday, October 1st, Day 16

Happy National Day! Today is the official day of creation of the People’s Republic of China. It is a national holiday, which I heard about because it makes the news in the U.S. sometimes. It is estimated that some 425 million Chinese hit the road/train/airport for a one-week vacation. Last year we chose NOT to visit China during this holiday because travel is so crowded. This year I’m excited to be in the thick of it!

Started the morning off with a call to Dad & Mom, but the connection was bad, even after three tries. Then Melissa called. Same bad connection after multiple tries. I wonder if internet traffic bulges during the National Day? Maybe everybody is trying to get their GPS locations on their internet maps šŸ™‚

I read and answered e-mails, took a shower, got ready for a busy day out and about. I was certain my hot water heater was on the blink. I couldn’t get any hot water in the bathroom. It’s an “on-demand” water heater, so it always takes a few seconds to warm up, but I ran the shower for a good minute with nothing but cold. Then I tried the sink. Same thing.

I began to grumble. My water heater goes out on the biggest travel holiday of the year. What are my chances of getting it fixed this week? What are my chances of even finding my apartment manager, or the owner, to complain?

Now, am I crazy? Doesn’t this faucet look like it’s turned to hot? Am I losing my mind?


Hot or Cold?

Turns out the kitchen sink and the shower would both consider this set to hot, but for my sink, it’s just the opposite. In any case, this whole left/right hot/cold thing has me confused, especially in the morning, especially when I figure there is nobody around to fix my water heater.

I did finally get hot water out of the shower, but like always, it comes out too hot, and as soon as I turn it to mix in some cold water, the water heater shuts off. There’s about one minute of warm water in the pipes before it gets cold, so I take 1-minute showers.

I have to go vegetable market shopping today (I hope they are open). I invited Jeremy (American English teacher), his wife (Chinese literature teacher), and his 13-year-old step-daughter over for a Cali-Sino dinner (California-Chinese). He keeps making fun of my talk of “cooking Chinese” so I thought I’d invite his family over for a review.

I also need to buy more sets of chopsticks (I only have one pair) and a tea pot. This apartment is tiny, and has no dining room. I have my study desk for a table, one chair, and just enough plates. I’ll move the table over by the bed, letting two people sit on the bed. If the step-daughter comes, I’ll move the table close enough to the window seat for her to sit, and I’ll sit in the chair with access to the kitchen.

Also on my list is getting help at Bookworm book store with my absentee ballot (mentioned on ChengduLiving), getting on the subway and taking it to the North Chengdu Railway Station to check out the crowds, and finding a brush, ink, and practice paper for my Chinese character writing.

I wasn’t sure if any stores were open today, so I called Bookworm using my California number to dial internationally to China. Bookworm was open, and if they really understood me, yes, the fellow was there to help voters.

The store was not too hard to find. I got within 1/2 mile, then got lost. A Chinese fellow was kind enough to spend five minutes helping me find the address on his smart phone map. He even offered to get me a cab and give the address to the cabby, but I explained with sign language that I wanted to walk.

Today, the whole city seems so mellow, calm and happy. Must be the holiday. There was less honking, too. People moved slower, there were less cars, folks were sitting outside on the sidewalk drinking tea.

Bookworm was right where the map said it would be. Inside, there was an eight-foot by three-foot banner in English saying “register here to vote”. I got everything filled out, printed, and signed. Now I just have to scan and e-mail my Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), requesting and absentee ballot for an overseas citizen.

It was a short walk to the subway. I took a picture to remember I started at Nijiaquio Station.


Quiet Subway Entrance

I was surprised to see these substantial handicapped stair assist elevators. Come to think of it, I’ve only seen one person in a wheelchair (an elderly man).


The subway station was crowded, especially since one of the three ticket machines was out of service. While in the line of 10 people waiting to get tickets, I watched how it was done, and was surprised that about half the people did not know how to use the machines. When the second machine went out of service, I looked around, saw some machines with no line at the other side of the entrance. I was the only one to leave the long lines and move to the empty machines.

Got my ticket, got my pack and water bottle scanned, got my ticket scanned and I was headed down the escalator to the platform. Trains come every few minutes so I didn’t wait long, got on a full train, but not shoulder-to-shoulder crowded. Nobody pushed or shoved, and seats were given up for the elderly (including me), but I preferred to stand.


Projected Advertising

I noticed this last time I took the subway with Jeremy. When we pass another subway train, all the windows fill up with video advertisements. It’s strange to see, because the video is showing outside the train. Jeremy says the videos are projected on to the passing train, but something about that doesn’t make sense. The train going the other way is doing the same thing. How do the two get projected without interfering with each other? How does the image stay so steady if it’s bouncing off a train with all kinds of irregularities? I’ll have to investigate further.


Everybody Off at the Railway Station

Like I said, the train wasn’t crushing, but it was full. But when EVERYBODY got off at the railway station, the platform was suddenly packed, overwhelming the stairs, backing people up. But there was no pushing and shoving, and the line moved steadily forward, up the stairs, and out of the subway station. Wherever the majority of suitcases was going, I followed. I came up in the middle of a large plaza, filled but not overflowing with people. The suitcases were heading for the departures waiting hall. Instead of waiting on the train platform, people are staged in the waiting room then allowed to go down to the train when it was ready to be boarded. Everything seemed to be moving pretty well. No bottlenecks.


I did see one long line outside the train station. A police officer was keeping people from going down into the subway! I stayed long enough to see that every 10 minutes or so he would let about 100 people go down into the subway station. I did some quick estimates and realized that I would have to wait about 30 minutes to take the subway back into town.


Waiting line to get on to the subway

In spite of what Jeremy said about most of the travelers leaving Chengdu, it looked like as many were arriving as were leaving.

I avoided the line by walking down to the next subway station, about a 10-minute walk in 86 F. heat. I wasn’t the only one.


Recent Arrival



Interesting Pruning of a Plane Tree



Poster Along the Road

I also found another hidden open market! I have a new rule. If you want to find an open market, follow the oldest, most ancient road you pass. It will lead you to the market that has probably been there since before any of the buildings. The market (and all the stores) seemed to be open, everything except banks.


Following the Older Streets

Caught the subway at the next station, took it to one station before Nijiaquio (the station where I first caught the subway). I came up right at the big new shopping mall, Raffles City, that I had found last week. My familiarity with the city is starting to make it seem manageable.


Metal Sculpture Outside Raffles City Mall

I walked home a new way, passed a stationary store. Found all I needed: brush, crucible and ink stick, instruction book. Had to ask for paper. Took some time trying to communicate what I needed, but with the help of my tablet dictionary, and patience from the clerk, they figured out what I needed and found it.


Instruction book, brush w/holder, ink and crucible, practice paper w/guide lines

A couple blocks past the stationary store and I was at the New Century Computer Plaza! I am really starting to get to know this town, at least my side of town.

I must be starting to miss Western food. On my way home I noticed an Irish pub selling Guinness Stout on draught (save for later) and a French pastry store called Tous Les Jours (save for later).

Went shopping at my local open market. The talking lady was not there. Was this man her husband? Shopped there anyway. Bought another brick of tofu, pulled out 2 yuan because I already knew the price.


Makings for a Feast!

Stopped at a little convenience store. Asked for chopsticks using my two fingers like I would in a Chinese restaurant in the U.S. Was offered a pack of cigarettes to buy šŸ™‚ Went to Wal-Mart. Found a tea pot, bean sprouts(!), pineapple soda, chopsticks, and loaf of Golden Cake for tomorrow.

Got home and noticed I had another heat rash, around my ankles this time, just above my low-cut socks.

Started pressing the tofu and soaking mushrooms and tree fungus.


Homemade Tofu Press

Tomorrow’s menu:

  • ginger tofu with broccoli
  • fried eggplant with garlic, onions, bitter melon, and fermented black bean
  • fried lotus root with tree fungus and sesame seeds
  • tea
  • rice
  • scorched golden cake with Asian pear
  • One Daim candy each!

Tested out the new teapot (two pinches of tea is too much).

Checked my growing bean sprouts (slow and steady).



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.
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