i woke up at 6:00, both my alarm clocks going off. the room was dark because i pulled the curtain dividing the kitchen from the bedroom since there were no curtains on the kitchen windows. what a difference from my shanghai hotel room, where every morning i was gently awaken by the light of the morning sun!
i was downstairs waiting for the company bus by 7:20. my work neighbor appeared on the other side of the street and we waved to each other, before getting on the bus which had already arrived but parked a little bit further down the road. i noticed a lot of people on the bus wore company-monogrammed work shirts. by the time we finally made it to the factory, it was almost 8:00.
i had to sign in for a visitor's badge once again. i won't get my official company badge until after i had my safety training. i could've done it today, but its chinese only; the english-speaking safety instructor won't be here until monday. i could probably get away with listening to the chinese speaker, but there's a written test afterwards, and i'm better able to understand it if it's in english.
they found me a cubicle space. a cute office manager who's name sounds like "red car" helped me locate a spare desktop computer. it was password protected and took another employee several tries before he was finally able to figure it out. ms.red car then took me into the supply closet and loaded me up with stationaries, everything from notepads to pens and post-it notes and stapler. finally, she gave me a temporary dining card, to be used for getting my lunch and dinner until i get my official badge.
later pansusu came by to see how i was doing and introduced me to the head project manager of their korean division. i noticed we attracted a lot of attention, not sure whether because 2 company bosses were visiting the cubicle space, or that they never heard a chinese person speak english without an accent.
english-speaking teacher gu came by to see how i was doing as well. she told me that pansusu wasn't happy with my apartment when they saw it yesterday, and wants to move me to someplace better. i mean, the place is an eyesore, but it's totally livable. things could be much worse. besides, it's in a great location, next to 2 supermarkets and a mall. but if i can get something better, why not take it? the bathroom will still be squat though. no apartments here have western-style toilets, with the exception of pansusu's place, which he renovated just so there'd be a normal toilet in the bathroom.
most of the cubicle workers are chinese, and they skew towards a male demographic, but with some female as well. most of the women i see do administrative work, like office manager or secretary. there's also a small percentage of korean workers, which i can tell from their accented english (they don't speak chinese), if not from their appearance. all the koreans seem to be male. a lot of people wear their company-issued shirt. when i was speaking with gu, she told me she could get me a set of office uniform as well, everything from shirt to pants to even shoes. i guess this is the chinese style. you can view it as, "oh, this is great. i work here, i get free food, free housing, free uniform," but i see it more as. "you want to be in charge of my food and housing because then it's hard for me to simply leave, and you want me to wear a uniform so i look the same as everyone else." i'll stick to the clothes i brought over, at least have some semblance of individuality and independence.
one of my cubicle neighbors started chatting with me. he asked me how old i was and i told him i was older than him. he didn't believe it. i told him i was born in 1974. so was he. i told him i was born in february. so was he. i told him i was born on the 12th. he was born on the 13th! so i'm still older than him, but only by a day. we immediately became best friends.
around lunchtime i went to go eat with my new BFF. so basically lunch and dinner are provided free of charge by the company (they used to charge for dinner but decided against it since the employees have such a long work schedule). lunch starts at 11:30 and employees have about 20 minutes to eat. our cubicle space eats first, followed by the second cubicle space (otherwise the dining hall couldn't fit everyone). dinner starts at 5:50. you can eat however long you want during dinner, bearing in mind the last shuttle bus leaves at 6:30. it's basic cafeteria style, you pick up a tray, and then point to the things you want. for lunch we had the choice between rice and noodles (i went with the beef noodle). it also came with a yogurt drink and a piece of fried fish. i was surprised to see pansusu in the dining hall, i figured management must have their own private dining area, away from the plebeians. even more surprised was when he sat next to us. maybe it's pretty common, but i felt a little strange sitting next to the boss, even though he's an old family friend. the beef noodle wasn't too bad, could be punched up a notch if i got some hot sauce to go with it.
back at the cubicle it was super quiet. i think everyone was feeling tired while they digested their food. i remembered i had my mp3 player so at the very least i could listen to my tunes to drown out the deafening silence. it was also all i could do to stay awake, along with plenty of tea (and subsequent frequent bathroom trips, i even have a favorite urinal now, the one with 2 white mothballs). i should invest in some black tea (i don't even know if they have teabags here, it's more of a loose tea leaf culture). plus i really had nothing to do today. i pretended to look busy, first trying to configure my computer so it doesn't default to chinese input, then playing around with powerpoint 2007, trying to do cool effects. then i surfed the web since i had internet access in the office, but didn't do any personal web surfing like check my e-mail or visit my usual slew of entertainment and news sites (i did take a quick peek at cnn.com). instead, i looked up information about the company and what the chemical is used for after they manufacture it (quit frustrating, given all the access denied errors from behind the great firewall of china, more on that at a future date). i did secretly checked my e-mail with my tablet pc, sending my parents a message even though my father already called my cellphone early this morning to see where i was. i can't imagine i can withstand this schedule every week, monday through saturday, 8am to 6pm, longer if you count the time it takes to commute and when i actually wake up in the morning.
when 5:50 mercifully came around, i figured everyone would be lining up for dinner, but the bulk of the factory staff made a beeline to the shuttle bus. maybe it's a saturday thing, or maybe it's daily thing since people would rather go home than spent anymore time at work. even my BFF went home, so i went by myself to dinner. there was hardly anyone there, just a few tables, mostly day laborers in their grey company jumpsuit. dinner wasn't that memorable, rice and sloppy servings of bean sprouts, beef chunk with bone, super soft tofu, and some soup. i ate quickly and without feeling, finishing fast so i could get onboard the bus to go home.
i was surprised nobody from management came around to ask me how was my first day of work. not that i needed the attention, but i did feel a little abandoned. for a moment i thought to myself, "what the hell am i doing here?" the first day passed with little fanfare, the office nearby abandoned by the time i left the cafeteria.
after work there are 3 shuttle buses. the first 2 leave as soon as they're full, the 3rd and last one leaves at 6:30. i managed to catch the 2nd bus. unfortunately i got off too early, near the changshou courthouse, because i'd never taken the bus home before (yesterday i rode in an SUV with management) and couldn't recognize where to get off. i ended up having to walk back the rest of the way. worst case scenario, i'd take a taxi, since i had the apartment address written down for me. i marked the apartment location earlier from the office using just google's internal data, but for some reason this data is purposely inaccurate for china locations. the only true way to mark a location is to use the built-in GPS. but i didn't really know this at first, until i started seeing some familiar landmarks and realized i was actually very close to home already. there was the large shopping mall with the supermarket in the basement. and next door the other supermarket.
knowing where i was now, instead of going home i went to the large supermarket instead to get some supplies. i could spend a whole day just browsing all the strange and exotic china items. supermarkets here aren't just for food, it's like if you also combined target with best buy into the same place. it's more like an everything market. i wanted to buy some shampoo but i couldn't figure out whether something was shampoo or conditioner or even body wash. i wanted to ask but there was nobody around. i ended up getting some toilet paper (essential, RMB$10.80), a small bath towel (RMB$13.90), 8-pak of clothes hangers (RMB$9.90), a roll of small waste basket trash bags (RMB$4.90), and a 6-pak of bottled water (RMB$8.90). i wanted to buy a small cheap teakettle but all the ones i saw were big and expensive (RMB$160). an electric teakettle costs just RMB$59. the total cost of everything came out to be around US$7.93.
once i dropped off all my things back at the apartment, i went out again, this time to the second supermarket (a little smaller, a bit stinky), to buy some scouring pads (RMB$5) so i could clean the house. i also bought a bar of soap (romano brand, manly-scented but with an unmanly fluorescent green color, RMB$7.10) and a bag of sichuan weird-flavored beans (RMB$4.90).
something of note: there are no sales tax here in china. the tax is probably included in the price. if i save all my receipts and filed the necessary paperwork before i leave china, i could probably get some of that tax money back, but the time wasted to do that is not worth it.
after a poo and a shower, i did 3 loads of laundry with the in-unit washing machine. the washer only does cold water washes, and the inlet hose leaks a little bit so there's a water trail from the machine to the drain in the kitchen. the first load was just a test load (underwears, socks, tank top), to figure out how to use the machine itself, and to make sure the powdered detergent left behind in the apartment isn't some sort of bleaching agent (it wasn't). second load was darks (a pair of pants, my black shirt, my travel towel), and the last load was whites (just the dress shirt i wore today). also kind of convenient are 2 metal rods built into the ceiling of the kitchen/laundry. i didn't notice them at first until i started to wonder where i could hang my clothes to dry (no dryer) and saw those poles. with the warm weather and the AC turned on overnight, the clothes will be dry by morning. had i known this fact, i could've brought less clothes and just wash them daily to wear again in a day or two.