ever since i've been out of the country i've had to wake up early (early for me at least, before 9:00) so now i just get up early out of habit. for me now, 8:00 is late (which is the time i woke up this morning). it was 83°F in the room, but once again, everything is relative, and after spending so much time in hot places, 83°F actually feels cool.
i spoke with my mother for half an hour last night on the phone. not sure how much that costs me in minutes, but i need to find a china-unicom office and recharge my SIM card. i've decided to keep my shanghai number after all. i don't make too many calls, and even at its most expensive, i think it's still just RMB7¢/minute (i put in RMB$50 initially). i'll have to ask the china-unicom people to explain the terms to me again.
i'm up early and a bit hungry, but there's seriously nothing to eat in the apartment except a bag of sunflower seeds i bought in shanghai 2 weeks ago. still, it doesn't exactly feel like roughing it. i mean, i have my own kitchen, i can definitely cook if i want, but i don't have any pots and pans. i also have my own washing machine, even though it leaks. i've never had that in any of the other places i lived (other than when i was living with relatives). did i mention i'm definitely serious about leaving here after my 2 month stint? i know that was my original plan, but my contract is for one year, and everyone i meet is just assuming i'm going to stay here for one year, so the thought did cross my mind that maybe i could stay here for that long. but on the bus back to town after work yesterday, i finally did the math (on my nokia cellphone calculator no less), and for the amount of work i'm doing here (or at least the amount of time dedicated to work, i may not actually be working every second every minute every hour), i'm paid minimum wage, money i can easily make back at home with any old job.
but salary isn't my main concern. it's the fact that i'm working 12 hours a day (including commuting time), 6 days a week, with only a single day off. they justify this brutal schedule by giving you a week off (equivalent of 6 work days) every 2 months (that's where my 2 month period comes in) and paying for your roundtrip airfare to go anywhere in china (most people use the opportunity to go home and see their family). but seeing how cheap chinese domestic flights cost (despite the frequency of cancellations and delays), i don't see that as a bargain. and it's just airfare, they don't cover vacation living expenses.
i don't mind the 12 hours work day, but i rather have a 2 day weekend so i can have a little time to explore the local area. with just a single free day, you really can't go anywhere, and by the time you get back, you have to get ready for work the next day. i guess this is something people can get used to as well, but it's something i particularly don't like, since i view this whole trip more as a vacation than a work thing. working dilbert-like in a chinese office environment for a period of time is just part of the overall foreign travel experience, but not if it eats away all my spare time.
if the company really is willing to pay my airfare to anywhere in china, then i want to go to the most expensive and remote area possible. maybe tibet (where the chinese count as part of china, despite what the rest of the world says), maybe mohe in heilongjiang province (the northernmost point in china, in mid-summer they have 22 hours of sunlight), or western xinjiang, on the border of afghanistan.
this is my 3rd day without internet (at home). the cable company called me this morning at 8:40, sounded like they were going to send someone over, but the person never showed up, and when i tried calling back the number, it went to the automated customer service office which alternated between "this person is currently busy" to "we're currently closed, call back during business hours."
i met pansusu for lunch at 11:30. i was told to wait outside the large supermarket, and that he was bringing another office coworker. he said this person would help me with my shopping list of things i need for the apartment (i'd already purchased most of the items yesterday when i got back from work; he actually called while i was in the supermarket). he also emphasized the fact that this was a girl, so i immediately knew what he was trying to do. i rather have a normal lunch with just him and i so we can reminisce about old times and talk personal stuff not work related, but in all the times we ate together since i've arrived, there's always been other people around.
the problem with that supermarket is it has several entrances. the one i went to was closest to me, but then i realized pansusu might've meant the entrance closest to him, inside the mall. so i walked down in that direction. there was nobody there as well. pansusu called me asking me where i was. i told him there were a bunch of entrances, and i didn't know which one. he told me to meet him in the produce department. so i headed in that direction, then i heard someone shout my name, and i looked up and saw pansusu. the young woman he brought also works in the same company (last name yu - jade), in the procurement department. i'm not sure what that is, i should've asked, something to do with buying stuff it seems.
pansusu seems to hang out at the mall a lot (since he lives right next door) and we ended up eating in another mall restaurant, a western cuisine place. ms. yu ordered some noodles and i did the same, which kind of defeated the purpose of eating in a western restaurant. pansusu ordered some sort of pan-seared steak. it wasn't a good day to wear my khakis. i was already being very careful not to get any spicy noodle broth splashes on myself, but when the waitress brought over the sizzling pan of steak, some of the oil dripped onto my lap.
afterwards pansusu went to go see a movie in the mall by himself (was he seeing that kaiju movie? because i want to see it as well) while ms.yu and i went down into the basement to do some shopping. i learned that she's only been in changshou for a year, but previously had been working in shanghai for the past 7 years. her home is hubei but she doesn't like spicy food, which is a hubei speciality. i also wondered if she had a choice in the matter when pansusu pitched the idea to her about helping me with some shopping (it's hard to say no when the boss makes a request). whatever the case, it was nice to have somebody there explain to me all the weird stuff i see in the supermarket.
i didn't think i needed a lot of things but i ended up buying around RMB$170 (US$28) worth of items. the most expensive thing was the small cooking pot (RMB$59, US$9.67). i decided to get one so i could use it to boil water as well as do some cooking (by cooking i mean instant noodles). second most expensive items were the 2 small bottles of head & shoulder shampoo and conditioner (RMB$23.90 each, US$3.92, they should last me for the next 2 months). other items: a package of babao tea (RMB$15), a plastic water pitcher (RMB$13.50), more coat hangers (RMB$9.90 8-pak), dish detergent (RMB$2.79, chrysanthemum scented), sponge roll cakes (RMB$7.80), grass jelly drink (RMB$10.80, 6-pak), package of ramen (RMB$2, ms.yu seemed horrified when i told her i needed to buy some instant noodles, apparently she doesn't eat the stuff, preferring healthier and natural foods), and a single package of small sausage (RMB41.50, for the ramen). i bought so much i couldn't carry it all so i ended up buying a large plastic bag (RMB$0.40).
the sad thing is whatever i end up buying, i'll have to leave behind when i go because i don't have any room in my backpack to take anything back with me. i might try to bring back the water pitcher though. i could find some use for it back in cambridge.
the only thing i wanted but couldn't find was some black tea. i figured china is synonymous with tea and there'd be a whole tea aisle. but there was hardly any tea, and most of it was green tea, no black tea. and if there was, it was loose leaf, not tea bags. this confused me to no end? don't the chinese drink tea? even in american chinatown, the tea selection is pretty extensive. but here in actual china? not so much.
ms. yu (who lives in the neighborhood) brought me back to my place before saying good bye. having not had a chance to hang out in the chongqing area in the middle of the day, it was definitely hot. hard to say if it was hotter than shanghai, maybe more of a dry heat.
i did a load of laundry when i got back, pretty much all the clothes i wore to lunch, in an attempt to intercept the oil stains on my pants before they set.
the cable company finally called me when i was out eating lunch. i told them i wasn't home, and to try calling back later in the evening. but now that i was home, i called them back to let them know they could come by anytime. this time around i didn't have to wait very long. 2 scruffy-looking young men in street clothes knocked on my door. all the equipment they had they carried in small bags that look like man purses. it took them a while to install the internet modem. it wasn't cable, but rather fiber-optic. because the fiber-optic line only ran to the door, they ended up hanging the modem above the door, but powered by a plug that runs to the center of the run. it's crazy installation but if it works i'm not complaining. when i told them i was from america, they asked me a bunch of questions. the guy who seemed to be the assistant told me if he ever went to america, he'd buy a large piece of land and ride around on his horse with a gun.
even after the modem was installed, it wasn't working because the home office has to activate the connection. but they told me it should be done by this afternoon. i was excited to finally be able to go online! even then, this was just a modem, with no router of any kind, wired or wireless. my foresight in china of buying an access point device now seems like a pretty good investment.
i went back outside shortly afterwards, to the smaller supermarket. i realized the scouring pads i got yesterday actually scratches the new pot (new pads, RMB$5). i also wanted a kitchen towel to dry my hands with (RMB$5.90). and some chopsticks to eat with (RMB$3.50). plus a spoon and a fork. i got everything except the spoon/fork, because for some reason they were kind of expensive. i didn't buy it on principle, and figured i could always steal some from a fast food restaurant. glad i didn't buy one, because i discovered a spoon is one of the few things left behind in the apartment from the previous tenant. i also bought a trio of asian pears for RMB$9.12.
the rest of the day i waited for the lights to stop flashing on the modem, which meant the connection was activated. when 7:00 came around and it still didn't stop flashing, i finally called the cable company. the young woman on the other line talked to me in sichuan dialect, and i couldn't for the life of me understand her. finally she switched to regular mandarin. i had to explain to her over the phone that i was chinese illiterate, and couldn't even read her my address to look up my info in the database. fortunately changshou is a small place, so she found the location, but no reports of any new internet installations. plus i had no idea what my account info was since this place is paid for by the company, so there was no way for her to figure out what was going on. i'll just have to ask somebody at the office tomorrow then.
i feel like i wasted a precious weekend day. with but one day of rest, i should've gone to chongqing to play tourist. i'll do that next sunday, after i figure out how exactly to get there.
around 7:30 i cooked some ramen for dinner. i used the box from the pot as a potholder and ate in the bedroom/living room in front of the HDTV that i wasn't watching. the cable box has an USB port but i think it's for diagnostic purposes only, and not for data. maybe i can figure out how to connect my laptop to the HDTV, that way i can watch my shows on the big screen, like a normal person.