i took a shower and got ready to go out. basically i was waiting for sunmeng to call me so we could hang out. she had a busy morning of a doctor's appointment followed by the orthodontist. as for me, i wanted to check out the outdoor market, which i've heard about but never visited because it's closed when i get off from work and i'm almost never in town on sundays. there was some fog this morning which inspired me to also revisit sandaoguai, to see if i could get some good fog photos combined with the old streets and buildings.
to the outdoor supermarket i went first. i've visited the outdoor market in old changshou, but learned from fengya that there was a similar market in new changshou. it's kind of hidden in the middle of a large city block surrounded by other buildings. it's not actually outdoors but covered, but this is the traditional chinese supermarket and everything is fresh, from vegetables to eggs to fish to various cuts of meat. you can also buy household items like glass kimchi pots (RMB$10 for a small one, RMB$20 for a larger one). i chatted with the woman who makes various sichuan fermented vegetables. when i asked her if she had any fermented cabbage, she pulled something out from a much larger clay pot sitting on the floor. it was dark, wasn't what i had in mind. she said she doesn't make traditional sichuan kimchi until later in the season. she said a lot of koreans come by her shop to buy fermented vegetables: their favorite is the fermented garlic cloves. i told her i'd come back next time to try some of her vegetables.
after the outdoor market, i walked down to yonghui supermarket (where they were having an outdoor fashion show featuring local shoppers as models) to catch the 104 to sandaoguai. from there i saw the yangtze river. unlike last time, it was high tide so the nearby taohua tributary was flooded. second time around the place seemed much smaller than i remembered it. with all the moisture in the air, the place also had a distinctive musty smell of someplace old. i walked up the steps in less than half an hour, emerging close to old changshou plaza on the other side.
at the plaza i suddenly noticed there was a post office. the ladies at the new changshou post office said there was only one post office, and that was the EMS office. what the hell is this? and as total coincidence, out came a coworker. i flagged him down, asked him if indeed this was a real post office. he said yes. i went inside to ask for prices. the girl told me for a 4kg package the cost would only be RMB$130 and it'd take a month to arrive. it doesn't matter that in the 3 post offices i've visited, the prices are never the same; what's more important is there's actually a post office in town, so i don't have to go all the way to chongqing to ship something. and if the price is really that low, all the better.
from old changshou plaza i made my way through the open market. i bought some baby bokchoi and some favorite bread. i also got 3 pairs of white sports socks for just RMB$10 (adidas, puma knockoffs).
i called sunmeng around noontime. her phone voice seems very different from her actual voice. she was still at the dentist office, been waiting there since this morning around 10:00. she told me to call her back when i returned home.
i left the outdoor market and walked down to the large rotary where there was a place to get keys made. i came here once before but the guy who makes keys wasn't there that day. a new key cost RMB$8. a guy who looked like a teenager made the key for me, fishing out a blank from a desk, then used a combination of a rotary filer to file down the tip of the key then a key making machine to create the duplicate. it all seemed a little amateurish.
afterwards i grabbed a 105 bus back to new changshou, which dropped me right in front of my building. along the way i saw another post office. they're everywhere! and here i thought there were none (none that worked anyway) in changshou! i gave sunmeng another call. she said her dentist wouldn't be available until after 5:30 so she went home to have lunch. i told her to give me a call when she was done. in the meantime, i went back downstairs to buy some paper towels from the chongbai supermarket. i ended up buying almost RMB$100 (US$16) worth of groceries: eggs, asian pears, ramen, various snacks. i ran into ms.pan, who was shaking an egg to check to see if it was good or not. maybe because i've never seen her outside of the office, so it took her a second to recognize me. i also bought a pan of sushi (RMB$12) and brought it home for lunch. it only came with soy sauce and the sushi wasn't that great, using cheap chinese ingredients like hot dogs as a filling.
sunmeng never called me back. around 3:00 i called her for the third time. it was hard to hear what she was saying on the phone, but it sounded like she was telling me to rest and she'd contact me after her dentist appointment. so much for hanging out. maybe we could still have dinner, my one remaining glimmer of hope.
i decided to go out one more time, this time to revisit the tailor to get the pants i bought yesterday altered and to see if they could fix the broken snap button on another pair of pants. the place was open, it was a woman this time. she said i could come and pick up the altered pants tomorrow, but the pants with the broken snap button can't be fixed (at least she can't do it). i returned home.
what happened next i'm still trying to make sense of it. i was walking home when i saw something i couldn't believe to be real: it was fengya, walking around in broad daylight. she wasn't supposed to be back at work until thursday. what she doing back in town? she was wearing the sports jersey from last year's sports meet. i also noticed the new acne on her face (maybe too much oily foods). we stopped to chat briefly, she was carrying vegetables in a bag, must've gone to the supermarket. she said she came back early to rest for 2 days (2 days? is she going someplace else?). she said she was in a hurry and then left. i was so stunned, my brain wasn't even working right. a minute later i realized the missed opportunity: i should've asked her if she wanted to get some dinner. any opportunity to hang out. but she left so abruptly, maybe she would've refused anyway. seeing fengya put me in a funk. whatever confidence i felt over this past week suddenly all disappeared.
after that encounter, i was in a daze but still managed to return to the outdoor market (hey look! another place to get keys made!), where i found the fermented vegetables lady and bought some vegetables from her: garlic, ginger, long beans, and spicy zacai. the total cost was only RMB$4, super cheap.
i came home, watched some shows from bed, then decided to take a nap around 5:00. sunmeng's dentist appointment wasn't until 5:30, that probably gave me at least an hour if she should happen to call.
at 5:45 i received a text message on my phone from sunmeng. she apologized, said she went to the dentist and they had to pull one of her teeth, and she was having dinner now. it sounded absolutely crazy. what she said may all be true, but this sunmeng experiment is pretty much over. unreliability is kind of a big turn off. for three consecutive days we made tentative plans to get together, and on all three occasions it never happened.
i decided to get out of bed and make dinner, which was going to be ramen. but i got sidetracked and decided to iron my shirts first, since sunmeng wasn't coming to show me her ironing technique.
i finally started dinner preparations around 7:00. into the ramen i added all 4 different fermented vegetables. the mix of flavors was intense: salty, sweet, spicy, sour - it was a real sensory explosion. i found myself fishing for pieces of bokchoi or egg as a respite from the flavors.