Sunday, April 29, 2012

How China Makes Me Strange

They say that moving to another country changes you. What they don’t tell you is that it will change you in ways you might not be able to predict.

1. How much water I drink, for instance. I have this paranoid sense that if we don’t finish up one of our bottled water containers in time for the ayi to change it out, we’ll be stuck with nothing to drink, even though we always have a backup bottle. Nevertheless, I find that on Tuesday and Friday mornings, I become a water fiend, chugging to the point of water intoxication. This morning, for instance, to use up the water, I refilled all the bathroom water bottles, drank two cups of tea and poured myself a tall glass of water, all before noon. I feel very….hydrated.

2. Oddly enough, there are other days when I am probably dehydrated, especially on those days when I know I’m going to have to use a squatter toilet. It’s kind of unavoidable here, so my plan is always to get better at bladder control. It doesn’t mean I get to skip the squatter, but it sometimes means I only have to use it once. This point seems a little contradictory to my first item, but it actually works as long as I am selective about which days are about hydration and which about dehydration.

3. My pedestrian habits. Those of you who know me well know that I’ve never had a problem with car-pedestrian altercations even when I’m the pedestrian. Bob says my epitaph is going to say, “She had the right of way.”  Back in my old Tenleytown neighborhood, I used to slooooow down at a stop sign to hinder the progress of those cars with Maryland plates ripping through our neighborhood. You know, use my body as a kind of traffic-control device. Here, though, I never have the right of way, and I’ve come to accept it. A car is turning in front of me, nearly running over my toes? No problem, it happens. A motorcycle driver is speeding the wrong way down a bike lane? Step aside. Joanna accuses me of sometimes darting into traffic like a lost dog, but while she is watching me, she’s missing the opportunity to cross a street with a break in traffic.

4. My hobbies. If someone had told me that I’d someday be spending my Sunday afternoons learning how to paddle a dragon boat under the polluted skies of Beijing or my Tuesday evenings ferociously trying to improve my bowling score wearing smooth-bottomed, ancient bowling shoes (size “si”) in a local bowling alley, I’d be surprised. Then again, never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be living in China one day.

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