I started out the weekend feeling pretty good about life in China overall. There was nothing particular, except that the apartment heat works, I've been doing a lot of writing, that sort of thing.
But keep in mind that the Internet has been nearly impossible to use lately, thanks to "shi ba da," or the 18th Party Congress. Shi ba da literally translates to the Big 18. But what it means to me is that emails go out like snail mail, Google searches are mostly blocked (thankful for Bing), and I have to use Bob's work VPN to get on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. I mean, how will I know whose puppy is especially cute today, or what the weather has been like in California?
But then it got worse. In pouring rain yesterday, two friends and I (and one baby) hired a car to take us to a furniture warehouse, since it was out in the suburbs and impossible to find. We called the owner of the place because in China you can never be sure when things are open. After she talked to our driver, we suddenly found ourselves picking her up along the side of the road. Now we have me and the driver up front, and my two friends, plus baby in car seat, and the woman squeezed into the back of the car. We got out there and walked through a huge, freezing warehouse full of beautiful reproduction antique Chinese furniture. Most of it was far too big for me since my house in DC isn't that big and my apartment doesn't need it. But I found a cute table that would make a side table.
It took another 15 minutes to get them to actually tell us the price of the furniture. As for a tiny occasional table, they wanted 2400 RMB -- around $300. I wasn't going to pay more than a couple hundred RMB. I think they thought they could gouge the Americans. So we got out of there and since we had a driver decided to go to Walmart. I needed a microwave since ours had broken (which is another odd China story, but never mind). I found a microwave, we carried it home through the pouring rain, I plugged it in...and nothing.
So, at this point I was not feeling so great about China. Things break, and what would have taken me two hours in DC took nearly my whole weekend here.
Today, I experienced the other side of China. Bob and I schlepped the microwave back to Walmart where they took it back, no questions asked. (Good thing I had saved the receipt) We got a new one and brought it home and it works. Bonus points: we conducted the whole interaction in Chinese. Baby Chinese, but still.
Later, a guy came to fix the dryer part of our washer-dryer. Turned out that something was unplugged, so he charged me just 100 RMB (around $20), and told me I had a good machine and that I should have it serviced once in a while. I know he told me this even though he was speaking Chinese.
Baby steps, I tell myself. I've only been here a year. Won't be long now before I quit my whining.