Friday, March 29, 2013

How Can I Blame China For This?

Today was kind of a typical day: I got to the gym, and most of the treadmills were in use. The ones that were left over were clearly out of service, so I had a minor temper tantrum right there in the gym, saying to the attendants, “We pay a lot of money for this gym! You have three – SAN – treadmills that are bu hao!” (My Chinese kind of falls apart when I’m mad.)

The attendants answered me in Chinese, which I heard as “something, something, something, meiguo, something, something.”

This could mean several things:
1.      We’ve ordered new treadmills from meiguo (America) and are waiting for them to arrive.
2.      This is not the kind of gym like the ones you have in meiguo, where things actually work.
3.      If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go back to meiguo?

Eventually, I found a working treadmill, had my workout, and headed back home. As I popped in the elevator, I noticed there’s a man already inside the elevator, smoking a cigarette. I had another tantrum. “Really?” I said, pointing at the cigarette. “You’re smoking in an elevator? You should smoke OUTSIDE!” I said, as I pointed to the outdoors. He just looked back at me with a blank expression, and I stomped off.

When I got home, I jumped in the shower. The shower door fell off. Seriously, it just rolled right off its track and water poured down on me and I wrestled with the glass to get it back on the track. And yes, I did have enough sense to turn off the water before the door-wrestling, but not before getting thoroughly drenched. That was fun.

My day improved after that. I went to a conference not far from home and had a nice chat with the taxi driver about the weather, the air quality, and generally what it’s like to drive a cab in Beijing. (Okay, I made that last part up. He was talking about driving a cab – that much I understood – but what his feelings were on that and how that related to the air quality were just a bit beyond my comprehension. I pretend to know what they’re talking about and they all compliment my Chinese, in the same way I complemented my little Leah the other day for clapping her hands.)

The conference was fine, but the main reason I went was to load some photos for a story I want to do on a thumb drive. Done. Until I got home and realized I left the thumb drive sitting on the table at the conference, which means I have to make yet another trip to retrieve it.

My first reaction was: How can I make this China’s fault? There’s been a lot of talk in the press here lately about whiny foreigners who are leaving the country because of the air pollution, the food safety, the 20,000 pigs in the water, the Facebook-blocking, the usual. Not to mention the no-heat-in-apartments, the lack of decent baked goods, the dog shit on the sidewalks, and the fact that no one lets you get off the elevator or the subway before they try to push on.

So with the accumulation of bad stuff, I can just put my lamebrain move in the same column. China makes me stupid.

But it also makes for great material. It’s true I might be clogging my brain with Mandarin, ruining my gut with gutter-oil-cooked food, and coating my lungs with dust, but I’ve got such great material. Smudge is at this moment sitting in the window and looking out at the Siberian magpies in the leafless trees and the pink-sweatered miniature poodles on their afternoon walks, and I realize that things could be worse.


  1. hahaha, great post. I'm also blaming China for some tantrums of my own here in Kunming on my new blog:

  2. The best part of your blog post today is the picture at the end! Hang in there.