I have lived in China for the last ten years but decided that it’s about time I got out of my ‘Expat Bubble’ and faced the real China. I left my apartment having given the maid clear instructions to clean the windows.
I went out and used a bus. Just like one of the poor local Chinese people. It felt strange as I rarely get to be so close to people that have issues with personal hygiene and also because I had no bastard clue where the bus was going.
A dirty person wearing some kind of uniform barked something at me. I later realised this was the ticket seller on the bus. He/she/it asked me for 2rmb but all I had was a stack of mint-fresh hundred rmb notes. I peeled one off and waved it at the ticket worker but this was met with a look of absolute shock. I then found that when poor local people get on the bus they always have a pocket full of loose change for convenience. I usually leave my loose change on the counter in supermarkets as it seems like too much trouble to pick up.
At lunchtime I had noodles. This is a food group in China. Chinese peasants eat this because they can’t afford meat or vegetables. I tried to eat it but it just tasted like overcooked spaghetti fried in lard. I asked the waiter, a dirty looking boy with dark skin, if I could have another dish. I was given something with bits of chicken and peanuts. Hurrah! Real food I could recognise. The only problem was I was given chopsticks. How silly! Everyone knows you only eat food with chopsticks in a Japanese restaurant. I gave the dirty boy a hundred rmb note, told him to keep the change and left without trying to touch anything.
In the afternoon I had a Chinese lesson. The Chinese language is made up of a series of grunting and spitting sounds assembled together then screamed at high volume at the person in front of you. My Chinese teacher had halitosis and I thought about offering some kind of lesson exchange – you know, your Chinese for my guide to oral care. After twenty minutes of saying Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma but using different notes or something I felt that I deserved a good rest and went to find some place for tea.
Chinese tea is world famous for being green and in hot water. I asked for a cup of this but guess what? No milk! No sugar! They didn’t even give me a biscuit to eat while drinking it. Plus they didn’t even give me a proper cup, just a glass.
I decided that living in China as a local is just too time consuming and so I went back to my complex in downtown Shanghai. I thought as one last effort I would take the subway and not a taxi as I usually do.
Well…. I have never been in such a dangerous, over-crowded place in my life. Everyone pushing and shoving and clamouring for space. I managed to get a set but only after insisting for five minutes. Finally, the old lady got up and gave me her seat after me using sign language ‘Me – white person, You – Chinese’.
I got back home just as the maid was leaving. She made some kind of complaint about being tired but I just waved her away – boy, if she could have had the day I’ve had!
I literally fell on the sofa and waited for my dinner to arrive that I’d ordered (I really hope they remember the parmesan this time…) and watched CNN on my crappy 46” flat screen TV.
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