This morning over breakfast we were discussing how the most mundane things, such as reading package labels or asking simple questions, are hard for us in China and Pavan suddenly realized she was living through the same experiences her mother had on coming to Canada! She remembers things like her mother figuring out what things are based on the pictures, something Pavan was doing at the store here just yesterday!!
To avoid Pavan being at home alone all day we decided she would come to the Active office and steal an empty desk. This allows her to chat with people, come for lunch, etc and is generally much more pleasant than being at home. Outside the apartment building it turned out to be pouring rain. This seemed to dramatically increase the popularity of taxis. Probably people who commonly ride an electric bike or scooter start thinking about cabbing when it's very wet. We waited for twenty minutes in the rain, watching dozens of full cabs pass, then gave up and decided to walk. We walked about halfway and then stopped in at Lotus Supermarket to buy a second umbrella as our one small unit was proving a bit hard to share. Immediately after acquiring the second umbrella we got a cab.
At lunchtime it was still fairly rainy so we went to the cafeteria. They were serving noodles made by chopping off a block of dough from a huge table-top slab of dough, rolling out a thick strand, stretching that strand out to both arms length, folding it double, stretching the doubled noodle out, and repeating until a long length of thin noodle ready. The result was quite tasty. After lunch we discovered that the printer that Active loaned us for home is actually faster and in much better working order than the piece of junk that our part of the office shares. We are not at all sure why they loaned us a better printer than the one they provide for 50-odd people! There is another printer in the office admin area but it seems to be even worse!!
It came up in casual conversation that when Rod switched bosses nobody bothered to tell the new one that we have five weeks vacation booked after China. No major problem (just a few plans need updates) but it was quite funny. It would have been even funnier if it had never come up and we'd just vanished for five weeks!!
Jimmie, a co-worker, found us a pool and a charge-card for using it that that we could borrow. We persuaded him to join us for dinner and a trip to see where the pool was. The pool was described as being inside some building complex so we figured without such a tour we might have a heck of a time finding it since asking "where is the pool" is rather beyond our Mandarin. On the way from the office to dinner there was near-snow slushy rain falling. We had a nice dinner and practiced some basic chinese. Rice is "mi fan", with "fan" in the downward tone. "Xie Xie" is thank you. Three bowls of rice is "san (flat tone) wan (down/up tone) mi (down/up tone) fan (down tone)". Two bowls would be "liang (down/up) wan mi fan". Service (eg waiter come here) is "foo (up tone) ooo (down tone) yuan (down/up tone)". In addition to Mandarin, we tried vermicelli with some sort of snake-like fish carved up in it. Pavan eventually tried it but was clearly a bit skeptical! At home we would probably describe vermicelli as noodles but Jimmie, like other Chinese we've asked, doesn't seem to consider vermicelli a type of noodle. It remains unclear what they are if they are not noodles ;) On getting up to leave the restaurant we realized it had been snowing the whole time and the world was now carpeted in white. We pictured many scenarios before coming to China but snow was not one of them. Outside the restaurant was a marble entrance pad that became murderously slippery in the snow.
We walked out to try to get a cab to the complex containing the pool we hope to use and once again there was a shortage of cabs. We started walking in the direction of the pool and it turned out to be towards home. Some time later we discovered the pool is buried in a building complex 10 minutes walk from our apartment. The pool was closed when we got there but the staff let us peek at the facilities. It looks basic but quite usable. There is a massage place that apparently costs ¥40 for an hour of massage right beside the entrance to the pool as well. This appears to be done while in your street clothes but it might still be good. Hopefully we can get a few swims in; we're up to nearly a month of almost no exercise now, something that definitely needs correction!! Speaking of a month, we'll hit a full month away in the next few days. This is momentous because our previous longest trip was only about three weeks so we're crushing the record.
Morning of November 12th.
No hot water and no gas to run the range. Apparently gas, like electricity, is prepaid and turns off without warning if you run out. Bit of a nuisance as this removes both our means to produce hot water in one fell swoop.