Saturday, May 20, 2017

Garage Band

I went to the underground garage on Monday morning and discovered an underground garage band. The middle-age and elderly ladies were pounding drums and cymbals to the beat. It's not totally unusual to see older people practicing for performance arts like this (although I really don't get it), but in the garage? That's a first.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Flat tire

I had a flat tire on my e-bike the other evening. I had ridden it all the way across town and back and was within five minutes of reaching my place when I heard a flapping sound.

Thank God I knew of a nearby repair place, and they hadn't quite closed down for the evening when I pulled up and asked them if my tire was out of air or not. They saw the nail (a screw really), so I pulled up a lawn chair and waited for them to repair it for me.

The cost was 5 RMB, which is about 73 cents. Not a bad price.

I'm so thankful for the sidewalk repair shops around town. You can get your bike fixed, or your shoes, often by the same repairman. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Friends of mine

I had dinner with a few American friends at their place recently. These people are like my overseas family. I'm so thankful for them!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

English-language Church

The government allows foreigners to meet together for worship at an English-language fellowship. When I first moved to town, we met in an auditorium inside an office building. It was so convenient. We even had air-conditioning and heating in that building.

But then the government decided to build a church building in the new area of town that is far away from where everyone lives. If we want to meet, we have to meet there. The building is used by a local Chinese group in their own language earlier on Sunday mornings, and when they finish the English speakers can use it.

Only foreign passport holders are allowed to attend the English service. No Chinese can attend, by law. We can attend services led by Chinese, but they can't attend services led by foreigners.

It is a gorgeous building. It's just hard to get to. It is not near a bus stop or a subway station. Taxi drivers don't know how to get there, and if you do get there you'll have trouble finding a taxi to get out of there.

The English-language congregation charters buses to pick up people who live in certain neighborhoods. I don't live near those places where the chartered buses go.

One other problem: From where you get off of the taxi or bus, you have to walk for 15 minutes through a public park to get to the church. There are three pathways, and one requires stepping on rocks to cross a small lake. Wearing a nice outfit that requires heels is out of the question. Handicapped people might as well stay home.

It's a great fellowship, it is just really complicated to get to and from the meeting! By taxi, if I go each Sunday, in one month it will cost $100 roundtrip, because it is so far away.

That's the way it is. I'll show more photos another time. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Grocery shopping

I shop for American style groceries at this Euro-Mart.
Euro-Mart is inside the block, away from the street. Cars can't drive up to it, but most people don't have cars anyway, so it doesn't matter. I can park my e-bike next to the building. 
Grocery shopping in the Middle Kingdom is not easy, but it easier than it used to be.

I remember when I first moved to this country, I made a wild guess that grocery stores would arrive in this country by 2050. Fortunately for me, I was 50 years off. They arrived in the year 2000. Before that, you had to buy your groceries at the open market, stand in line as butcher carved pieces off a dead pig, or did bad things to a chicken.

Large grocery stores on the scale of Super Wal-Mart exist now. You can't get canned goods, and you can't get most packaged goods that you can get in the U.S. (no cake mixes, for example).

These large stores, RT-Mart, Carrefour, Tesco, etc. sell fresh fruits and veggies, packaged meat, ramen noodles, soy sauce, vinegar, mayonnaise, rice, frozen dumplings, milk, eggs, row after row of sugary drinks, cleaning supplies and cheap household goods (the quality is very low; makes Super Wal-Mart look like Neiman Marcus in comparison).

In my city, we used to have quite a selection of import grocery stores. Some have closed down and we have very few now.

We can get American goods but can't afford them in large quantities due to prices that are up to 4-5 times the price you pay in America. Who really wants a small can of Campbell tomato soup that costs over $5?

But sometimes a can of green beans, a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, and a bag of tortilla chips makes you feel like a human being. I can buy paper towels, Betty Crocker cake mix, salsa, refried beans, and lettuce.

Euro-Mart, an import grocery store, is 30 minutes away from where I live, by e-bike, through the worst traffic in town. I can't go unless I am calm and alert enough to handle the traffic. I can make there about once every two weeks.

Euro-Mart has a bakery, but I don't eat bread. It has a dining area both indoors and outdoors. It is two-stories high, so I start upstairs with an empty basket and carry it downstairs to finish shopping before checking out. They take my American credit card so I don't have to carry cash there.

Euro-Mart has another location in town that is further away from me, and it is larger and only has one floor.

At Euro-Mart, I buy enough to fill four re-usable shopping bags and carry them back on my bike. Two stack on top of each other on my floorboard, then one each hangs over the sides of the two handlebars.

When I get home, I drop the bags by my front door, temporarily park my e-bike near the door, then scoot them over to the elevator so I can get them up to the 8th floor where I live. I'm so very thankful for my elevator.

I'm also very grateful that I didn't have to wait until 2050 to see the arrival of grocery stores here.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

I can't watch

These men, hanging from the rooftop by a thick cable, are laying bricks on the side of a building where it seems the previous ones have fallen. This took place inside my apartment complex. Mimi and I decided to take a different route for a few days. If something bad happens, I don't it seared in my memory for the rest of my life. I can't change it, so I just don't watch. I've talked to guys with these dangerous jobs before, and they don't like them. They just have to make a living and put food on the table. Lord, please bless them and keep them safe!