Diary 2014/06/01-03 New Beginnings

2014-06-01

Well, it’s the end of an era. A 10-month-long era, but an era nonetheless. I have left the realm of English teaching and study abroad for the wild world of visa services. I start my new job on Tuesday after the Dragonboat Festival holiday, for 2 quick weeks of work before whisking off to the US to see my family for a couple weeks.

The new job is located in the south of Chengdu, hence the company-provided apartment also is located in the south. I had two options: 1) live near the office and the metro station or 2) live in a town called Huayang a short bus ride away from the office and the metro station. Can you guess which option Annie the Adventurous chose? That’s right, as I type this I’m far from the city, in a somehow rather tranquil 27th floor flat. There were traffic and dog noises wafting up to me, but they were quite distant that it was easy to block them out, and they pretty much ceased after 10pm.

Today was moving day. It began with tucking away last minute items and a quick breakfast from my favourite baozi shop down the road—who knows when I’ll get to partake of my favourite mushroom and mince bun again?? The kind and noble Adrian (my tourist compatriot to Wenshu Monastary and Dujiangyan) helped me move ALL of my bags down from the 13th floor to the 11th floor, while I dallied around with Property Management to obtain an “Exit Permit”. I’m still a bit foggy on the function of this ratty little slip of paper. The procedure began when the moving company rang and asked if my apartment required us to get one. I said I had no idea, and he suggested asking the security guard. I did, and he pointed me to Property Management, where the man behind the desk rang my landlord (I wasn’t sure if the person he spoke with was the GM of my former company or her mother, because the flat is her family’s after all). Anyway, the person on the other end gave permission, so the man behind the desk printed the words “Moving Out” onto the slip, and handed it to me. I tried to ask what I needed to do with it next, but he just kind of grunted affirmation to whatever I suggested. It was a typical case of “This is how it’s done, how it’s always been done, so it must be how everyone in the whole world does it” and subsequent bafflement when I go off and do it wrong. I tried to hand the slip to the door guard, who did NOT speak Mandarin at all and was rather unhelpful (as usual—he was the one who didn’t understand my hungover inquiry about where to get a fast-food hamburger when I first moved in). In the end the PM guy ran over to tell me I had to give it to the security guard at the car park exit gate when we left. Oh. Well thanks for telling me!

The mover turned up in a surprisingly punctual manner, and quickly swept all of my bags onto a cart and down to the bread van. I had already said my thank yous and goodbyes to Adrian and Will, so after Tetris-ing my bags, boxes and panda into the back of the van, we were off! I quite liked this mover: he was polite and did his job. He was also amazing at manoeuvring his bread van in and out of Chengdu traffic. He didn’t ask me silly questions, unlike the security guard who said, “Oh, they carry RMB?” when I paid for the parking fee out of my wallet. “I was expecting foreign money.” I am not even joking. This is exactly what he said. I said to the mover “I live in China, what did he think?” and the mover replied “If you’d given him foreign money, would he even have accepted it?” He obviously didn’t share the security guard’s weird prejudices about foreigners, since he had no problem speaking and bantering with me.

We arrived after only a teensy bit of traffic on the way in to Huayang, and picked up my colleague Vicky at the gate. She was pretty much only there as a company representative, since she didn’t do very much except understand the landlord’s dialect and leave streaks on my mirror and tables after wiping them down improperly. It was nice to have someone there though. I keep rocking the standard for how Chinese companies ought to babysit their foreigners because I’m so damn good at being independent! Vicky helped me find out a few last-minute things from the landlord, who was still in the flat fixing the new washing machine. I now have a couple more questions for him, both regarding plumbing and the most salient of which is the protruding pipe I have in my shower in lieu of a shower drain. It stands about a foot high, therefore utterly useless unless I want to practice my aim for cave expedition peeing… Then again, I thought, since the water goes down the Chinese toilet instead of through a narrow drain, there’s probably less danger of hair clogging the pipes. But perhaps that’s too much information for you on the topic of my personal hygiene arrangements!

The rest of the flat is wonderful. It’s all newly refurbished, so there was a layer of builder’s dust on every surface and in every cupboard. These surfaces and cupboards are made of things like granite and prettily patterned glass, elegant and to my taste. It took me the whole day to wipe everything down and unpack. But luckily while the number of things I own may be more than I could take on an airplane now, there isn’t so much that I can’t unpack it all in a day. I have accumulated quite a number of useful things, and in this move have discovered the joy and convenience of moving from one town to another only 30 minutes away. Sure beats shipping costs and air tickets! I did have to go out and purchase a few things to fill in the gap of what my former company had provided for us at the other flat, such as a rice cooker, a wok, a toilet brush and dustbins. I also picked up some towels and a kettle, which came free with the wok. I’m almost all set for cooking now—all that’s missing is a good set of knives and a chopping board. The kitchen is lacking a few things too, like a drying board for dishes and a place to put utensils. A second shopping trip is needed tomorrow perhaps.

I’m a bit in awe at how smoothly everything went today. Things I needed to buy were conveniently part of a buy-one-get-one set. The hand towels I found matched a towel I already owned. Despite getting the wrong bus over to the shop, I was able to walk along the river, had a lovely lunch of douhua 豆花 on the way, and caught a perfect bus on the way home with my arms full of all my new sh*t which dropped me off just around the corner from my apartment complex. Not to mention, my possessions fit perfectly in the van, and everything has found a home in the new place. I take it all as a sign from the universe that all is well and good.

2014-06-02

Imperfections:

  • The shower is Asian-style, where the shower-head holder holds it vertically and you can’t stand under a stream of hot water. It’s a suds-and-rinse number. Thankfully there are heat lamps, so standing there in the wet won’t be too cold. I might even go full-Asian and get a little stool to sit on as I wash.
  • The kitchen doesn’t have power outlets near the counter, so the kettle and rice cooker are spread about the living room right now. This is easily fixed with a power-strip (I can’t remember if there’s a different British name for that)
  • No Internet yet!

This morning I woke up after a night full of dreams. I looked around the room and thought, “This is right.” By the way the bed is fantastic. I didn’t bother testing it before I put my “Sultan” IKEA mattress pad down, but suffice to say this softness is PERFECT for me. It’s so comfortable, and it makes me want to lie in it and stay, which is truly how your bed should make you feel.

I’m still a little worried about work tomorrow. But between now and then is German beer and sausages.

2014-06-03

Well I made it through the first day! I tell you, I will probably be writing more simply in an effort to maintain my English! I spoke Chinese all day long, and spent a large portion of the day trying to decipher Sichuan dialect. My colleagues are all very nice, and luckily there’s another girl starting with me, so we can go through our training together. The company is very Chinese, with its procedures for taking leave and other rules. It’s difficult to explain how it’s different, because I haven’t really been in an American or British company! But I suppose having to decipher what is proper office behaviour in another language and culture is difficult enough without having to analyse and compare it in a philosophical manner!

I won’t write too much on this day since I’m already a bit exhausted. I haven’t got internet at home yet, so had to venture out. I’m in a small milk tea bar with Wifi, since the two internet cafés I went in “didn’t have Wifi”, only landlines with individual IPs for internet gaming. Whatever, I have a mango smoothie.

Yesterday the Oktoberfest event was actually pretty fun! It was cheap to get in, but the beer was priced at expensive European prices. The food was tasty, especially the white sausages and pretzels! There was live music on later, including a German band which could speak and sing in Chinese a bit. Quite good. It was a fun “lads’” day, with three of my former 20-something male colleagues in attendance (meaning former colleagues, not formerly 20-something). We had a great time joking around. I got back to Huayang at just the right time to go to bed for work, even though it took me a total of 2 hours!

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got in me for today! More updates to follow, hopefully before I hop a plane! –oh, and pictures!

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