Frustrating but Fascinating: Life in China
People often ask us what life in China is life. The truth is that it is REALLY hard to answer that question! Each day, hour and minute you ask me it might yield a slightly different response. Overall though, I have to say that life in China is fascinating. It is never boring living here! Of course, with all of the fascination we do live with a lot of frustration. Understanding another culture takes YEARS – but even fully emerged into a life in China, it is still difficult to fully understand a completely different way of thinking. Things that matter to me, just don’t matter to someone else.
This post is dedicated to a day FULL of frustration, and yet filled with so much fascination! I love days out and about with my boy. Often we don’t venture too far, but on any given “errand day” we will have at least 4-6 stops to make. There is no “one stop shopping” in China. If you need anything specific, you can expect to make a number of stops. And along the way, if things don’t go smoothly, there will be a variety of headaches.
The fact that I love working on crafts and decorating our home, means I am often getting creative. I have mastered finding most of what I need on Taobao.com, but there are a few things that I have to go out and get done myself. Printing is one of those!
<<SIDE NOTE: This would have been a PERFECT VLOG DAY! I have no idea why I can’t get back to do those videos. Even though I strongly desire to be vlogging about our daily life in China, it is very time-consuming. I just thought I would let you know that I haven’t forgotten that I said I would be starting up again. In fact, I think about it EVERY WEEK!>>
So here we go! Follow Eli and I on a Frustrating BUT Fascinating day…
It is a glorious time when your three year old starts talking. As we leave our apartment, I ask him what he wants to eat while we do our errands. Often he will ask for boazi, but lately he’s been asking for bread. There is a bakery just outside our complex gates, and they sell all kind of freshly baked goodies. Eli absolutely loved this “round bread’ and he has asked for it, by that name, a few times since this day.
As you can imagine, this part right here is FACINATING! We don’t have a car, and we live in a foreign country, but somehow we have figured out how to walk/ bus to everything that we need. My son likes foods that others would find ridiculous. He loves dried squid, seaweed, and the red bean paste that Chinese bakers love to put inside bread buns. It really is nothing short of FASCINATING to live like this! I love it.
Next up – the FRUSTRATING part.
There is construction everywhere. I mean it, everywhere. And it doesn’t start and end like you would expect. No… It goes on forever and forever. We moved to this area of Qingdao just before Eli turned one. He is 3.5 and the same construction is going on. We live in the same street as a shopping mall, but we have to take a dusty little alley that has been formed between a construction site and containers where migrant workers sleep.
We can go around all of this, but it would add quite a bit of time onto our walk and often I just don’t feel like doing that. So we push on, and use the dirty little alleyway. Even though there are often massive tractors a few feet away from us, migrant workers taking pictures of us, and massive puddles of suspect-looking muck – we push on through.
If you’re wondering how I got through that puddle…
I walked on the bricks, and I tried to get as little of the stroller wheels in the muck as possible.
We made it through the dirty alleyway, and emerged at Leader Shopping Plaza. FACINATINGLY, the mall seems to get better and better. They keep adding new stores and they recently put up some pretty lights and new (fake) trees and bushes.
Huge FRUSTRATION… Realising that Starbucks is closed. I didn’t even want a coffee because (another FRUSTRATION) Starbucks in China doesn’t have cream. I’m not even joking – they have milk, and they have cream filled with sugar, but no regular liquid whipping cream. Besides the coffee frustration, Starbucks being closed means no decent toilet-stop for me. I’m getting quite used to using the toilet with Eli’s stroller half jammed into my cubicle, and strangers stopping to look at me while I pee, but I really do prefer stopping at Starbucks to use their clean, spacious restrooms.
Next FRUSTRATION: The Kodak store.
There is one photo printing place near us, and the lady working there is a grouch. I wanted some pictures printed in a slightly different manner, and she SIGHED and mumbled the entire time she was helping me. Oh man – I am sorry for asking you to do something photo-related IN A KODAK STORE! Just like the Starbucks frustration, it amazes me that despite being a franchise, Kodak really doesn’t do things by the book.
One Job, Two Stores
A 20 minute walk from the mall is the second printing place that I need to visit. The walk there makes me happy.
FASCINATING – I can print pages and pages of color sheets for next to nothing in China. Sometimes it just amazes me what we can get done here for such a low price. FRUSTRATING – Another extremely rude encounter at this printing store. Thankfully, AN HOUR LATER, this kind lady (above image) was an absolute angel. Not only did she help me, but she was incredibly sweet.
Oh the Traffic!
FRUSTRATING – Cars drive wherever they want, and then park anywhere they like. Walking along the sidewalk can be extremely frustrating in China, especially if you are pushing a stroller. Often I have to turn around, and then walk in the street. While in the street there is barely any mercy for pedestrians either.
FASCINATING – Since rules are made to be broken here, I can basically cross the street wherever I want. Sure, I have to RUN (while pushing a stroller), to avoid being knocked over, but I can walk wherever I want!
Food and Entertainment
FASCINATING – Wherever we are, I can find food and entertainment for Eli. Even the most basic convenience stores will stock stickers and notebooks at a very low price. I love that Eli likes these things, and doesn’t even ask for the toys. There is always something to eat – even if it is made up primarily of gluten and sugar. For me, there is almost always tea eggs, and they are keto-friendly, so I am happy.
Eli fell asleep while we were in the second printing store. Each time I tried to take the stickers off his fingers, he would wake up and put them back. Needless to say, I left him sleeping like that.
What’s not FASCINATING about that bench and empty phone booth in the middle of a Chinese shopping mall?!
By the time I had shaken off the rude encounters with the Kodak and first printing lady, I was back in a great mood and loving my time out running errands. Our last stop was the grocery store, where I had to pick up a few heavier items. Every stop for the day is perfectly timed and planned. I stop at the grocery store last so that I don’t have to carry the heavy stuff around to each of the other stores.
The final FASCINATING moment of the day (or at least, the last documented one, since they never really end) was this awesome guy! I stopped to look at some concealer and the lady working at the counter didn’t know how anything worked. FRUSTRATING – yes! Even more frustrating was the fact that she was so overwhelmed by my presence that she kept giggling and taking photos of sleeping Eli. Um… Can I get some assistance? Anyone??? When I was about to give up and return to grocery lost, this sweet guy came over and, in broken English, asked how he could help.
I asked about the colors of the concealers, he proceeded to show me how to use them. Bless his heart – he did it all wrong, but I love that he wasn’t afraid to go ahead and put that make up on himself! FASCINATING and awesome, in so many ways!
My phone died shortly after this.
FRUSTRATING – I pay for everything with my phone. Yes, in a place where squat toilets are still the norm, and spitting is completely acceptable, I use my phone to call a car, pay for groceries, and buy clothes online. FASCINATING!
The fascinations and frustrations never end… This basically sums up our life here! It is a whirlwind of excitement and confusion. I love that we have figured out so much, and that we are able to live in a place where nothing is “normal”.
So, there you have it – a little look into a day of running errands. Fascinating and frustrating all at once.